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The Saga of Ectoplasm

Posted on 28 February 2022, 9:58

No, ectoplasm has not been debunked by materialistic science.  It is true that we don’t hear much about it these days, primarily because the few mediums producing it are aware of the scorn heaped upon genuine mediums of the past by scientists intent on ruling out spirit involvement, by hook or by crook, and are therefore reluctant to subject themselves to scientific inquiry.  At the same time, few scientists dare show any interest in the subject matter, lest they be laughed out of their professions. One of the very few exceptions is Michel Granger, (below) a French chemical engineer living in Canada, with a doctorate in physical chemistry, who has been studying the subject for the past 40 years and whose book, in French, La Saga de L’Ectoplasme, was released last year (with two volumes to follow). “I have endeavored to examine the facts, as amazing as they were, in a critical and objective way,” Granger states, “sorting out the true from the false, noting the degree of credibility of the facts reported and thus constituting a veritable encyclopedia of this mythical substance that has been called ectoplasm with all the questions it raises scientifically and psychically.”


If we are to believe the debunkers and skeptics, ectoplasm is nothing more than cheesecloth stuffed into one or more of the cavities of the body and then extruded at an opportune time, the sole purpose being to dupe those present.  However, it is difficult to believe that some of the most eminent men of science, who observed it, examined it, tested it, and proclaimed it real, could have been fooled over and over again, especially under laboratory conditions. It is equally difficult to believe that cheesecloth can be extruded from the ears, nose, and pores of the body, as sometimes reported.  “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,” explained Dr. Charles Richet, the Nobel Prize-winning French scientist who popularized the name, ectoplasm, first given to it by Dr. Julian Ochorowicz from his research with medium Eusapia Palladino. Prior to his own investigation, Richet was one of many who scoffed at the reports by Sir William Crookes, a renowned British chemist who observed it on a number of occasions during the 1870s.  “I avow with shame that I was among the willfully blind,” Richet wrote in dedicating his 1923 book, Thirty Years of Psychical Research, to Crookes, commending him for his courage and insight.

I recently put some questions to Dr. Granger by email.  He kindly responded. 

Have you observed ectoplasm? If so, have your observations been the same as those of Richet?

Yes, I have observed ectoplasm during a spiritualist séance in Britain. It was the 18th March 2006 during a séance held at Coberhill, in Scarborough, in presence of the friends of the medium Stewart Alexander. The séance took place in complete darkness. During a spot lighting, I saw something whitish around the medium’s neck. It had no movement. It was very impressive.

I also touched a materialized hand which came to stand above a red light box next to me. It was said to be the hand of Walter Stinson, Stewart’s guide, who had been the brother of American medium Margery Crandon. He died in 1911. The hand was warm and mobile like a normal human hand.  One thing is certain: this hand could not have been Stewart’s, because he was seated very far from me, immobilized on his armchair with plastic bracelets.

Yes, what I saw can be compared to what Professor Richet observed. Except what he saw in Algiers with the ghost Bien Boa who, I believe, was a fabricated puppet.

It is my understanding that Professor Richet observed Bien Boa on several occasions and also reported that he clearly saw the materialization of Bien Boa sink into the floor.  Do you really think he could have been tricked on numerous occasions?  Also, Eva C. was the same medium he studied with Dr. Gustave Geley on countless occasions. Are you suggesting that she tricked Richet in those early sittings involving Bien Boa, but that the phenomena were genuine in the later sittings with Geley, Flammarion and others?

Yes, I think Professor Richet was abused in Algiers. Bien Boa was obviously a puppet made in the dark with a coarse material which made it seem that he was sinking into the ground while his support was lying on the ground and then recovered in one way or another. Bien Boa’s complete materializations speak for themselves, they are so gross. I cannot understand how Professor Richet could allow himself to be deceived. Certain ectoplasmic phenomena with the same medium and Mrs. Bisson could have been authentic with Geley and Flammarion, but at the beginning stage only, the solid forms being made with unfolded images. Marthe Béraud, alias Eva C., was a very controversial physical medium who was able, occasionally, to produce ectoplasmic outlines with difficulty.

The ectoplasm produced by many mediums, including D. D. Home, is said to have been more vaporish and not visible to the naked eye.  Can you account for the difference between the thick, milky ectoplasm and the vaporish type?

