The Wildest Examples Of The Mandela Effect That'll Make You Rethink Everything

The Mandela Effect, simplified, is a phenomenon where a large number of people remember something that didn't actually happen. You might be considering the last argument you had, where you and someone else remember what was said differently. But the Mandela Effect, according to believers, is not a case of mistaken memory. Rather, it occurs when many people, often strangers, share the same vivid and specific memories of an event or phenomenon that never occurred

The Mandela Effect is actually named after a popular example of the effect itself. Many people say they remember Nelson Mandela not making it out of prison alive in the 1980s. In fact, they're positive that they saw it on the news or learned about it in school. Yet Nelson Mandela didn't actually pass until 2013.

Some people remember a movie about a genie, starring Sinbad, called Shazaam. The problem? It doesn't exist. Never has.

So what's going on? While non-believers say these instances are cases of misinformation or false memories, others have different theories. Perhaps the most popular among "truthers" (as believers are called) is that of alternate or parallel universes. "Sliding" between these different realities has created memory discrepancies and variant historical timelines. Other theories include time-travel butterfly effects, or that we've been experiencing holodecks (false holograms or simulated worlds) that contain occasional glitches. 

While alternate universes might sound like a crazy leap, some examples of the Mandela Effect are odd, to say the least. A single person remembering something incorrectly is one thing, but a huge group of complete strangers inventing the same exact memory of something that supposedly never occurred is... well, unsettling.

Photo: The Simpsons / Fox

  • The term "Mandela Effect" was initially coined by Fiona Broome in 2009. Broome vividly remembered the death of Nelson Mandela in prison in the 1980s, despite the fact that he lived up until 2013. After discovering a community of people who similarly remembered Mandela's death, she took to the internet to share her memory.

    Soon hundreds of complete strangers were sharing that they, too, recalled the same thing. Specifically, they often recalled seeing snippets of his funeral on television, a speech from his widow, and other large, public memorials. Yet absolutely none of this happened. 

    Thus, the Mandela Effect was born, and people began to find other shared anomalies in their memories of history. One of the common theories behind the Mandela Effect is that we have somehow transferred between or lived within two parallel universes. In one, Mandela died; in another, he lived - and some people are recalling the events of that former timeline. 

  • Another example of the Mandela Effect to make the internet rounds is the memory of a '90s film, Shazaam. Many redditors have posted recalling the family comedy, which starred Sinbad the Entertainer as a genie character. Trouble is, you guessed it, it doesn't exist.

    Not one shred of evidence of this movie has been found, yet so many are insistent they remember the same thing. It's important to note that there is a 1996 movie called Kazaam, starring Shaq as a genie. Still, some specifically remember both movies separately, even saying they recall thinking Kazaam was just going to be a rip-off of the Sinbad film. 

    Like most Mandela Effect examples, faulty memory is an easy explanation. And sure, theories of altered histories or false realities seem outlandish at first glance, but when it's your memory that's suddenly deemed incorrect, the whole thing doesn't seem so nuts. Either way, let's all be chill about this so the secret overlords of the universe don't catch wise.

  • The Man Run Over By Tanks In Tiananmen Square

    Most people remember the Tiananmen Square protests and the iconic image of a lone man standing in the path of approaching tanks in peaceful resistance. Recalling what happened afterwards, though, is where it gets messy.

    Some swear that they saw video footage of "Tank Man" being run over by the tanks. But the video evidence that exists shows that Tank Man did not in fact get run over - he was dragged out of the way after a brief encounter with the driver of the tank. 

    Doesn't seem like something you'd just misremember, does it? Critics would argue that people are confusing and conflating separate incidents. Believers in the Mandela Effect might put forth the alternate theory that we are living in a simulated world such as a holodeck or Matrix. Odd inaccuracies like this are glitches and faults, not with our memory, but with the simulation surrounding us. 

  • The Beren-what? Bears
    Photo: The Berenstain Bears / PBS

    This example of the Mandela Effect has recently taken the internet by storm, because just about everybody remembers reading the beloved children's books, The BerenSTEIN Bears. Except the series isn't The Berenstein Bears, but rather The BerenSTAIN Bears. If you're shaking your head in defiance, you're not alone

    Of course, false memory experts say that this misspelling isn't so crazy. The -stein ending is familiar from names like Einstein and Goldstein, so that's a possible explanation for why we remember it that way. Maybe. OR it's a glitch in the Matrix and it really was Berenstein.

    Either way, spelling discrepancies are often cited as examples of the Mandela Effect.

  • 'Luke, I Am Your Father...?'
    Photo: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back / 20th Century Fox

    'Luke, I Am Your Father...?'

    After The Empire Strikes Back premiered in 1980, the line "Luke, I am your father" quickly became one of the most quoted movie lines of all time. Except it's not a real quote. The actual Darth Vader quote is, "No, I am your father." The latter quote, of course, doesn't have as much context and therefore isn't quite as iconic.

    People quoting this moment might have added in the "Luke" to make it an obvious Star Wars reference. And from there, it could be easily misquoted and therefore falsely remembered as the actual quote. But many are quite sure that the original line did in fact use "Luke" and refuse to believe otherwise.

  • Mona Lisa's 'Smile'
    Photo: Leonardo da Vinci / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Was Mona Lisa smiling in Da Vinci's famous painting? Some people say yes, and some people say no. And while this itself isn't necessarily a symptom of the Mandela Effect, people misremembering the painting is. People claim to have seen the painting as children showing a much more curt Mona Lisa, and then as adults re-seeing the painting and realizing she has a smile. 

    And unlike some of these theories, there might be a scientific explanation for that. Scientists believe the painting is a sort of optical illusion. Based on how you view the painting, it changes your perception of how the colors blend together. Seeing the painting from specific angles "changes" the painting, and doesn't always show a smile.