by Prissy Elrod | April 26, 2024

Prissy Elrod’s Journey Into the Psychic Capital of the World

Prissy Elrod dips her toes into the world of a psychic spiritualist and heavenly ghosts.

Illustration by Stephen Lomazzo.

Though I’ve lived in Florida my entire life, it wasn’t until I read a Flamingo article in Fall 2020 that I learned of the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, a century-old community in Cassadaga, Florida. It’s recognized as the Psychic Capital of the World. I yearned to see a place with intrigue, mystique and spirituality of an otherworldly flavor, which is my favorite taste. 

I was about 10 when I realized I viewed the world differently than others. I had no idea how to verbalize my unusual visions and premonitions, not to mention the moment I realized one of my premonitions came true. 

At the parochial school I attended, the word clairvoyant was not in my vocabulary and was never discussed between the Irish Catholic nuns and me. Purgatory was their favorite word. And they were mighty convincing that’s where I’d go if I neglected The Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary (times 10) and my Act of Contrition before bedtime. Purgatory clung to me evermore.

When I married Boone, my late husband, he was a full-throttle Episcopalian. So I left the Catholic Church and joined his faith. When he died, I left that faith and became a Methodist. Seeing it now in writing seems like I switched hair salons, not religions. In my defense, I had good reasons. It was always to make another person happy. 

To this day, I have no way of knowing if Sister Conception was right. So to be safe, my prayer rituals have continued, minus the rosary beads. I don’t want to take a chance and end up anywhere near purgatory.

Meeting of the Minds

It was after I read the story of Cassadaga that I decided to take my friend Gayle to the community for her birthday. Gayle, who had been married to her late husband Spider Webb (I swear that was his real name) for almost 50 years, longed to reconnect with him. He had passed away three years earlier.

“He doesn’t ever come to me. Why can’t I see him?” she asked. 

“Well, I think he’s ghosted you. Maybe because your vessel for connection is closed,” I said with authority.

 “How ‘bout we go to Cassadaga so you can connect—a birthday gift from me.” I beamed with pride. Seriously, what better gift could a friend give than a date with their departed loved one, even if it was only spiritually? Grief is a bully, and I hate bullies. I felt psyched to intervene on her behalf and she’d been my best friend for over 50 years. Plus, I knew all about burying a husband.

 Gayle’s son refers to us as Grace and Frankie—from the television sitcom. Make no mistake, I’m Frankie, with my bohemian flair and unfiltered tongue. She is a spit-shined Grace, with her penchant for Methodist pragmatism. 

“Will you do it with me?” she asked. 

“Heck yeah, are you kidding?” I said. And that was that … except it wasn’t. 

I’d done my research and collected a five-star testimonial from a friend who’d had a life-changing session at the Cassadaga camp with Margarita, a renowned medium. So, with a twinkle in my eye and skepticism in hers, Gayle and I embarked on our journey to the other side of not only the state, but also the ethereal realm where mediums, tarot readers and spiritual enthusiasts congregated. I signed each of us up for a 45-minute session, a cash-only transaction that would be payable when we arrived.

We adopted pseudonyms so Margarita wouldn’t know anything about us in advance. I would be Charlotte and Gayle would be Sharon. 

“I don’t worry about purgatory so much anymore. My premonitions just don’t show me going there.”
—Prissy Elrod

I’ve faced my fair share of challenges and delights, but nothing could prepare me for what awaited in Cassadaga, a secluded town which sprawls with streets bearing names like Mediumship Way and Spiritualist Street. 

The Hotel Cassadaga was front and center. The windows appeared to have seen better days with their faded lace curtains hinting at a forgotten elegance. Locals whispered tales of ghostly apparitions and unexplained phenomena, daring only the bravest guests to stay the night. That wasn’t us—there was no way we were staying there. 

I volunteered to speak with the medium first lest Gayle back out. I left her in the hotel lobby and walked the sidewalk along Mediumship Way toward the house with the purple door. I was early and found a bench on the front lawn of the dated house and waited. The afternoon sun shone down from the cerulean blue skies as I pondered my thoughts and fears. I heard the front door open five minutes later.

 “Charlotte, please come in,” she said. I momentarily forgot I’d made up the name and climbed the front steps to greet her. Inside revealed encased jalousie windows that surrounded the enclosed porch, like my own childhood home. 

To be honest, she looked nothing like I expected. There was no flowing robe or feathered scarf. Instead, she wore a navy pantsuit and silk blouse. A pearl necklace hung loosely around the wrinkled neck of the mid-70-year-old woman.

“I see books,” she said as she walked toward a chair, her back to me. I was Charlotte with no last name, how could she know about my books. Stupefied, I sat opposite of her in a well-worn chair. “So, what brings you?” she asked. 

“Umm … a friend,” I stammered. 

“I see. Shall we start?” She looked upward. I squirmed in my chair and willed myself to be quiet, which is not easy for me.

She opened her eyes and investigated mine. “I sense a presence in the room, someone close to you, a man.” I was thinking she was off to a predictably vague start. But then, with a sudden intensity, she continued, “He’s meticulously dressed and handsome, blondish, organizing and straightening something in front of him … would that be someone you know?” I almost fainted … literally.

