by Josie Kafka
In 2010, Fiona Broome coined the term “Mandela Effect” to describe a mass mis-remembering. The inspiration for the term comes from Nelson Mandela. Fiona Broome is certain he died in the 1980s in prison, and she’s not the only one. But in this reality, Nelson Mandela died in 2013.
According to Broome’s website, this is not simply a case of confusion or confabulation. Rather, it is proof positive that there are alternate realities, and we sometimes shift between them. As Broome puts it: “This isn’t a conspiracy, and we’re not talking about ‘false memories.’ Many of us speculate that parallel realities exist, and we’ve been ‘sliding’ between them without realizing it.”
Broome’s theory took off in 2016—and it’s not just Nelson Mandela who is up for grabs. Common MEs, as the lingo goes, include the spelling of the children’s book series The Berenstain Bears, the world map, brand names, and the lyrics to Queen’s “We are the Champions.” Buzzfeed, of course, has a listicle on the Top 20 MEs here.
Snopes has debunked the theory, pointing out that it seems unlikely that we’re all sliding between realities. They are less certain about a corollary explanation, that we’re all experiencing glitches in the holodeck matrix that sustains our constructed reality. That theory, as they coyly acknowledge, cannot be debunked, since philosophers—well, one philosopher—have proved that it’s more likely we’re living in a simulation than not. Click here for a link to the peer-reviewed article on how The Matrix was more real than you want it to be.
If philosophy and logical games aren’t your bag, you can wander over to Reddit, the sanest corner of the insane multiverse. The Mandela Effects subreddit is a fascinating place to spend some time, as you can witness some people having their world shaken up, others dismissing it all as nonsense, and very few people seriously considering what it would mean that alternate realities exist or whether it’s significant that many of these MEs are things we (mis)learned as children.
As for me, I firmly believe that we’re all starting to slip from one reality to the next. It’s likely a sign of the impending apocalypse, or possibly a mystical and poorly-explained comet. I grew up in a world of The Berenstein Bears, now I don’t know what’s true anymore, and I wish you all a happy New Year.
This Week in Bears is a weekly (more or less) post about all things bear-related. The nature of what “related” means in this context will be determined by Sam T. Bear and his plucky sidekick, Josie Kafka. The nature of what “bear” means is unknowable to human brains; all we can do is read, hope for enlightenment, and provide more honey for them to eat.