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How to Find Ectoplasm in "Stardew Valley"

Shane's been gaming for nearly 40 years and loves a broad array of games in addition to being one-quarter of the Assorted Meeples group.

Great screenshot showing what ectoplasm looks like, and how it's described in your inventory while trying to complete the Wizard's quest.

Great screenshot showing what ectoplasm looks like, and how it's described in your inventory while trying to complete the Wizard's quest.

Finding Ectoplasm in Stardew Valley

Ectoplasm confuses even many veteran Stardew players. The first mention of it appears in the late fall of year one when the large job board appears outside of the Mayor's house. Up to that point, there's been no sign of this substance, no matter how much of the game you've explored as a player.

The reason for this is simple: ectoplasm only exists in Stardew Valley while the Wizard's fetch quest is active.

If you accept this quest, ectoplasm then becomes an item that can be dropped by ghosts. This applies to the regular ghosts in the ice levels of the mines as well as the carbon ghosts that love to swarm you in Skull Cavern.

Finding ectoplasm can be a frustrating challenge, as it's possible to kill a lot of ghosts and never get that drop, but there are a few things you can do to increase your chances.

Read on to find out more!

Where to Find Ectoplasm in Stardew Valley

The only way to get ectoplasm in Stardew Valley is to kill a ghost once you've accepted the Wizard's "A Curious Substance" quest off the large job board. This means you need to locate a ghost, kill it, and hope for the 9.5% drop chance of ectoplasm that exists while this mission is active.

While there is no evidence that ghost numbers fall after taking this quest, some anecdotal experiences seem to indicate there might be something to this...or at least it certainly seems that way.

Ghosts only appear in two places in all of Stardew Valley, meaning there are only two spots in the entire game where you even have a chance of getting an ectoplasm drop, and those are:

  1. The ice levels of the mines north of Pelican Town
  2. Skull Cavern in the Desert

If you're hunting for ectoplasm these are your spots, and I have good reason for believing that Skull Cavern is the better option.

A Curious Substance - The Wizard's Quest

Ectoplasm won't show up at all in the game until the quest not only shows up in the major job board by the Mayor's House, but is also accepted. Once the quest is accepted in theory, you could find ectoplasm that very day, though you would be considered one incredibly lucky Stardew player to pull that one off!

Once the quest is accepted, it does need to become a high priority as it's not unusual to spend 2, 3, or even 4 days of intense ghost hunting before getting the drop you're looking for.

Putting this quest off towards the end of its time limit is really playing with fire as it only takes a bad day or two of ghost spawns to really sabotage your chances at finding that most curious substance the Wizard is looking for.

The More Ghosts, The Better Your Chances

There's a reason I do my ectoplasm hunting in Skull Cavern - sometimes having the game wanting to murder you actually works out in your favor!

There's a reason I do my ectoplasm hunting in Skull Cavern - sometimes having the game wanting to murder you actually works out in your favor!

So Mines or Caverns?

With two potential sources of ectoplasm, which one is best? Generally speaking, unless you have some specific need for what only the ice levels of the mines can provide at that moment, I recommend Skull Cavern.

Why?

Because of the sheer numbers of ghosts that can appear on one level. Even in an enemy-heavy level there are only going to be a few ghosts. One here or there, maybe three or four on a floor that is overrun with enemies.

On the other hand, there can be huge numbers of carbon ghosts in Skull Cavern on any single floor, as the picture below shows nearly a dozen trying to overrun me at once.

When you're looking for a drop that only has a 9.5% chance of dropping, killing a dozen ghosts at once gives you a much better chance of finding one than hitting just one or two at a time.

How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Ectoplasm

Contrary to popular belief, luck does not affect monster spawn rates or the drop rate of things like gems or ectoplasm. So waiting for a good luck day or a bad luck day won't do anything.

In fact, many times I've found myself almost overwhelmed with enemies in Skull Cavern on one "Spirits are very pleased" day, and then the next "Spirits are very pleased" there isn't an enemy to be found.

So if luck has nothing to do with it, what can increase your chances?

  • Choose Skull Cavern over the ice levels in the mine—more enemies spawned simply means more chances at killing ghosts.
  • If you stay in the mines, use elevators to jump between two floors, allowing enemies on the one you cleared to respawn by the time you come back.
  • In Skull Cavern sprint down to lower levels where enemies tend to become more and more numerous, giving you more ghosts and more chances to get that all-rare ectoplasm drop.
  • Make the "A Curious Substance" quest a priority so you can't be thwarted by a single bad day.

These actions drastically increase your chances of getting an ectoplasm drop and being able to finish this mission. Going via the Skull Cavern route means likely a lot of drops of iridium ore, cloth, and geodes, as well, which can be a major boost to your supplies.

Once the ectoplasm is handed to the Wizard in his tower (make sure to get that ectoplasm turned in on time!) then you'll be able to go back to normal with your new useful obelisks thanks to the wizard's crafting recipe.

YouTuber Who Found Ectoplasm in Skull Cavern

Is Ectoplasm Good for Anything Else?

No. Ectoplasm only exists while the Wizard's mission is active and you only get paid from turning that in. Every character in Stardew sees Ectoplasm as a hated gift, nothing can be crafted from it, and it disappears once the quest is over if you don't hand it in to the Wizard, meaning you can't even save it.

Because of that, ectoplasm is one of the few things in all of Stardew Valley where it is good for exactly one, and only thing, and that's finishing the Wizard's posted quest.

So don't get cute. If you're lucky enough to find an ectoplasm drop, then you'll want to rush that to the Wizard and claim your reward, which is a decent amount of money but much more importantly, a very helpful late game crafting recipe.

Never a Sure Thing - But You Can Tip Odds In Your Favor

Unlike many other of the jobs in Stardew Valley where it's a guarantee you can finish it if you focus on that particular chore, there is no guarantee that you will find ectoplasm even if you are going ghost hunting on a massive level.

That said, you can increase the odds of fulfilling the Wizard's request by taking a few of the actions in this article and prioritizing this quest as your main focus until you finish it.

Just bring plenty of food and bombs - because Skull Cavern's swarms of ghosts can be pretty unforgiving: especially when hordes of mummies intersperse with the mob.

© 2022 Shane Dayton