According to my investigation, the ectoplasm first manifests itself by something invisible to the naked eye, simply detectable by infrared radiation, as recorded by Doctor Eugene Osty in tests with the medium Rudi Schneider at the International Metapsychic Institute of Paris in 1930, then becomes cloudy, and gradually solidifies.  Already in 1874, vaporous hands and children were materialized with D. D. Home. Katie King was materialized with Florence Cook that same year.  There were others, such as Leonor, in 1908 and Rosalie in 1937. The problem is that these different phases of mediumistic materializations have not been observed chronologically in the history of ectoplasm.  Most of the research has been aimed at ruling out fraud.  The materialization can be instantaneous or progressive according to the psychic force of the moment of the medium.

Your investigation seems to have been one more of the recorded research rather than by your direct observation.  Do I understand that correctly?

As I said I have only witnessed the appearance of ectoplasm once and my conclusion is that it exists.  I am convinced that what I observed with Stewart Alexander was genuine and not some trick. However, the numerous testimonies by many credible witnesses under more favorable conditions cannot be discounted. 

Is ectoplasm subject to chemical analysis?  If so, what are the results of such analysis?

Some analyses have been carried out (with the ectoplasm of Eva C. in 1911,  Stanislawa P. in 1916, and O. Schlag in 1931), but not enough to determine what the ectoplasm is made of. The analyses proved to be inconclusive. Since it leaves the medium in gaseous (pores) or semi-gaseous (natural orifices) form and returns there (dematerialization – no scalpel has detected ectoplasm in the human body) – it cannot be classified in any of the categories of natural material. Most often the analysis has shown not its nature but the residues of “pollution” that it had carried with it and which remain after its dematerialization. Ectoplasm has a limited lifespan. Only the Frenchman, Geley, thought he could stabilize it one day in order to be able to study it better. Alas, his premature death in a plane crash did not allow him to carry out his project.

Did the name “teleplasm” precede “ectoplasm”?

No, I think it’s the same, to designate something unknown and amazing. Teleplasm was mainly used in Germany and Scandinavia. But also by H. Price and G. H. Hamilton, in Winnipeg (1950). 

Is Od or Odic Force the same thing as ectoplasm and teleplasm? 

Yes, the Od, released by the odic force, can be considered as a form of “nascent” ectoplasm. It is one of the explanations which could apply to the formation of the ectoplasm when it passes from its gaseous form to its solid form.

What is the purpose of ectoplasm?

Ectoplasm is the means by which ghosts – perhaps the dead – have utilized to show themselves to us by covering themselves with it to allow us to visualize their silhouettes partially or completely – To better make themselves known to us.  Scole’s experiment in England was intended to demonstrate that materializations do not need ectoplasm to manifest. The result was not up to the challenge, unfortunately.

As I interpret the research carried out by Richet, Geley, and others, most materializations were imperfect or incomplete because either the medium did not have the power required to complete them or because the materializing spirit (assuming spirits were involved) lacked in its ability to properly visualize them and mold them to perfection.  Thus, we have some materializations that appear more like dolls or puppets than humans, as if asking a person to draw a picture of himself. Is that your interpretation?

I think rather that the success of the ectoplasmic forms depended more or less on the psychic strength of the medium, but also on the atmosphere that reigned around the séance – of the trust one places in the medium to exercise his extraordinary power of exteriorization and of the respect one owes him. As for the coarse forms, they result in my opinion from an inability of the medium to assert the materializing faculty, or indeed, sometimes when it is possible, from more or less successful non-paranormal simulations.

Exceptional paranormal experiences are unfortunately not reproducible at will. This is precisely the problem that parapsychology comes up against in order to enter the corpus of traditional sciences.

Why don’t we hear much about ectoplasm today?

Because the mediums capable of exteriorizing it are extremely rare. And because the methods of control (infrared cameras) give the medium no chance of being able to catch up with a failing faculty with a nudge, as it would be looked upon as fraudulent. These cameras force the medium into a constant ectoplasmic output, which has never been seen from most psychic paranormal phenomena. This is also why official science has always refused to study them or recognize them. The pressure to perform might inhibit the medium’s extraordinary ability and end in failure, resulting in claims of cheating and fraud.

Please summarize your conclusions as the existence and origin of ectoplasm.

My investigation over more than 40 years has convinced me that the ectoplasmic phenomenon exists. And this despite a compilation of counterfeits and “fabrications” that have discredited it with psychic researchers. I think it is a psychic faculty limited to a small minority of “white crows,” who no longer have the sacred fire required to demonstrate their ability to the whole world, preferring to reserve it for a few – some of their friends, especially in English home circles. As with Stewart Alexander, the few mediums with the ability to produce ectoplasm are reluctant to demonstrate as they suspect that the researcher is intent on finding fraud or some materialist explanation.  The medium is often a fragile and delicate being and the failure of many scientists to consider this prevents any real progress in the study of ectoplasm.

Is ectoplasm evidence of a spirit world?

