Have you ever clearly remembered an event in detail only to later learn your memory of how things transpired was entirely wrong? Chances are this phenomenon has happened to you at some point in your life, but your first instinct likely wasn’t that you had somehow crossed over into another timestream. The truth is, memories are fallible and surprisingly quirky, as illustrated by the Mandela Effect.
The term was first coined by paranormal consultant Fiona Broome, who vividly recalled Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s. Broome’s belief that she had seen extensive news coverage of the South African civil rights leader’s death was so strong, she created a website to discuss her memory with others in 2009. Since then, the Mandela Effect has exploded thanks to Reddit threads, mainstream media coverage, and general curiosity.
In reality, Mandela didn’t die in prison. In fact, he was the president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and he didn’t die until 2013. At the time of his death, he was a free man. Still, Broome is not alone in remembering Mandela dying in prison. Her original post led to several theories about how so many people could share the same false memory, and some of those theories are pretty weird.
Some believers in the Mandela Effect have posited that these memories are in fact real, and furthermore, they’re evidence of a larger multiverse. The idea is, those who remember these events, quotes, and “original” spellings have somehow crossed over into another reality. As out there as it sounds, this theory is inspired by string theory, a controversial idea in the physics community that posits the universe is made up of strings that vibrate in 10 dimensions.
For her part, Broome just wants people to have an open mind. On her website, she writes, “Of course, I believe there are a wealth of unanswered questions about the Mandela Effect. But I don’t think there’s a single, universal explanation.” Scientists tend to agree, but there are several grounded scientific explanations that go a long way towards explaining how shared false memories come about. So let’s dive a little deeper.
What causes the Mandela Effect?
Setting aside the multiverse theory, it’s most likely the Mandela Effect can be chalked up to suggestibility and our brains’ desire to make simple connections when forming memory chains. As reported by Medical News Today, the key characteristics of the Mandela Effect are:
- Memories of an event that never happened.
- Having memories of actual events that are distorted.
- Several people reportedly sharing the same distorted memories.
It’s important to note that people who believe they’ve experienced the Mandela Effect aren’t lying, they’re simply experiencing false memories. Even though it’s unsettling to think our memories are unreliable, the truth is, memory has always been subjective. As humans, we have to factor in how both emotion and perception affect how we recall events. Additionally, the brain is hardwired to make connections between related words and events to aid in the memory-making process, which can sometimes lead to memories that are entirely false.
According to Discover Magazine, the brain groups similar memories near one another to create a framework known as a schema. For the most part, this system helps us remember related facts and events, but it can also lead to a conflation of facts, making us more likely to experience false memories. One example of this is the belief that Sinbad starred in a genie movie called Shazaam. It’s likely so many of us misremember this totally made-up movie’s existence because of Sinbad’s roles in other ’90s kids’ films and the actual genie movie Kazaam starring Shaquille O’Neal, which also came out in the ’90s.
Our brains would naturally store all of the information about the films we watched growing up in the same place, leading to us conflating the plots and stars. Likewise, the mere suggestion that a movie called Shazaam existed is enough to prime our brains to believe a false memory. And while the idea that the brain can be so easily influenced is a bit unsettling, it’s nothing new. If you’ve ever watch Law & Order and heard a lawyer object to someone leading the witness, then you know just how easy it is to push someone’s memories in the wrong direction.
The bottom line is emotion, the conflation of events and facts, and the power of suggestion all play a role in explaining how false memories can lead you to feel as if you’ve experienced the Mandela Effect.
Examples Of The Mandela Effect That Will Blow Your Mind
1. How do you spell The Berenstain Bears? Although the children’s books have always been called The Berenstain Bears, plenty of people thought the family’s name was Berenstein.
