A term coined by psychical researcher Charles Richet and
widely used in Spiritualism, derived from the Greek ektos and
plasma (meaning ‘‘exteriorized substance’’). It denotes a mysterious
vaporlike substance that, Spiritualists claimed, streamed
out of the body of entranced mediums. The manipulation of ectoplasm,
either by the subconscious self or by discarnate intelligences,
resulted in the phenomena of a superphysical order
(including partial and complete materializations.) Psychoplasm
and teleplasm are terms similarly used to convey the same meaning,
the latter denoting action at a distance from the medium’s
body, while ideoplasm progresses a step further and means the
molding of the ectoplasm into the likeness of a self.
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Ectoplasm
From the eighteenth century through the early twentieth
century, numerous reports of an ectoplasmic substance were reported.
Emanuel Swedenborg, for example, in his first vision
spoke of ‘‘a kind of vapour steaming from the pores of my
body.’’ It was a visible watery vapor and fell downward to the
ground upon the carpet. Eugene A. D. Rochas compared the
luminous vapor he saw arising from the breast of Elizabeth
d’Esperance to the Milky Way. Paul Lecour likened the process
to the condensation of a nebula. The same idea is suggested
by Venzano’s description of a mass of swirling vapor at the
side of Eusapia Palladino. In the case of Franek Kluski and
that of Eva C., the substance was observed as white luminous
spots from the size of a pea to that of a crown piece on the medium’s
clothes. In Kluski’s case they were much brighter than
in Eva’s. Gustav Geley described a dimly phosphorescent column
that formed beside him, out of which a luminous hand,
perfectly formed and of natural size, appeared and patted him
several times on the forearm in a friendly way. At the slight
shock, a drop of luminous liquid fell on his sleeve and shone
there for 15 to 20 minutes after the disappearance of the hand.
D’Esperance wrote of her experiences with ectoplasm:
‘‘As soon as I have entered the mediumistic cabinet, my first
impression is of being covered with spider webs. Then I feel
that the air is filled with substance, and a kind of white and vaporous
mass, quasi luminous, like the steam from a locomotive,
is formed in front of the abdomen. After this mass has been
tossed and agitated in every way for some minutes, sometimes
even for half an hour, it suddenly stops, and then out of it is
born a living being close to me.’’
Another time she added, ‘‘It seemed that I could feel fine
threads being drawn out of the pores of my skin.’’ This is significant
in view of the cloudy, faintly luminous threads between
the phantom and the medium that are sometimes observed in
materialization séances. Such séances may help in understanding
telekinetic phenomena.
The claimed discovery of ectoplasm is, of course, not recent.
In the works of the alchemist Thomas Vaughan (1622–1666) is
found a description under the term first matter or mercury of a
substance, drawn from the body, that has some of the characteristics
of ectoplasm. However, the first systematic study of ectoplasm
was a joint effort by Baron Albert von SchrenckNotzing
and Juliette Bisson, who experimented with Eva C.
Prior to this, Gabriel Delanne, Enrico Morselli, and Charles
Richet published descriptions of the different evolutionary
states of ectoplasm. Subsequently, important contributions to
the discussion were made by Gustave Geley.
The questions that entertained psychical researchers, besides
the basic one of establishing the very existence of ectoplasm,
were its properties, the effect of its outflow upon the medium,
and the means by which it could be manipulated. It was
originally hypothesized that ectoplasm was a form of matter,
invisible and intangible in its primary state but assuming vaporous,
liquid, or solid condition in various stages of condensation.
It was said to smell like ozone and to possess a number of extraordinary
Experimental Findings and Inferences
A variety of photographs of what were supposed to be ectoplasm
was put forward, some of which are rather repulsive.
They show gelatinous, viscous material oozing from all the natural
orifices of the medium’s body—from the mouth, ears,
nose, eyes, and lower orifices, and also from the top of the
head, from the breasts, and from the fingertips. Most often it
comes from the mouth. The form of the substance varies, according
to Geley, between threads, cords, rigid rays, membranes,
and fabriclike or woven material with indefinite and irregular
outlines. The most curious picture is that of a widely
expanded membrane with fringes and rucks and resembling a
net in appearance. This resemblance to such materials as
cheesecloth often provoked allegations of fraud, and, in fact,
many mediums were caught in attempts to simulate ectoplasm.