The questions I have about the phenomenon remain numerous, especially concerning the spiritistic nature.  Is it proof of survival after death – the deceased still wandering for a longer or shorter time in a parallel reality and being able to emerge from it thanks to this prodigy called ectoplasm – or is it a purely bio-ideoplastic implemented from information drawn from the minds of the living by the mediums?  In the experience I had in March 2006, I was deeply disappointed as no deceased friend or relative materialized for me that day.

There were spirit messages in the late 1800s indicating that the spirit world pulled back in their efforts to reach the physical world because of the abuse and misunderstandings relative to the phenomena.  Do you give any credence to such messages?

No, I believe that the spirit world, if it exists, ignores the abuses and misunderstandings of phenomena. It manifests itself to those who deserve this great happiness to know that we do not disappear body and soul after death. Some are deemed worthy of this priceless gift. Others don’t. Unfortunately, I deplore that after a lifetime of studying this subject, I am still one of the excluded. I can’t explain why. This reflection is also a long part of the end of volume one of my investigation.

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 latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: March 14

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After-Death Communication: The Mystery of the Widow’s Mite

Posted on 14 February 2022, 9:46

Sometime during 1894, Dr. Isaac K. Funk (below) borrowed a valuable ancient Roman coin known as the “Widow’s Mite” from Professor Charles E. West, the principal of a lady’s school in Brooklyn Heights, New York to illustrate it in The Standard Dictionary being produced by his American company, Funk & Wagnalls.  Henry Ward Beecher, a mutual friend, had told Funk about the coin and introduced him to West some years earlier.  As Funk was to recall and report in his 1904 book, The Widow’s Mite and Other Psychic Phenomena, he gave the coin to his brother, Benjamin, the company’s business manager, and asked him to return it to Professor West after a photographic plate of the coin was made.  Benjamin then gave the coin, along with another coin, both in a sealed envelope to the head cashier of the company, who placed it in the drawer of a large safe, where it would remain forgotten for some nine years.


It was in February of 1903 that Funk, a member of the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR), was told about an apparently gifted medium in Brooklyn.  He arranged to sit with her and her small group. As the medium was strictly an amateur and wanted no publicity, Funk did not give her name in the book.  He described her, however, as a 68-year-old widow “of little school education, refined in manners.”  She had three spirit controls – a deceased son named Amos, the daughter of her brother named Mamie, who died at age 7, and George Carroll, the deceased friend of a member of the circle.

As a guest of the private circle, Funk did not feel he could impose test conditions upon the medium.  “It was all ‘upon honor,” he wrote.  “After considerable investigation, however, and fuller acquaintance with the family, I am morally certain that this confidence in the integrity of the medium and family at the time of this mite incident was not misplaced.”
The medium was of the trance, direct-voice type, i.e., the voices did not come from her vocal cords but from somewhere near her through a floating trumpet. “The voices are of a great variety,” Funk observed.  “I counted in a single evening as many as twenty – some apparently the voices of children, and others of middle-aged persons and old men and women; a few of these are the voices of Indians, and one of a jolly, typical, Virginian Negro. Each voice maintains its individuality during the evening and from one evening to another.”  Most of the communications came from deceased members of the family, especially from the brother’s deceased wife and the daughter, Mamie.

On Funk’s third visit to the medium, George Carroll spoke up in “his usual strong masculine voice” and said:  “Has any one here got anything that belonged to Mr. Beecher?”  There was no reply, but Funk, having known Beecher, a popular clergyman and social reformer who had died in 1887, asked for clarification.  Carroll bellowed: “…I am told by John Rakestraw, that Mr. Beecher, who is not present, is concerned about an ancient coin, the ‘Widow’s Mite.’  This coin is out of its place and should be returned.  It has long been away, and Mr. Beecher wishes it returned, and he looks to you, doctor, to return it.”

Funk recalled borrowing the coin, but told Carroll that it had been promptly returned.  “This one has not been returned,” Carroll replied.  Funk pressed for more information.  “I don’t know where it is,” Carroll said. “I am simply impressed that it is in a large iron safe in a drawer under a lot of papers and has been lost sight of for years, and that you can find it, and Mr. Beecher wishes you to find it.”

At his office the next day, Funk questioned his brother about the coin.  Benjamin said that he was sure he had returned it to the owner.  Funk then questioned the head cashier, who also said it had been returned to the owner.  However, they then searched the safe and found two coins, both widow’s mites, in a drawer under a lot of papers.

