Wednesday, 28 November 2012


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Man with the spirit of his deceased first wife 2780193651.png
An image purporting to be of a man with his late wife, partially materialized, by the photographer William Hope. Almost all of Hope's works on spirit photography (including this one) are now universally discredited as hoaxes.
Coined byCharles Richet (1894)[1]
DefinitionA substance said to be excreted by mediums during trances; a slime-like substance said to be associated with hauntings.
SignatureSaid to be white/gray/transparent, viscous; resembling mucus. Said to ooze from solid objects or from mediums' bodies involving mucous membranes (nose, eyes, mouth), and to take form as a misty substance.
See alsoSpiritualism
Ectoplasm (from the Greek ektos, meaning "outside", and plasma, meaning "something formed or molded") is a term coined by Charles Richet to denote a substance or spiritual energy "exteriorized" by physical mediums.[2] Ectoplasm is said to be associated with the formation of spirits; however since World War II reports of ectoplasmic phenomena have declined and many psychical researchers doubt whether genuine cases ever existed.[3]



[edit] Phenomenon

Ectoplasm is said to be formed by physical mediums when in a trance state. This material is excreted as a gauze-like substance from orifices on the medium's body and spiritual entities are said to drape this substance over their nonphysical body, enabling them to interact in the physical and real universe. According to mediums, the ectoplasm can not occur in light conditions as the ectoplasmic substance would disintegrate.[4]
The psychical researcher Gustav Geley defined ectoplasm as being “very variable in appearance, being sometimes vaporous, sometimes a plastic paste, sometimes a bundle of fine threads, or a membrane with swellings or fringes, or a fine fabric-like tissue”.[5] Arthur Conan Doyle described ectoplasm as “a viscous, gelatinous substance which appeared to differ from every known form of matter in that it could solidify and be used for material purposes”.[6]
Although the term is widespread in popular culture, the physical existence of ectoplasm is not accepted by science. Some tested samples purported to be ectoplasm have been found to be various non-paranormal substances.[7][8] Other researchers have duplicated, with non-supernatural materials, the photographic effects sometimes said to prove the existence of ectoplasm.[9]

[edit] Ectenic force

The idea of ectoplasm was merged into the theory of an "ectenic force" by some early psychical researchers who were seeking a physical explanation for reports of psychokinesis in séances.[10] Its existence was initially hypothesized by Count Agenor de Gasparin, to explain the phenomena of table turning and tapping during séances. Ectenic force was named by de Gasparin's colleague M. Thury, a professor of Natural History at the Academy of Geneva. Between them, de Gasparin and Thury conducted a number of experiments in ectenic force, and claimed some success. Their work was not independently verified.[11][12]
Other psychical researchers who studied mediumship speculated that within the human body an unidentified fluid termed the "psychode", "psychic force" or "ecteneic force" existed and was capable of being released to influence matter.[13][14] This view was held by Camille Flammarion[15] and William Crookes, however a later psychical researcher Hereward Carrington pointed out that the fluid was hypothetical and has never been discovered.[16]
The psychical investigator W. J. Crawford (1881–1920) had claimed that a fluid substance was responsible for levitation of objects after witnessing the medium Kathleen Goligher. Crawford, after witnessing a number of her séances, claimed to have obtained flashlight photographs of the substance; he later described the substance as "plasma". He claimed the substance is not visible to the naked eye but can be felt by the body.[17][18][19][20]
Dr. Edmund Fournier d'Albe later investigated the medium Kathleen Goligher at many sittings and arrived at the opposite conclusions to Crawford; according to D'Albe, no paranormal phenomena such as levitation had occurred with Goligher and stated he had found evidence of fraud. D'Albe had claimed that the substance in the photographs of Crawford was ordinary muslin.[21][22]

