Sunday, January 29, 2012


As happens from time to time, I was looking up some stuff on the Internet and saw a picture that sparked my interest.  It is the one featured above. (I was unable to locate any info on who the medium is in the picture.  If someone reading this knows, please leave a comment.)  This picture is completely unrelated to what I had been researching, but it does reflect a subject I have been intrigued about before.  Ectoplasm. I know that it is associated with the world of mediums, and is said to be formed by "physical" mediums.  But, what exactly is ectoplasm?

(Unfortunately, FOX blocked the above video on YouTube, so it was deleted.)

The above movie clip is from "The Legend of Hell House".  Released in 1973, it marks my first encounter with the subject of ectoplasm.  (If you have never seen the film, I recommend it.  It is a definite classic in the world of movies based on the paranormal.)  Although effective for it's time and in the context used, the formation of 'ectoplasm' would not exude from a mediums fingertips. Before I get a little ahead of myself here, it is important to know what a 'physical medium' is.

As with 'mediums' on the whole, physical mediums are the conduit of communication between the living and the dead.  You have mediums whose gifts manifest on more of a mental line, communicating through methods such as channeling.  Successful links with the spiritual are expressed verbally, through writing, etc.  Physical mediums contact is exhibited through more "physical" means separate from their actual bodies.  Disembodied voices, knocks, raps, the materialization of spirits, objects moving, apports (paranormal materialization of an object), and even levitation.  I used the term "conduit" before.  The medium can almost be described as a battery that a spirit uses as a power source for manifesting. After a 'true' session or seance, it can take hours or even a couple of days for a medium to recover from one of these energy drains.  

(supposed ectoplasm cloud)

Another one of these physical manifestations is the formation of ectoplasm.  Rather controversial, ectoplasm has taken on some new definitions in more recent times.  The movie "Ghostbusters" described it as a rather slippery substance that was produced by ghosts...getting "slimed".  Paranormal investigating has become extremely popular in a more public sense, the list of television shows with a paranormal bent acting as testament.  The term "ghost mist" is said to be a cloud of ectoplasmic substance.  Some say it is a residue left to indicate a spirit had recently been there, while others say it is produced by electro-magnetic energy radiating up from the earth that forms "ecto-clouds". None of the current definitions are as dramatic or impressive as the original formations the moniker was created for.

(Charles Richet)

The creation of the word 'ectoplasm' is credited to French physiologist, and president of the "Society For Psychical Research" (1905), Charles Richet. The term comes from the Greek words "ektos" and "Plasma", which basically translate to 'exterriorized substance'.  During the late 1800's, this word was used to describe the odd formations created from physical mediums who were in a trance like state.  A formation of gauze-like secretions that were produced from orifices of the medium, specifically the mouth, nose, and ears (other orifices were mentioned...I'll leave it at that). Some traditional tools of the physical medium are 'spirit cabinets', 'spirit trumpets', and 'levitation tables'. The cabinets and trumpets seem to be more closely related to the appearance of ectoplasm.

(Medium, Ethel Post Parrish, 1953...spirit of "Silver Belle" appearing out of ectoplasm)
(Left: Spirit trumpet; Right: Levitation table)

What is ectoplasm made of?  There are a number of substances said to be a part of this mysterious secretion.  Elements of the physical body of the medium.  In the case of group/circle seances, elements can also come from clothing, furniture, and carpeting.  Then there are the spiritual elements of this apport (ectoplasm).  Elements of the spiritual planes (astral, etheric, causal, or mental substances) that naturally exist there, but are brought to this plane temporarily.  

(English medium,
Jack Webber

What is ectoplasm's purpose?  Once ectoplasm is formed it is said that spirits can use this otherworldly gauze to 'clothe' themselves on our plane of existence.  They use it so that those present can see them.  Some interesting tidbits about ectoplasm:  it is formed in darkened rooms;  The sudden introduction of bright white light in the room can cause the ectoplasm to flash back immediately into the producing mediums body causing them great harm, from burns and hemorrhages, to death;  There are strong warnings to not touch ectoplasm unless you have the approvals of the spirits, the repercussions being the same as with the introduction of light.  

(Scottish medium, Helen Duncan

While I was doing a bit of research for this post, I came across this supposed account of actual experiences with ectoplasm as shared by a man named Leslie D.  The site owners who posted the article don't know when it was written.  I found this excerpt intriguing and creepy:

"In my own physical home circle we could see a grey mist hovering over the circle in the dark, which was an indication that some phenomena might start at any moment. On occasions, sitters would feel themselves to be gently touched by spirit entities - when this happened to me, I would ask permission to feel further, and once felt a fully materialised hand, complete with finger nails, quite warm and natural, but terminating at the wrist, and tapering into a narrow fringe attached to a psychic rod. Amazing! At a Gordon Higginson séance at Stansted Hall, I saw it billowing like waves across the floor from the cabinet, until it reared up and tried to form into a proper structure. These fully formed materialised figures really appear to be living flesh and blood, and when they de-materialise, they seem to melt and sink into the floor. The garments they wear can feel like silk, or often a more coarse material. In 1916, W J Crawford discovered by his own experiments that ectoplasmic formations could become as solid and as strong as steel!" ~ Leslie D.

(Medium, Marjorie Crandon)
(Medium, Mary M.,

As with most (if not all) topics of a paranormal bent, science thinks the appearance and formation of actual ectoplasm to be a hoax.  None of the supposed evidence put forth has been accepted as absolute proof.  Various tests of supposed samples of ectoplasm are said to have produced nothing that can be described as paranormal in nature.  Parapsychologists say that research does suggest that the production of ectoplasm does happen.  

(Marjorie Crandon)

The existence of ectoplasm is supported by a number of belief systems, Voo Doo, Spiritualism, and New Age groups to name a few.  (New Age is the description of the coming Age of Aquarius, of which we are said to be shifting into now.)  As with the laundry list of paranormal topics that have the believers and non-believers at odds, I think the only way to know that ectoplasm is for real, is for an individual to experience the phenomena first hand.  The physical medium doesn't seem to be as prevalent as it once was.  I am sure that they are still out there, but going by what several sources of info said, it is harder to find mediums who are willing to go to the extent of ectoplasm production due to the toll it takes on the physical body.  Whether that's true or not, if I were given an opportunity to witness something like that I would grab it.  

As with most paranormal "talents", there are always a fair number of charlatans who pass their fakery off on the unsuspecting.  I am not gullible and look at everything from a realistic perspective.  By the same token, I do believe that there are occurrences that defy scientific explanation.

To quote the late great Frank Zappa...

"A mind is like a parachute.  It doesn't work if it's not open." 


  1. Do people still create extoplasm? And have experts been able to collect and sample this?

  2. ^^ I meant, are people still extracting ectoplasm?

    1. I have seen Ectoplasm talked about on the various paranormal shows I have watched, mostly in cloud form. When I was researching the above post, Ectoplasm was talked about in a way to suggest that there are still reports of it occurring. As for any specific studies of Ectoplasmic material, I don't have that information.