If you visit Lily Dale, the largest Spiritualist community in North America, one of the places to stay is The Maplewood Hotel, a rebuilt horse barn that opened a century ago. People swear the place is haunted; stories abound of horse whinnies in the middle of the night, and a lady in Victorian clothes that floats up the second-floor stairway. When booking accommodations, people often request a haunted room, but the reservation agent politely tells them the rooms are as clear as the sky on a summer day.
Lily Dale can get quite crowded on the weekends, and it’s almost impossible to get spur-of-the-moment accommodations at the Maplewood. But luck was on our side last year, when circumstances dictated that we needed to get to the Dale a day earlier than our scheduled arrival. We’d been on the road for several hours and every motel we stopped at was either all booked up, or only had smoking rooms available. At 10 pm, we crossed our fingers and my husband telephoned to see if there was possibly an opening at the Maplewood. "We’ll even take a broom closet!" he begged the night manager.
Our luck came through. There was a last-minute vacancy.
"We’ll be there in 15 minutes!" he cried, and we made the 25-minute drive in record time. I don’t know how fast we were going because I kept my eyes closed most of the trip.
When the night manager saw us arrive with our luggage, he smiled sheepishly. "The room only has a double bed," he said, and led us to the top floor. Room 42 was a small, square space with a hardwood floor, a bed, a wooden chair, and a two-drawer dresser.
Exhausted from our drive, we collapsed into bed and fell asleep.
Sometime during the night, we woke to the sounds of a creaking rocking chair, and thudding footsteps walking around the bed. What was my husband doing out of bed, rummaging around the room? Maybe he was having a hard time snoozing, and was rocking himself to sleep. In my dog-tired state, I was too bushed to talk to him. The rhythmic sound of the rocking chair was like a metronome that quickly lulled me back to sleep.
When I woke the next morning, he was looking at the chair that definitely had four wooden feet on the floor. When he saw me, he said, "I could’ve sworn I heard a rocking chair last night."
"Me, too," I said.
Later that morning, we were able to move into the room we’d originally booked: number 6. A few days later, we happened to overhear a conversation between two women on the Maplewood’s front porch. One said she’d had a very interesting experience in her room last night involving a rocking chair and tramping footsteps around the bed.
"Were you by any chance in Room 42?" I asked.
The woman nodded. "I understand that happens to a lot of people," she said. "On a person’s first night in Room 42, they’ll get a kind-of visitation, as if someone’s checking them out and making sure they’re ok."
I smiled, happy to know that we’d evidently passed the Room 42 test and we’d been approved by spirit.