The 13th Floor

Ectoplasm: Spirits Captured on Film

In the 2009 horror film, THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT, a young man is plagued with visions of past events that took place in his family home. The boy continually sees a person violently spurning out a mysterious substance from his mouth as people watch around him. Upon further investigation, the boy and his family discover their home was used for séances, and the substance emitting from the boy’s mouth was ectoplasm.


Ectoplasm is a spiritual substance that is essentially a spirit—or ghost—in physical form. The substance was ejected from the orifices (particularly the mouth and nose) of a psychic medium during a séance, and it gave the spiritual presence an ability to physically interact with the world.

While the film goes far off into the topic of necromancy and evil spirits, the practice of contacting the dead and photographing ectoplasm during séances was actually a thing back in the 1900s. A doctor and spiritualist named T.G. Hamilton made a career of capturing the substance in photographs.

Hamilton’s foray into the paranormal all began in 1919, when one of his twin sons passed away. Hamilton attempted to contact him with the use of a Ouija board, and a practice known as “table tipping.” Table tipping was a way of contacting the dead through the use of furniture within the home. In doing this, the doctor became aware that his nanny, Elizabeth Poole, was a medium.

With the encouragement of his wife, Lillian, Hamilton conducted thousands of séances on the second floor of his Winnipeg home, often using Poole as the voice to the other side. The doctor found his spirituality, and sought to prove that there was life after death.


The Hamilton’s grief for their son led to the family heavily investigating the paranormal. Hamilton studied things like telekinesis as well as the ectoplasm, and expressed his findings during a lecture at Winnipeg Medical Society in 1926.

Soon, the Hamilton’s séance’s became infamous, even garnering the attendance of the author of The Sherlock Holmes series, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who visited Hamilton’s home to be a part of the action. The séances became well known because of the photograph’s Hamilton took during each session. He often captured eerie images of ectoplasm spiraling out of the mouths of the psychics.


In the photos, the ectoplasm is clearly visible as it shoots out of the mouths and noses of the spiritual conductor like smoke from a chimney. The ectoplasm appears thick and foamy, and within the substance is a face of the dead person being contacted. The substance would appear to grow darker in color as the spirit became stronger, and sometimes a strong odor would fill the room as well.

In order to capture the ectoplasm in photos, the séances were performed in complete darkness. In the earlier photographs, the spiritual substance was captured with the use of a magnesium flash and later by the use of a light bulb flash.

The shocking images prompted believers to flock to the doctor in order to contact lost loved ones. However, along with the believers came the skeptics. Some believe that T.G. Hamilton’s ectoplasm photographs were actually a hoax, and that the doctor was in on it. It is believed that tissue paper and/or bandage gauze was used to create the otherworldly substance pouring from the mouth and nose of the medium.


Whether or not the images were faked, the doubts never hindered the family from continuing their research into the paranormal. After T.G. died, his wife and daughter carried on with the paranormal, and eventually only Margaret was left to carry on her parent’s research. The séance’s helped many people during the time, and the haunting images of captured spirits have been an integral part of paranormal exploration.

Hamilton’s ectoplasm photos can be seen in the video below. You can decide if the images are real or not, but fair warning: they’re creepy either way.