Monthly Mysteries: The Mandela Effect

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Jacey Sola

It is popular belief that in, “Star Wars: What Episode V-The Empire Strikes Back,” Darth Vader says, “Luke, I am your father.” Also in the movie, “Forrest Gump,” the phrase, “life is a box of chocolates,” was said by Forrest Gump. What if both of these phrases were never actually said? Darth Vader truly said, “No, I am your father,” and Forrest Gump said,” life was like a box of chocolates.” This is the phenomenon known as the Mandela Effect.

The Mandela Effect occurs when a significant amount of people remember an event or thing differently than what truly occurred. Some other examples include the Cheez-it as the correct name instead of Cheez-its, Froot Loops being correct instead of Fruit loops, and the untrue misconceptions that Curious George had a tail, the monopoly man had a monocle, and Pikachu having a black-tipped tail.

The phenomenon was named after Nelson Mandela who was a South African civil rights leader and the first president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. Mandela was incarcerated and served 18 years at Robben Island Prison in Cape Town from 1964-1982. It was a widespread belief that Mandela actually died in prison during the ‘80s, but he actually lived until his death in 2013. 

This belief inspired paranormal consultant Fiona Broome to coin the term “Mandela Effect” after she too had the false memory of Mandela’s death. After speaking with others, she found out that many other people also remember tragedy and seeing news coverage of Mandela’s death. She found it odd that so many people, including herself, had remembered an event that never actually occurred in history. This inspired her to create a website to research more about similar Mandela effect incidents.

The idea of alternate or parallel universes from quantum physics has been used as a theory for the explanation of this phenomena. Quantum physicians theorize that there are multiple alternate realities that are occurring and mixing during the timeline of our lives. Conspiracy theorists believe that this can be applied to the Mandela Effect in that our timeline has been altered as we shift between these realities, or that these memories actually come from alternate or parallel universes and we are recalling events from these alternate realities. Although this theory may actually be true, it seems far fetched and is unlikely to actually be correct.

A more realistic theory comes from the idea of false memories. A possible explanation for the phenomenon is that our memory may be faulty and our recollections of an event may be untrue or inaccurate. Also, our memories can be affected by our surroundings, such as the internet or the people around us, and this can alter the way we remember or recall an event. If a person comes across a description of a certain event off the internet for example, the description may be incorrect and therefore lead to a misinterpretation of what truly occurred.

Despite all of the theories, the truth of the real cause of the Mandela Effect is still unknown and it is an occurrence that is still unexplained. It still remains a big mystery today.