Upon examining the two coins, Funk concluded that the lighter one was the genuine widow’s mite.  It was the one displayed in the dictionary.  On the following Wednesday, Funk attended the Brooklyn circle.  Toward the end of the session, George Carroll began talking and Funk informed him that he had found the widow’s mite; in fact, had found two of them.  He asked Carroll if he knew which was the genuine coin.  “The black one,” Carroll replied without hesitation.  Funk checked with the Philadelphia mint and found that Carroll was right and he was wrong.  In fact, they had used the wrong coin in the dictionary illustration. The light one was simply a replica.

As a test of Carroll (or the medium), Funk then asked Carroll if he knew from whom he had borrowed the coin.  Carroll responded that it was Mr. Beecher’s friend, but he could not give a name. Carroll further reported, however, that he was being shown a picture of a college, which he identified as a lady’s college in Brooklyn Heights.  Funk also asked Carroll to whom the coin should be returned. “I can not tell you; I do not know; for some reason Mr. Beecher does not tell,” Carroll said.

At a circle with another medium the following week, Funk further heard from Beecher and was told that Beecher was not concerned about the return of the coin. “What he was concerned about was to give me a test that would prove the certainty of communication between the two worlds, and since that has been accomplished in my finding the coin, he cared nothing further about it.” As West had died, the coin was returned to his son.

Funk ruled out fraud, coincidence, and telepathy and concluded that spirit communication was the most likely explanation.  Further reporting on the sitting with the second medium, Funk was told that Beecher was there and wanted to speak with him. “Sure enough, when the curtains were parted, there was the Beecher face, wonderfully life-like,” Funk wrote. Beecher then spoke to Funk in a deep, husky voice, explaining to him that that the efforts on his side were an attempt to put an end to materialism on earth.  “Do you see my face clearly?” Beecher then asked. “It is with great difficulty that we come back into visible form. You have no adequate thought of the nature, the largeness, and the complexity of the difficulties that must be surmounted by the spiritual world in order to return in this way, but we can surmount these fully, so our scientific leaders assure us.  We have surmounted them in part; your side can largely help by supplying the proper thought and heart conditions. Do not smile when we speak of magnetism and vibrations and waves. There is such a thing as mind or soul ether. To this ether your thought and feeling and will and ours are disturbing and controlling forces – very real. You must study on your side these psychic forces and their laws.” 

Funk reported that the image of Beecher, whatever it was, slowly sank to the floor and disappeared. Before it sank, a hand was placed on his shoulder, although no one was beside him. 

“This case, certainly, represents one that has very possible claims to supernormal knowledge, to the say the least of it,” Dr. James H. Hyslop, the Columbia University professor of logic and ethics turned psychical researcher, wrote when he read Funk’s full report of the case.  “I see no way to impeach it positively.  I could imagine a theory to explain it without supposing the supernormal, but I would have no possible evidence in favor of what I can imagine.”  In fact, Hyslop, an ASPR associate, had accompanied Funk to one sitting with the Brooklyn medium and agreed with him that she was genuine. 

Funk died on April 4, 1912.  On October 2 of the same year, he began communicating with Hyslop through the mediumship of “Mrs. Chenoweth” (a pseudonym for a medium later identified as Minnie Meserve Soule).  Funk provided Hyslop with much evidential information relative to his identity and informed him that communication was not as easy as he had expected when alive.  “Thought produces images and unless the thought is concentrated on some particular thing, the image quickly melts into other images, a kaleidoscope movement,” Funk communicated through Mrs. Chenoweth’s hand while she was in trance.

Funk communicated several more times over the next few months, but did not communicate again until nearly four years later, on June 14, 1916, at which time he referred to the time Hyslop had accompanied him to a sitting with the Brooklyn medium.  This was especially evidential to Hyslop as he was certain that Mrs. Chenoweth knew nothing of the visit.

On June 27, Henry Ward Beecher communicated and also referred to the “money” message.  But neither Beecher nor Funk could get the words “widow’s mite” through the mediums mind or hand.  The words came out either “money” or “bronze medal.”  Then, on February 14, 1917, Funk’s mother communicated and said:  “I know that the idea of medals and medallions and all articles which suggest such form is a left-over impression of his most striking evidence, and he is the receiver of so many suggestions of that nature from the living and dead, because of his known interest in the ancient coin, and it always comes with force as he attempts to write.”

In his June 28, 1916 communication, Funk said, referring to the coin, that “the British Museum holds nothing better.”

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 latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  February 28

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Fallen Soldier Convinces His Famous Father of Life After Death – On September 14, 1915, Second Lieutenant Raymond Lodge, the youngest of six sons of Sir Oliver Lodge, a distinguished British physicist and pioneer in electricity and radio, as well as the former president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, was killed in WWI action in Flanders. Read here
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