Ectoplasmic Mists and Fogs
The whole concept of ectoplasm began in 1894, when French physiologist Charles Richet coined the term to describe the misty substance associated with the formation of ghosts and believed to be the actual physical substance created by the energy manifested by mediums. Richet, a winner of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1913, was also the first to use the word metaphysics to describe what, up until that time, had been called materialization.
This rubbery, milky substance could appear either as a solid or a vapor. Extruded from the body of the medium, it would subsequently materialize limbs, faces, and even entire bodies. These manifestations were reportedly warm, flexible, and even dough-like. They emerged from orifices such as the mouth, ears, nose, and occasionally less convenient locations.
Ewwww! What Is That?
Forms of ectoplasm vary widely — anything from mists to thin tentacles or full bodies. This substance disappears when exposed to light and snaps back quickly into the medium's body. It was believed that touching the ectoplasm or exposing it to light might cause injury to the medium. This was one of the main reasons mediums insisted that séances take place in almost total darkness, as any attempt to touch or approach the mediums or ectoplasm could cause severe bodily harm.
Daniel Dunglas Home was one notable exception to this rule; he conducted séances and manifested spirits in full daylight. The fact that these ectoplasmic manifestations occurred in semidarkness and that some were obvious frauds has cast a negative pall over the whole issue. Of the hundreds of shots of ectoplasm in existence, about 95 percent are less than convincing.
There was no fog or mist visible when this photo was taken.
Photo copyright Melissa Martin Ellis, 2006.
Do My Eyes Deceive Me?
Occasionally, cameras capture spectral mists and fogs during an investigation. Experienced ghost hunters know these mysterious mists are often the fog caused by exhaled breath on a cold day or a shot of someone's cigarette smoke. Since no one should be smoking during an investigation, hopefully the latter can be ruled out as the cause of the fog during a professional investigation. For the most part, when these eerie mists appear in photos, they were not visible to the naked eye when the pictures were snapped.
So what are we seeing? By following good paranormal investigative protocol, you will perhaps have enough other evidence to help understand what has transpired if such a picture shows up during one of your investigations.
Kym Black was tracking these orbs with her camera as they went up the stairs at the Sprague Mansion.
Photo copyright Kym Black, 2006.
Do you have a record of the room temperature at the time the photo was taken, or EMF or infrared DVR readings? If the ambient temperature in the room remained constant but you encountered cold spots or sudden temperature drops, then there is an increased likelihood that something paranormal has been captured in your photos. If you have no other supporting evidence, whether such anomalous images represent genuine ghosts or anything paranormal will very likely be in dispute.
In metaphysical photography, shots that show fogs, mists, and odd-looking lights are often intriguing. Even before the advent of digital photography, these images were turning up on film, so their cause cannot be attributed to the flash being too close to the lens. In these cloudy shots, it is nearly impossible to tell what the vapor and mists represent.
Perhaps some can be dismissed as ordinary light pollution, reflections, or cigarette smoke, but when all these things have been eliminated, there still remains an impressive number of cloudy images and foggy forms caught by photographers. The fact that they seem to happen more frequently in allegedly haunted houses and sites with some religious or spiritual significance is a pertinent observation.
What are orbs?
Some investigators insist that orbs are nothing more than a side effect of the flash going off too close to the lens and bouncing off dust, bugs, or other particles in the air, such as raindrops. Others counter that they can indeed be evidence of paranormal activity or even entities themselves.
One of the best examples of alleged ectoplasmic mists was in a video shot at the Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In it, a DVR recorded what appear to be spirits on the battlefield.
A Close Encounter
A few years ago, after a visit to the chapel in St. Columba's Church in Middletown, Rhode Island, an unusual photo turned up. Founded in 1884, the Berkeley Memorial Chapel is one of the most beautiful stone chapels in New England. It looks as if it has been transported by magic from the English countryside to nestle amongst the old beeches in the churchyard.
On impulse, an interior shot was snapped inside the old chapel. The shot of the chapel appears to be filled with a swirling mist, although the photographer saw nothing like mist when the shot was taken. The same is true for the gravestones and memorials in the churchyard. They appear to have streamers of smoke or fog trailing off them.