Episode 7: Doo Doo Diligence on the Mandela Effect

Updated: Mar 30


Part 1 ~ Stacie

Nelson Mandela was a South African revolutionary. He fought vigilantly against apartheid and racism. Unfortunately, Mandela was sent to prison on Robben Island in 1964 for fighting for equality. There, he was forced into an inhumane prison system with horrible conditions, and he continued to be treated unjustly because of his race. It was there, on Robben Island in 1980 that the great activist Nelson Mandela died. Oh, wait, no. That last part is incorrect. Nelson Mandela was actually released from prison in 1990, was elected President of South Africa from 1994-1999, and he continued his activism and philanthropy until he died in 2013. Believe it or not, millions of people actually believe that Nelson Mandela died in prison. This phenomenon of collective false memory is more commonly known as The Mandela Effect.


Origins (Fiona Broome)


This is an excerpt from mandelaeffect.com, written by Fiona Broome, the person who coined the term “Mandela Effect:”


“I thought Nelson Mandela died in prison. I thought I remembered it clearly, complete with news clips of his funeral, the mourning in South Africa, some rioting in cities, and the heartfelt speech by his widow. Then, I found out he was still alive. My reaction was sensible, “Oh, I must have misunderstood something on the news.” I didn’t think about it again for many years, until... [someone] casually mentioned that other people “remembered” when Nelson Mandela died in prison. That caught my attention in a hurry. One thing led to another, and I discovered a large community of people who remember the same Mandela history that I recall.”


Broome’s revelation of this phenomena sparked so many false memories of Nelson Mandela’s supposed death. Keep in mind that this all started in 2009, and many people were starting to feel very creeped out that the reality they remembered so vividly was all a lie. Further, people started to really become shaken when they discovered that more than just a handful of individuals had all claimed to watch a funeral that never happened. How could so many people share a collective false memory? Let’s find out!


Psychological Phenomena

Let’s first get the boring explanations out of the way and dive into the world of psychology. A common theory of the Mandela Effect is confabulation, which is described by some as “honest lying.” Essentially, when a person retells a story, they are telling it the way they had interpreted or remembered it. They’re not necessarily making things up, their brain just has to quickly cobble together a memory, and that person then describes their memory.


Um, excussse me, isss thisss where the game of Houssse iss?

Here’s a personal example, so I’ll tell you about the time I was locked in a shed with a snake. So I was about five years old and I was with my brother and my two cousins, and we were playing house. And the oldest cousin I was like, oh, I'm the mom and we're going to go into our home, and so we went into this shed. This was in a wooded area, but we were still right next to our cabin. But we walked in to the shed and all of a sudden the door closed behind us. And we turned around and we started pulling at the door and we realized it was locked. So then we turn away from the door, and we look and there's this giant black snake in the corner and we didn't notice this when we first came in. We were freaking out, like "Oh my God, this big huge snake it's gonna eat us," and we had no idea what to do then. The oldest cousin was trying to think quickly and there was this little window thing in the shed. So she crawled out of the window and jumped down. I mean, it was a shed so it's not like it was a huge jump, but she jumped down and we all had our backs against the door and were staring at at this snake. This gigantic snake.


And then all of a sudden the door opens, and we turn around, run, and we're out of breath but freaking out and we're like, "Oh my God, I can't believe we survived this snake thing!"


So that was how I had originally remembered it. When I brought this up to my friend, she said we actually got out because everyone banged on the door of the shed until my mom heard us and got us out. She told me that she liked the story of her being a hero better than being the first to escape, and she thought the snake was just as big! (Okay, none of us actually thought the snake was that big).


Another psychological explanation for the Mandela Effect could be priming. This is where a person becomes suggestable and fills in the blanks in their heads. For example, if I were to ask you “How did Buzz Aldrin die?” then you might say something like “I don’t know,” or “I can’t remember.” By framing that question this way, I am telling you that Buzz is dead, and you need to help me find out why. However, if I were to ask, “Is Buzz Aldrin still alive?” you still might not know the answer, but that leaves it more open-ended.


