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Experts Discuss Ectoplasm and Materialization in Virtual Roundtable

Posted on 23 November 2020, 10:12

Given the recent blogs dealing with the physical mediumship of Stewart Alexander, I thought it appropriate to host a virtual roundtable here on the subjects of ectoplasm and materializations. Virtual events seem in vogue in these pandemic times, so why not here? I called upon Professor Charles Richet, Dr. Gustav Geley, Dr. Albert von Schrenck- Notzing, and Sir William Crookes, four pioneers of psychical research to participate in the three-session roundtable, which will continue with my next blog in two weeks. Here are short bios of those four researchers:

Sir William Crookes, FRS – A Fellow of the Royal Society, Crookes studied and taught at the Royal College of Chemistry before becoming a meteorologist at the Radcliffe Observatory, Oxford. He discovered the element thallium and later invented the radiometer and the Crookes Tube, which contributed to the discovery of the X-ray. He is most remembered in psychical research for his investigations of Daniel Dunglas Home and Florence Cook.  His research is summarized in his book, Researches into the Phenomena of Modern Spiritualism, first published in 1904.

Gustave Geley, M.D. – A Laureate of the French Medical Faculty at the University of Lyons, Geley gained some fame for his research into treating such diseases as smallpox and scarlatina. He gave up his medical practice in 1918 to become the first director of the Institut Métapsychique International in Paris. He is most remembered for his research in the area of physical mediumship, especially with the mediums Marthe Béraud (“Eva C.”), Stephan Ossowiecki, Jean Guzik, and Franek Kluski. His primary book on the subject is From the Unconscious to the Conscious, published in 1920.

Charles Richet, M.D., Ph.D. – Winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize in Medicine, Richet was a French physiologist, chemist, bacteriologist, pathologist, psychologist, aviation pioneer, poet, novelist, editor, author, and psychical researcher. He received his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1869 and his Doctor of Science in 1878. He then served as professor of physiology at the medical school of the University of Paris for 38 years. His treatise on metapsychics is titled Thirty Years of Psychical Research.

Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, M.D. – Although educated as a neurologist, Schrenck-Notzing, a German aristocrat, was wealthy enough to devote most of his time to psychical research rather than to medicine. His laboratory and library were in his palace home outside Munich. Much of his research is set forth in a 1914 book, Phenomena of Materialization.

Schrenck-Notzing & Richet

I volunteered to serve as moderator of the roundtable. The participants agreed to let words from their various reports and books serve as their responses. Words in brackets are inferred to permit a proper flow or transition or thought. 

Moderator: Gentlemen, thank you for agreeing to participate in this virtual roundtable. I’d like to begin by asking Dr. Geley to describe ectoplasm and the materialization process.

Geley: “[My pleasure, young man.] The usual course of the phenomena is as follows: First a strong odor of ozone is perceptible…The smell of ozone comes and goes suddenly.  Then, in weak light, slightly phosphorescent vapor floats around the medium, especially above his head, like light smoke, and in it there are gleams like foci of condensation. These lights were usually many, tenuous, and ephemeral, but sometimes they were larger and more lasting, and then gave the impression of being luminous parts of organs otherwise invisible, especially finger ends or parts of faces. When materialization was complete, fully formed hands and faces could be seen … Different observers – Crookes and Richet among others – have, as is well known, described complete materializations … I have not, alas, observed phenomena so complete, but, on the other hand, I have very frequently seen complete representations of an organ, such as a face, a hand, or a finger.”

Moderator: Very interesting, Dr. Geley. So ectoplasm does not always look like cheesecloth, as so often represented?

Geley: “[Definitely not.] This substance may be exteriorized in a gaseous or vaporous form, or again as a liquid or a solid. The vaporous form is the more frequent and the best known. Near the medium there is outlined or amassed a kind of visible vapour, a sort of fog, often connected with the body of the medium by a thin link of the same substance. In different parts of this fog there then appears what resembles a condensation … These areas of condensation finally take the appearance of organs, whose development is very rapidly completed.”

Moderator: Professor Richet, you’ve worked with Dr. Geley quite a bit. Can you add to his comment?

Richet: “[Most certainly!] In their first stage these ectoplasms are invisible, but can move objects and can give raps on a table. Later on they become visible, though nebulous and sketchy. Still later, they take human form, for they have the extraordinary property that they change their forms and their consistency and evolve under our eyes. In a few seconds, the nebulous embryo that exudes from the body of the medium becomes an actual being … Sometimes the phantom appears suddenly, without passing through the phase of luminous cloud; but this phenomenon is probably of the same order as the slower development. This ectoplasmic formation at the expense of the physiological organism of the medium is now beyond all dispute. It is prodigiously strange, prodigiously unusual, and it would seem so unlikely as to be incredible; but we must give in to the facts.”