[edit] Fraud

Ectoplasm on many occasions has been proven to be based on fraud. Many mediums had used methods of swallowing and regurgitating textile products smoothed with potato starch[23] and in other cases the ectoplasm was made of paper, cloth and egg white[24] or butter muslin.[25]
John Ryan Haule wrote:
Because ectoplasm was believed susceptible to destruction by light, the possibility that ectoplasm might appear became a reason for making sure that Victorian séances took place in near darkness. Poor lighting conditions also became an opportunity for fraud, particularly as faux ectoplasm was easy to make with a mixture of soap, gelatin and egg white, or perhaps merely well-placed muslin.[26]
Psychical researcher Harry Price exposed medium Helen Duncan's fraudulent techniques by proving, through analysis of a sample of ectoplasm produced by Duncan, that it was cheesecloth that she had swallowed and regurgitated.[27] Mediums would also cut pictures from magazines and stick them to the cheesecloth to pretend they were spirits of the dead.[28] Another researcher, C. D. Broad, wrote that ectoplasm in many cases has proven to be composed of home material such as butter-muslin and that there is no solid evidence for its claimed existence.[29]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Taylor, Troy. "Ectoplasm". The Haunted Museum. Retrieved 2011-12-04.
  2. ^ "Ectoplasm". Glossary of Key Words Frequently Used in Parapsychology, Parapsychological Association (2006-01-24).
  3. ^ Jan Dirk Blom A Dictionary of Hallucinations 2009, p. 168
  4. ^ C. E. M. Joad Guide to Modern Thought Kessinger Reprint Edition, 2005, p. 174
  5. ^ Barnard, Guy Christian. The Supernormal: A Critical Introduction to Psychic Science. London: Rider & Co., 1933. Print.
  6. ^ Conan Doyle, Arthur. The Edge of the Unknown. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1930. Print
  7. ^ Keene, M. Lamar (1997) [1976]. The Psychic Mafia. New York; Amherst, N.Y.: St. Martin’s Press; Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-161-0 (reprint).
  8. ^ Baker, Robert A.; Joe Nickell (1992). Missing Pieces: How to Investigate Ghosts, UFOs, Psychics and Other Mysteries. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-729-9.
  9. ^ Dawn M. Peterson, "Mysterious Beings or Mere Accidents?", Skeptical Briefs newsletter, June 2004.
  10. ^ John L. Randall Psychokinesis: a study of paranormal forces through the ages Souvenir Press, 1982, p. 83
  11. ^ Blavatsky H. P. "ISIS UNVEILED: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology", Theosophical University Press
  12. ^ (Paperback) Randi, James. Clarke, Arthur C. (1997-03-15) An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural, St. Martin's Griffin, ISBN 0-312-15119-5
  13. ^ Hamlin Garland Forty years of psychic research: a plain narrative of fact 1936, pp. 127–128
  14. ^ Lewis Spence An Encyclopaedia of Occultism 2003, p. 133
  15. ^ H. F. Prevost Battersby Psychic Certainties Kessinger Reprint Edition, 1988, pp. 125-126
  16. ^ Hereward Carrington Eusapia Palladino and Her Phenomena Kessinger Reprint Edition, 2003, p. 267
  17. ^ Bernard M. L. Ernst, Hereward Carrington Houdini and Conan Doyle: The Story of a Strange Friendship Kessinger Reprint Edition, 2003, p. 67
  18. ^ Daniel Benor, Daniel J. Benor Personal Spirituality 2006, p. 110–111
  19. ^ The Green book magazine, Volume 28 The Story-press association, 1920, p. 20
  20. ^ An Interview with Dr. William J. Crawford Concerning the Mediumship of Kathleen Goligher by Michael E. Tymn
  21. ^ George Nugent Merle Tyrrell Science and psychical phenomena 1938, p. 331
  22. ^ Julian Franklyn Ed A Survey of the Occult 2005, p. 383
  23. ^ John Mulholland Beware familiar spirits 1975, p. 142
  24. ^ Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, Volume 66 Society for Psychical Research., 2002, p. 117
  25. ^ Renée Haynes The Society for Psychical Research, 1882-1982: a history 1982, p. 144
  26. ^ John Ryan Haule Jung in the 21st Century: Synchronicity and science 2010, pp. 122-123
  27. ^ Marina Warner Phantasmagoria 2006, p. 299
  28. ^ Richard Whittington-Egan William Roughead's chronicles of murder Lochar, 1991, p. 89
  29. ^ C. D. Broad, Lectures on Psychical Research Reprint Edition, 2011, p. 304

[edit] External links

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