What’s worse is that some people will intentionally try to trick others into believing something. Oftentimes, if a person is already predisposed to one way of thinking, they are more likely to believe in things that correlate with that way of thinking. An obvious example would be political views. In 2016, I believed that Trump had said in the past that if he were to run for president, he would do so as a Republican because “they are the only ones stupid enough to vote for him.” To me, this sounded valid, and I repeated it as fact. However, I was soon corrected and crossed just this one thing off my long list of reasons to hate Trump. These days, deep fakes and photo editing have progressed so much that people may be easily tricked into believing falsities.


Quantum Physical Phenomena

I look at this and see that steak Cypher was eating whilst planning his betrayal, which I think about daily. What do you see?

Okay, moving on from the potentially rocky territory of fake news and talk about some more plausible theories for the Mandela Effect. First, there was this one indie film, you probably haven’t heard of it, but it offers an explanation. The movie is called The Matrix. In the movie, humanity has been taken over by machines and are being kept in a false reality that has been programmed into everyone’s minds. Within this program, called The Matrix, there can sometimes be glitches in this code. This is why you should always update your brain. If you somehow received corrupted code, you may experience a discrepancy in logic. This theory posits that something in the code had to be changed (like Nelson Mandela dying in prison), but not quite everyone’s memory was updated. Thus, despite living in the reality where Mandela died in 2013, you still remember him dying in 1980 when you shouldn’t know.


The next theory to discuss is time travelers are creating a butterfly effect, referring to the notion that a butterfly could flap its wings, and eventually the wind from that flap would lead to a hurricane. Admittedly, this theory is a little difficult to grasp. However, it appears as though time travelers could go back in time and accidentally do something small that results in a brand new reality taking place. It’s not totally clear why some people would remember something completely different from the world, but it could just be that certain people were never confronted with a reason to have this new reality implanted into their minds.


Ready to get nerdy? Let’s talk about Schrodinger’s Cat. Essentially, this theoretical experiment suggests that a cat is in a closed box. Skipping the scientific mumbo jumbo, there are equal possibilities that the cat is both dead and alive. If you don’t open the box, then the cat is both dead and alive at one moment since both outcomes are equally probable. However, once you lift the lid of the box to check on the kitty, you have then confirmed only one statement is 100% true. Because, of course, there is a difference between mostly dead and all dead. So, why talk about the prequel to Don’t F**k With Cats? Just imagine that the box is never opened. This can create a parallel universe. Let me explain. No, wait, there is too much. Let me sum up.


I’m kind of using phrases like “parallel universe” and “alternate reality” interchangeably. The Schrodinger’s Cat theory is just a partial explanation for parallel universes because it just accounts for the theory of alternate realities, but it can be taken a step forward. The moment that you go to the box to open the lid and find the cat either alive or dead has just created a split: in one instance, you have found the cat dead, and in the other, you have found it alive. That means that your reality has been entangled with the outcome of the cat’s fate. So, by affecting one aspect of reality, a chain reaction is set off, and we are now living with this reality. Scientists theorize that a new universe could be created for each outcome. Meaning there are infinite realities existing all at the same time. There are also theories that if we were to somehow travel to another dimension, we could somehow face a reality in which the laws of physics have made it impossible for us to survive. However, there are certain people that believe that we are accidentally accessing alternate realities in some way or another, with the proof being the Mandela Effect.

Cats like boxes so much because they enjoy parallel universes.

In 2008, the Large Hadron Collider, which was created by CERN, launched its first successful test. The collider was built with the intention to smash particles together to test a variety of theories about the universe. However, a mere 9 days after its successful test, it ended up succumbing to some misfortune, leaving it out of commission until 2009. Now Rachel, do you remember what happened in 2009? That was when Broome wrote about her theory on the Mandela Effect. What’s even weirder is that in 2013, the machine was down for an upgrade. And what happened in 2013? Nelson Mandela died for real.


