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  • Writer's pictureBill Duster

The 5 Strangest Theories About The Mandela Effect

As a kid, I was a good speller. I have fond memories reading the Berenstein Bears series of books. Imagine my surprise when, as an adult, I learned from the Internet that I had been duped--these books never existed. What I read were the Berenstain series of books. Well, there goes my good spelling claim.

But it turns out that I am not alone in my confusion. Apparently, many people worldwide are also convinced that their childhood memories were not wrong. Yet, all evidence points to the contrary: Books, videos, and merchandise all bear (hmm...) the correct spelling of Berenstain.

And then this happened: On some forums and blogs, fans of the Berenstain Bears began posting photos of merchandise with the incorrect spelling on the labels. There have even been articles written regarding this, for example this one: Berenstein Bears: Did Reddit Prove the Mandela Effect? Yes, the photos provided could be photoshopped, except for the fact that, at the time, the article's author explained, "another poster found an ebay [sic] listing that has the same spine, with the same spelling" and also linked to that listing.

What could that mean? My first thought was that, for some reason, maybe the creators or the company that handles the Berenstain Bears wanted to change their name at some point. Occam's Razor at work. Except that the son of Jan & Stan Berenstain is pretty sure what their last name has always been.

Curious, I began to research a bit more. More popular inconsistencies between people's memories and reality began to emerge: C3PO's silver leg, Monopoly Man's monocle, and Nelson Mandela dying in prison. And it is from this memory regarding Nelson Mandela that we get the generally agreed upon name for this peculiar but pretty well-known effect, the Mandela Effect.

Nelson Mandela
Mandela giving a speech at the Peacock Theatre in London, England, April 2000.

What is the Mandela Effect?

In 2009, author and paranormal researcher Fiona Broome had a discussion with other writers and friends at a science fiction convention known as Dragon Con. It was brought up during this discussion that many people seemed to remember Nelson Mandela dying "decades ago", and someone coined the phrase for this phenomenon: The Mandela Effect.

She describes the effect succinctly as, "powerful memories that don't seem to match our recorded history," and that, in truth, is about all there is to it. But the number of these mismatched memories seems to be ever growing as time goes on. Also, some misremembered facts seem to have physical evidence to support them, such as the case with the Berenstain Bears. So the next question that needs exploring is what is behind all this? What theories are out there about the cause of the Mandela Effect?

False Memories or Parallel Universes?

The medical community argues that it is simply a case of false memory. A false memory can be created by, say, giving people a list of words to memorize, and then later asking them if a related word was on that list. People will say they remember that word on the list even though it wasn't. For example, a list of words might be all jungle animals. Then if asked if "lion" was on the list, most people will say that it was, even though lion wasn't on the list. Studies have shown it to be quite easy to create this type of false memory.

However, words on a list are not really comparable to people remembering entire movies that never existed (like memories of the movie Kazaam, supposedly starring Sinbad) or a video showing the Pepsi logo with inverted colors. (Check out the Pepsi logo on the cable car at the 1.22 mark in the amateur video below from 1969. It shows the colors inverted, blue on top and red on the bottom, not the logo as it is today).

Given the complexities of the human mind, perhaps the cause isn't as simple as saying that people are just misremembering? What if we consider some of the most unusual theories about the Mandela Effect?

There is an argument that the Mandela Effect is a result of an overlapping of information from a parallel universe. There is a quantum physics theory called string theory that suggest reality is made up of tiny vibrating strings. These strings overlap into other universes with different people and different histories than our own. If this is true, than perhaps the Mandela Effect is caused by some kind of interference from this other universe, except exactly how this interference could manifest itself in our universe is unknown.

This is Just a Simulation

Maybe the Mandela Effect is evidence that we are living in a simulation--computer, alien, or otherwise. Take for example a research article called, "Mandela effect & Déjà vu: Are we living in a simulated reality?" Perhaps the false memories of the Mandela Effect are defects created in the running of this simulation.

"...another consequence might be the déjà vu or the Mandela effect. The errors arise in this simulation is [sic] a form of glitch in the matrix that should happen because of the commutable lagging of the super-intelligent computers of either future ones or higher-order ones." - from Mandela effect & Déjà vu

But who or what is running the simulation and why? It could be anything from aliens to supernatural beings to future humans, says the researcher.

CERN Messed Up

Another possibility is that the Mandela Effect is human made, either intentionally or unintentionally. If a particle manipulation experiment at CERN, the world-class particle accelerator facilities in Switzerland, went wrong, would we know about it? Could playing around with life and reality at the quantum level have unforeseen consequences? How would we really know?

Time Travel

Could the Mandela Effect be some kind of evidence that time travel has taken place? If someone traveled through time and changed the past, could it change the way some people remember events? Could events have changed for some people and not for others, in some kind of weird Frankenstein's monster mixing of realities?

"Chaos theory says that a single action in one place can have totally unforeseen consequences in many other places. So, a small, completely unrelated tweak to the timeline by time travellers could have resulted in the Berensteins’ ancestors spelling it 'stain'." - from Time Travel Nexus

Again, how would we know? Perhaps some kind of experiment could be created on the quantum level--or perhaps such an experiment would only make things worse.

The Simplest Theory: Same as it Ever Was

My personal thoughts are that this is probably the first time in human history that we have created so many actual written records and photographs. What if this is just how time really is, a soup that is always changing the past and future, but we just had no real evidence of that before now? It is only in the last 100 years or so that we have been documenting almost every detail of our lives, and only now could we verify all this information with each other with lightning speed. What if a crazy idea like "change the future, change the past" really is true? What if this is time's true face but we had no way to know?



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