2. Was Sinbad in a genie movie? The comedian never starred in a genie movie called Shazaam, but he did once host a Sinbad the Sailor movie programming block dressed in a pirate outfit that looks an awful lot like something a genie would wear. 3. Jif or Jiffy Peanut Butter? Although many people recall the peanut butter brand being called Jiffy, it’s always been Jif. 4. Wait, where’s Curious George’s tail? That’s right, Curious George has never had a tail. 5. Fruit Loops or Froot Loops? Although it sounds like “Fruit Loops,” the cereal has always been Froot Loops. 6. Does the Monopoly man have a monocle? He doesn’t, even though many people distinctly remember his stylish accessory. 7. What color is Pikachu’s tail? Although many people remember the Pokémon’s tail being outlined in black, it’s actually all yellow. 8. Is it Kit-Kat or KitKat? There’s never been a hyphen in KitKat, even though it looks better written that way. 9. Does Darth Vader say “Luke, I am your father…”? The line has been endlessly misquoted, but Darth Vader actually says, “No, I am your father.” 10. How does Hannibal Lecter greet Clarice? In The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal says, “Good Evening, Clarice,” not “Hello, Clarice.” 11. How does “We Are The Champions” end? The Queen song doesn’t end with Freddie Mercury singing “Of the world…,” but he did sing it that way once during the 1985 Live Aid concert. 12. Was the Lindbergh Baby ever found? Even though many people remember the case going cold, the baby’s body was found a little over two months after his kidnapping. 13. Meet The Flintstones or The Flinstones? Fred and Wilma’s last name has always been Flintstone. 14. When did Mother Teresa become a saint? Mother Teresa was canonized nine years after her death, but some people remember her becoming a saint much earlier. 15. Does the Evil Queen in Snow White And The Seven Dwarves actually say “mirror, mirror on the wall”? This is another famous misquote. The actual quote is, “Magic mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all?” 16. What color is chartreuse? You may remember it being magenta, but it’s actually a color between yellow and green. 17. Does Henry VIII’s portrait feature a turkey leg? The famed painting by Hans Holbein the Younger doesn’t include any turkey legs. 18. Where is Cinderella’s Castle located? Some people claim the castle was once located at the entrance of Disney World, but it has always been at the end of Main Street. 19. Is the bad Gremlin really called Spike? The bad Gremlin in Gremlins is called Stripe, not Spike, despite his pointy hair. 20. Is it Sex And The City or Sex In The City? The HBO show’s title is Sex and the City. 21. What color is C-3PO’s leg? C-3PO from Star Wars is all golden aside from one silver leg. 22. When did Billy Graham die? The evangelical preacher died on February 21, 2018, but some people swear he passed away much earlier. 23. Is there a secret Big ending? Some people swear there’s an alternate ending to the Tom Hanks movie Big in which his adult love interest wishes to be a child again and shows up at his school as a young girl. 24. How do you spell Cruella DeVil? The 101 Dalmatians villain’s last name has always been Cruella DeVil, although others argue it was once Cruella Deville. 25. Does Tom Cruise wear sunglasses in his famous Risky Business dance scene? While Cruise does dance in his socks and underwear, he doesn’t wear shades in his classic dance scene. 26. What happened to Mona Lisa’s smile? Some people believe Mona Lisa’s smile has gotten fainter over the years. 27. How do you spell Double Stuf Oreos? It may look wrong, but it’s always been Double Stuf Oreos rather than Double Stuff Oreos. 28. What color is Carmen Sandiego’s coat? Although there are plenty of people who swear her coat was once yellow, it’s always been red. 29. Did a man get run over by a tank in Tiananmen Square? The famous photo of a protester facing down a tank in Tiananmen Square didn’t end in tragedy, despite some people believing the tank ran him over. 30. When is Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving has moved around quite a bit over the years, but it’s not the third Thursday in November as some people believe; it always falls on the fourth Thursday of the month. 31. Does Mikey like everything or nothing in the life cereal commercial? If you remember Mikey liking everything in the Life cereal commercial, then you’re experiencing the Mandela Effect. In actuality, he doesn’t like anything. 32. Is it Oscar Mayer or Oscar Meyer? The famous brand has always been Oscar Mayer (although there is some evidence of frequent misspellings in the press). 33. What happened to the Fruit of the Loom Cornucopia? Sorry everyone, but there’s never been a cornucopia in the Fruit of the Loom logo. 34. What does ET say? Most people think the line is, “ET phone home?” when he actually says, “ET home phone.” Gertie and Elliott say the former. 35. What does Dorothy really say about Kansas? People usually quote The Wizard of Oz as “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Dorothy really says, “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” And here’s another Mandela Effect in the Wizards of Oz: The Wicked Witch doesn’t say, “Fly my pretties, fly!” She only said, “Fly, fly, fly!” 36. How many people were in the car when JFK was assassinated? The John F. Kennedy assassination is an unforgettable part of American history; however, people tend to misremember that only four people were in the car. There were actually six people in the Lincoln Continental presidential limousine: Former President Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, former Texas Governor John Connally, his wife Nellie Connally, and two Secret Service agents (including William Greer, who was driving). After the first shot was fired, a seventh person joined the fray when Secret Service Special Agent Clint Hill jumped onto the back of the limousine to shield its occupants. 37. Sally Field’s Oscar acceptance speech. People tend to believe Field said this during her acceptance speech: “You like me, you really like me!” But when she won the Best Actress Academy Award for Places in the Heart, she said, “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” 38. Patrick Swayze’s battle with cancer. Unfortunately, Patrick Swayze never recovered or beat his pancreatic cancer. Some people misremember and think that he did, but it was what the actor died of in 2009.
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