Mandela Effect

The “Mandela Effect” is what happens when someone has a clear, personal memory of something that never happened in this reality.


The Mandela Effect refers to a phenomenon in which a large number of people share false memories of past events, referred to as confabulation in psychiatry. Some have speculated that the memories are caused by parallel universes spilling into our own, while others explain the phenomenon as a failure of collective memory.

Many people — mostly total strangers — seem to remember several of the exact same events with the exact same details. However, those memories are different from what’s in history books, newspaper archives, and so on.

In 2010, blogger Fiona Broome coined the term “Mandela Effect” to describe a collective false memory she discovered at the Dragon Con convention, where many others believed that former South African President Nelson Mandela died during his imprisonment in the 1980s.

That year, Broome launched the site to document various examples of the phenomenon.

“See, 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.”

Additionally, Broome described other widely held false memories, including the fact that Darth Vader never said “Luke, I am your father” in the Star Wars films… his actual words are “No, I am your father”. Another common false memory is thinking the title of the children’s book series The Berenstain Bears is spelled as The Berenstein Bears.

the berenstain bears

The Mandela effect has not been explored by mainstream, peer-reviewed publications, and the claim that some false memories are caused by parallel dimensions going berserk is, shall we say, difficult to falsify.

One strange example of this phenomenon relates to a children’s movie called Shazaam, supposedly made in the early 1990s and starring the stand-up comedian Sinbad as an incompetent genie. In fact, no such movie was ever made (or at least there is no verifiable evidence that it was), but many people claim to have vivid memories of watching it repeatedly during the 90s, especially Reddit users on the Mandela Effect subreddit.

“Some of these accounts may be explainable as a confused memory of Kazaam, a 1996 movie with a similar premise, starring basketball player Shaquille O’Neal as a genie. Meanwhile, some Shazaam believers favour a Mandela effect explanation with alternate timelines in parallel universes, or even a simulated reality hypothesis in which the world we experience is a complex simulation created by an advanced civilization. 

It is unclear why a cheesy 90s family movie should be a departure point between conflicting realities or programmed memories in either of these scenarios.”

Other Shazaam truthers suggest a conspiracy theory in which the film has been intentionally memory holed by its creators due to embarrassment or legal reasons.

This is remarkably implausible, given the number of people and organisations involved in making and distributing a movie who would need to be sworn to secrecy, and the various private and public records which would need to be altered or destroyed to effectively erase all trace of it. It would also be a spectacularly Orwellian feat to convince the public that a commercial film (which was previously widely available) had never actually existed, and again: why go to some bizarre lengths for a lousy movie about a genie granting wishes (only to leave a similar lousy movie with the same premise in its place)?

The Mandela effect hypothesis relies on many untestable or difficult-to-test assumptions. On the other hand, the phenomenon of human memory being unreliable is well-documented and researched…

Sources: Mandela Effect
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About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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