Paranormal Investigations: The Cassadaga Medium

June 8, 2012

In our book, An Explosion of Being, my wife Barbara and I tell about our long journey investigating the paranormal many years ago. Chapter I, “An Encounter with a  Medium,” is reproduced here in its entirety because it gives a very close look at an initial effort by two people seeking some of life’s answers. We hope it may be of use to others who find themselves in that same position. In our book, Barb and I rotate the perspective between the two of us for most of the chapters. This one happens to come from Barb.

The road into Cassadaga from I-4

THE SPIRITUALIST COMMUNITY of Cassadaga, Florida lies just thirty miles or so from our home. While most of the Sunshine State is notoriously flat, the hills and winding roads surrounding that tiny hamlet give it the quaint appearance of having been transplanted directly from the New England countryside.

The homes are older, but unlike their counterparts in New England, many sprout signs advertising the certified mediumistic abilities of the residents. Our decision to visit Cassadaga had been prompted by a developing need to investigate first-hand the phenomena of “spirit communication.” Supposedly, the local mediums could see beyond the physical world in ways that might help us in the widening search for answers to our spiritual puzzle.

It was early afternoon on a cold October day in 1977 when we parked the car in front of a small house with a little screened porch. Doug’s mom had been there before, and had returned to Orlando amazed at the accurate information given by the medium, Mae Graves Ward. Spurred by Muriel’s positive reaction, as well as by our intensifying desire to go beyond an academic approach to psychic investigation, Doug and I decided to have a go at a reading by an honest-to-goodness Spiritualist. What could we lose?

Cassadaga’s official name and welcome sign

Mae Ward came to the door and asked if we were the two o’clock appointment. After introducing ourselves, Doug and I were ushered around the porch to a side room where the readings were given. Mae is no youngster, but maintains a tremendous sharpness of wit. Her personal opinions are strongly stated, but with humor and honest conviction. With a fifty-year involvement in the Spiritualist movement, she had numerous stories. Explaining how she once had rankled a group of visitors with an accurate description of a very personal situation, Mae raised her voice with a warm laugh and said, “Hell, if they didn’t want to know things, why did they ask?”

It seemed strange sitting there with this obviously good-natured woman, wondering if indeed she had a special linkage to the world of spirit or if she was simply a clever fraud. Could she see and hear things in that room that actually existed beyond the normal senses, or did she live with a series of daily hallucinations? Whatever the answers, our doubts left us with feelings of uneasy anticipation and some discomfort.

Spirit Pond in Cassaga – photo by Marla Chirnside

As the initial small talk continued, Mae’s breathing became labored, and a cough shook her body. My immediate thoughts were that this session just might be cut short It was becoming difficult for her to communicate, when suddenly in a clear voice she asked, “Do you know anyone who died of a chest ailment? I feel someone very close to you who was unable to breathe.” Doug sat bolt upright and stammered that his grandfather had passed away in just that manner many years ago. Continuing rapidly, Mae pointed to Doug and indicated that his grandfather was with us, and that he wanted Doug to know how proud he was of the work that Doug was doing. Then, holding up her hand, Mae said that she could see Doug’s grandfather holding up his hand and pointing to his Masonic ring. “He’s letting me know that you come from a good family,” Mae said nodding toward Doug.

Without allowing us time to react, Mae kept the perceptions rolling at an incredible rate. Not hesitating for a moment, she described the intensive care unit at the Naval hospital where Doug’s father had died. Supposedly in communication with Doug’s father, Walt, at that point, Mae explained that he too was proud of the work that Doug was doing. Intrigued, Mae asked if he was a teacher. When Doug answered, “Yes,” Mae explained that somehow she saw his students as being big, like adults. Of course the description was perfect, since Doug was working only with adults in his capacity as the training director for the school system.

Swinging her attention to me, Mae asked if I knew Henry. I could hardly believe her words. My great-uncle, Henry, had died just weeks before, and here was this woman giving me a message of greeting from him. As if that weren’t enough, she went on to describe the number, ages and sexes of our children. Then, quizzically, Mae looked at me and said, “I see medicine all around you.” With my father, cousin, grandfather, great-grandfather, and four great uncles all physicians, I could only agree that her visions were quite correct.

