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The Mandela Effect

May 15, 2017

At least a trace of everything that’s ever happened or existed can be found on the internet. Except when it can’t. Obviously, this means there’s a conspiracy at play, or time travel, or “alternate timelines.” Those are the reasons some people out there have given to explain the bizarre cultural phenomenon of a collective, incorrect memory of a news event or pop cultural item. Here’s a look inside “the Mandela Effect.”
The Mandela Effect
The Mandela Effect is a bizarre psychological and cultural phenomenon in which a large group of people all have the same false memory about something. It gets its name from the fact that thousands of people all over the world believe that South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 1980s. He didn’t, of course—he was released from prison in 1990 and was elected president of his country in 1992, and died in 2013.
Many people online are convinced that sometime in the early ‘90s, the popular ‘90s comedian and actor Sinbad starred in a family movie as a genie. In forums on Reddit and on other sites, dozens claim to remember watching said movie when they were children, and compare plot points. Does this sound familiar to you? If it does, you’re probably thinking of the 1996 family movie Shazam, in which Shaquille O’Neal, not Sinbad, played a genie. Or, as Sinbad himself said on Twitter, conflating Shazam with the fact that in 1994 he was an on-air host on the cable channel TNT, and he once played an afternoon of Sinbad the Sailor movies while dressed in a turban…the kind of headgear a genie might wear.
In early 2016, rumors began swirling around the internet that a great percentage of people alive today have arrived in this reality from an alternate universe—an alternate universe in which Stan and Jan Berenstein wrote children’s books about the Berenstein Bears. Because in this reality, it’s spelled Berenstain—that’s with an “a,” not an “e.” Similar to the Sinbad genie movie, people swear that they read Berenstein Bears books as children and only something truly cosmic could explain the discrepancy, and not, say, fuzzy childhood memories of how a name was spelled.
Another example of the Mandela Effect: misremembered movie and TV quotes. Some of the most famous quotes from the screen were never actually said at all, such as “beam me up Scotty,” from Star Trek, or “Luke, I am your father” from The Empire Strikes Back. They’ve been misquoted for so long and so often that they become embedded in the cultural consciousness that way, incorrectly. Even if you think you heard Darth Vader say those exact words…you didn’t. (Or maybe you’re from an alternate dimension.)

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