As you may have guessed, the Mandela Effect is named after Nelson Mandela. It was coined by Fiona Broome, a ‘paranormal consultant’ who claims to have become aware of the collective misremembering syndrome after she discovered she shared a false memory with others about the South African human rights activist.
Broome, and others, share the memory that Nelson Mandela died during the 1980s in prison, when in reality (1) the activist died in 2013. So powerful was Fiona Broome’s ‘memory’ about the death of Mandela in prison in the 80s, that she produced a website about the Mandela Effect (2).
On the website, the paranormal consultant writes about her mis-memory related to Nelson Mandela.
“Nelson Mandela died in prison, long before his loss on December 5th, 2013. Many people – perhaps thousands – seem to believe that.”
“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. My reaction was, ‘Oh, I must have misunderstood something on the news.’”
Broome goes onto describe how, many years later, she heard someone else saying they had ‘remembered’ Mandela had died in prison. Broome went on to discover that a large community of people remembered the same false history concerning the death of Nelson Mandela.
Collective False Memories
Other ‘collective false memories’ have surfaced, which are noted by Broome. Some of the most prevalent include the classic portrait of Henry VIII eating a hearty meal, in which some recall the King to have a turkey leg in his hand, which never existed in the painting.
Another prevalent Mandela Effect (3) noted by Snopes.com in an article about the phenomenon concerns the death of Billy Graham. The much-loved American evangelist is still alive but some claim they remember his death, which they might be confusing with the televised funeral of his wife or the retirement of Billy Graham.
Though, as Snopes highlights, the example of the Mandela Effect to create the biggest stir online is the one involving the children’s book and TV series The Berenstain/Berenstein Bears. Many who grew up reading the books and watching the series insist the name Berenstein ended in “ein” instead of “ain”. Some go further to claim that the bear’s name was changed at some point to make it sound “less Jewish”.
Broome believes that such erroneous memories are not simply errors in the memory but they:
“Exceed the normal range of forgetfulness. Even stranger, other people seem to have identical memories.”
Causes of Mandela Effect
So what exactly causes these strange collective memories that bear little resemblance to the truth yet are upheld by large communities of people?
One theory is that the Mandela Effect is a story of parallel universes, due to the fact that large numbers of people have the same memories about past events.
Those who believe this parallel universes theory claim that a “fabric of reality” must have been changed at some point in the past for such collective memories to be true. Consequently, as (3) Know Your Meme writes:
Not only do parallel, inhabitable universes exist, but that we are constantly switching between them.”
Another theory used to describe the strange Mandela Effect phenomenon is associated with a device created for the Star Trek series known as a ‘holodeck’. The holodeck is a Star Trek instrument which generates a virtual reality experience for recreational purposes. Within this theory, the memory glitches people experience are, in actual fact, software glitches which create inconsistencies in people’s perception of reality.
Other, some might argue, more logical, explanations for the Mandela Effect are (4) mapped out on Debunking Mandela Effects.com. Perhaps the most logical is the Misinformation Effect, which is based on the surmise that misinformation affects people’s memory and seeing a claim from another person can sway the recollection of another person’s memory.
Whether you believe the more fantastical theories about the Mandela Effect that we bounce in and out of some kind of parallel universe, or are of the belief that these collective mis-memories are merely caused by people’s memory being swayed by the misinformation of others, we have to admit that the Mandela Effect is actually kinda freaky.
References & Image Credits:
(1) TSW: Nelson Mandela: The Enduring Legacy and His Fight for Life
(2) Mandela Effect
(4) Know Your Meme
(5) Debunking Mandela Effects