The word “Ectoplasm” is taken from two Greek words that essentially mean “Something Solid Outside” and is often used to denote an energy or an object that has been left behind by a spirit. There is obviously a lot of debate about whether ectoplasm exists or not, and even those who believe in ghosts have not fully committed to it. So where did it come from, is there any proof of ectoplasm existing and just what is it in its most basic form?
If you have read our guide on the Enfield Haunting, including our page on the poltergeist that caused all of the problems and the little girl that was possessed, then you will know that ectoplasm didn’t come up during any of it. But this is still an interesting aside for any site that concerns itself with the paranormal and one that we’re keen to address.
What is Ectoplasm?
The term “ectoplasm” was coined by a man named Charles Richet, a French Noble prize winning physiologist who was well regarded for his work in immunology. That will likely come as a surprise to many who might have connected the origins of ectoplasm with the spiritualist movement and one of the many tricksters (or however you prefer to see them) that was associated with it.
But Richet was one such man, he just didn’t make a living out of it. He devoted his life to the study of the paranormal and had some rather strange beliefs, as well as a few racist ones. He was of the belief that spirits could communicate with the dead, although he didn’t actually believe in an afterlife, nor did he believe that sprits walked the earth. Instead, he described the work of mediums as tapping into vibrations left through time from previous lives.
It is certainly interesting and thought-provoking, but Richet also believed that black people were inferior to white people and was a big proponent of the eugenics movement. So, we can probably discount a lot of what he says.
Ectoplasm and Spirits?
The general belief is that ectoplasm is left over by spirits, but Richet, who coined the term, actually believed that it was a projection of sorts by the medium who contacted the “spirits”. He used the term to try and build a scientific foundation around the work done by mediums in the spiritualist movement, suggesting that they were somehow connection to vibrations left through time that were imperceptible to our senses and that Ectoplasm was a product of that connection.
He was also one of the first to hypothesize a “sixth sense”, which he described as an ability to sense these vibrations. Although he claimed not to believe in spirits as such, Richet did believe in the work of many acclaimed mediums who performed all kinds of mesmerizing feats, including one who was said to utilize psychokinesis. Riche claimed that this medium was genuine and attended many of his seances, only for him to be exposed as a fraud several years later.
He also later claimed that a Spanish medium was genuine and that her “x-ray eyes” were a genuine ability, only for Harry Houdini to expose her as a fraud. Ruth Brandon, a historian, said of Richet that he had a “will to believe, and [a] disinclination to accept any unpalatably contrary indications”. Which you could argue could also be said for many who believe in otherworldly and paranormal things, even in the face of seemingly incontrovertible evidence.
Is Ectoplasm Real?
Probably not. And it doesn’t seem to form a major part of modern paranormal beliefs either. There are those who will give it a passing mention, but they often add their own spin to it, defining it as a goo or water-like substance that is left over by spirits and poltergeists. Many paranormal experts, however, seem to dismiss it.
It actually appears more prominently in fiction and has become a rarity in ghost hunts, investigations and other such work. On researching ectoplasm we found that the vast majority of searches performed in the last decade have concerned the Elder Scrolls: Oblivion game, where ectoplasm could be collected from ghosts and formed part of a major quest (and if you haven’t payed this game, then you’re missing out, trust us.)
It also featured in the classic Ghostbusters franchise, where the comical and somewhat friendly ghost “Slimer” seemed to leave globs of it everywhere he went.
Proof of Ectoplasm
There is no proof of ectoplasm because it probably doesn’t exist. And we say “probably” purely because it is hard to prove with absolutely certainty that it does not exist, just as it is difficult to prove with equal certainly that ghosts, poltergeists, fairies and even Bigfoot doesn’t exist.
There have been some cases where ectoplasm has apparently been discovered and it hasn’t taken long for pictures or videos of these events to do the rounds on headline news. In the last few years there has been a lot of talk about something known as Space Jelly or Star Jelly, which is a gelatinous substance that is said to be left on earth following meteor showers.
A video of one such event did the rounds a number of years ago and generated a lot of renewed interest in ectoplasm.
However, while the questions continued to be asked and the headlines continued to be written, the experts had already provided an answer, saying that the “star jelly” was actually frogspawn, falling following a rain show or storm as opposed to a meteor shower or an army of spirits.
Make of it what you will. The fact that there is no proof either way makes it interesting, as it does all supernatural phenomenon. But the fact that it doesn’t even fit into all of the “ghost mythos”, at least to as far as many believers are concerned, should tell you that maybe there isn’t anything in it after all.