Friday, January 15, 2010

The Disgusting History of Ectoplasm

I'm going to diverge from my usual daily journey to a haunted place tonight.  Instead I'm going to dive into the darker side of the history of the paranormal and the darker side of those who have exploited the supernatural to profit from it. 

During the time comtemporary to and following World War I there was and explosion in what was then called spiritualism or mentalism.  Spiritualism  is a religious movement revolving around communicating with the dead via a medium.  This explosion was brought on by the massive number of people that died in the war.  One of the more bizarre activites that became prevalent in this movement was the expolsion of ectoplasm.   Ectoplasm is a term used to define a physical manifestation of the supernatural and  it usually came out of the medium's nose, mouth, or ears.  The term, defined by Charles Richet, meant spiritual energy externalized by psychics.  It was for many years, used as absolute confirmation that the supernatural was tangible and proveable. 

Ectoplasm was so believed in that it was featured in respectable scientific journals and it's existance was confirmed by the great minds of the time including William Butler Yeats and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  It was so believed in that Scientific America sought to do a study on it and offered a $5,000 reward to anyone who could demonstrate the release of extoplasm in front of a scientific panel.  This reward lead to the beginning of the end of the scientific validity of ectoplasm.

What was discovered was both revolting and eye opening.   Although many techniques and materials have been used by mediums to produce ectoplasm, the medium examined by this panel was found to be storing a sheep gut and fat mixture in a sack in her vagina which she expolsed at the appropriate time to make it appear as if she was expelling ectoplasm.  Further research into other psychics revealed many other grotesque techniques for producing this fraudulent material.  Some women learned how to regurgitate on demand and swallowed yards of muslin and cheese cloth which they would vomit on command.  Others stored materials in their rectum.
Although this story is disgusting.  It is more about the disgustingness that is possible within humanity when exploiting the needs of  those suffering from the lost of a loved one than the vileness of the actual act.    Although I love a good ghost story,  it is always amazing to me how much more horrifying live people can be than ghosts..

1 comment:

Autumnforest said...

I'm thrilled you did this post! It's a subject I've always wanted someone to approach. One of my biggest gripes has been the turn-of-the-century spiritualists movement in terms of ghosts and the people who today still use it in ghost hunting. It's as close to snake oil as possible. I know people who still think ectoplasm and old early 20th century ghost photos are real. It does say a lot about the general problem in the world of ghost hunting with believers who take it on as a spiritual and religious form and those who seek to find the truth--even if it's not in the spiritual realm. Wonderful post. I'm so glad you have this blog!