“B-B-Boone, my h-h-husband,” I stuttered. She was eerily specific, as Boone was OCD and liked everything in order. He dressed in Brooks Brothers-type clothing as an environmental attorney. 

“He wants you to know he’s so proud of you,” she whispered. I stared at her, speechless. She revealed more details, each sending a shiver down my spine. 

“A colonel. Do you know one?” 

“No,” I replied. She missed! I thought. She closed her eyes again, looked up and back down at me. 

“Someone with a big grin and white, white teeth is repeating the word colonel, saluting. Could that mean anything?”

 I was in “The Twilight Zone,” I had to be. “Is he a man of color?” I asked. She nodded yes. “It’s Duhart, my husband’s caregiver. He lived with us until the end. He called Boone ‘colonel,’ after he learned that my daughters’ friends created that nickname from his strict fathering.” 

“Well, he is standing next to your husband, saluting.” I wiped away my tear.

She barely inhaled and continued. “A woman is coming through who looks much like you but with darker hair and is saying you are doing too much.” 

“No way!” I said way too loud. As God is my witness, those were my mother’s exact words every time we talked. In a mixture of awe and disbelief, I questioned her, “How on Earth can you know this? And don’t tell me it’s the spirits. This is uncanny!” 

Margarita smiled mysteriously. “Spirits have a way of revealing what needs to be known.” Her eyes took on a distant gaze. “I see a larger woman with an oversized heart holding a bible.” Margarita lifted both hands and figuratively made the shape of a large heart in front of her chest. “She says she misses you so much.” 

“It’s Mazel, who always had her bible nearby and was in my life since my birth. I cared for her until her death at 98.”  

“Well, she’s there now with your mother.”

Trust Your Gut

I felt spent, but Margarita didn’t notice and kept on keeping on. She mentioned a tall man wearing a white coat with a stethoscope. That was my surgeon father, who was 6 feet 4 inches, and deceased for over three decades. Frankly, the woman had me at Boone, but the other loved souls she mentioned sealed the deal. Margarita had saved the best for last. Or, maybe the worst, depending on how you look at it. 

“You do know you have a gift, a connection to the unseen,” she said. “You’ve never massaged your uniqueness, and you must unlock the mysteries within you.”

I listened with a mix of shock and amusement at my attempt at anonymity with my fake name. I decided to share my real self and recounted what happened with my granddaughter years earlier.

I’d had a haunting vision in a dream, a premonition something was wrong with the 1-year-old’s heart. I reached out to my daughter, who listened to my goings-on reluctantly since I wouldn’t back down. Determined to put my concerns to rest, she had her baby checked by the local pediatric cardiologist. He diagnosed a harmless heart murmur and said she would outgrow it. Time passed, but I never shook the feeling that my premonition held more weight than anyone believed. It would be months later when her symptoms—absent during the first examinations—called for further testing. They revealed a small opening in her heart, a congenital defect. The cardiologist recommended they repair the small hole, and open-heart surgery followed. 

During the procedure, they discovered she had not just one, but three holes in her heart. Her surgery was successful, and she is now 17 years old and perfectly healthy. 

The experience transformed my thinking from doubtful to an unwavering conviction to pay attention to the premonitions, even the weirdest of them. I told Margarita about other events, equally extraordinary. When I finished running my mouth, it was bone-dry and my 45 minutes were up.

“As I tread the winding path of spirituality, I’ve learned that spirituality is like a fine recipe with a wide assortment of flavors, and the taste is as unique as the one savoring it.”
– Prissy Elrod

Margarita leaned forward and, in a strained whisper, said, “I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and have never met anyone like you. You’re a rare soul, with a direct line to the spirits, a channeler with past lives. You should take channeling and embrace your unique gift.”

 I pictured myself telling my husband, daughters and friends I wanted to be a channeler or medium. Nope, no can do! Margarita interrupted my thoughts. “I see you have grown wings from tragedy.” I swallowed her unfathomable statement of truth and tried to digest it.

After that, I bid her goodbye. Spider didn’t show up for Gayle that day, despite being the very reason we went to Cassadaga.

 “I just know he will come next time. Maybe he was just too busy,” I said to console her. Spider was always busy, so I hoped my rationale soothed her.

Let’s just say I don’t worry about purgatory so much anymore. My premonitions just don’t show me going there. I should be safer than safe in my final resting place, what with the myriad of religions I’ve collected all these years: a Catholic roux, with a dash of Episcopalian, a dollop of Methodist, a sprinkle of Buddhism and heavily (or is it heavenly) finished off with a huge gob of spiritualism. 

As I tread the winding path of spirituality, I’ve learned that spirituality is like a fine recipe with a wide assortment of flavors, and the taste is as unique as the one savoring it. As Buddha wisely noted, “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”  

Prissy Elrod is a professional speaker, artist and humorist. She was born and raised in Lake City and now lives in Tallahassee with her husband, Dale. She has authored two nonfiction books: “Far Outside the Ordinary” and “Chasing Ordinary,” the sequel.