Conclusion

Sure, we could all just accept the fact that thousands or even millions of people just so happen to share vivid memories of something that apparently never happened, but that sounds absurd, right? It’s much more plausible to believe that we have accidentally collided with another dimension that has the same physics, but slightly different events in history. It’s also plausible to believe that in another dimension, I had a better transition from my story to yours.


Part 2 ~ Rachel


If there’s one person who would take advantage of alternative dimensions, it’s Walt Disney, who has apparently been moving Cinderella’s castle around the park. In our current reality, it towers over the end of Main Street. But apparently at some point in the space time continuum, Cinderella’s castle served as the park’s entrance.


I’m skeptical of this one, though. I LOVE the idea of a whole castle moving, and this phenomenon was mentioned on almost every Mandela Effect list I found on the series of tubes. BUT there was no data explaining who actually remembers it as an entrance. I found ONE conversation about it on Reddit, wherein ONE person claims to believe having walked through the castle at the entrance. Others in the comments point out that this is included on Fiona Broome’s Mandela Effect website—which I wasn’t able to find (the website, I mean) even though I did find plenty of references to it. So I’m wondering if this is maybe a Mandela Effect about a Mandela Effect. Like, everyone remembers a bunch of people misremembering where Cinderella’s castle is, but really it’s only one chick on Reddit.


This year, Disney World celebrates its 50th anniversary, and the castle is getting revamped for the occasion. I like to think that Walt Disney will use this as a chance to bump us back into the right dimension since we are so CLEARLY in the wrong one. So let’s talk about what we might find in our old/new dimension that some people apparently still remember.


Characters in Pop Culture

In this new reality, some of our beloved characters from pop culture will be different. For example, Curious George, that loveable little monkey whose inquiring mind always got him into trouble might have even more ways to wreak havoc. Of course, he’ll still pass out from inhaling too much ether, no matter what dimension he finds himself in—but somewhere out there, he could be opening up a whole extra jar of ether or increasing his efficiency when he takes a job as a dishwasher. Because somewhere out there, Curious George has a tail. But he’s never had a tail here.



Speaking of tails, while the base of Pikachu’s tail is brown, the rest of it is solid yellow. There’s no black zigzag on the tip, even if you clearly remember it as you electrocuted all your friends, as well as Kirby, that insufferable prick, during an intense Super Smash Brothers tournament when you really should have been studying for your physics test. And fuck you, too, Ness.


And what happens if Pikachu accidentally causes a forest fire with his non-black-tipped tail? Why, you call Smokey Bear, of course! Not Smokey THE Bear because that guy has way too many dimensions to get through to get to us, where he has never been Smokey The Bear.


The next character who’s a Mandela Effect Bastard is poor Spike the Gremlin. Spike was the leader of the first batch of Gremlins and, even though we can admit that he was pretty sexy, he was a total dick. He had a spiky white mohawk and a dedication to destruction, even trying to kill the annoying human kid when Spike himself was reduced to a pile of goo. He’s the classic 80s tough guy character, so he deserves the vibe his name gives him. Only his name isn’t Spike like so many people remember, his name is Stripe. This one is personal for me because my brother nicknamed me Spike, as apparently I looked like a caveman when I was a baby, and it sucks to know that in some other dimension the most badass gremlin and I share the same name, but here he is just Stripe.


Beyond tails and names, characters’ clothing and accessories also frequently get changed in the matrix. Rich Uncle Pennybags, for example, the dapper old man who occasionally has to go to jail without passing go and without collecting 200 dollars is often remembered as having a monocle. Nope. The Monopoly Man is monocle-less. Although I will say that in the original drawing of him, the artist has somehow made it look like Pennybags had just removed the monocle right before getting his portrait drawn.


Finally, there’s one character whose change of clothing kind of makes sense: Carmen Sandiego. She is the best thief of all time--no worries, though, she uses her powers for good—and also the titular character in a game that has been around since 1985. Those of us who would take a break from dying of dysentery on The Oregon Trail would help Carmen catch awesomely-named bad guys (like Rob M. Blind and Ruth Less). If you were on the right track, you’d get a glimpse of Carmen in her yellow trench coat before jetting off to another city—oh wait, our producer is shaking her head. Hold on. Okay, apparently Carmen Sandiego wears a red trench and has never worn a yellow one? You sure? Yeah, okay, she’s sure.