Moderator: When they become visible and before they begin to take on some kind of form, what is their appearance?

Richet: “It is a whitish substance that creeps as if alive, with damp, cold, protoplasmic extensions that are transformed under the eyes of the experimenters into a hand, fingers, a head, or even into an entire figure. At first these formations are often very imperfect. Sometimes they show no relief, looking more like flat images than bodies, so that in spite of oneself one is inclined to imagine some fraud, since what appears seems to be the materialization of a semblance, and not of a being. But in some cases the materialization is perfect. At the Villa Carmen I saw a fully organized form rise from the floor. At first it was only a white, opaque spot like a handkerchief lying on the ground before the curtain, then this handkerchief quickly assumed the form of a human head level with the floor, and a few moments later it rose up in a straight line and became a small man enveloped in a kind of white burnous, who took two or three halting steps in front of the curtain and then sank to the floor and disappeared as if through a trap door. But there was no trap door.”

Geley: “[Permit me to further elaborate.] The substance has variable aspects. Sometimes, and most characteristically, it appears as a plastic paste, a true protoplasmic mass; sometimes as a number of fine threads; sometimes as strings of different thickness in narrow and rigid lines; sometimes as a wide band; sometimes as a fine tissue of ill-defined and irregular shape … In fine, the substance is essentially amorphous, or rather, polymorphous.”

Moderator: When it turns from vapor to a dense substance, is it always white?

Geley: “It may show three different colours: white, black, or gray. The white seems the more frequent form, perhaps because it is easiest to observe … To the touch it gives very different sensations, usually having some relation to the form of the moment; it seems soft and somewhat elastic while spreading; hard, knotty, or fibrous when it forms cords. Sometimes it feels like a spider’s web touching the hand of the observer. The threads of the substance are both stiff and elastic. It is mobile. Sometimes it is slowly evolved, rises, and falls, and moves over the medium’s shoulder, her breast, or her lap with a crawling, reptilian movement; sometimes its motion is abrupt and rapid, it appears and disappears like a flash.”

Moderator: Sir William, you were among the first to report seriously on materializations, but you didn’t really report on what Dr. Richet later called ectoplasm. You referred to a luminous cloud. What were your observations in this regard?

Crookes: “The hands and fingers do not always appear to me to be solid and life-like. Sometimes, indeed, they present more the appearance of a nebulous cloud partly condensed into the form of a hand. This is not equally visible to all present. For instance, a flower or other small object is seen to move; one person will see a luminous cloud hovering over it, another will detect a nebulous-looking hand, whilst others will see nothing at all but the moving flower. I have more than once seen, first an object move, then a luminous cloud appear to form about it, and, lastly, the cloud condense into a shape and become a perfectly formed hand. At this stage, the hand is visible to all present. It is not always a mere form, but sometimes appears perfectly life-like and graceful, the fingers moving, and the flesh apparently as human as that of any in the room. At the wrist, or arm, it becomes hazy, and fades off into a luminous cloud.”

Moderator: Have you ever felt one of these materialized hands?

Crookes: “I have retained one of these hands in my own, firmly resolved not to let it escape. There was no struggle or effort made to get loose, but it gradually seemed to resolve itself into vapour, and faded in that manner from my grasp.”

Moderator: Dr. Schrenck-Notzing, I can see you are anxious to add to the discussion and I know that you prefer the word “teleplasm” to ectoplasm.

Ectoplasm taking shape

Schrenck-Notzing: “Crookes speaks of hand forms condensed from clouds … But not only rough forms of hands, lacking all elements of life were seen, but sometimes having all the plastic characteristics of human organs. On a few occasions, organs true to life – one could almost say living – especially hands (fingers with nails) could be perceived simultaneously by sight, touch, and hearing, while the medium’s hands were kept motionless. These organs showed their living character by grasping objects held out to them, by various movements, by digging their nails into the skin of our hands, while they could not possibly be mistaken for the hands of the medium.”

Moderator: Sir William, your report on the spirit calling herself Katie King has been criticized by many of your peers in science. They claim that Florence Cook, the 15-year-old medium, was able to trick you because of the darkness required, somehow making a quick costume change and appearing as Katie King. How do you respond to them?

Crookes: “Will not my critics give me credit for the possession of some amount of common sense?”

Moderator: I sense your anger and frustration, Sir William, but would you mind elaborating a little on your observations? What exactly took place in your experiments with Miss Cook?

