47° Good Afternoon
47° Good Afternoon

In Lily Dale, a town full of mediums, there really is spirit

Rev. Gerta Lestock, Ph.D. in HBO's

Rev. Gerta Lestock, Ph.D. in HBO's " No One Dies in Lily Dale." Credit: HBO Photo

Lily Dale is a hamlet about 60 miles southwest of Buffalo. A lovely, secluded place nestled amid the green, low-sculpted hills of western New York State - think Grover's Corners - it comprises a cluster of charming 19th century gingerbread houses. Many are occupied by people who talk to the dead. There are 40 mediums in Lily Dale, the largest spiritualist community in the world, like E. Gerta Lestock ("people are seeking and we are providing") or Gregory Kehn, who died three times when he was 11, or B. Anne Gehman, who works with police to help solve crimes.

You'll meet some of their customers, too, including Rebecca Fabricius of Iowa, here to find out why her fiance died suddenly, and Ronald Holt, an 18-year veteran of the Chicago police force whose teen son was getting off a bus when he was shot and killed in the crossfire of rival gang members.

My say: had an amusing head: " 'No One Dies in Lily Dale' to Feature Ghosts, Fabulous Caftans." For the record, there are no ghosts, and I can't honestly recall a single caftan, fabulous or otherwise. What you will get is a film about belief. The last line spoken by Lestock is, "If you believe, you will receive." If you don't believe, then it's probably a good idea to make a wide berth around Lily Dale on your next trip to Buffalo. But the pleasure of this film is that it presumes nothing, passes no judgment. Does filmmaker Steven Cantor (producer of 2002's "Devil's Playground" about Amish kids exploring their inner demons) believe or disbelieve? Impossible to say, and irrelevant, which makes "Lily Dale" so absorbing.

Bottom line: There are obviously many nuts drawn to Lily Dale, but just as many who come freighted with terrible tragedy - such as Holt, who lost the most precious thing in his life and can't come to terms with that loss. But Cantor sees the humor, quirkiness, and sheer oddity of the place, too. That's also the true spirit - pun obviously intended - of "Lily Dale."

The show: "No One Dies in Lily Dale," HBO documentary, Monday at 9.

Grade: A

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