Pseudopod is an Ectoplasmic extrusion from a Medium that develops into a false hand or arm. The producing of Ectoplasm in a Séance can be accomplished by trickery, and various mediums have been exposed. The first recorded pseudopods were attributed to medium Eusapia Palladino in 1894.
In Séances with Professor Charles Richet, Sir Oliver Lodge, Frederic W.H. Myers and the Polish professor Julien Ochorowicz at Richet’s home on the Ile Roubaud, France, Palladino frequently extruded a third arm and hand which lifted, pushed and clutched objects during the sitting.
Everard Feilding, son of the Earl of Denbigh, thought that Palladino’s pseudopods looked like long, black knobbly things with cauliflowers at the ends. But Palladino’s knobbly cauliflowers paled in comparison to the Ectoplasmic emanations of Marthe Beraud, alias Eva C. From 1909 to 1913, Eva C. was investigated by Juliette Bisson, who became Beraud’s closest friend and colleague, and by Baron ALBERT VON SCHRENCK-NOTZING, a German physician.
Schrenck-Notzing set up rigorous test procedures to guard against fraud. He witnessed writhing tentacles of Ectoplasm exude from Beraud’s mouth, eyes, ears and nose. The tentacles often assumed faces or shapes, some resembling President Wilson, King Ferdinand of Bulgaria and other popular government or historical figures. Schrenck-Notzing called these faces ideoplasts, or images reproduced from faces or pictures Beraud may have seen in the past.
Critics noted that some of the ideoplasts were identical to magazine photographs. According to Bisson, Beraud’s best pseudopods appeared when they were in Séance alone together. In 1911, Eva C., totally naked, produced a pseudopod structure that became an unformed baby in what Bisson called a pseudobirth. Skeptics found such wonderful occurrences more an expression of sexual manifestations than paranormal ones.
Not long after Schrenck-Notzing’s experiments, William J. Crawford investigated Irish medium Kathleen Goligher, whose Ectoplasmic “psychic rods” lifted tables. In a series of experiments on the origin of these rods, Crawford used powdered carmine to trace the Ectoplasm’s journey rather than resort to indelicate inspection of Goligher’s body. The carmine trail began at her vaginal area. (See Goligher Circle.)
Mina Stinson Crandon, alias Margery, claimed many of the manifestations at her Séances were done by a pseudopod which also emanated from between her legs. This pseudopod rang bells, threw megaphones and formed hands. Originally invisible, the pseudopod materialized in sessions with Eric J. Dingwall of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). Dingwall, at first greatly impressed, described the pseudopod as an umbilical cord connecting the medium with her extra hands.
Clasping one of the Ectoplasmic hands, Dingwall found it like cold, raw beef or soft, wet rubber. Dramatic photographs show Crandon extruding a third hand from her navel; the hand is poorly formed and looks like a filled glove. Harvard psychology professor William McDougall noted that the hand only appeared when Crandon’s husband was seated at her right.
When McDougall showed Dingwall’s photographs to his colleagues in the biology department, they surmised that the hand was made of animal lung tissue. Dingwall himself later suspected that Crandon concealed her Ectoplasm in the vagina and extruded it through muscular contractions.
- Brandon, Ruth. The Spiritualists. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983.
- Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. The History of Spiritualism Vol. I & II. New York: Arno Press, 1975.