Crookes: “I prepare and arrange my library myself as the dark cabinet, and usually, after Miss Cook has been dining and conversing with us, and scarcely out of our sight for a minute, she walks direct into the cabinet, and I, at her request, lock its second door, and keep possession of the key all through the séance; the gas is then turned out, and Miss Cook is left in the darkness. On entering the cabinet, Miss Cook lies down upon the floor, with her head on the pillow, and is soon entranced. [Katie King then emerges from the cabinet].”

Moderator: I gather that the entranced medium, Miss Cook, remained in the cabinet as Katie King came out, but you reported seeing them both at the same time and also noted differences in appearance.

Crookes: “During a séance [in my home], after Katie had been walking amongst us and talking for some time, she retreated behind the curtain which separated my laboratory where the company was sitting, from my library which did temporary duty as a cabinet. In a minute, she came to the curtain and called me to her saying, ‘Come into the room and lift my medium’s head up, she has slipped down.’ Katie was then standing before me clothed in her usual white robes and turban head dress. I immediately walked into the library up to Miss Cook, Katie stepping aside to allow me to pass. I found Miss Cook had slipped partly off the sofa, and her head was hanging in a very awkward position. I lifted her on the sofa, and in so doing had satisfactory evidence in spite of the darkness, that Miss Cook was not attired in the ‘Katie” costume, but had on her ordinary black velvet dress, and was in a deep trance. Not more than three seconds elapsed between my seeing the white-robed Katie standing before me and my raising Miss Cook on to the sofa. from the position into which she had fallen.” 

Moderator: Excuse me, Sir William, there is a lady in the audience raising her hand and desiring to say something. (Crookes immediately recognizes her as Florence Marryat, the renowned British author, and invites her comments.)

Marryat: “[I was present at several of the séances at which Katie King materialized]. I have seen both Florrie and Katie together on several occasions, so I can have no doubt on the subject that they were two separate creatures … One evening, Katie walked out and perched herself upon my knee. I could feel she was a much plumper and heavier woman than Miss Cook, but she wonderfully resembled her in features, and I told her so… [Katie] took up her station against the drawing-room wall, with her arms extended as if she were crucified. Then the gas-burners were turned on to their full extent ... The effect upon ‘Katie King’ was marvelous. She looked like herself for the space of a second only, then she began gradually to melt away. I can compare the dematerialization of her form to nothing but a wax doll melting before a hot fire. First, the features became blurred and indistinct; they seemed to run into each other. The eyes sank in the sockets, the nose disappeared, the frontal bone fell in. Next the limbs appeared to give way under her, and she sank lower and lower on the carpet like a crumbling edifice. At last there was nothing but her head left above the ground – then a heap of white drapery only, which disappeared with a whisk, as if a hand had pulled it after her – and we were left staring by the light of three gas-burners at the spot on which ‘Katie King’ had stood.”

This roundtable discussion will continue on December 7 and conclude on December 21. Among other things, the purpose of the cabinet and the need for darkness will be discussed in Part 2.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due in February 2021.







I think I know what you mean.  I suppose a spirit on being thrust into another dimension may not know, or be conscious of what has happened to him. That is often reported by people who have had a near death experience.  He is still functioning with an earth or physical consciousness rather than allowing himself to expand his consciousness and advance to higher levels of awareness.  And reportedly some people need a period of rest and recuperation after a difficult lifetime and exist for a while in a twilight zone of sorts, not fully aware of where they are and what is going on around them, needing a restorative period of unconsciousness.  Maybe these are the people we think of as being in the lower realms.

Intelligent people are not necessarily mindful of what is going on around them even on the earth plane.  But I guess, it all depends on how one defines consciousness and intelligence.  Memorizing a lot of facts in my opinion is not necessarily being intelligent.  Perhaps I think that true intelligence is something that is not obtained from books but is more akin to common sense and an innate feeling of congruency or what is right.  Innate Intelligence—-that which we take with us into another dimension—- may be something that is built-up, layer by layer over several or many lifetimes of experience. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 9 Dec, 22:18


Thank you for your comments. It is all very vague, but I think a person on the lower levels might be very intelligent yet still lack in consciousness, just as he or she did in the earth world.  Clearly, being very intelligent and being advanced in consciousness are not necessarily synonymous.

