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 who said what differently. The Mandela Effect, though, 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 die 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 crackpot 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.
Nelson Mandela's Death
The term "Mandela Effect" was initially coined by Fiona Broome in 2010. 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.
One of the commenters on Broome's site described his memory as follows:
My experience was that on a regular day, my mom and I were doing separate things with the TV on in the background. I think I was on my laptop and my mom may have also been on hers or reading a book. I believe CNN was the channel the TV was on. Nelson Mandela was mentioned as doing something, which caught both of our ears, I guess, because we both looked up and Nelson Mandela was there… walking around, present day. My mom and I both looked at each other, wide eyed and pale. I was like, “Isn’t he dead? I remember him dying….” And she said YES, and we were both discussing how on earth he was alive and no one else was shocked. We BOTH remembered the Oprah show, we BOTH remembered a specific concert that was live and shown on multiple channels… we both remembered that he died years ago in prison.
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 alternate timeline.
'Shazaam,' Starring Sinbad
The latest example of the Mandela Effect to make the internet rounds is the memory of a 90's 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 '90s 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 as incorrect, the whole thing doesn't seem so nuts. Either wa,y let's all be chill about this so the secret overlords of the universe don't kill us.
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 video evidence 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.
One commenter writes: "I have a memory of watching this live with my mom, glued to the set, holding our breath, but certain that, like in any movie, the tanks would stop. They didn’t, the tank ran right over him and we were horrified. I remember feeling panicked, then later realizing that this was the first death that I witnessed in real time."
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 such as this are glitches and faults, not with our memory, but with the simulation surrounding us.
The Beren-what? BearsPhoto: NBC
This example of the Mandela Effect has recently taken the internet by a storm, because literally everybody remembers reading the beloved children's books, The BerenSTEIN Bears. Except for 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.