The amount of ectoplasm found in the experiments varied
greatly. It seemed at times to be conditioned by psychological
factors of will and emotion. It could completely envelop the
medium as in a mantle. It had different colors—white, black,
or grey. White was the most frequent, or perhaps the most easily
observed. Sometimes the three colors appeared simultaneously.
Visibility varied a great deal. The impression to the
touch was sometimes moist and cold, sometimes viscous and
sticky, more rarely dry and hard. The substance was mobile,
slow, reptilelike, or at other times quick as lightning. It was sensitive
to light. The production could affect the general temperature
of the room, a change being particularly noticeable near
the medium or any object touched by the exuding substance.
Schrenck-Notzing in his book The Phenomena of Materialisation
(1920) sums up hundreds of experiments conducted for a
period of five years with Eva C.: ‘‘We have very often been able
to establish that by an unknown process there comes from the
body of the medium a material, at first semi-fluid, which possesses
some of the properties of a living substance, notably that
of the power of change, of movement and of the assumption of
definite forms.’’
In Munich, with the Polish medium Stanislawa P., the baron
succeeded in making a cinematographic record of ectoplasm as
it flowed out of the medium’s mouth.
The similarity between these observations and those of a
Mrs. Davidson at the haunted Willington Mill is of interest.
She saw:
‘‘. . . what she supposed was a white towel lying on the
ground. She went to pick it up, but imagine her surprise when
she found that it rose up and went behind the dressing table
over the top, down on the floor across the room, disappeared
under the door, and was heard to descend the stairs with a
heavy step’’ (Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, vol.
In séances in Boston with Mina S. Crandon, ectoplasm was
photographed as it was being reabsorbed by the medium’s
body through the openings of the mouth, nose, and ears. In
several of these photographs the ectoplasm still had the form
it had first assumed in the materialization, a form then reduced
to a species of placenta attached to the medium by a cord similar
to an umbilical cord.
Dr. F. Schwab, in his experiments with Maria Vollhardt,
made a photographic record of telekinetic movements and
found ectoplasm on them. The matter was usually streaming
out of Vollhardt’s mouth. Her teethmarks were often found in
it, suggesting it was a plastic substance.
The sensation of touch produced by ectoplasm also varied
in the experiments. According to the invisible operators of the
séance room, it could be made to have any desired ‘‘feel.’’ ‘‘Walter,’’
the control of Margery (Mina Crandon), put an ectoplasmic
terminal in the hand of Dr. Crandon, telling him to feel
and squeeze it gently. It was a more or less conical mass, half
an inch wide at its tip, getting rapidly wider, up to about an
inch and a quarter where it left Dr. Crandon’s hand. The mass
was ice cold, somewhat rough on the surface, and yielded
slightly as a rubber eraser might do. On repetition with another
sitter, named Conant, he was required to scrape his hand carefully,
and he stated that through this process he recovered and
put down on the table at Walter’s command something that
acted much like the finer inner membrane of an egg.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also spoke of an occasion with Eva
C. when, in good light, he was allowed to squeeze a piece of ectoplasm
between his fingers. It gave him the impression of a living
substance, thrilling and shrinking under his touch.
When ectoplasm was suddenly exposed to light, mediums
reported being thrown into agony. However, it was suggested
by Dr. W. J. Crawford that it is not so much the ectoplasm as
the medium that cannot bear the light. If the medium is shielded
with black cloth, the pain is considerably reduced and flashlight
photographs become easily procurable. Juliette Bisson
confirmed these observations with Eva C. Sudden flashes of
Ectoplasm Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
light were avoided. Warnings were normally given before taking
a picture, in the understanding that a sudden flash would
drive the substance back into the medium’s body with the force
of a snapped elastic band.