Michael Tymn, Wed 9 Dec, 19:01

I think I should also add that a spirit needs to be smart enough to ask the right questions.  Lower level spirits may not be intelligent enough to ask the right questions and therefore continue as they were on earth, content that they know the answers to everything already and there is no need to search for a greater knowledge.  I think we all know people like that! - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 9 Dec, 17:38

I would just like to add that some (many) of the people who report a near death experience say that they had access to all information about the world and universe.  If a question formed in their ‘mind’ they immediately got an answer.  If that being so, then I suppose that those who have left the physical form are to an extent more knowledgeable, or to be precise, have access to more information than those those of us who are confined to a physical form. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 9 Dec, 13:05


Thank you for your opinion on this matter.  You may be right.  That seems to be the religious view of it all.  As you no doubt know, there have been indications that only “lower level” spirits are involved with physical phenomena.  However, lower level doesn’t necessarily mean “evil” spirit. It simply means “closer in vibration” or not-advanced in consciousness.  To quote Dr. W. J. Crawford, who will join the round table for Part 3:

  “I admit that it is very difficult for the ordinary person to bring home to his consciousness the fact that these unseen beings can possibly be like himself in their make-up.  There is an ingrained feeling in humanity that the beings inhabiting the after-death world must be far removed from us in mental qualities and characteristics – we feel that they should a great advance in intellectual equipment over what they possessed h ere; that they should be, if not quite angels, at any rate not far removed from them.  Of course this instinctive feeling we all possess is due to centuries of religious instruction behind us; we feel that the next state must of necessity be either heaven or hell.  Hence it is rather a shock to us when we find the inhabitants of that other state not to be angels by any manner of means, not to exceed us appreciably in intelligence, but to be, in fact, only good-natured beings of much the same capacity as our familiar selves.”

Dr. Richet was one of those who couldn’t buy into the spirit hypothesis, because he assumed that all spirits, if there were such things, had to be advanced in their consciousness.

As I see it, the spirits pretty much gave up at some point, realizing that they had given as much as they could in the way of evidence that they exist and mainstream science simply didn’t grasp it all, even if Geley and Crookes did. Apparently, they didn’t give up completely, however, as demonstrated by the mediumship of Stewart Alexander.

Michael Tymn, Tue 8 Dec, 23:04

I’ve been a member of the SPR, ASPR, IANDS, et al. I’m very, very familiar with the participants in your roundtable and their work. I’m very, very familiar with literally everything published in the areas of psychical research and Spiritualism in the heyday from roughly 1850 to 1930. I’ve been at this for 50+ years and have stayed reasonably current.

My conclusion after passing through almost every phase of enthusiasm and belief is that far too little attention is given to two words:

1. Demonic.
2. Deception.

I believe all of these phenomena are ultimately deceptive distractions. They lead us on, often into obsession, while telling us precisely nothing of substance. They dangle carrots but remain forever elusive. They are ultimately wastes of time. They lead away from truth and reality, not toward it.

If they serve any useful purpose at all, it is to demonstrate that the naturalistic paradigm is flawed and that there is indeed a spiritual realm. But as Thoreau said, once you understand the principle that ships sink, you don’t need a thousand examples. Allowing these phenomena to became an obsession is counterproductive and dangerous.

Lance B. Payette, Tue 8 Dec, 17:39

I’m in the process of rereading “A Curious Life,” a 1929 book by George Wehner (1890-1970), a somewhat famous music composer.  Although the book is primarily about his own psychic abilities and mediumship, his Aunt Lillian was also a medium.  I plan to do a future blog about Wehner, but since it applies to this topic, I thought I’d quote Wehner here:

“After one hour of darkness we tried sitting in dim red light. In this red light we began to get etherealizations and partial materializations.  Aunt Lillian was the instrument used for this, as she had been told.  As a rule, these astral forms would emerge from the cabinet, although sometimes a misty mass would appear near Aunt Lillian and gradually rear or build itself up into the semblance of a human form.  This always frightened Lillian very much.  We never saw any distinct features, but the forms appeared to be men and women, and sometimes children…We would see straight through the ethereal forms, but the materializations were more solid. One night five forms came from the cabinet and gliding over the floor to the trumpet formed a ring around it!”

Wehner further mentioned that he could see a “white mist” all around his Aunt Lillian.

Michael Tymn, Sat 5 Dec, 06:27

Michael, I love the idea that it takes at least some level of doubt to keep our hand on the plow in the furrows of this life. That was a wise spirit indeed who seems to have played off the saying of Jesus about putting your hand on the plow and not looking back. I’m also reminded of one of my favorite sayings of Thoreau, allegedly spoken on his deathbed to a friend who asked about the afterlife: “One world at a time.” The more I dig into your archives, Michael, the more I’m amazed by the depth and breadth of the material you’ve covered over the years, hand on plow.

Newton Finn, Thu 3 Dec, 16:17

Michael (and Newton)...

Another way of making the point you’re both alluding to—-from the Introduction (page 4) of my unpublished book—-

“The driving mantra of this book is that faith (whether in belief or disbelief) is great—but faith backed by [ital]knowledge[ital], to the extent that it’s available to us, is a better starting point. When the knowledge runs out, pure faith can kick in.”

