What’s the Mandela Effect?

Have you ever believed something like an event to be so true you feel it in your bones, but then you find out that someone else remembers something else entirely? Surprise—that's the Mandela Effect! 

Why is it called the Mandela Effect? Many people mistakenly believe that Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, died in prison in the 1980s, but Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and died on December 5, 2013, at the age of 95.

What causes these "false" memories, and are they really false? Some people believe it's because there are parallel universes that we sometimes cross over. Terms like "alternate memories" and "alternate realities" are sometimes used to describe the phenomenon. The X-Files episode "The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat", opens a new window (aired January 24, 2018) delved into the Mandela Effect. You can also listen to a short NPR podcast, opens a new window about popular Mandela Effect memories.

EXAMPLE 1: Do you remember Forrest Gump's famous quote, opens a new window as, "Life was like a box of chocolates" or "Life is like a box of chocolates"?

EXAMPLE 2: If I said, "Mirror, mirror on the wall," you could probably finish the rest of the quote from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. But the Evil Queen actually says, "Magic mirror on the wall, opens a new window." 

EXAMPLE 3: Remember those popular children's books about the family of bears by the authors Stan and Jan Berenstain? Or do you remember the authors as as Stan and Jan Berenstein? Have we been pronouncing the Berenstain Bears, opens a new window wrong this entire time?

EXAMPLE 4: Do you remember Bugs Bunny and friends as Looney Toons or Looney Tunes, opens a new window? Or did we mix up Looney Tunes with Tiny Toons, opens a new window

EXAMPLE 5: Who doesn't love mischievous monkey Curious George, opens a new window? Some people swear he had a tail. What do you remember?

Can't get enough? Stream Memento on Kanopy, opens a new window, directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Guy Pearce as a man searching for his wife's killer while suffering from a rare and untreatable form of memory loss.