Franek Kluski reportedly received an open wound from a violent
retreat of ectoplasm. Doyle quoted the case of a medium
who exhibited a bruise from the breast to the shoulder caused
by the recoil of the ectoplasm. The medium Evan Powell, at the
British College of Psychic Science, suffered a bad injury on
the chest owing to an unintended violent movement of a sitter
touched by an ectoplasmic arm. Hemorrhage was also reported
as a result of sudden exposure to light. H. Dennis Bradley
spoke of an instance in which the medium George Valiantine
got a black bruise, measuring about two inches by three, on the
stomach by the shock of returning ectoplasm when a powerful
electric light was suddenly switched on in his garage, which
faced one of the windows of the séance room. The substance
was seen and described by the writer Caradoc Evans as a slimy,
frothy bladder ‘‘into which you could dig a finger but through
which you could not pierce.’’
Galey gives this report in From the Unconscious to the Conscious
‘‘To its sensitiveness, the substance seems to add a kind of
instinct not unlike that of the self-protection of the invertebrates;
it would seem to have all the distrust of a defenseless
creature, or one whose sole defence is to re-enter the parent organism.
It shrinks from all contacts and is always ready to avoid
them and to be reabsorbed.’’
Many observations led to the hypothesis that ectoplasm has
an immediate and irresistible tendency toward organization
and, as a natural sequel, tends to assume the shape of the medium’s
body. This hypothesis was supported by the frequently
noted duplication of the medium’s face in materialization séances
as a preliminary to individualized forms and also the frequent
identification of a phantom hand with that of the medium.
An alternative to this theory was that the double of the medium
serves as a pattern on which the new creations are actually
built up. The double, wholly or partially detached, might magnetically
attract the ectoplasm; and one observer suggested that
the initial stimulation of the medium’s body before the double’s
detachment contributes to the ejection of the ectoplasm, but
only when the double is fully withdrawn does it attract the ectoplasm
and clothe itself with it.
In a series of interesting experiments in the Goligher Circle,
W. J. Crawford traced the flow of ectoplasm by using powdered
carmine. He found that the ectoplasmic stream carries
coloring matter. Staining various parts of the medium’s body,
he discovered that in this particular case the flow started at the
base of the spine and passed down to the feet. On returning,
it encountered frictional resistance; the fabric of the medium’s
clothing was found abraded in places. After staining Miss
Goligher’s blouse with carmine and asking for a rap on the wall,
Crawford found carmine spots at the location of the raps.
Materialized hands produced wonderful paraffin molds in
séances with Franek Kluski. He was amply controlled, yet once
he was found smeared with wax. On another occasion, particles
of wax were found in out-of-the-way corners of the séance room
and even in the adjoining room, indicating a long extension of
psychic structures.
It was not only particles of paint but also particles of clothing
material that were believed to have been carried along by the
ectoplasmic flow. At least, this conclusion was suggested to
Crawford when he found that the fabric of the medium’s stockings
was nearly always impressed in the soft clay when he asked
for an impression to be produced by the psychic rods. Because
these particles were not deposited, they apparently flowed back
giving rise to the possibility that ectoplasm acts as a solvent on
material particles through which it passes, reducing them to an
unknown fluidic state.
Crawford also noticed that if he passed his hand between the
medium’s ankle and the levitated table, the table dropped to
the floor. If his hand was gloved, the table dropped more slowly.
If he passed a glass rod between the table and the medium,
the levitation was unaffected. Similarly, he found that if the medium
touched the levitated table, the psychic energy became
short-circuited and the table dropped. The medium’s touch
with a gloved hand retarded the drop, whereas a touch with
wood or paper had no appreciable effect.
