Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Mandela Effect

Did you know that Nelson Mandela died in prison sometime in the 1980's?

If you do know that, you aren't alone.

I first heard of the Mandela Effect this past New Year's Eve when my adult son came to visit us for a couple of hours.  Over some food, he asked "remember the Berenstain Bears?"  I sure did.  We owned several of the book series.  They were a favorite of son's when he was young enough to be read to.

"How do you spell Berenstain?" son asked, innocently.  He knows I am a terrible speller, but my spouse is excellent in that skill.  So I tried to dredge up the memory of one of the covers, and saw "Berenstein".

"Berenstein", I responded, confident.  I saw it in my mind's eye.  It was so obvious.

"No", said son, "it's Berenstain".  For the next five minutes, we argued back and forth.  I was so positive.

I was also so wrong.

And so are a lot of other people.

Son then told me about the Mandela Effect.  It's named after a common belief that Nelson Mandela died in prison, instead of being released, and living long enough (he died in 2013) to be the President of South Africa from 1994 to 1998.

Apparently, many of us have common memories of things that never existed.  Never happened. 

There are lots of common memories we hold that drift into Mandela Effect territory.  The Berenstain misspelling. A painting of King Henry VIII holding a turkey leg. The famous movie request "Play it again, Sam."  The name Coca Cola not hyphenated.  A movie released in the 90's called "Shazaam", starring the comedian Sinbad.  It's so clear in our memories.

Nope.  False memories.  Didn't say that.  Wasn't spelled that way.  Logo didn't change.  Item never existed. 

There's even a Reddit group for these discussions.

That New Year's Eve, I ended up going to a website that blamed this phenomena on the Devil (seriously). But, as a reader of science fiction, I don't buy into the "alternate reality" theory, either.  I think that our minds do play tricks on us.  As we are all human, we are basically wired in the same way.

Still, it is a strange phenomenon.

What do you think?  I'm wondering if this happens worldwide, so if you aren't a reader in the United States, I'd especially like to hear from you.


  1. Although I knew Mandela did not die in prison I found this very interesting.

  2. And, you didn't mention the numerous new examples- thousands of New Jerseyans reveling in the fall of the Twin Towers, the massacre at Bowling Green, the attendance at an inauguration...

  3. When I read the first line I wondered 'what in the world is she talking about?' My memory is not the greatest, but I was pretty sure that never happened. Folks are willing to believe just about anything they hear. Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. And if you have nay doubt that folks believe anything they read, just go to Facebook and Twitter. Actually, this was the first time I heard the term 'Mandela Effect'.

  4. I knew Nelson Mandela didn't die in prison, but I would have totally agreed with you on the spelling of the Berenstain Bears!

  5. Certain administrations are counting on this, I'm sure...

  6. That is FASCINATING! I know I'm often certain of things that turn out to be wrong, but I didn't realize it was A Thing. Thanks for the information!

  7. Interesting! I haven't heard about Mandela effect earlier.

  8. Interesting. I guess so many names end in "stein" that we just assume...

  9. The first line really surprised me... Until I read about the effect. Wow things our brains could do. Let me find that reddit group. That would be interesting.

  10. Sometimes, though, we do remember accurately. Let's not forget that, either.

    Oh, remember the last six times Morgan Freeman died?


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