It's Game Time!

Now for a game!

A game: which one of these did NOT happen in our reality?


Sally Field exclaiming “You like me. You really like me!” or Senate Commerce Committee Chair Ted Steven explaining how the Internet works: “It’s a series of tubes.”


Sally Field said: “I can’t deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me.”


Darth Vader assuring young Skywalker, “Luke, I am your father.” Or Jack Bynes assuring Greg Focker, “I have nipples, Greg.”

Vader growled: “No, I am your father.”

The Evil Queen chanting “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” or Scar whispering in Simba’s ear “I killed Mufasa.”

Evil Queen sighed: “Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all.”

Mr. Rogers singing, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood” or Tigger singing, “Their tops are made out of rubber, their bottoms are made out of springs”

Mr. Rogers sang: “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood.”

Hannibal Lecter acknowledging a return with, “Hello, Clarice” in Silence of the Lambs or Carol Ann acknowledging a return with “They’re baaaaack!” in Poltergeist.

Hannibal Lecter chirped: “Well, Clarice”

Captain Kirk ordering, “Beam me up, Scotty,” or James Bond ordering “A martini. Shaken, not stirred.”

Captain Kirk never said nothin' to Scotty about gettin' beamed up.


A delusional Norma Rae Desmond declaring, “I’m ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille” or a wandering Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams hearing the whispered, “If you build it, they will come.”

Trick question! Neither of these are in our reality.


Desmond cooed: “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up.” Kinsella assured:“If you build it, he will come.”


Spelling

I’m not sure if I can blame other dimensions for the Mandela Effect when it comes to spelling, just because English is such a weird language and couple that with how marketers change spelling to be cutesy, it makes sense that our brains would ‘fix it’ for us. Personally, I have a story of a childhood friend who used to call the medicated lip balm “Lip Mend-ex.” Being a turd, I of course corrected her, “No, it’s Lip Med-Ex” and eventually her mother was brought in (who also called it Lip Mend-Ex) and I demanded empirical evidence. My friend’s mom fished a pot of the lip balm out of her purse, read the label, and in that moment, their realities were shattered and I tasted the sweetness of being right over inconsequential things, and I have never been the same since.


The hottest spelling debate, I think, is the spelling of “The Berenstain Bears.” No one fights over the beginning; we all agree it starts out “B-e-r-e-n.” But the “stain” part gets everyone up in arms. It is s-t-a-i-n, not, as many people remember, s-t-e-i-n. I myself remember pronouncing it “Beren-steen Bears,” and no matter how weird the English language gets, I can’t think of a single instance where “ai” is pronounced with a long e. (Except for Randy from South Park’s cooking show, “Cream Freesh.”)


Then there’s Febreze, which is spelled with only ONE e in the ‘breeze’ part, and Wite-Out, which does not have an ‘h’ in ‘white.’ This one I remember because during my insufferable prescriptivist prick phrase I wrote a letter to BiC chastising them for promoting bad spelling just to be cute.


Looney Tunes are looney for their songs, not for their cartoons. Yup, the “tunes” part is like what you sing in the shower, not like what the fucking Looney Tunes are—cartoons. I think this gets a little muddled in our American psyche because Tiny Toon Adventures is spelled like the cartoon not the song, and their theme song claims “they’re all a little looney,” so it’s an easy back-formation to make.