The study of the legitimate knowledge that’s available can take more than a lifetime (and certainly more than the years remaining to older kids like Michael and myself…).

Don Porteous, Wed 2 Dec, 16:41

To add to what the very welcome contributions of Newton Finn provide I would like to add my own interpretation of what most call the hard problem of consciousness.

I shall try to be as brief as I can, and startle readers only very gently.

There is no hard problem. (Believe me, please.) There is no hard problem. (Believe me, please.) There is no hard problem. (Believe me, please.) The alleged problem is the figment of the imaginations of stubbornly prejudiced Faustianly-arrogant pessimistic scientists and philosophers, and not worth a fig or even a fig leaf to replace their emperor’s clothes. Strong Dualism dissolves the ‘problem’ at once. The only question remaining then is what the FUNCTIONING CONNECTION between Being and body can be, and one suggestion is that the connection is the etheric body. There are many universes right here CONTEMPORANEOUSLY operating quite normally as universes do. (I stress this because what I am describing is NOT the well-known Everett-Wheeler universe perpetually splitting over TIME, nor any variant such as Brian Josephson might suggest. Shall I repeat that? I am not preaching Everett-Wheeler.)

The universe in which we live and move and have our VERY BEING is not the world-about that we observe using our bodily senses. We observe “things” around us, but cannot be observed either by ourselves or by any other self around. WE exist invisibly. We are suspended face down in that familiar world-around-us and are unaware of what we ARE, living blobs trapped in non-living blobs of protoplasm, seemingly separate from each other but in fact bloblets of the Great Blob of All-Being and All-Consciousness that fills ALL the CONTEMPORANEOUS universes.

A full exposition of this evidently unfamiliar view would take too much time and would starve the birds who are waiting for their feeder to be filled by me. So I’ll shut up.

One final quiet remark, for the present: I am not mad. Please ask if further thoughts might help show what I mean. Accepted science is our best ally in refuting the cynics. What I am trying to explain is science that the cynics CANNOT refute.

Eric Franklin

Eric Franklin, Wed 2 Dec, 14:03

Thanks for the clarification, Newton.  I agree with you, but I think reason #30, as set forth in my two January 2020 blogs, explains it more than anything else. At the same time, the research, if closely discerned, can help a person move from blind faith to true faith, or conviction.

Michael Tymn, Wed 2 Dec, 07:56

Michael, thanks for advance clarification on Baron Dr. von Schrenck-Notizing’s public position concerning survival. In making my most recent comment, I also had in mind, much more so, the findings of the SPR and Frederic Myers in particular, who worked so hard and, I believe, so effectively to link the survival evidence that convinced HIM to the then-developing body of scientific knowledge. I continue to think, like Dave, that the dropping of the ball he tried to pass on in the form of depth psychology grounded in telepathic law goes a long way toward explaining the mess we’re in. So I’ve decided to buy myself a Christmas present that appears, however belatedly, to pick up this ball and run with it: “Irreducible Mind.” And, of course, I’ll continue to look forward to frequent visits to this welcoming home you offer to kindred spirits.

Newton Finn, Tue 1 Dec, 17:04


As indicated in part 3, which will follow on December 21, even Baron Dr. von Schrenck-Notizing didn’t believe spirits had anything to do with the phenomena he observed.  At least that was his public view.  His assistant later stated that his private view was not so strict.  The same went for Richet.  In effect, proof that the phenomena was genuine and not fraudulent still didn’t serve as proof of spirits and survival.

Michael Tymn, Mon 30 Nov, 23:06

Welcome Newton, I’m sure Michael will be delighted to have “newbies”. Not that I am much of a contributor, there is already so much value to glean from the regular contributors. Materialists really did shirk their responsibility by sticking their heads in the sand rather than embracing the compelling evidence detailed here, didn’t they?

Dave Wheeler, Mon 30 Nov, 20:09

AOD has linked us to an extremely interesting piece concerning Baron Albert von Schrenck-Notzing in particular and physical mediumship in general. What did science lose in viciously turning a blind eye toward compelling evidence of survival, and what price has western civilization paid for that inexcusable shirking of duty? The dual meaning acquired by “materialism” seems to point in the right direction, toward what have become the hard problems both of consciousness and of ethics.

Newton Finn, Mon 30 Nov, 18:58

I’ve received several email comments concerning this post, the writers essentially saying they can’t get past the hokey stuff, such as materializations looking like puppets or dolls, etc.  This is dealt with to some extent in Part 2 of this series, but I thought I’d comment here and mention something that is not set forth in Part 2.