Schrenck-Notzing was able to get a fragment of ectoplasm
into a tube. The moment he tried to trap it, it vanished with
lightning speed. Occasionally, however, with the medium’s
consent, specimens were amputated for chemical and microscopic
analysis. Of the result Schrenck-Notzing wrote:
‘‘Very probably the formation of the substance, which appears
in the sittings as liquid material, and also as amorphous
material, or filmy net-like and veil-like material in the form of
shreds, wisps, threads, and cords, in large or small packets, is
an organised tissue which easily decomposes—a sort of transitory
matter which originates in the organism in a manner unknown
to us, possesses unknown biological functions, and
formative possibilities, and is evidently peculiarly dependent
on the psychic influence of the medium. . . . As regards the
structure of the teleplasm, we only know this: that within it, or
about it, we find conglomerates of bodies resembling epithelium,
real plate epithelium with nuclei, veil-like filmy structures,
coherent lamellar bodies without structure, as well as flat globules
and mucus. If we abstain from any detailed indications
concerning the composition and function of teleplasm we may
yet assert two definite facts:—(1) In teleplasm, or associated
with it, we find substances of organic origin, various cell-forms,
which leave behind cell detritus. (2) The mobile material observed,
which seems to represent the fundamental substance of
the phenomena, does not consist of india rubber or any other
artificial product, by which its existence could be fraudulently
represented. For substances of this kind can never decompose
into cell detritus, or leave a residue of such.’’
Schrenck-Notzing also analyzed ectoplasm obtained from
Stanislawa P. This analysis was made in February 1916. It was
controlled by a Dr. Dombrowski, who obtained half of the ectoplasm
in Warsaw, Poland. He found leucocytes and epithelial
cells, but otherwise the analysis yielded no secret. The summary
of a bacteriological report published by the Polish Society for
Psychical Research concluded, ‘‘The substance to be analyzed
is albuminoid matter accompanied by fatty matter and cells
found in the human organism. Starch and sugar discoverable
by Fehling’s test are absent.’’ Camille Flammarion described
Eusapia Palladino’s sensation during the withdrawal of ectoplasm:
‘‘She suddenly experiences an ardent desire to produce the
phenomena; then she has a feeling of numbness and the gooseflesh
sensation in her fingers; these sensations keep increasing;
at the same time she feels in the lower portion of the vertebral
column the flowing of a current which rapidly extends into her
arms as far as her elbow, where it is gently arrested. It is at this
point that the phenomenon takes place.’’
As regards telekinetic effects produced by psychic rods,
Conan Doyle suggested that the psychic rods may not be strong
in themselves. They may be conveyors of strength, similar to a
copper wire carrying electricity. According to all indications the
ectoplasmic lines are conveyors of feeling and emotion, too,
not only between the materialized figure and the medium, but
between the medium and the sitters as well. Elizabeth
d’Esperance writes in Shadow Land (1897) of the period when
she was conscious during materialization: ‘‘I felt conscious of
the thoughts, or rather the feelings, of everyone in the room,
but had no inclination to as much as lift a finger to enable me
to see anything.’’ She also states that her brain apparently became:
‘‘. . . a sort of whispering gallery where the thoughts of other
persons resolved themselves into an embodied form and reEncyclopedia
of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Ectoplasm
sounded as though actual substantial objects. Was anyone suffering,
I felt the pain. Was anyone worried or depressed, I felt
it instantly. Joy or sorrow made themselves in some way perceptible
to me. I could not tell who among the friends assembled
was suffering, only that the pain existed and was in some way
reproduced in myself. If anyone left his or her seat, thus breaking
the chain, this fact was communicated to me in a mysterious
but unmistakable manner.’’
In a lecture reported in Light (November 21, 1903), she
‘‘I lost physical strength, but no particle of my individuality.
On the contrary, the loss of physical power seemed but to intensify
that of the senses. Distant sounds, beyond hearing at other
times, became painfully audible; a movement of any of the sitters
sent a vibration through every nerve; a sudden exclamation
caused a sensation of terror; the very thoughts of the persons
in the room made themselves felt as though they were
material objects.’’
The exteriorization of ectoplasm seemed to require a state
of passivity on the part of the medium. D’Esperance had no
strength to exert herself during the process of materialization;
but if she made a great effort, this invariably compelled the
materialized forms to retire to the cabinet, as though deprived
of the power to stand or support themselves.
