Ghosts & Hauntings
Did 'ectoplasm' ever have any basis in fact ?
By T.K. Randall
June 17, 2015 · 59 comments
Two hilariously unconvincing ectoplasmic ghosts by serial hoaxer Helen Duncan. Image Credit: Harvey Metcalfe
The controversial substance played a significant role in early 20th century spirit communication.
First coined by physiologist Charles Richet at the end of the 19th century, ectoplasm was long believed to be a supernatural substance manifested by spiritualist mediums during attempts to communicate with the deceased.
The appearance of ectoplasm during sťances was particularly common during the late 19th and early 20th centuries when it would often be said to manifest through a medium's nose or mouth and form the shape of the spirit that they were attempting to communicate with.
Richet, who actually won a Nobel Prize for his work on anaphylaxis, was famously supportive of the idea, possibly due to the discovery of 'plasm' within plant and animal cells in the mid-1800s.
Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle described ectoplasm as "a viscous, gelatinous substance which appeared to differ from every known form of matter in that it could solidify and be used for material purposes."
As time went on however the appearance of this mysterious substance grew less and less, leading many to question whether it had ever been a genuine phenomenon in the first place.
Nowadays it is generally believed that most, if not all of the mediums who produced ectoplasm during their trances had faked it using cheesecloth, gauze or other common substances.
Most of the photographs of ectoplasm-based figures and faces from the era also appear particularly unconvincing - especially when we look back at them now more than 100 years later.
With that said however it's impossible to rule out the concept entirely. Whether there ever really was a case of a medium producing a genuine form of ectoplasm remains a total mystery.
Source: Popular Science
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