How did you discover Lily Dale and why did you decide to make a film about it?
Lily Dale is this quaint little town in upstate New York whose Spiritualist residents include about forty psychic mediums. I had taken a research trip there with my business partner, Daniel Laikind, as we were curious, though also skeptical. There were one or two mediums that gave us messages that were specific and accurate and really made us think twice. But even more striking was the palpable grief that many of the visitors wore on their sleeves and the subsequent relief or at least diminishment of that sadness through the psychic messages that were conveyed to them. The emotional journeys that the visitors experienced made me realize there was a film there.
The town's been around for over a hundred years. And they've been subject to all kinds of ridicule. A lot of non-believers say the whole thing is one giant scam. I'm not saying I believe wholeheartedly in the entire Lily Dale experience, but one thing I can say for certain is that there is no cheating going on. The mediums are not at their computers googling visitors or their upcoming clients or anything.
To the outside world, mediums often seem like fascinating eccentrics. What did you discover about them when you started?
The people in Lily Dale are united by a religion called Spiritualism. They believe we're all made of this spiritual energy and we can choose to come down to earth and inhabit a body to learn some vital life lessons. And the body is just a vessel that you use until it runs out of gas, basically, at which point you go back into the spiritual world with your newfound psychic growth. And you can choose to come down again or you can just hang out in the spiritual world and kind of watch what's going on. They all believe that and they're all united by that. And that belief is very different from what most people believe. And it makes them pretty eccentric and quirky, but at the same time, if you think about it, it's really a great and soothing system of beliefs. First of all, it removes the fear of death entirely and gives them a wonderful way to organize their lives.