Lily Dale, New York ca. 1910. Courtesy of The Lily Dale Assembly
“I am sorry to have sounded so dramatic.” Charlotte ushered Maude into a parlor that looked like it hadn’t changed since the cottage was built in the late nineteenth century. Her great-grandmother came to Lily Dale as a child. There was no safer place for a gifted child of color. The house had been passed along in her family, each generation producing an heir with highly developed inner senses. “I do wish you lived closer.”
The other thing passed through the family was the sense of safety and security felt in the close-knit community of Lily Dale. Charlotte remembered well the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and what life had been like for people of color before that. Her family and others like her had always been accepted and respected in Lily Dale, and she seldom left the gated community.
“No worries. I was happy to get away from the shop.” Maude took a seat and reached for the cup and saucer that sat atop the fine lace tablecloth brushing against her knee. “So, what have you got to tell me?”
“Well, last night I was walking through the woods and I was joined by a woman named Mary. She was wearing early nineteenth-century clothes, nothing fancy; she wasn’t a woman of leisure.”
Maude knew that Charlotte was not talking about a living person, but rather a spirit. “Do you think she is connected to me?”
“Yes, I do. She showed me images of the sea, a small thatched cottage on a remote island, and a red horse pulling a wagon over a stone bridge. I think she was from Ireland,” Charlotte told her.
“I know I have ancestors who came from there, but I never did get around to finding out anything about them,” Maude told her.
“She may not be your ancestor, dear.” Charlotte looked at Maude with eyebrows raised, waiting for her to catch up.
The Leolin Woods in Lily Dale, New York. Photo by Rosanne L. Higgins
“I don’t understand.” As soon as the words left her mouth, she realized that wasn’t true. “Oh, wait, this woman was somehow connected to Martha.” Maude made no attempt to hush the audible sigh at the end of her statement. A visit to Charlotte usually had something to do with Martha Sloane Quinn, a nineteenth-century physician who had lived in both Buffalo and Lily Dale.
Maude had come to realize that the research started in graduate school would become her life’s work. A project analyzing the ledgers of the Erie County Poorhouse helped complete her doctorate in anthropology, and had also connected her to Ciara, Patricia and Martha Sloane. When Maude left her career in academia to open a business with her husband, her connection with the poorhouse and this family was not severed. She had no idea that the building where she and her husband Don had started their antique business (and now lived in as well) only brought her closer to them. As the details of their lives manifested themselves through dreams and research, Maude’s relationship to this family deepened. With this connection also came the realization that Maude had some gifts not previously revealed. She could conjure up accurate details from the past in her dreams. With Charlotte’s help, she pieced together the clues she received. Between the dreams, historical research and a few whispering bones from the poorhouse cemetery, Maude began to understand the lives of the Sloane sisters in the burgeoning city of Buffalo. Orphaned on the journey emigrating from Ireland, the girls had no choice but to seek refuge in the county almshouse when they arrived in Buffalo. Each sister rose above her humble beginnings. Ciara worked tirelessly to help the poor, Patricia became a teacher, and Martha a physician.
“What did this woman have to tell you? Wait a minute; is she here now?” Maude asked cautiously. The appearance of spirits from her past had occurred before during visits to Charlotte. Maude took a few deep breaths to relax and see whether she could sense the presence of this spirit.
Charlotte watched as Maude made the effort to connect with this unseen companion, pleased that she was open to the experience. After a few minutes, the blank look on her face indicated that Maude’s effort was unsuccessful. Charlotte then answered her question. “Yes, she is here now.”
“How does that work, exactly? How can this woman, whom I have never met, know to contact me through you?” Maude was asking partly out of curiosity and partly to delay further communication with the woman named Mary.
“The love connection is boundless; it is not unusual for someone from the other side to go to great lengths to try and make contact. This woman loved Martha very much. I felt the maternal energy the minute I realized she was with me in the woods.”
“So, are you saying Mary is Martha’s mother?” Maude asked.
“I wasn’t certain last night, but now that you are here I am convinced of your past relationship,” Charlotte told her.
“What is so urgent that Martha’s mother needs to speak to me?” Maude braced herself for the answer.
The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland. Photo by Rosanne L. Higgins
“Well, I’m not sure exactly. As I said, she just keeps showing me these images of the sea, the cottage on the remote island, and the horse-drawn wagon on the bridge.” Charlotte closed her eyes in concentration. “Along with these images, I am feeling a sense of dread. Something unwelcome is connected to that location.”