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Friday, April 5, 2013

Ectoplasm! or, "I sneeze dead people"

This unfortunate woman is Mary Marshall, who had the poor manners to let spirits of the dead dribble out of her nostrils like mucous during flu season. She was part of a family of Canadian spiritualists who during the early 1900s held seances in their home.

That gunky stuff was known as ectoplasm, a paranormal Goo From Beyond. Ectoplasm appeared in seances and spiritualist photographs around the turn of the century. This Goo From Beyond is, of course, a parlor trick. This photo seems to show tissue paper with photos cut from magazines.

Ectoplasm would issue from the bodily orifices of the medium during the seance. It normally came from the nose or mouth, but could also come out the ears, eyes, nipples, and, as the photo below suggests, regions further to the South.

Ectoplasm has an aversion to light and thus only appears in the darkened rooms of the seance. This is convenient in that it keeps observers from getting to close a look, although these flash photos must have turned at least a few people into skeptics.

Spiritualism really kicked off in the United States due to the appalling loss of life during the Civil War. For more on that, check out my article Spiritualism during the American Civil War. It still exists as a movement today, although ectoplasm has fallen out of favor. A pity. I really like to see people sneeze up spirits.

Top photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Bottom photo from the fun Fortean blog Who Forted?, which has a lengthy quote from a Spiritualist "explaining" ectoplasm.

13 comments:

  1. Wow, now *that* is weird but yes, I can imagine your disappointment in not seeing spirits sneezed or...worse.

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  2. Creepy. That photo is hilarious. Very creative use of the "E" word today. Cheers!

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  3. I always thought it was disgusting.

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  4. Yikes -- reminds me of Ghostbusters...

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  5. That's rather embarrassing having ectoplasm come out of there :-) Or anywhere come to that. You're right, you don't hear of it so much these days.

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  6. No thanks, imagine the germs in that sneeze! Great idea for an E word, though.

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  7. Ew, that's really disturbing. Funny how the top one has a bunch of faces in it. LOL!

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  8. Spiritualism got a boost thanks to WWI for the same reasons.

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  9. Dropping by on the A to Z. I can see that I landed on the wrong day. Gross! Still, my other blog on family history is on hold while I do this challenge. I am researching my Tennessee family who were all Civil War soldiers so I will be back later to read through this.

    http://completelycalifornia.blogspot.com/

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  10. Bleah!! Bet she needed a big hanky. Very entertaining post.

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  11. Eeewww!! I could have gone all my life without seeing that. I don't know which one is worse...
    My novel (which I can't seem to sell) features a Medium-buster who goes after phoney mediums who use tricks like these. I've read up on some of the tricks, but hadn't heard about ectoplasm. Great info! :-)

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  12. I have always wondered where ectoplasm came from. Good old Ghost Busters! I mean, the whole slime thing in connection with a ghost? Seriously?

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