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Shared False Memories: How Spooky Is the Mandela Effect?

I seem to remember people as being kinder than they appear. Those memories from the past could be figments of my imagination. Or perhaps missing from the past are the people I once recalled.

I am curious about the Mandela Effect, the shared false memory phenomenon named such because people often believe Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 1980s, although he died in a free man in 2013. The folklore surrounding the Mandela Effect suggests that it’s more out there than simple memory lapses in large groups of people. True believers claim that it’s a manifestation of alternate time streams and multiple worlds. A global shift has occurred: reality is changing, history isn’t what it used to be, and the evidence from yesterday has been altered or erased. 

Listed below are some famous examples from pop culture… 

  1. In the Walt Disney film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The evil Queen didn’t say “Mirror, Mirror.” She said, “Magic Mirror.”
  2. The name Berenstain in The Berenstain Bears (from the famous children’s book series) was never spelled ‘Berenstein’. The name has always been Berenstain!
  3. The golden android named C-3PO in Star Wars was never all gold. One section of its leg has always been silver!
  4. Bogart’s character in Casablanca never said, “Play it again, Sam.” (He said, “You played it for her, you can play it for me. If she can stand it, I can. Play it!”)

Since the start of this phenomenon, armchair philosophers and conspiracy buffs have scrutinized the effect with a multitude of incredible arguments and far-fetched explanations. Their anomalous theories often border on the implausible.

The more grounded and rational elements in this discussion insist that human memories are gullible, often ephemeral, and that recollections — especially of cultural icons — can be easily misled. 

The radical theories to explain the Mandela Effect include conspiracies of time travel, quantum weirdness, and parallel dimensions. For example, mini-explosions inside the hadron collider at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) may have opened a ‘hole’ between universes, causing separate realities from each universe to intersect. These parallel worlds may have shifted into alternate patterns of existence. 

Keep in mind that a small number of these conspiracy theories could trigger mental obsessions and/or delusional thinking, especially in patients diagnosed with clinical false memories.

When it comes to curious or incredible ideas, the impulse to speculate is irresistible.

My own personal example of the Mandela Effect concerns a read-aloud book that I vividly recall from the age of seven: Captain Kangaroo Stories to Read Aloud. The original copy I owned is now gone, but I do remember the cover depicted Captain Kangaroo with his friend, Bunny Rabbit. I located a vintage copy of the book, but the cover was now different. It revealed Captain Kangaroo and a giant teddy bear — no Bunny Rabbit. The title and contents hadn’t changed; just the cover. Had the original cover been replaced over the years? No evidence for that.

Could I have been wrong about the book’s cover? 

Numerous studies indicate that long-term storage of past experience is unreliable and prone to distortion. 

But the original cover still remains indelible in my mind.

I can’t shake the contradiction. What if the conspiracy theories are actually true? 

What if the nature of reality cannot be trusted? 

What if the universe incorporates a spectrum of alternate worlds?

My old Captain Kangaroo cover may be lost in one of those universes; gone, but not forgotten. Along with billions of other co-existent and timeless destinies.  

Like eerie shadows, flickering on the walls of Plato’s Cave.

The Mandela Effect reminds me of a Philip K. Dick thriller: It is replete with flashes of paranoia, exciting plot twists, and thought-provoking suspense. 

I just hope it’s not a documentary.

References:

40 Mandela Effect Examples That Will Blow Your Mind

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937 film) 

C-3PO

Captain Kangaroo Stories to Read Aloud

The Man in the High Castle (alternate time streams)

Shared False Memories: How Spooky Is the Mandela Effect?


John DiPrete

John DiPrete has contributed to Psych Central, MacWorld, Perceptual and Motor Skills, Medical Hypotheses, Speculations in Science and Technology, among other outlets. His Web site, MindBluff.com, explores the fun side of neuroscience (ranging from tactile illusions to brain teasers), and has been recommended by PC World Online.


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APA Reference
DiPrete, J. (2019). Shared False Memories: How Spooky Is the Mandela Effect?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/shared-false-memories-how-spooky-is-the-mandela-effect/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 9 Oct 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 9 Oct 2019
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.