It also seemed that feelings of pain could be transferred
from the medium to the materialized phantom. Once,
d’Esperance scorched her arm prior to a séance and felt herself
fainting, during the séance, from pain. Suddenly she felt a series
of something like electric shocks and the pain left her; but
the phantom ‘‘Yolande’’ carried her arm as though she were in
pain, and when accidentally touched she flinched as though
hurt. Another time, however, when a dislocated shoulder required
d’Esperance to wear a surgical bandage for a few days,
Yolande appeared with both arms uninjured. Nor did she exhibit
any sign of weakness, for she lifted with ease a pitcher of
water in her right hand, a feat that, under the circumstances,
would have been quite impossible for the medium.
D’Esperance conjectured that Yolande had sufficient material
on that occasion from the persons in the circle, who numbered
more than 20. On the occasion of the burnt arm fewer than 10
persons formed the circle.
The physiological effect of the sitters on the medium was
again curiously demonstrated in a case with d’Esperance. After
sittings for spirit photography in Sweden, she felt prostrate.
The symptoms were those of nicotine poisoning. Through experiments
it was discovered that none of the uncomfortable
sensations were felt when the séances were conducted with nonsmokers.
Partial Dematerialization
W. J. Crawford, in his study of the Goligher Circle, decided
that the sitters also contributed to the ectoplasmic flow. He
measured the variation in weight during the séance of both the
medium and the sitters. Ordinarily the loss of the medium’s
weight did not amount to more than 10–15 pounds. In one
case, however, it amounted to 54 pounds, the normal weight of
the medium being 128 pounds. At 30 pounds the stress on the
medium appeared to be severe. The withdrawal of her bodily
substance went on with difficulty, in fluxes, as if an elastic resistance
had to be overcome. There was a distinct collapse in the
hips of the girl; however, they filled back out when the ectoplasm
was reabsorbed.
The medium Charles Williams, whose normal weight was
153 pounds, was weighed while the materialized spirit ‘‘Peter’’
left the cabinet. His weight shrank to 35 pounds and remained
there for half an hour. Annie Fairlamb Mellon and Miss C. E.
Wood were several times observed to have lost half of their
weight during the apparition of phantoms. It was noticed with
George Spriggs, in Melbourne, Australia, that when there were
tall people in the circle the forms were taller than when the sitters
were of lower stature.
The apparent contraction of the medium’s body was seen to
reach further stages, even to the point of disintegration of the
extremities and, in certain exceptional cases, the temporary
disappearance of the entire body. On one occasion Eusapia
Palladino was described by Julien Ochorowicz as ‘‘all shrunken
together’’ during physical phenomena. Her hand seemed to be
contracted. Arthur Levy, at a séance on November 16, 1898,
similarly observed, ‘‘Her burning hands seemed to contract or
shrivel. Eusapia seems shrunken together and is very much
affected. . . .. when the lamps are again lighted she is seen to
be very much changed, her eyes dull, her face apparently diminished
to half its usual size.’’ A Dr. Vezzano also once stated
that he noticed the disappearance of the lower limbs of Eusapia.
The control ‘‘John King’’ claimed to have dematerialized
them to gain more power.
Of the medium Charles Eldred, before his exposure as a
fraud, Charles Letort and Ellen S. Letort report as follows in
‘‘He had shrunk up like a mummy; his head seemed to have
sunk in between his shoulders and his legs seemed to have become
shorter. When he had sat down at the beginning of the
sitting we had seen his feet reach out under the curtains; now
they scarcely touched the floor. He seemed all shrivelled up,
but on his cheeks there was a feverish red spot.’’
