Talk about spirits and séances, and most people probably have trouble stifling a grin. But in the 19th century spiritualism was a surprisingly mainstream religious movement in the United States. Abraham Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, even held seances in the White House to talk to her dead children.
Even today, there is a little town in Florida where the spirits live on.
On first impression, the town of Cassadaga, with its tell-tale tin roofs and quaint front porches, looks like a journey back in time. But look closely at the signs around town and it's clear that people come here for a different kind of journey: mystics, mediums and spirits from beyond.
Just ask Anita Evans. She lives here.
"Well, they call us Cassadaga, where 'The Twilight Zone' meets Mayberry. We kind of like it that way," she said with a smile as she walked down the town's one main street.
We came here because we had heard about this curious corner of Florida. There are just 54 homes in Cassadaga, the newest built in the 1930s, housing about a hundred people. It's not really a town, it's a religious community and camp established in an era when talking to spirits wasn't considered quite so … odd.
The spiritualists, as they're called, developed the camp in 1875 as a winter retreat for spiritual leaders from New York, the birthplace of the spiritual movement, according to Evans.
"And they wanted out of the cold winter, they wanted out of the snow," she said. "This is a very spiritual, hallowed ground, and it has been that way probably about a 140 years now and only spiritualists have lived here. So it is a wonderful, peaceful little community that is wonderful at night time. It is like no other. It is like walking back in time."
People come to the Cassadaga Hotel, the only hotel in town, for a walk back in time and maybe a glimpse into the afterlife.
"The hotel itself was built in 1927, and people from all over the world come for readings and also to experience the paranormal activities that take place here in the hotel," explained owner Diana Morn. "We have friendly spirits, that's the best way I can put it."
With a deadly serious face, she explained that different rooms have different sprits. "It's not a theme park. We take what we do here very seriously."
She pulled out a picture of room 10, showing a couple that stayed at the hotel in February. "Can you see all theses little orbs that are all over?" she asked. "That's spirit energy."
There's clearly something on the photograph. Whether it's spirits or water spots depends on what you're willing to believe.
As I headed to my room, I began to wonder just what I had gotten myself into.
Outside, a few tourists wandered the streets. Curiosity and the possibility of an encounter with the paranormal have made Cassadaga a stop on Florida's tourist trail.
Maxine Markoff and her friend Sheila Golden came from Boynton Beach with their husbands. They signed up for a $75 reading, hoping that during the 45-minute session they would meet friends and family who had moved on.
An hour later Markoff and Golden sat down to talk about their first readings.
"I was disappointed in mine," said Golden. "I felt that anything that this lady told me was general and really didn't apply to me and she was just fishing."
Markoff was happier with her reading.
"It went very well. And she hit upon a lot of things that were quite true."