Glimpse Into the Afterlife?

"Ah, very personal," said Markoff with a laugh.

Markoff said she'd come back to Cassadaga for another reading some time. Golden is not convinced.

"I think once in my lifetime is enough," she said.

The Shaking Table

As day turned to night, and the sleepy streets emptied, Cassadaga felt like a ghost town. Of course, around here some believe it really is. The center of activity in the evening is just down the street at the Colby Memorial Temple.

A room in the back is reserved for seances.

Victor Vogenitz, who first came to Cassadaga with his parents 40 years ago, led that night's seance.

"I don't mind you being skeptical, as long as you're not cynical," he said. "That's the only difference. When you're cynical, things don't tend to happen, because it blocks you out."

The lights went out. I could only see the shadowy figures of the half dozen people sitting with me around the table.

"Well, good evening, spirit," said Victor. "Thank you for coming."

"Thank you, spirit," chimed in several others.

It's a strange scene, but what happened next was even stranger.

Suddenly Vogenitz led the group in song, to "get the energy built up," and started singing, "I've Been Working on the Railroad."

Not the kind of music I expected to hear at my first seance.

And it got weirder and weirder … the table started to really come alive.

"There it goes," said one woman as the table lurched in my direction.

"There it goes," said Victor. "You better say hello."

I wasn't quite sure what to say. I didn't want to break the moment so I heard myself blurt out, "Well, hello, spirit!"

"Hello, spirit!" said the others as the table slid toward my stomach.

There weren't any cables or wheels on that heavy table -- I checked. But I couldn't help noticing that every time I gave it a gentle nudge the others nudged too, and it lurched across the room.

"There we go, thank you, spirit," said Margarita Barela as the table moved toward her. She began speaking in Spanish, greeting her dead grandfather. She was clearly pleased to be hearing from him.

If you're not a true believer in the spirit world, this is one of the strangest ways imaginable to spend an evening. Maybe it takes more than one visit to be convinced.

After 90 minutes, the seance ends. The group belted out one more unlikely song: "Happy Trails to You!"

It felt more like summer camp than spiritualist camp. Whatever it was, everyone had a good time.

As we returned to the hotel we bumped into an eager band of self-styled investigators, prowling the corridors with some odd-looking machinery. They were wearing black T-shirts with the word "T.O.P.S." on the front. I asked Wanda Gates, who seemed to be the group leader, what the T-shirts mean.

"We're The Orlando Paranormal Society," she said with a straight face. "At midnight things start changing in our world, and so we are out measuring the energy change that is going to start at midnight within the hotel."

And what exactly is the paranormal?

"Something that may not be normal to the normal person," explained Gates. "That means orbs, spirit orbs, ghosts, voices... we record a lot of voices."

Um. Okay.

"Just between us, can you tell me what rooms the spirits are in?" I asked.

"Do NOT stay in 25 and 26!" cautioned Gates.

I laughed nervously and pulled out my room key to show her: room 25.

"That is not the room you are in, seriously?" she said with a deep sense of foreboding. "Oooh, that's where Sara is and you won't sleep tonight."

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