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Old Florida town dubbed 'psychic capital of the world'

Exploring the history of Cassadaga

CASSADAGA, Fla. – It's a small town just north of Orlando that many have heard about, but not because it has an amusement park.

Nestled between Daytona and Orlando, and more than a century old, with tin roof homes surrounded by trees filled with moss, is the town of Cassadaga.

Having been around since the mid-1800s, Cassadaga is a place that's inspired novelists and songwriters like Tom Petty, and is also known for having a large number of self-proclaimed mediums -- therefore being dubbed the psychic capital of the world.

"Cassadaga is such an interesting place, you know? It's got tremendous history here," said Robin Peroldo, a writer who once served on the cultural council for Volusia County.

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It's a town that's maintained its historical identity despite the change in times.

"That's why there's no gas stations and WaWas, you know, and stuff like that, because they want to keep it as it was, which makes this place so important for history, for local history enthusiasts, because you come here and there's not a place anywhere in Florida like Cassadaga," Peroldo said.

"What you see here is much the way it looked in the 1800s. You see, the houses are the same," Peroldo said.

And the only hotel around, Hotel Cassadaga, dates back to 1926. 

It was built as a boarding house for guests who were coming to take classes, to see mediums and for those who were also doing transitional housing because they were in the process of building their own homes in the community. Unfortunately, the first building did burn in the 1926 Christmas Eve fires, according to D.J., an employee at the hotel.

Within months, it was rebuilt.

"This is as it stands today -- built in 1927. It was the first one designed specifically to be fire resistant," D.J. said about the now-two-story building.

Antique furniture and chandeliers replicate the era it's from. Inside the hotel's restaurant, you'll find two original pianos from the late 1800s that still work. They're set up as a piano bar and are used to entertain guests. An old wooden phone booth now also serves a different purpose.

"We've turned it into a meditation booth. A lot of people go into it and have no idea that that's what phones actually used to be like," D.J. said.

The town's historical preservation is thanks to the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, which owns the land. It was founded by a medium, George P. Colby, of New York. 

Jamie Osman, a tourist guide, said Colby was told by the spirit of an American Indian called Senecca to go to Cassadaga.

"He was told that he was to come here to open a southern home for the northern spiritualists. So him, along with a gentleman named T.D. Giddings and about 2 others, made the trip down here. They were told that they were to settle in a land of interlocking lakes and rolling hills, and if you walk around camp, you'll see we have both of those things here," Osman said.

The 57-acre camp has 55 homes. It includes a scenic fairy trail, a temple in honor of Colby and a bookstore. 

Several residents are part of the community of mediums and spiritualists, which seems to be the town's attraction.

"We are on the same ley lines as Sedona, Arizona, I'm told...so we have a lot of energy that just naturally happens here. We have two vortexes in the area that I'm aware of. I think it's a place of solace. It's a place that people find answers," Osman said.

The Rev. Suzanne Dewees, of the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, said it's a tourist draw that brings hundreds of people on weekends.

"They're interested, they're curious, but mostly, people are seeking something when they come here -- usually they're seeking themselves. They're seeking their own peace of mind and their own sense of being relaxed about life," Dewees said.


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