Colin Davies’ A-Z of Horror: E is for Ectoplasm

“Somebody blows their nose, and you want to keep it?” (Venkman, 1984). This week is all about the slime that holds the spooky spirited apparitions of the dearly departed, and nefarious naughties, together. That is right, no haunting can ever truly be complete without…


E is for Ectoplasm


From the parlours of Victorian England to the French research laboratories of Charles Richet (though I can not confirm how many laboratories Dr Richet had; it sounds better like this), ectoplasm is the ghost snot physical evidence left behind by spooky fright freaks. It oozes out of cracks and dribbles down walls. It drips from old rusty taps and rises through floorboards in old houses. This gunk is the physical representation of a spirit that has come back across the ethereal plane (oh look, another E).


In horror, ectoplasm is used to give the reader a sense of unease, or the viewers a feeling of disgust. Tapping into the same horridness we feel when finding a slug galloping across the kitchen worktops in the early hours of the morning. In films like Alien (Scott, 1979) the concept of ectoplasm was used to show physical evidence of where the creature had been. With the same feeling of dread.


Ghostbusters (Reitman, 1984) used ectoplasm with great effect. The scene in which Dr. Peter Venkman is attacked by a ghost represented as a large green blob gave the world, and many playgrounds, the immortal phrase “He slimed me.” This paranormal goo has been used to add weight to ghost stories for decades.


Three dead and back again

Grandma was never this slimy,
Not even when Grandad was alive.
But the stuff on the wall
Out there in the hall
Smells like the lacquer of her beehive.

Albert was not one for washing
Said he had more to do with his time.
But the floors since he passed
Once polished like glass
Are rancid and sticky with slime.

Clair was ever so generous,
Give you her last smoke if she’d got ‘em
But now lost to her friends
She comes back again
To share with them her ectoplasm.

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