Willie Reichel, in the journal Psychische Studien (1905), writes
of one of Charles Victor Miller’s séances in San Francisco, ‘‘In
the space of about three minutes the head of the medium became
like that of a child, and after further shrinking disappeared
Florence Marryat claimed that she was led by the materialized
spirit ‘‘Florence’’ behind the curtains to see the medium
Mary Showers. She observed:
‘‘The first sight of her terrified me. She appeared to be
shrunk to half her usual size and the dress hung loosely on her
figure. Her arms had disappeared, but putting my hands up
the dress sleeves I found them diminished to the size of those
of a little child—the fingers reaching only to where the elbows
had been. The same miracle had happened to her feet, which
only occupied half her boots. She looked in fact like the
mummy of a girl of four or six years old. The spirit told me to
feel her face. The forehead was dry, rough and burning hot, but
from the chin water was dropping freely on the bosom of her
The famous case of the partial dematerialization of
d’Esperance’s body in Helsinki on December 11, 1895, is described
in Alexander Aksakof’s book A Case of Partial Dematerialization
(1898). He was not present himself, but he collected
testimonies of 15 witnesses. As he reconstructed the case, the
lower part of the medium’s body, from the waist downward, disappeared.
Her skirt was lying flat on the chair for about 15
minutes, and her trunk was apparently suspended in the air
above the seat. The light was sufficient to see by, and
d’Esperance permitted five persons to verify the phenomenon
by passing their hands below her trunk. This examination
caused her great distress, and she was ill for three months after
the occurrence.
D’Esperance’s account of her feelings is especially interesting.
Aksakof quotes her as follows:
‘‘I relaxed my muscles and let my hands fall upon my lap,
and I then found out that, instead of resting against my knees,
they rested against the chair in which I was sitting. This discovery
disturbed me greatly, and I wondered if I was dreaming. I
patted my skirt carefully, all over, trying to locate my limbs and
the lower half of my body, but found that although the upper
part of it—arms, shoulders, chest, etc.—as in its natural state,
all the lower part had entirely disappeared. I put my hand
where my knees should have been, but nothing whatever was
there but my dress and skirts. Nevertheless, I felt just as usual—
better than usual, in fact; so that if my attention had not been
attracted by accident, I should probably have known nothing
of the occurrence. Leaning forward to see if my feet were in
Ectoplasm Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
their proper place, I almost lost my balance. This frightened
me very much, and I felt that it was absolutely necessary to assure
myself whether I was dreaming, or the victim of an hallucination.
To this end I reached over and took Prof. Seiling’s
hand, asking him to tell me if I was really seated in the chair.
I awaited his answer in a perfect agony of suspense. I felt his
hand, just as if it touched my knees; but he said: ‘There is nothing
there—nothing but your skirts.’ This gave me a still greater
fright. I pressed my free hand against my breast and felt my
heart beating wildly.’’
Fifteen minutes later her skirts filled out and her lower
limbs appeared in full view of the sitters.
Professor Haraldur Neilsson, of the University of Reykjavik,
Iceland, states (Light, October 25, 1919) that he witnessed the
entire disappearance of the left arm of Indridi Indridason. It
occurred three times. The medium was examined in light and
the absence of the arm in the sleeve was also plainly felt. It reappeared
half an hour later. Other professors testified to the
same phenomenon.
In the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research
(March 1925), there is an account by Miss Helen C.
Lambert of a sitting in an experimental circle where the medium’s
forearm shrank in length and finally vanished. The hand
appeared to grow out of the elbow. The return to normal was
slow and the medium was badly scarred.
Ectoplasm in Scientific Perspective
The foregoing experimental findings appear as incredible
to contemporary researchers as they were to the people who
originally reported them. They attained some attention in psychical
research circles because they often came from reputable
observers, whose reports could not be simply dismissed as hallucination
or fraud. It seemed reasonable to propose as a working
hypothesis that something like the ectoplasmic process occurred
during séances. The attempt to investigate that
possibility was fraught with difficulties.
In the early investigations, psychical researchers speculated
on the nature of such a mysterious and strange substance.