As the researchers explain, the fragmentary, rudimentary, weird materializations are a result of lack of power on the part of the medium.  It is not entirely clear from other references, but I gather that it is also a result of lack of power or ability on the part of the spirits.  I can’t recall the exact reference at this time, but the best explanation I’ve heard is that trying to materialize is like asking a human to draw a picture of him- or herself.  Some very artistic people might produce a fairly good likeness of themselves, but most of us, myself included, would produce cartoon-type characters, probably looking more like dolls.  As I further understand it, the spirit has to recall what he or she looked like when in human form and then “think” that image into the ectoplasm.  Some of them don’t recall exactly what they looked like. There have been materializations that looked almost exactly like a photo of the person. This apparently is the result of the spirit taking his image from a photograph, i.e., that was his best memory of what he looked like.

A spirit told Charles Richet that he could not materialize because he couldn’t remember what he looked like when alive.  The same with Florence Marryat when a friend materialized not looking like his old self. 

Some of the early materializations were especially defective in this regard because the people lived before photography and did not have a good image of themselves.  Think about it.  Would you know what you looked like at age 7 if you did not have photos to remind you? 

Apparently, such is the case with spirits in attempting to show themselves.

Michael Tymn, Wed 25 Nov, 20:52

Thanks, Paul, for finding value in my “law of continuity” framework for trying to get a handle on ectoplasm. Actually, I prefer the alternative “teleplasm,” honoring Myers’ coining and conceiving of “telepathy” as the common ground of so many seemingly distinct and diverse psychical phenomena. I eagerly await Michael’s future blog post about technological breakthroughs on the spirit side of things and greatly appreciate your pointing me in this fascinating, fruitful direction. I hope you can find the time to continue your contributions to this exceptional blog, to which I am a most fortunate newbie.

Newton Finn, Wed 25 Nov, 17:19

Here is a nice comprehensive overview of the career of Baron Albert von Schrenck-Notzing.  It was written by Andreas Sommer of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London, London, United Kingdom and is worth the time it takes to read it. Commenter Peter Mulacz apparently had some input into it.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 24 Nov, 21:49


Thank you for your comment. Yes, there is so much about ectoplasm that has been ignored by science. I believe it is truly the “life principle,” and is the “od” of Reichenbach and the “soul mist” reported at deathbeds. The roundtable could easily have gone to 10 parts rather than just 3 parts.

Concerning your recommendation that I do a timeline of sorts, I did such a timeline beginning with the 11th Century and extending to the formation of the SPR in 1882 for an issue of the “Paranormal Review,” the SPR’s magazine in 2019.  Part II of that timeline, extending from 1882 to 1935, when psychical research died out and gave way to parapsychology, is supposed to be in the next issue of the magazine, I believe.  I will discuss that timeline in a future blog.

Michael Tymn, Tue 24 Nov, 19:52

Thank you, Peter, for the corrections on Dr. Schrenck-Notzing’s background, although I did say that he was “educated as a neurologist,” not that he practiced as a neurologist. Perhaps that is not the case.  The spelling of his name under the photo caption will be corrected.  I appreciate Dr. Schrenck’s participation in the roundtable and all his fine work.  It is too bad, however, that he discounted the spirit hypothesis during his research.  When I conducted the roundtable, he, unfortunately, still had strong doubts about that, as discussed in Part 3 of the blog. They say that your beliefs can remain with you for some time on the Other Side, but I would think his eyes would have been opened by this time.  Let’s hope he “sees the light” soon.

Michael Tymn, Tue 24 Nov, 19:40

Dear Newton and Michael,

To Newton’s point, the thought of ectoplasm quite naturally is ‘off-putting’, given its apparent associations with both ‘hokiness’ and ‘sliminess’.  I very much like the evocation of Myers and the ‘law of continuity’ as a way of ‘placing’ such phenomena. A way that I came to terms with ectoplasmic phenomena, such as I have, is to think in terms of a kind of ‘physio-chemical technology’.  The broader point I am gesturing toward is that it is very easy from ‘this side of the veil’ to be relatively clueless with regard to how specific ‘discarnate activity’ on the ‘other side of the veil’ is generated.  In particular, a fundamental aspect of how we may understand the history of discarnate communication is in terms of specific ‘technical developments’ by discarnate individuals.  The modern inception is with the rappings experienced with the Fox sisters, which, although apparently crude and primitive from our side of things, represented a kind of discarnate technical breakthrough, one reportedly spearheaded by Emmanuel Swedenborg and Benjamin Franklin.  An analogy might be the invention of the telegraph – really just a series of ‘rappings’ from the point of view of the receiver – which represented a technical breakthrough, allowing wired communication across great distances.

