Derived from the Greek word ektos, which means “outside,” ectoplasm is a term that is used in two different manners. In terms of medical information, ectoplasm refers to the part of common cellular construction. The term designates that portion of the cytoplasm found on the exterior of a cell. More commonly, ectoplasm is understood to refer to the paranormal manifestation of spiritual energy related to ghosts. Serving as a physical medium of that spiritual energy, ectoplasm is said to be the more or less tangible plasma residue that helps to give ghosts some degree of physical presence.
The designation of ectoplasm as a physical manifestation of the spiritual power or presence of a ghost is traced back to Charles Richet. While not understood to have a cell structure that is identical to human cells, ectoplasm is nevertheless considered to possess a small degree of weight and can be touched. Over the years, many persons have claimed to have come in contact with ectoplasm, and in fact have captured a portion of the purported supernatural material for study and analysis.
Some schools of paranormal thought attribute ectoplasm with several different qualities. The substance is thought to glow for a period of time after being detached from the host. As the ectoplasm begins to break down, the glowing quality begins to dim. As the decomposition continues, the material is said to gradually dissolve, leaving behind no trace at all. For this reason, many persons have photographed substances thought to be ectoplasm in an attempt to record the phenomenon before the physical evidence fades away.
To date, no scientific testing has yielded any information that verifies the existence of ectoplasm. While countless substances that were gathered and claimed to be ectoplasm have undergone analysis, most are found to be common and very non-supernatural materials. Some of the more common samples of purported ectoplasm have proven to be nothing more than human skin or shavings of chiffon.