Lily Dale, N.Y.

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Maybe it's because you're not psychic! But if you have an interest in the history of spiritualism, this is one place you shouldn't miss

At a strange little village an hour south of Buffalo, talking to the dead is a way of life. Founded by the Laona Free Thinkers Association in 1879, when spiritualism was an obsession of America's elite, Lily Dale attracted legends such as Susan B. Anthony, Mae West, and Harry Houdini. Today, "the Dale," pop. 500, unlocks its picket fences each summer to admit soul-searchers. (This year: June 25 to September 5; visitors pay $7 for every 24 hours they visit; 716/595-8721,

The mediums

More than 30 residents of this tree-shaded town are clairvoyants who purport to help people connect with departed family, friends, and spirit guides. On their gingerbread-trimmed homes, look for signs soliciting private sessions ($50 to $75 for 30 to 60 minutes).

Lily Dale Museum

In this packed treasure trove, study somber-faced spirit paintings, touch tin trumpets that are said to have materialized during séances, and read a message attributed to the spirit of Abraham Lincoln.

Free psychic service

Take the gravel path at the edge of the village into the Leolyn Woods, past the tilted, moss-covered gravestones of the pet cemetery, and into the towering old-growth forest where "message services" have been held since 1898.

At 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. each day, mediums "serve spirit" to believers sitting expectantly on benches. Also try the free 4 p.m. service at the tiny Forest Temple nearby. The pamphlet at the Healing Temple on East Street admonishes, "Spiritual healing is not a substitute for medical treatment." But daily at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., men and women in white stroke the invisible energy fields of ailing visitors.

Maplewood Hotel

The 19th-century inn is the heart of the village; its two-story wraparound porch overlooks Lake Casadaga. Check out the parlor decorated with a huge tapestry supposedly embroidered by a woman who didn't eat for nine years. Double rooms from $69, 716/595-2505. 

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