The Phantom Leaf Effect

First of all, we need to talk about Kirlian Photography which is a technique accidentally discovered by the Russian researcher Dr. Semyon Kirlian in 1939. He noticed that if you place an object on a photographic plate, and connect the object to a high-voltage source, an image is produced.

Photos produced from this technique are enigmatic because they allow us to see things which are seemingly contradictory to the way we see the world. The most notable example of this is the Phantom Leaf Effect.

When you take a freshly cut leaf from a tree, and you tear off a part of it, and take a Kirlian photo of it.. You can still see the part of the leaf you removed!

You need to take the photo within minutes of cutting the leaf, and the leaf must be fresh, healthy and full of life. But even then, this phenomenon only occurs sometimes: Successful replication rate is between 1% and 70% depending on the researcher. This shouldn't be that surprising since we have no idea of the mechanism behind the phantom leaf effect. In due time, we will understand it better.

The Wikipedia article on the phantom leaf effect states that it happens due to residual moisture[1] if you put your leaf on the electrode before you cut it, it will leave a footprint of moisture, which is what these photos showcase. If you clean the electrode from moisture before you take the second photograph, there is no phantom leaf effect anymore!

This sounds convincing and has probably discouraged most from researching this further, but it's worse than misleading, it's a ridiculous lie. Dr. Kirlian used the described faulty methodology in one experiment in the 1940s, but literally every replication since then cannot be explained with moisture. It's shocking that such an obvious falsehood can remain on Wikipedia after so long time, I remember reading it probably a decade ago.

I even found a 13-year old eviscerating the Wikipedia explanation with a science fair project replication[2]


While researching this article, I lost count of the amount of replications I saw mentioned, but it is somewhere around 20. I expect to personally join the club soon as I will buy my own Kirlian camera. The highest quality replication[3] is the comprehensive experiment by John Hubacher, in which 137 leaves of 14 plant species were subjected to cuts.

96 leaves displayed the phantom leaf effect. 41 leaves did not. Almost every phantom was clear, unambiguous, and high quality, closely resembling the original leaves in detail.

There was no significant parameter that could be tied to the 41 leaves that did not display a phantom image.

Look at the two photos above. They are both the same leaf, but the right photo is AFTER that part was cut off and as you see, delicate parts of the anatomy remain intact.

Moisture.. ridiculous.

Back in the day in Russia, Kirlian photography was used medically, as a diagnosis tool. It was a said that it could also predict health problems before they manifested.

How To Do It

Phantom Limbs

More than 80% of amputees experience sensations from their amputated limb, even though it doesn't exist anymore. Common feelings are itching and pain. The commonly accepted explanation is that exposed nerve endings are being stimulated. This is an unsatisfying explanation since a phantom limb can be felt decades after it was lost, long after the nerve endings have healed.

There are at least two accounts of people who have seen the phantom leaf effect in amputated humans[4,5] when photographed, both remarking that it was only possible to photograph during the phantom pain.

More Cool Kirlian Photos

It's easy to read a lot into these photos. Most wild ideas will be wide of the mark, but there is definitely lots to be found in the world of Kirlian photography.

Discuss in the Forum

Go to the /plants/ forum to learn more, ask questions and to share your thoughts and ideas.

Share With Your Friends

I hope you enjoy this article, my biggest wish is that you have learned something you will take to heart, and my second biggest wish that you share this to friends, family and anyone you might think be interested.

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[1] Wikipedia "Debunk" of The Phantom Leaf Effect
[2] 7th Grade Science Fair Project: Phantom Leaf Replication
[3] The Phantom Leaf Effect: Replication
[4] The Phantom Leaf Effect and Its Implications for Near-Death and Out-of-Body Experiences
[5] The Kirlian Aura (Dr. Worsley, page 165)
[6] The Phantom Leaf Effect and Its Implications for Near-Death and Out-of-Body Experiences, Reference to Joanne Cusack
[7] The Kirlian Aura (PDF)
[8] The Living Aura, Kendall Johnson (soon available online)
[9] Phantom Limb Pain: Subtly Energy Perspectives


Beyond Mainstream Academia...

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