Ectoplasm seems to be another such ‘technical breakthrough’, notably insofar as before some point in relatively recent history, ectoplasmic phenomena hadn’t been observed or reported and then thereafter it was.  As ‘hokey’ as some of the early photographic evidence for ectoplasmic phenomena is, the careful reportage of scientists and researchers such as Michael has collected here emphasizes the reality of the phenomenon.  I don’t have a specific reference to hand, but I do recall from the literature reports from discarnate communicators as to the ‘work’ of generating ectoplasmic phenomena from the discarnate side, which resembles nothing so much as a busy chemical laboratory.  One of the very interesting ways in which ectoplasm comes into discarnate communication is in the context of ‘independent direct voice mediumship’, most famously practiced by Leslie Flint, John Sloan, Emily French and Etta Wriedt.  In such mediumship, the medium serves as the ectoplasmic source for the generation of an ‘ectoplasmic voice box’ that may be interfaced with by discarnate individuals for communication.  There are discarnate accounts of what this ‘interfacing’ is like scattered through the corpus of the discarnate communications through Flint.  I recall a particularly clear discussion in Douglas Conacher’s “Chapters of Experience”.  The double significance of direct voice phenomena with regard to ectoplasm is that a) direct voice is, to my mind, one of the very best forms of discarnate communication we have, in terms of testability and clarity and extent of communication, and b) the creation of an ‘ectoplasmic voice box’ represents a specific discarnate technical achievement – a breakthrough or invention, as it were.

Michael, I would encourage you to consider an article or dedicated blog post that lays out in historical succession specific discarnate technical breakthroughs in communication, beginning with the Fox sisters and continuing through to, say, Gary Schwartz’s (still) anticipated ‘soul phone’.  Points along the way would include ectoplasmic phenomena, both materializations and independent direct voice, the specifically non-ectoplasmic energetic phenomena extensively recorded in the Scole experiment, and the many aspects of instrumental transcommunication, including Timestream / Zeitstrom / Rio do Tempo Station, as interacted with by Anabela Cardoso and the Harsch-Fischbachs.  Of course, such ‘technical means’ represent only a subset of discarnate communications.  There are many ‘modalities’ of discarnate communication, such as trance voice mediumship and automatic writing, which appear to be largely ‘non-technical’, even if generated from discarnate initiative and activity.  There are, further, many other modalities, such as NDE and OBE encounters, deathbed visions and crisis apparitions, that are essentially ‘natural’ in character.

P.S.  My apologies for the trailing off of my posts to this blog, but I took on a new position roughly two months ago that is taking up a great deal of my time.  I continue to read Michael’s blog posts regularly.

Paul, Tue 24 Nov, 15:30

Dear Prof.Stafford Betty ,
Hello again from New Delhi. I had seen apparition of my husband , late Prof.Vijay Kapur on the clody morning of 28th September 2013 and on the night of 7th December 2013   following his sudden death on 31st May 2013. There were two personal and special reasons / situations as to why Vijay had appeared to me on those two dates.  But Vijay looked half way through his body not really vaporous or something close to ectoplasm description.                My only son, Aditya then about to be 10 year old reported to have seen his father on the afternoon of 15th September 2014 ( annual Hindu Shraddha period ) in a flowing garment , jaw and mouth forming figure as if he wanted to speak to his son. Whether the description of his father’s flowing garment can be compared to a vapor like situation ....possibly true . But I am not sure if it can be equated with ectoplasm.

prof.Nandini Sinha Kapur, Tue 24 Nov, 14:59

In 1983 I witnessed the Rita Goold experiments in Leicester, England. At this time Rita’s mediumship was fully developed. There was no cabinet. The etheric people fully materialised and walked around the room. On my first visit I was asked by the etheric people if there was anybody I would like them to get as I was coming back next week with my mother. I said that I would love to meet my “dead” father who passed over in 1967. The etheric person said that if he is over here with us, we will try and dig him out. Sure enough the next week I received the crushing proof that my father had survived the death of his physical body. My father was a professional cricketer and had been trained at Lord’s. A few months before my son had come out to bat at Lord’s for England under 19’s against the MCC. Needless to say my father also saw this with me at Lord’s. My son was aged two when Dad passed over.

Michael Roll, Tue 24 Nov, 10:23

Dear Stafford Betty,

I am glad to see your contribution to the comments from the ‘audience’ at the round table. Thank you, Michael Tymn, for so useful and rational an idea as to convene it.

