Humans are flawed. Our minds naturally forget and delete memories, but when many people recall something wrong, is it because of misinformation, or— some believe—have we been plunged into a separate timeline?
The Mandela effect is named after Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, because many had believed that he’d died in a prison in the 1980s, and they realised their mistake when his actual death on December 5th, 2013, was broadcasted on TV. So how did so many people across the globe believe that he had died in 1980 when he didn’t? Those who claim that he died in 1980 even say they remember his wife giving a heart touching eulogy, and the country grieving for his death.
Fiona Broome was one of the first people to realise that many people remember his death like she did. As she dug deeper, she found multiple other people who had misremembered other facts like a company logo, or a character’s design. In 2009, she started a website called Mandela effect, where she compiled all her research, but it didn’t start to get popular until 2010, when all the theories started snowballing into this giant conspiracy. This phenomenon was then dubbed the Mandela effect by Broome (and her website), after the death that kicked the first domino over and started all the weird and nonsensical theories.
The Mandela theorists are mostly made up of average middle aged citizens, and the occasional scientist. From random TikTok videos, to scientific articles, each person has varying degrees of belief on this topic. Some believe in the whole “separate timeline through weird means” thing while others only believe that the effect itself is real, and don’t look into the “why.” The more intense believers have some extremely wild theories on how the Mandela effect came to be, from shifting between parallel universes to us being in a separate timeline because of a particle accelerator.
Many claim that the only reason why collective misremembering happens is because of some space-time magic mumbo-jumbo, but there’s also a very possible scientific explanation. Our brains naturally fill in blanks in our memory with false ones; when we receive false information, we sometimes create memories so vivid that we completely believe it. This could be an explanation for the Mandela effect: as one person misremembered certain details, they went online (as we usually do) and post about how they swore the end of pikachu’s tail had a black stripe, or how the Berenstain Bears was spelled Berenstein. As people read this, they might go “hmmm that sounds right,” and their brain starts to fill with these new, false memories. When more and more people see something like this, it spreads.
The Mandela effect is more dramatic than this though. Some say that the cause of this odd effect is because we’ve been thrown into a separate timeline or dimension caused by particles being slammed together.
The Large Hadron Collider — a particle accelerator at CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research) is often the boogeyman to blame for these theorists. Scientists use this invention to propel charged particles at extremely high speeds, then slam the particles on either a target or each other, letting scientists observe these collisions and further understand matter and the universe as we know it. But Mandela theorists believe that the particle accelerator managed to slam the particles hard enough that it moved us into another timeline, one where there are small changes to certain things.
Although I’m not 100% sure how protons and electrons work — and really, who is? — I am pretty sure slamming them together at high speeds does not move an entire population of around 7.7 billion people into a completely different timeline. There’s also some incredibly detailed research behind how quantum theory and technology related to it caused the Mandela effect, and these articles contain so much information that it makes me wonder what all these people do in life.
Though the Mandela effect started off as a lighthearted joke and grew into something that gave many existential crises, as of now, the current generation is making it into a joke. If you search up “Mandela effect,” the majority of what comes up will be memes.
Many of the people who still genuinely believe in this phenomenon also believe in a flat earth, faked moon landing, and the lizard people. Is this just different generations dealing with existential crises differently, or do people just have too much time on their hands?
Cover Image: Beboy Photographies from Flickr