Back to: Ectoplasm
What was ectoplasm
exuding from mediums?
In 1894, Charles Richet
coined the strange word "ectoplasm" to describe a gooey substance that
eerily oozed from psychic mediums while in trance.
ectoplasm was formed from the Greek words ektos and
plasma, combined means "outside formed."
Ectoplasm in the
late 1800's and early 1900's was believed to be a physical manifestation of
ghosts from the spirit world. Typically solid, ectoplasm is the stuff of
legends. Mediums claimed ectoplasm would be secreted from various
orifices, such as the ears, nose, mouth, and even sexual organs in order to
manifest body parts, or at times full-bodied figures of the deceased. It
was a weird time.
was originally described as smelling like ozone, being milky in color,
mostly solid, warm, thick, occasionally slimy, yet sometimes vaporous.
Various shapes and sizes of the emanations were reported in the times of
these fantastical mediums. Appearing during the popularity of
Spiritualism, French scientist Richet believed he had witnessed a third arm
materialize from medium Eusapia Palladino, this
following earlier accounts of ectoplasm-type vapors
associated with other prominent mediums of the day. And so, the legend of
Mediums claimed that to manifest ectoplasm, they needed
the cover over darkness, as the substance was light sensitive and would thus
disappear quickly, which could pose a threat to the medium.
Skeptics were quick to point out that darkness was used as a cover to mask
the fraudulent charades, created in order to dupe people out of monies.
Much of the ectoplasm looked more like gauze, chiffon, or cheese cloth that had
regurgitated, or disgustingly pulled from
another body cavity by the medium. Skeptic Harry Houdini knew the ectoplasm was
part of the parlor tricks mediums used during his time when he stated, "Nothing
has crossed my path to make me think that the Great Almighty will allow
emanations from the human body of such horrible, revolting, vicious shapes,
which like 'genie from the bronze bottle' ring bells, move handkerchiefs, wobble
tables and do other flapdoodle stunts."
By the 1920's and 1930's,
skeptics pressed the mediums even more heavily, as they investigated their
claims fervently. Some mediums were asked to perform in tights, so their
lower body cavities couldn't be used to conceal ectoplasm props. Famed
Ghost Investigator Harry Price even constructed a seance garment that enclosed
the medium, allowing only her head to remain out of it. The fine scrutiny
by experts eventually spelled the end of the ectoplasm hoaxes. Yet, today
medium David Thompson is one of a few who claim to exude ectoplasm during
trances under low-light conditions.
Above: Ectoplasm pours forth
supposedly from the medium's ear and onto a table.
Current medium David Thompson exuding ectoplasm.
Hamiltons Collection of Photographs of Ectoplasm Video
Ectoplasm oozes forth
from medium Minnie Harrison and Mary Marshall. The tiny face is of Sir Arthur Conan
Below: Medium Eva C. exuding ectoplasm with a
face later discovered to be from a newspaper.