Cassadaga, Florida is a Spiritualist community just north of Disney World. We’ve posted about it several times. Established in 1894, it’s now a flourishing little town where nearly every resident is a medium or psychic who specializes in contact with spirits. On weekends, the place is jammed with cars and tourists, all of them walking through the old, narrow streets, past Spirit Lake, in search of exactly the right medium. Hotel Cassadaga is usually booked solid on weekends.
When Megan was just a baby, we went to Cassadaga for readings and stayed at the Cassadaga Hotel. We were surprised that we were the only guests and later learned it was bike week in Daytona, so that’s where the tourists had gone. We had our choice of rooms and selected one on the third floor. It was actually two connecting rooms that overlooked the Colby center – now a bookstore and gift shop.
We walked around the town that afternoon, pushing Megan along in her stroller. I think we had readings with Hazel Burly, mentioned in the linked post above. I have this vague memory of Megan crawling around on Hazel’s floor, scampering after her cat or dog. That evening, we ate at a restaurant in nearby St. Helen’s.
When we entered the hotel later that evening, I was struck by how eerily quiet it was. The hotel doesn’t have an elevator, so we folded up Megan’s stroller and headed up the stairs to the second floor. It was so still, the groan and creak of the steps and the old wooden floors sounded abnormally loud.
We settled in for the evening with our books. We didn’t bother locking the doors. The town was deserted, the hotel was empty, what was the point? Around eleven or twelve, we turned off the lights. Megan had fallen asleep earlier. I remember it was unusually chilly that night and my feet were cold. I got up to scour the closet for additional blankets, found one, and fell back into bed. Just as we were drifting off to sleep, we heard footfalls on the stairs. Loud footfalls. It sounded like a troop of bikers from Daytona had arrived wearing heavy boots. It sounded like an army.
I was a little spooked and whispered, “Hey, Rob, aren’t we alone in the hotel?”
“That’s what the guy at the desk said. Maybe he’s doing his midnight rounds or something.”
Rob is more grounded than I am when it comes to this stuff. But I could hear uncertainty in his voice. We lay there, listening. The footfalls became echoing thuds. It began to freak me out. The clerk, I recalled, was a short, skinny guy; these thuds sounded like they came from a 300 pound monster.
I suddenly got up and hurried into the adjoining room to get Megan. Rob turned on the lamp, but the light didn’t do much to mitigate my mounting fear and panic. The thuds now sounded like something out of The Shining, so hard and loud I thought I could feel the hotel shaking. I swept Megan out of her bed and rushed back into the other room, where Rob was now locking the doors. I set Megan, who still slept on, oblivious, in our bed and hurried over to where Rob was.
“What the hell is it?” I hissed.
“Not the night clerk.” He pressed his ear to the door.
The clunks and thuds reached the top of the stairs. A sense of profound malevolence electrified the air, that’s the only way I can describe it, and for moments, neither Rob nor I moved. The thuds escalated to the point where it sounded as if a semi was slamming repeatedly into the building. Then the thuds stopped. Total silence. We could hear someone breathing outside our rooms.
Rob and I immediately pushed a heavy wooden dresser in front of one door and moved the bed in which Megan had been sleeping in front of the other door. We moved back to the bed, Rob on one side, me on the other, both of us terrified that whatever it was would break through our defenses.
The knobs turned, rattled. The inside of my mouth flashed desert dry. We simultaneously reached for Megan, Rob grasping one of her hands, me grasping the other. I don’t know where we thought we would escape if whatever was on the other side of that door broke in. There was no fire escape, just a roof – and a long jump to the ground. Whatever it was kicked the door viciously, then the thudding footfalls continued down the hall and gradually faded away.
We didn’t sleep much after that. The next morning, when we checked out, I asked the clerk if the hotel was haunted. He sort of grinned. “You bet. But we’ve only got friendly ghosts here.” It even says that on the hotel website.
We beg to differ. What happened to us in Cassadaga was terrifying. But we had a similar experience in the Dominican Republic that was energizing. We didn’t feel threatened then. I’m not sure why the experiences differed so radically emotionally. Perhaps it had something to do with the spirits involved.
Rob wondered whether this story is a true synchronicity. So let me add this to put his mind at ease! For Carl Jung, many types of psychic phenomena fell under the larger umbrella of synchronicity. Jung had several experiences with spirits.
During the winter of 1924, he spent vast stretches of time alone in the tower of the home he built on the shores of Lake Zurich. As author Deirdre Bair recounted in Jung: A Biography, he experienced “ghostly presences” in the tower. “He heard music, as if an orchestra were playing; he envisioned a host of young peasant men who seemed to be encircling the tower with much laughter, singing, and roughhousing.” Bair says these experiences happened only once to Jung, but that he never forgot them.