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Did 'ectoplasm' ever have any basis in fact ?

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Apparition from Beyond the Veil
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« on: June 18, 2015, 12:21:28 am »

Did 'ectoplasm' ever have any basis in fact ?
Wednesday, 17 June, 2015

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.
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Apparition from Beyond the Veil
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Posts: 3209

« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2015, 12:23:33 am »

What’s the Deal with Paranormal Ectoplasm?

Short answer: It’s spiritualist bunk that reflected the science of its time
By Daniel Engber Posted June 16, 2015

Paranormal Ectoplasm

Jason Schneider

Nineteenth-century physiologist Charles Richet first used the term ectoplasm to describe a strange material that seemed to flow from spiritual mediums during a séance. Doughy strings appeared to ooze from their bodies and assemble into ghostly faces or disembodied limbs.

Of course, these ectoplasms were a parlor trick. Mediums used sleights of hand to present gauze and animal parts as spiritual pheno­mena. As silly as this now seems, many intellectuals of the time found the shows convincing, including Richet, who won a Nobel Prize for his pioneering work on anaphylaxis. “Richet was no dummy,” says Robert Brain, a historian of science at the University of British Columbia. Yet Richet was dogged in his studies of paranormal ectoplasm. “What made ectoplasm seem plausible to otherwise rational, clear-headed scientists?” Brain asks. “There had to be an underlying logic to it.”

He’s right. By the mid-1800s, scientists had discovered a gelatinous substance or “plasm” inside plant and animal cells, which they believed to be the basis for all life on Earth. “Biologists were actively interested in protoplasm for 100 years,” Brain says. The concept was mainstream.

With this in mind, it might not have seemed so strange for the body to extrude plasm under exceptional circumstances. Or for that external protoplasm--called ectoplasm--to change form. Eventually modern molecular biology revealed that heredity is stored not in the vibrations of a cell’s jiggly plasm but in the acids of its nucleus. At that point, “protoplasm became an embarrassment to biology,” Brain says.

This article was originally published in the July 2015 issue of Popular Science.
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