It will probably be thought irritating that I mention yet again the relevance of relativity to the WHOLE subject of spiritualism and the manifestations that can be evoked, but one of my own personal correspondents, a member of SPR for over forty years, a knowledgeable man, believes that my interpretation of the relevance of relativity, my paper on which he has studied in detail, can encompass pretty much the WHOLE of the known range of psi phenomena. (I would have to look up his exact words, but these are not a misrepresentation of what he has told me in personal emails.) Unless a HIGHLY qualified professional physicist can point out some error in my reasoning and/or in my presentation of the evidence from the accepted and irrefutable evidence of hard science itself, ie Relativity Theory, evidence that should silence cynical opposition, I believe that it is higher beings who have shown me a truth that should be shared. Around the university in Lampeter, Wales, near my home, there are very few knowledgeable in science, let alone highly qualified reviewers of my paper. I therefore dare to offer it without peer review to those who will read it without attitudes of PREjudice (which, like the sceptic-cynics themselves, one or two have shown in the past). Some (fearing the involvement of mathematics) are daunted by the prospect and do not even respond when given a copy of the paper. Others do not even request copies. The fear is unjustified. The argument, though I make the claim myself, is very lucidly explained, and involves only one step of pure mathematical logic.

I wonder whether you, yourself, Stafford, would like to have a copy?

Eric Franklin

Eric Franklin, Tue 24 Nov, 09:09

Hi Michael,

the spectre of my late friend Albert (von Schrenck-Notzing) came to me and whispered into my ear:

Please inform Michael of a few very marginal incorrect items, but do it politely—-I don’t want to tell him myself as I feel obliged that he invited me to his table.

1. I was a general practioner not a neurologist. People mistook me for a psychiatrist or neurologist but I never got any approbation in these fields. Besides being a MD and a parapsychologist, I was a sexologist.

2. You, Peter, have seen my palace in Munich, so please tell Michael that it was—-and still is—-located in a fashionable area in downtown Munich, not outside. As a matter of fact I had no need for a manour house as I used to spend winters in Nice and summers in the Karpathian mountains.

3. Have Michael correct the misspelling of my name (the c is missing) in the caption under the photo depicting my old friend Charles and myself.

And please tell Michael that it was very thoughtful to mention I preferred the term ‘Teleplasma’ to the French ‘Ectoplasma’. It occurs very rarely nowadays that this detail is remembered. Tell him he is doing a good job and—-

And off was Schrenck’s spectre without completing the last sentence. Now I am pondering what else he was about to say? Maybe he will tell you on your next round table talk?

All best,

Peter MULACZ, Tue 24 Nov, 02:11


There seems to be a distinction between ectoplasmic materializations and apparitions, i.e., ordinary ghosts, but it is not entirely clear.  There is also the question of whether “soul mist,” the substance seen leaving the body at the time of death is ectoplasm.  Indications seem to be that soul mist is ectoplasm, the life principle, also referred to as “od” by Dr. Karl von Reichenbach, who experimented with it well before the four roundtable members mentioned above.  However, Reichenbach’s study seems to have involved the more vaporous kind and was associated more with mental mediums than physical mediums.

Michael Tymn, Tue 24 Nov, 01:48

I must confess that the thought of ectoplasm was off-putting to me, weirded me out, until I looked more deeply into spiritualism and mediumship. What softened my negativity was Frederic Myers’ insistence that the scientific law of continuity applied universally, to all phenomena whether spiritual or physical. This allowed me to view ectoplasm as a necessary link between this world and the next, an ethereal yet sometimes perceptible conduit through which forces from one side could interact with those of the other in accordance with the law of continuity applicable to both. I don’t know whether this way of thinking holds enough water to work for anyone else, or if my initial reticence toward ectoplasm was just a personal thing.

Newton Finn, Tue 24 Nov, 01:31

How creative of you, Mike,
to improvise a virtual roundtable discussion for your blog in which the first participant addresses you as a young man when in fact you weren’t even around during the first quarter of the 20th century except perhaps in a past life attending séances and befriending mediums.

I enjoyed reading your piece. Keep on writing, man. It’s good therapy and damn cheap.
Keep up the great work.
Kindest regards,


David P. Stang, Tue 24 Nov, 01:29

Thanks Michael for pulling this all together.  It must have been a tremendous amount of work.  I look forward to the next two sessions.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 23 Nov, 23:57

Extremely well done. I had no idea until now that ectoplasm was so variable. Are ordinary ghosts that appear unexpectedly to people all over the world made of ectoplasm, or is ectoplasm something unique to mediumship?

Stafford Betty, Mon 23 Nov, 22:03

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“Life After Death – The Communicator” by Paul Beard – If the telephone rings, naturally the caller is expected to identify himself. In post-mortem communication, necessitating something far more complex than a telephone, it is not enough to seek the speakers identity. One needs to estimate also as far as is possible his present status and stature. This involves a number of factors, overlapping and hard to keep separate, each bringing its own kind of difficulty. Four such factors can readily be named. Read here
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