I know as soon as you read “ecto” you immediately thought about Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd in Ghostbusters, didn’t you? Ha! I don’t think that any of us growing up in the 80s will ever think of anything else when we hear that word. So let’s start today’s discussion off by talking about what ecto, or ectoplasm, is and where it came from. Then we can get into mists.
Back during the Victorian age spiritualism was quite popular. Thought was given to how spirits would and could materialize to show themselves. The thought of doing so out of just air wasn’t feasible so they began to consider the appearance as ectoplasm – spiritual energy with substance. Ectoplasm comes from the Greek words ektos and plasma meaning “outside formed.” The word was first used in 1894 when French physiologist Charles Richet used it to describe the manifestations which appeared during the time psychic mediums were put into trances. It was later determined that these ectoplasm appearances were hoaxes. Considered to be more of a legend, the term was made popular by the movie Ghostbusters when referring to the green slime produced by the ghosts in the film. Now we use the term to describe any unknown physical substance that may be tied to a haunting. However, some people still use the term when referring to mists and vapors, especially if they appear to have swirls in them.
Mists tend to show up when the photographer’s breath (or that of someone standing nearby) is illuminated by the flash of the camera. The same holds true for cigarette smoke, fog, steam and moisture in the air. Think about turning on your flashlight and seeing all the misty, foggy like appearances you see in its beam – that is moisture and humidity in the air being illuminated. The same holds true for when your camera’s flash hits this. It is believed that a true mist that is paranormally related will hover above the ground, move in directions that seem pre-determined and not last long. Be sure you are following your debunking methods before thinking that what you have captured on film or video is truly paranormally related.
So, how can we begin to debunk these photos that contain ectoplasm or mist? Once again let’s go back to one of my favorite photography sites, Cambridge in Colour to see the tips on photographing fog, mist or haze to understand what NOT to do when we are taking pictures in investigations.
Another good link for more on how to take pictures when it is misty or fogging out is this one from ePhotoZine.com. Remember, we must understand what causes the mist and fog to appear in the picture to know how to avoid it when we are taking pictures on our investigations.
This link is awesome when it comes to seeing what smoke looks like and can look like in pictures. Take a look and then save it for reference later when you review your own pictures. No one should ever be smoking while on an investigation but keep in mind, if your team takes a break and someone needs to light up, that smoke can still linger in the area for a bit longer than you think.