Plastics (Spirit Markings)
Paranormally obtained plastics may be divided into two
groups imprints and molds. The first may be produced in any
soft, yielding substance or on smoked or chemically treated surfaces;
for the second, melted paraffin wax is employed.
Paranormal Imprints
Johann C. F. Zöllner, in his experiments with the medium
Henry Slade, placed a dish filled to the brim with flour under
the table hoping the spirit hand that took hold of him might
leave an impression in the flour. Baron Lazar Hellenbach testified
to having seen an impression of a hand larger than Slade’s
or any other individual present. None of their hands had any
trace of flour. Zöllner also obtained the imprint of a foot on two
sheets of paper covered with lamp black between two closed
The imprint of a hand with four fingers, the imprint of a
bird, two feet, and a materialized butterfly were supposedly obtained
during the George Valiantine–Bradley sittings in 1925,
in England. Charles Sykes, the British sculptor, was unable to
give an explanation, as was Noel Jaquin, a fingerprint expert.
In 1931, however, the same experts claimed to have caught
Valiantine in a fraud. They smeared printing ink in secret on
the modeling wax, stripped Valiantine after the séance and
found a large stain on his left elbow corresponding with the
lines of the imprint. Other imprints were found identical to
those of his toes.
Palladino’s Mediumship
Eusapia Palladino produced hand and face imprints in
putty and clay. Reportedly they bore her characteristics, although
she was held at a distance from the tray while the impression
was made. Numerous imprints were obtained by the
psychical researchers Cesare Lombroso, Enrico Morselli, Ercole
Chiaia, and Guillaume de Fontenay.
Camille Flammarion claimed to be a witness of the process
at Monfort-l’Amaury in 1897. Supposedly the resemblance of
the spirit head to the medium was undeniable, yet seemingly
she could not have imprinted her face in the putty. Besides having
been physically controlled, Ms. Z. Blech kissed Palladian on
the cheeks, searching for the odor of putty on her face.
Julien Ochorowitz wrote of Palladino’s mediumship at
‘‘The imprint of this face was obtained in darkness, yet at a
moment when I held two hands of Eusapia, while my arms were
entirely around her. Or, rather, it was she who clung to me in
such a way that I had accurate knowledge of the position of all
her limbs. Her head rested against mine even with violence. At
the moment of the production of the phenomena a convulsive
trembling shook her whole body, and the pressure of her head
on my temples was so intense that it hurt me.’’
Paranormal Molds
In normal wax molding, the technical process of the production
of paraffin wax casts begins with the placement of buckets
of hot and cold water placed side by side. The hot water will
melt the paraffin. If one dips a hand in and withdraws it, a thin
shell of the liquid will settle and congeal. If a hand is dipped
alternately into the hot paraffin and into the cold water the
shell will thicken. When the hand is freed, a wax glove is left
behind. These gloves are fragile. They must be filled with plaster
of Paris to preserve. Then if the paraffin wax is melted off,
the texture of the skin appears in the plaster. The hand freed
from the paraffin shell must be washed in soap and water before
another experiment, or the second shell will stick to the
fingernails. Altogether, it takes about twenty minutes to deliver
a finished shell. The fingers of the hand must be held fairly
straight, otherwise they will break the shell when withdrawn.
For the same reason no full cast, up to the wrist, can be obtained.
Supposedly molds obtained by psychical researchers in séances
with mediums have bent fingers, joined hands, and
wrists. These molds are fine and delicate, whereas those obtained
from living hands are thick and solid.
The first paraffin wax casts were obtained by William Denton
in 1875, in Boston with the medium Mary M. Hardy.
Hardy produced the paraffin wax gloves in public halls. To test
Hardy’s ability, the dish of paraffin was weighed before the
mold appeared and after. In later years, another test was devised,
locking up the liquid paraffin wax and cold water in a
wire cage. After Denton, Epes Sargent investigated Hardy.
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Plastics
In England, William Oxley produced the first psychic
molds in 1876 with Elizabeth d’Esperance and later with Mrs.
A. H. Firman and the Rev. Francis W. Monck. Similar success
was claimed with the Davenport Brothers, William Eglinton,
and Annie Fairlamb around the same time. T. P. Barkas of
Newcastle, England, mixed magenta dye in the paraffin wax
during experiments with Fairlamb in 1876. The gloves had
traces of the dye.
The psychical researcher Alexander Aksakof hypothesized
that the plaster casts showed similar characteristics between the
medium and the materialization. He noted that Oxley made
similar observations and quoted his letter
‘‘It is a curious fact that one always recognises in the casts the
distinctive token of youth or age. This shows that the materialised
limbs, whilst they preserve their juvenile form, evince peculiarities
which betray the age of the medium. If you examine
the veins of the hand you will find in them characteristic indications
which indisputably are associated with the organism of
the medium.’’
It had been suggested the wax gloves may have been prepared
from inflated rubber gloves. Gustav Geley produced
some casts using rubber gloves for comparison. They were also
put on display. The charge that the gloves may have been made
previous to the séance could not be sustained.
One variety of plastics is the working of linen into the semblance
of human features by psychic means. Reportedly Dr.
Eliakim Phelps left a well-detailed description of an instance,
including the appearance of 11 figures of ‘‘angelic beauty.’’ Occasionally
similar phenomena have been reported as a manifestation
in haunted houses, with cushions assuming the shape of
human forms.
There are also artistic efforts under the heading of direct
paintings—the paint appears to give three-dimensional effects.
Many such pictures were produced during the late nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries.
There are various methods to produce imprints. Mrs. Albert
Blanchard, an American medium, produced imprints by depositing
sediment under water in a dish. F. Bligh Bond discussed
her work in Psychic Research (October 1930) using data
collected from Horace Newhart. Blanchard put clay and water
in a shallow dish, stirred the sediment with her fingers, and let
it settle. When the water evaporated, supposedly the clay had
assumed the outlines of a human face or head in low relief.