My dad, Walt Dillon, during WWII

She now asked both of us, “Do you know William?” Mae went on to explain that Doug’s father was telling her that he had brought William with him. We were both puzzled until Doug, remembering, said, “Of course, William was Dad’s father. He died when I was a year old. I never knew him.” At her usual breakneck speed, Mae then explained, “Doug, your father says that your brother isn’t doing too well. Is something wrong with his head? Your dad says that he spends a lot of time near your brother and that sometimes he wishes your brother could join ‘them’ on the other side. Now, why would he say that?” My heart went out to Doug.

My brother Wally

His admission that, recently, his severely retarded brother had been near death on more than one occasion must have cut through him like a knife. Doug’s depth of feeling for his brother usually remains unstated, but his eyes and the silence that surrounds the subject tell a story all their own.

On and on went the intonation from Mae Ward. Most of it made perfect sense with only small portions that didn’t seem to fit. Finally, the session came close to ending with Mae saying, “Well, I don’t see any big problems with you kids. Things will be even better in three years. I see you two selling your house, and Doug, I see you changing jobs. Yes, a step up in fact. I see you selling something, Doug.” Now, that was a laugh. The last thing in the world Doug would be involved in would be sales.

As we stood up to go, Mae stopped me and said, “Lettie says to take good care of that little girl. She says especially to keep her out of drafts and to watch out for her ears. There’s some problem in that area. Oh, and also you’ve got a clock that isn’t working. Look for it to start again soon.” With that final admonition, we bid goodbye to a very interesting lady and began our short trek back to Orlando.

“Who is Lettie?” Doug asked as he started the car. “Lettie was my grandmother,” I replied, “Grandpa Hill’s wife who died in 1955.” Two years after that brief conversation, we would have cause to remember the words of caution from Lettie when Nicole developed a chronic ear infection that eventually led to surgery. Mae Ward had been a virtual whirlwind of surprise information. The first few minutes on the road were very quiet as our minds tried to adjust to all that had occurred. Finally, Doug broke the silence to ask if I had given Mae our names, phone number or address when I made the appointment over the phone. I reminded him that Mae had not asked for any information. Obviously, he was referring to the history of certain fraudulent practices whereby fake mediums carefully research their clients ahead of time and charge exorbitant fees for their services. In this case though, there was absolutely no way that Mae could have researched us. Even if it had been possible, the time and effort required to find out such detailed information would have far outweighed the small amount of money that we literally had to press upon Mae at the end of our session.

Then again, we could have been witnessing a classic example of telepathy. Doug’s reading on that subject had left him halfway convinced that Mae could have been picking information out of our conscious minds, genuinely believing that she was in touch with a spirit world. Suddenly, Doug remembered that his grandfather’s Masonic ring lay carefully packed away in a box at home. Even with telepathy, how could Mae have seen something that Doug had forgotten? Perhaps as another theory goes, telepathy might be a subconscious activity as well. Then again, even if we had been witnessing telepathy, that in itself moved our understanding of communication into a new and exciting realm.

The many notes that Doug took during our trip to Cassadaga were carefully rewritten and filed away for future reference. It was obvious that going beyond the telepathic explanation could be done only by validating some of Mae’s predictions. If future events were to occur as she had said, then perhaps some other phenomenon was at work. In fact, this didn’t take long. One day, a few weeks later, an old wall clock that had refused to run suddenly sprang to life and kept perfect time for two years. It wouldbe three years, however, before verification of the other predictions came about.

The medium, Mae Graves Ward, died many years ago but her gifts to Barb and me will last forever. A fascinating coincidence relating to this wonderful woman involves her home. In the fall of 2011, Barb and I found out that a friend of hers from long ago had bought Mae’s house in Cassadaga. Only after the purchase, did Barb’s friend learn that we had once been in her residence getting a psychic reading from its previous occupant.

Click on any of the items below for more information on Cassadaga:

A Cassadaga Photo Gallery

Cassadaga, A Spiritualist Community

Coincidences as Paranormal Events: Cassadaga, FL

The Cassadaga Bookstore and Information Center


End of story, but if you are interested in premonitions, coincidental events, ghosts, Carl Jung and synchonicity, you might want to take a look at the book below.

CarlJungLargeI wrote it because I am fascinated by not only Carl jung’s theories but also by his own paranormal experiences. And in studying all that I decided to combine what I had learned with my own experiences and those of others. That’s the package.

You can find the book on most large online bookstores, but below is the link to where you can see the reviews by those who have read it.
Carl Jung, Hauntings, and Paranormal Coincidences.

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