At first glance, the tiny community of Cassadaga is nothing out of the ordinary. Nestled in in the heart of central Florida and surrounded by lakes and forest, the sleepy town may not seem like much — but there’s something quite peculiar about it.
This town is known as the “Psychic Capital of the World.”
Of the village’s roughly 100 inhabitants, over half are practicing psychic mediums.
When photographer Christiaan Lopez-Miro heard about the town, he was instantly intrigued.
“I’ve always been fascinated with magic and illusion, as well as the intrigue of the occult,” he said. “When I found out about Cassadaga, I instantly thought of … ghosts and all the things one would usually think of when told there is a town where all its residents are psychics, healers and mediums. Of course I wanted to explore it further.”
He initially planned to photography psychic waiting rooms, but the draw of the mysterious little town grew. On a journey through central Florida, Lopez-Miro took his cameras with him on a side trip to Cassadaga and began knocking on doors.
What he discovered was a place both otherworldly yet completely mundane. He shared the incredible images from his project with us.
Starting was surprisingly easy. 'I literally just started knocking on doors and explaining … that I was interested in photographing in their homes and eventually creating a project on the town and its residents,' said Lopez-Miro. 'Mostly everyone I spoke with invited me in and was very welcoming.'
The Spiritualists believe that anyone can utilise the sixth sense to reach enlightenment; a medium has natural energies that merge with spiritual energy and can be used to heal. Here, a town medium is healing a visitor.
The town was founded in 1875 by George Colby, a famed medium who travelled the country holding seances.
Meant as a winter retreat for his spiritualist followers in New York, the town has remained virtually unchanged since the '30s and was declared a US national historic site. It's considered the largest Spiritual community in the country, and still draws many.
Reverend Mary Rose Grey is a minister as well as a registered nurse and Reiki instructor. Many of the town's mediums are also ordained ministers of the Spiritualist church.
Lopez-Miro made it clear to the residents that he wasn't out to debunk anyone, merely to explore. On the whole it was a very open and trusting place, he says.
Some even encouraged Lopez-Miro to be healed himself. 'I didn't want to insult them and they were pretty persistent, so I obliged. Definitely never thought I would be falling back on the floor and having them cover me with a bed sheet. While laying on the floor, a person was reading some passages from what I assume was a bible,' he said.
Despite leaning towards scepticism, he was nonetheless surprised by the town. 'Everyone I came in contact with truly believed in what they were doing, whether it was happening or not. To dedicate your life and live in a Spiritualist community, that is commitment.'
Readings, lectures, and spiritual healings from the community leaders, such as medium and minister Phoebe Rose Bergin, can bring up to 15,000 visitors a year to Cassadaga.
Many visitors stay in the nearby Cassadaga Hotel, which is rumoured to be haunted. It was built in the 1920s.
It's said the ghost of an Irish tenor named Arthur roams the hotel, turning lights on and off -- and apparently leaving the scent of cigars and gin.
Lopez-Miro was invited to photograph this late night healing session by the camp's president. Some fall to the floor while a Bible passage or spiritual text is read.
The church has a healing session every Sunday morning before services begin. This typically includes hymnals, meditation, and a guest lecturer.
The people of Cassadaga struck Lopez-Miro as incredibly enthusiastic about their connections to the spiritual world. 'They have gone to school for it, studied it extensively and are constantly doing their own research. Whether it exists and they are tapped into something we are not, is not for me to answer,' he said.
'What I can say is that anyone who is that dedicated to their craft believes in what they are doing.' Here he photographs medium Victor Vogenitz, who has been leading seances since he was 16.
Lopez-Miro wants his work to encourage curiosity, if nothing else. 'I would like the work to encourage the viewer to have questions. A lot of the photographs focus on the mundane and on a group of people searching for something that perhaps is never found - a waiting game of sorts.' Of course, not in question is Cassadaga's enduring intrigue and charm.
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