False memory? Learn About ‘The Mandela Effect What It Is and How It Happens

Photo Credit: Berenstain Bears Collectors

Remember the Berenstein Bears?

How come they changed the spelling to “Berenstain?”

When did that happen?

Well… It didn’t happen.

At least, not in this universe.

Stan Melvin Berenstain was born in 1923, and he never changed the spelling of his name.

So, it stands to reason that the books wouldn’t have, either.

Here’s another one:

“Luke, I am your father!”

Photo Credit: Lucasfilm

Who could forget such an iconic line?

Most people, apparently.

Because, that’s totally not what Darth Vader said.

It’s actually, “No, I am your father,” and this is one thing that has absolutely never changed in any of the editions of the film that have been released since 1977.

The scrawl on this copy of the script used in the original documentary calls for neither a “Luke” or a “No.”

In the actual film, however, James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader utters, “No, I am your father.”

But, don’t feel bad.

Even James Earl Jones seems to remember it as, “Luke, I am your father.”

Why is that?

It’s the Mandela Effect at work.

Yes, civil rights icon Nelson Mandela.

Photo Credit: abc News

Or was it 1918-1980something????

We’ll get into that real soon, but first:

Ever seen or heard of this guy?

Photo Credit: Jeff Robbins/AP/NPR

That’s Abe Vigoda.

He died at the beginning of 2016 at the age of 94, but almost nobody seemed to mention him in their “2016 sucked because all these famous people that I liked are now dead” posts.

And that’s odd, because despite playing a memorable role in The Godfather and starring in Barney Miller for several years, Abe Vigoda was probably most well known in the final 30 years of his life for being dead.

People magazine first reported him dead in 1982.

A local paper in New Jersey did the same in 1987.

He became a running gag on Letterman.

He popped up in the Good Burger movie in 1997:

But a lot of people still thought he was dead.

And, it’s possible at that point that the jokes about the mistaken reports might have actually contributed to the myth.

So, they continued…

“Roastmaster General” Jeff Ross had a running gag at Friars Club roasts that Vigoda attended.

Ross would say, “My one regret is that Abe Vigoda isn’t alive to see this.”

Vigoda, on cue, would then jump up from his seat and shake his fist.

Laughs all around…

And he also appeared frequently on Conan O’Brien’s show to make fun of his fake death, even making a memorable appearance on his final Tonight Show episode before returning multiple times on Conan’s TBS show to poke fun at his “death.”

Photo Credit: Conan

In fact, reporters were hesitant to believe TMZ’s breaking story of Vigoda’s death in early 2016, because it had been erroneously reported and then joked about so often.

It was a lot like that when Nelson Mandela died in prison.

Photo Credit: History.com



That didn’t happen, either.

Nelson Mandela was definitely in prison for a very long time.

But, he was released from prison on February 11, 1990.

It was kind of a big deal.

Photo Credit: YouTube/BBC/The Voice

He served as not only the first black President in Post-Apartheid South Africa, but the first true democratically elected President in the history of the country from 1994-1999.

Also, a pretty big deal:

Photo Credit: LA Times

Oh. I almost forgot the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993:

Photo Credit: fx gallery

All of these things happened AFTER he was released from prison.

And, all of these things are pretty hard to do if you’re alive, let alone if you’re dead.

So why do people think he died in prison?

In a word: Confabulation.

Confabulation is generally used to describe medical patients with memory loss due to brain damage or filling in memories with invented facts, but it can also refer to a collective misrememberance.

And, we have this woman to thank for creating the term “Mandela Effect:”

That’s Fiona Broome.

She and a security guard named “Shadow” coined the term “Mandela Effect” during a conversation they were having at Dragon Con.

I really just wanted to type that last sentence.

Now I can retire.

But I won’t, because it actually gets even weirder/cooler from here!

While psychologists and scientists keep insisting on referring to this phenomena as false memory, Broome posits that such a collective false memory is improbable.

She believes that she really did see Nelson Mandela’s funeral in the 1980s AND that he also died in 2013.

And, the reason so many people remember that funeral is that they existed in a universe where Nelson Mandela really did die in the 1980s.

Then, at some point, she and everybody who claims to remember Mandela’s 1980s funeral “slid” into or woke up in this universe…where he was still alive but died in 2013.

Perhaps you recall a television show where such a thing occurred on the reg:

…All kinds of alternate realities, and the Mandela Effect is the crack in the system, the anomaly.

Still others, like Fred Alan Wolf…aka Dr. Quantum:

Photo Credit: Dr. Quantum

…believe it’s more like a glitch in the Matrix, or the holodeck for fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Like, maybe we’re all experiencing an artificially created reality which is bound to have glitches.

Essentially, Darth Vader said both “Luke” and “No.” But, both of those lines either happened in a manufactured reality or happened simultaneously in parallel universes, depending on which of the above theories you’re into.

But, there is also a group of rationalists out there who believe that the reality where Nelson Mandela died in the 1980s simply doesn’t exist; that Darth Vader ONLY said, “No, I am your father.”

They believe “Luke” is just an easy mistake.

Taken out of the context of the scene, it’s easy to see how someone would say, “Luke,” so we know what movie the quote is from.

But, thousands or even millions of people making an easy mistake will never make it true.

Unless you’re Sinbad:

Sinbad has never played a genie in a film.

That’s Shaq. That is NOT Sinbad.

Shaq was in a movie called Kazaam.

Sinbad has never played a Genie in a film, but he did once host a night of old Sinbad films dressed in a turban:

Despite all evidence to the contrary, people keep insisting that they saw Sinbad play a genie in a movie called Shazaam.

Yet none of them seem to remember that, like Abe Vigoda, he was totally in the Good Burger movie:

Photo Credit: Paramount

Now THERE’S your conspiracy theory!

I digress.

Let’s put a bow on this.

For now, since facts are kind of our thing, and as long as evidence is how we determine validity, I’m going to side with the rationalists.

These rationalists know how to read an IMDB page, and they believe there was never a Shazaam movie.

I agree.

Because, there is ZERO evidence of it ever existing beyond the people who swear they’ve seen it.

These pragmatists/rationalists like cognitive scientist Daniel Schachter and other of his ilk, (people who are into proof and whatnot), take the Occam’s Razor approach to the Mandela Effect.

Essentially, they believe science has proven on multiple occasions that your memory is fallible.

It is far from perfect.

It breaks down over time, and it wasn’t 100% correct to begin with.

The fact that memory can be so unreliable is one of the first things every college freshman learns about memory in Psych 101.

But, I get it.

Maybe it’s both cooler and reassuring to think that our memory is infallible and that the reason we (myself included) remember “Berenstein” instead of “Berenstain,” is because we’re either living in the Matrix or sliding between parallel universes.

It couldn’t possibly be that you and I thought it was spelled “-stein” because that’s the suffix we see the most often, and we probably haven’t actually seen the cover of one of those books in decades, could it?

I mean, it could, but where’s the magic in that?