Vaginal Ectoplasm and Teleplasmic Third Hands (The History Behind Mignola’s Johann Krauss)

My first introduction to ectoplasm was in Richard Matheson’s novel Hell House, later turned into The Legend of Hell House by John Hough. Here there is a scene where spiritualist Florence Tanner exudes ectoplasmic pseudo pods from her fingertips. Mr. Barrett commands the spectral force to leave a sample in a jar. The teleplasm, of course, does not oblige, veering away.

Another writer who actively uses ectoplasm is Mike Mignola. He even has a major character in the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (the B.P.R.D.) who is entirely made up of ectoplasm. His origins were finally revealed in a Dark Horse one-shot, B.P.R.D.: The Ectoplasmic Man. Basically, Johann was a medium, whose ectoplasmic form survived his body’s death. He “lives” in a containment suit that allows him to interact with the physical world (an keep his ectoplasmic vapors from dissipating).

The character was recently introduced in the Hellboy II movie. His containment suit received a substantial remodel courtesy of Guillermo del Toro. Here, as in the comic, he demonstrates his ability to “possess” dead flesh and reanimate it.

Ectoplasm was “big” in the Victorian era. People went nuts for the stuff (along the same vein as fairy photography). Often ectoplasm (sometimes called teleplasm) issued from various bodily orifices (ears, mouth, nose, nipples and vagina). The term ectoplasm was coined from two Greek words, ecto (outside) and plasma (substance). These amorphous shapes had to be coaxed out of the medium, where they proceeded to slither about through the air. Sometimes they moved tables or interacted in some way with the physical environment.

People have often tried to snip a piece for analysis, yet all these have met with failure. The ectoplasm was believed to be like an umbilical cord. The medium would die if it were severed. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in his History of Spiritualism (Volume 2), related the story of a medium who suffered a “near severe hemorrhage” after a flashlight was shone into her mouth by someone trying to get a better view of the ectoplasm.

One Russian scientist, Simyon Zinovieff, did manage to acquire a bit of the psychic stuff. His lab suffered a terrible accident. Molten glass, dripping from an unwatched test tube, ignited some chemicals. These exploded and set fire to the lab. Zinovieff committed suicide immediately afterward. To further compound the myth that ectoplasm kills, Zinovieff’s second wife died from a heart attack minutes after tossing a jar of ectoplasm into the Seine.

This photo, taken in December 1948 in complete darkness with a Kodak Infra-red plate, shows an ectoplasmic rod emanating from Minnie Harrison. The ectoplasm is solid enough to clearly see the shadow behind it. The tip of the pseudo pod has connected to a trumpet (no word on whether or not it could play Taps). The spirits “spoke” through the trumpet, which was suspended about five feet from the floor.

One of the most notable mediums was Mina Crandon, better known as Margery. Famous photographs show long strings of ectoplasm, like umbilical cords, pouring from her mouth, ears and nose, where they seemed to hang by tiny threads. Other extrusions came from between her legs. She even produced a third hand, grossly formed, from her navel. This feat was never fully explained, yet when touched, the hand felt live sewn tracheae tissue.

Analysis of small pieces of ectoplasm yielded few clues. Several critics claimed the stuff was chewed paper, gauze or other fabric, probably regurgitated, or even animal tissue.

Harry Houdini alleged that all of these ectoplasmic manifestations were tricks. Usually people swallowed fabric or cotton balls only to regurgitate them during the séance. He would know, being able to spew up needles on command. He claimed that that Mina’s surgeon husband altered her vagina and this was where she concealed her teleplasmic hand. She would then use her groin muscled to “produce” the hand. Quite a nifty trick. Mina refused to wear tights, or be internally searched. Proof that Mina had been surgically altered has never been found.

In 1924, Eric John Dingwall of the British Society for Psychical Research, requested that Margery perform in tights. She refused. Most mediums were subjected to a thorough body cavity search that would make Homeland Security operatives proud. To avoid this invasion of privacy magician and medium investigator Harry Price invented the “séance garment.” It covered the medium from head to foot, including her hands, so that only her head stuck out. This would avoid the body search, and also ectoplasm leaking out the vagina or rectum. (A whole new meaning to anal leakage).