French scientist Gustav Geley, for example, highlighted four
striking analogies of the ectoplasmic process in the organic
realm: the chrysalis, in which the body of the caterpillar is resolved
into a creamy mass and reformed into the butterfly; the
cold light of insects and microbes; the pseudopods of some
protozoa; and certain similarities in the evolution of animal
forms and dermoid cysts. In his last book, Clairvoyance and
Materialisation (1927), he reaches the following conclusions:
‘‘The primary condition of ectoplasmic phenomena is an
anatomo-biologic decentralisation in the medium’s body and
an externalisation of the decentralised factors in an amorphous
state, solid, liquid or vaporous. This decentralisation is accompanied
by a considerable expenditure of vital energy. The vital
energy thus released may take the form of mechanical energy,
thus producing telekinesis or raps. It may be transformed into
luminous energy, producing living lights in all respects similar
to normal animal lights. Sometimes the luminous energy seems
to be condensed in some organ either already materialised or
in process of materialisation; sometimes it is connected with a
phosphorescent secretion which can agglomerate and form actual
living lamps; and sometimes it may manifest as discharges
or flashes. The same vital energy which is manifested by telekinesis
and bioluminescence may ultimate in the organisation of
amorphous ectoplasm. It then creates objective but ephemeral
beings or parts of beings. Complete materialisations are the
final product of the ectoplasmic process.’’
On the question of whether ‘‘telekinetic’’ ectoplasm is a
purely human contribution or if animals might also have a
share in it, a séance with the medium ‘‘Margery’’ (Mina Crandon)
shed some light. She took a cat with her into the cabinet.
As told by F. Bligh Bond in Psychic Research (1929), ‘‘. . . presently
we all observed a luminous appearance over the table, like
a tall pale flame. This seemed to move slightly and vary in
height. Then came Walter’s voice, ‘Here, someone take this animal
out; it’s croaking.’ The sitter on Margery’s left bent over
and took up the cat from her lap. It was quite comatose and
stiffened. . . .’’ Walter then explained that he had borrowed the
cat’s ectoplasm and that was what we had seen as a flame on the
table. However, the strong presumption of fraud at some of the
Mina Crandon’s séances makes it difficult to place any reliance
on this single claim of animal ectoplasm.
The evidence for the reality and the nature of telekinetic ectoplasm
rests largely on the claims of the generation of psychical
researchers at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of
the twentieth century who examined the several Spiritualist
mediums who claimed to produce the different forms of physical
phenomena. This era came to an end as one after another
of those mediums were discovered to be engaged in fraudulent
mediumship and as more sophisticated forms of detection were
developed. For example, even though most physical mediums
wanted to operate in the dark, infrared cameras can take pictures
as if it were daylight. Even the most capable manipulations
can be quickly revealed. Harry Houdini was one of those
who wrote against mediums faking ectoplasm.
Although many have bemoaned the inability of mediums in
more recent decades to reproduce the feats reported by mediums
in the decades prior to World War II, it is evident that such
manifestations were largely the product of stage magic rather
than any paranormal ability. Such manifestations either disappeared
under controlled conditions or were uncovered by competent
observers. Parapsychologists abandoned the search for
telekinetic ectoplasm and have largely abandoned any belief
that it exists.
Carrington, Hereward. ‘‘An Examination and Analysis of
the Evidence for ‘Dematerialization’ as Demonstrated in Mons.
Aksakof’s Book.’’ Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical
Research (March 1907).
Crawford, W. J. The Psychic Structures at the Goligher Circle.
London, 1921.
D’Esperance, Elizabeth. Shadow Land. London, 1897.
Geley, Gustav. Clairvoyance and Materialisation: A Record of
Experiments. London, 1927. Reprint, New York: Arno Press,
———. From the Unconscious to the Conscious. London, 1927.
Gray, Isa. From Materialisation to Healing. London: Regency
Press, 1973.
Holms, A. Campbell. The Facts of Psychic Science. London,
1925. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1969.
Houdini, Harry. A Magician Among the Spirits. New York:
Harper, 1924. Reprinted as Houdini: A Magician Among the Spirits.
New York: Arno Press, 1972.
Hyslop, J. H. ‘‘Replies to Mr. Carrington’s Criticism of M.
Aksakof.’’ Proceedings of the American Society Psychical Research.
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