The final spelling topic left me at a loss as to how to approach it because it is about a hot dog. Do

I go with the obvious joke about putting wieners in my mouth? Or do I make a crack about suckin’ on a chili dog? Or do I go in a completely different direction and examine the cannibalistic implications of naming your bologna with both a given name and a surname before eating it? Like, not only does your bologna have a name he goes by, but he comes from a whole line of bolognas, so maybe you should be a little less cavalier about putting him in a sandwich? This poor, doomed bologna is Oscar Meyer. Before I tell you how it’s spelled, dear listener, I want you to close your eyes (unless you are driving or fixing your garbage disposal) and try to envision the logo. Look carefully at “Meyer.” How is it spelled? Well, there shouldn’t be an ‘a’ in it! “Meyer” is spelled like the lemon, m-e-y-e-r. So that means you were wrong about the packaging AND about the song!

It just goes to show that even though we can all remember the word that made us lose the spelling bee, we have a tough time agreeing on how to spell some words we see all the time.


Events

So far, we have covered characters, quotations, and spelling. There are actually several events that people remember differently—obviously, considering this whole phenomenon is based off of an event. One such event is the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. This launch was to be a momentous occasion, as one of the astronauts, Christa McAuliffe, was a high school social studies teacher who had won a competition to be among the crew of Challenger. It really stoked people’s imaginations and passions to think that an ordinary person would be trekking to the final frontier. The launch was broadcast live, and it was a huge event because of McAuliffe’s presence and the symbolism of it. It was truly a shock when the shuttle exploded a little over a minute after launch, killing all seven crew members instantly. One survey determined that about 85% of American adults had learned of the tragedy within an hour of it happening. It’s one of those events that people remember exactly where they were when it happened, or when they first heard about it.


But people remember when they were a little differently.


If anyone were to ask me about it, I would say it happened in 1988, as I think of myself in the 3rd grade, along with Frankie {REDACTED}, who convinced the teacher I was the one whistling whenever she turned around, which led her to put my name on the board, even though I didn’t learn how to whistle until I was 26. Anyway, many people remember the Challenger exploding in 1982, a good six years before Frankie {REDACTED} taught me my first life lesson. 1982 is also four years before the Challenger actually exploded, which was on January 28, 1986.


Another astronaut is at the heart of a Mandela Effect. Often times, people remember a death before it happens (such as Nelson Mandela), but in Neil Armstrong’s case, many people remember him dying after he did, which was in 2012. In fact, some people believe that he’s still alive. And to those people I say, “It’s okay to not be certain whether or not a beloved space man is still alive.” And also I’m sorry that you had to learn the truth under these circumstances and while you were fixing your garbage disposal.

Another tragedy people misremember centers the 1932 Lindbergh kidnapping. This was an international news story since the baby was the child of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh and was kidnapped from his own crib. The subsequent investigation, ransom, trial, conviction, and execution were woven into the fabric of the U.S. identity and resulted in Congress passing the Federal Kidnapping Act. We know that some tragedies become sensationalized, usually for a combination of reasons. One reason for sensationalism is when someone disappears without a trace. And this is what many people remember about the Lindbergh baby. That he simply vanished. But the sad truth is that the child’s body was found two and a half months later. This is another one that I think is pretty easy to chalk up to the way our brains work. You can couple a common feature of sensationalized crime with a subconscious need to think of the baby still being alive as a possibility and end up with a whole swath of people not remembering him being found.


To end on less of a sad note, the last event I’ll bring up has to do with Saint Teresa of Calcutta, or Mother Teresa, the Roman Catholic nun, missionary, and charity founder. She was born in 1910 in Macedonia, and after a long and impactful life, died in Calcutta in September of 1997. She is remembered by all as a saint—both literally, in terms of the Catholic church, and figuratively, in that she led such a charitable life, and also literally again because she apparently performed a few miracles. But her sainthood is where our collective memory fails us. Many people remember her being sainted in the early nineties. But she wasn’t canonized until 2016.


What Doesn't It All Mean?

So clearly, many things we know and love would be a little different if Walt Disney decides to thrust us into the dimension where he is immortal and where Cinderella’s castle is at the entrance to the park. Maybe it will be an improvement. But maybe we actually are in the better reality because at least in this one, Mona Lisa has a smile.


What's Your Story?

Everyone's got a Mandela Effect story! What's yours? Did anything from this episode surprise you?


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