Hiram Maxim tells the story of a materializing medium who was put in such a garment that had been sewn tightly around her neck. The medium simply ripped open the outfit and stuck flowers under her breasts for later materialization.

Another medium, Eva P, would perform completely naked, in the company of another woman, Juliette Alexandre-Bisson. She secreted ectoplasm from her vagina. There are photos of Eva P. at the Met that depict ectoplasm as it emanates from Eva’s nude body. Alas, I could not find pictures for this.

Ectoplasm and physical mediums has virtually vanished from the world. It had a short reign at the turn of the century. Seeing how so many of these pseudo pods were obvious fakes may have dealt a death blow to what might be a true phenomenon.

Chris Kalidor

13 Responses to “Vaginal Ectoplasm and Teleplasmic Third Hands (The History Behind Mignola’s Johann Krauss)”

  1. I happen to believe this stuff is real. I mean how in the world can you fake something like that coming out of you unless you are an extreme genius of some kind. and these are old pictures im sure they didnt have the material or means to make something like this up.

  2. I believe this stuff is real,but can not be caught on camera.However,it may look like it in photos,but you can photo shop.
    I just seen the movie,Haunting in Conneticutt and it shows ectoplasm coming out of the young medium boys mouth.
    I may be wrong,but whatever it is,I KNOW IT’S REAL.
    I have seen it with my own eyes when I went to see a witch doctor.She started having a sesure and white liguid came out of here mouth.But it wasnt spit liquid it was foamy cloudy stuff.

    • Hi Bethany, that’s what happens when people have seizures. The frothing of the mouth is a natural thing. I’m not denying however that people can go into self-induced seizures. I think they probably can.

  3. i agree with Holly. This stuff would be much too hard to fake back in that time period. Maybe the reason this stuff has dissapeared is because of the threats it can pose, or of the fear.

  4. I beleve this is real. Harry hudidni is full of shit. Why would someone shove something down their throat,nose,vagina,ear,rectum just for a photo op..shock value.

    • “Why would someone shove something down their throat,nose,vagina,ear,rectum just for a photo op..shock value.”

      …because some people are messed up and will do anything for attention. I mean, have you SEEN Americans and Reality TV?

  5. Response to Jeremy…..for money
    Also, how is this matter being created. If it is in fact a liquid then it must obey the laws of science, it also simply cannot appear and disappear if it constitutes mass because mass cant be created or destroyed. I call hoax on these, especially since some of them cast a shadow, and others do not.

  6. I agree wid steve,,n by d way,that white liquid which oozes during seizures is just frothy saliva which oozes out as a result of over activity of brain cells..n ectoplasm has no such scientific basis..its all bullshit…fake..n spirits of our loved-ones are safe with God..n please let them rest in peace..Amen..

  7. Fiza,
    you label something as fake for not having scientific basis and then say “the spirits of our loved ones are safe with God”.
    Sine when did God or spirits have a “scientific basis”?….

  8. Okay, cool but definitely not real. First off, spiritual presence is not tangible and does not transcend into the physical form. Second, at that time they were experimenting with photography and techniques that I’m sure would enable them to achieve such effects. Don’t be silly

  9. Ectoplasm was created with muslin fabric, cheese cloth, egg whites and/or soaps. The medium would swallow this mold, and regurgitate it in the darkness at the seance.

  10. Very interesting. Note that the medium who worked with Juliette Bisson was Eva C (for Carriere), not Eva ‘P’. Also, Mina Crandon did not perpetrate her fraud for money – she was wealthy, and offered to donate any funds that came her way because of her mediumship to charity. For some people, attention and a sense of power are motivation enough to pitch a fraud; for others, it begins as a game, and then is hard to stop once people start believing in it.

  11. […] For more on the subject of Spiritualism, see Chris Kalidor’s post on Vaginal Ectoplasm and Teleplasmic Third Hands. […]

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