The Mandela Effect: The Trouble with False Memory.


Remember the last time you said something you knew full-well to be absolutely correct, only to be told that you were wrong?

Worse yet, when you asked for proof it was provided you in glaring detail?

Well, you are not alone!

Before we go down this collective rabbit-hole together, let me state this: I am always remembering things badly. I am going to go on record as saying that, I am human, and humans are fallible in our memories and in our judgement. I also tend to be very certain of something, until the moment I am proven wrong. I was sure Berenstein Bears were among my favorite children’s books, not Berenstains!

So, what comes up when this happens to you? Do you think you were mistaken and then recall back to someone else, for instance, discussing “the Berenstein Bears books”? Perhaps, a passive listening experience convinced you of the spelling via pronunciation and you never thought to question it.

Or, it’s a glitch in the matrix.

A glimpse into an alternative reality, one we were never meant to see.

The Mandela Effect is the brainchild of Fiona Broome, author, ghost hunter, and self-described researcher of all things paranormal. Around 2010, Broome launched to promote her theory. According to Broome, via her website, The Mandela Effect “is what happens when someone has a clear memory of something that never happened in this reality.” By “this reality” Broome means to say that there are more realities and, further, that those people who report experiences such as those featured on her website are “sliding” between realities.

The term stems from a conversation Broome had with another person, referred to as Shadow, where they both recounted their vivid recollection of Nelson Mandela’s dying while still in a South African prison. This, if you were unaware, did not happen.

From there, Broome started her website and began collecting memories, apparently proof that many had experienced The Mandela Effect and, often, recounting the same discrepancies between this reality and ‘the other(s)’.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 m.e. amazon
And, yes, Fiona Broome has Mandela Effect merch!

Here’s where a brief interjection of logic comes in. I know, boring, factual logic. The psychological phenomenon here is called confabulation and is caused by many documented memory disorders, such as Korsakoff’s Syndrome. Confabulation, by other names, has been shown to be common among the general public: psychology student Jim Coan showed that intentionally suggesting a false memory to a third-party was both easy and undetectable. His ‘Lost in the Mall‘ technique was an example of memory implantation.

It is also important to note that memory implantation and confabulation have a psychological phenomenon closely related called False Memory Syndrome (FMS). FMS occurs when personal relationships and/or identity is altered by memories which are false but which are nonetheless strongly believed.

False Memory Expert Elizabeth Loftus explains her work during her Ted Talk.

If we are talking memory, we are talking about the brain. How memory is formed, formatted, altered and recalled in the brain is not outside of the realm of human understanding, it has been studied for years. The brain has shown that memory is fallible, even questionable, especially when considering communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. If a memory were to be altered, or reinterpreted in the case of a person whose belief system had undergone a drastic change, it is likely that the person whose memory it was would only be able to perceive the current version of that memory; or else, envision the previous version as some strange fantasy (or in the case of Fiona Broome, an alternative ‘timestream’). The memory implantation in Coan’s ‘Lost in the Mall’ experiments were done intentionally to study cognitive psychology and always followed by a debriefing of the test subjects to prevent long-term effects, however, the ease to which such memory implantation was demonstrated strongly suggests that it may happen more often and even unintentionally.

One such flap of unintentional memory implantation occurred in the 1980s and 1990s during the so-called ‘Satanic Panic’. Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) was believed to be occurring throughout the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, due to rumors and legends sensationalized and legitimized by mass media and reinforced by Fundamentalist Christians, law enforcement and mental health professionals. After rigorous investigation by Anthropologists and Sociologists, no actual evidence of any SRA was uncovered. Though law enforcement sought convictions for the accused, there is no record of any forensic evidence used in the pursuit of said convictions. That did not stop the memories of various children who reported SRA, however, nor did it hasten the overturning of convictions of those most commonly convicted of satanic abuse; daycare attendants, teacher, or the children’s parents themselves.

SRA is one extreme example of False Memory Syndrome spreading into a sort of massive social contagion of memory implantation. The rapid spread of false memories in this case would not have been possible before the advent of mass media and, as such, the implication of Television (talk shows and televangelists) in spreading the SRA fervor is justified. Before mass media (TV, Radio, etc.), it was still possible to have been spread through books (technically, a form of mass media). So it is with the internet and the spread of such unfounded and demonstrably false claims as those encapsulated within The Mandela Effect.

The following are some alternative memories, quoted from Fiona Broome’s website:

  • There were 51 or 52 States (not counting territories or the District of Columbia).
  • Berenstain or Berenstein Bears?
  • Billy Graham’s Funeral on TV.
  • Challenger Shuttle Explosion Date? 1984, 1985, or 1986?
  • Lindbergh Baby Never Found.
  • Betty White dead.
  • Brian Dennehy dead.
  • 9/11 happened on 9/10
  • Hurricane Katrina happened in April, 2005 or August of another year.
  • Alaska’s Coastline Changed.
  • Africa’s Coastline Changed.
  • Japan moved.
  • North Korea moved.
  • ‘Arctica’ did not always exist


Around this point, you may be wondering how geography came into question. The general consensus among those who entertain the idea of The Mandela Effect is that geography has changed quite a bit from their memory; another supposed change is the location, size and shape of Sri Lanka (using Ptolemy’s cartography to suggest that Ceylon/Sri Lanka was once off the Western Coast of India). Arctica seems to be an unintentional typo referring to Antarctica; still, it apparently just recently ‘appeared’.


The discussion on the alternative geography includes the a humorous clip from the West Wing (above), showing how different maps have distorted the perceptions of even highly educated people regarding the locations, shapes, and sizes of the world’s various land-masses.

“These guys find Brigadoon on that map, you’ll call me, right?”

“Probably not.”

It is fitting that I make the allusion to this scene to disprove the point that Fiona Broome attempts to make with it. The Mandela Effect is confabulation writ large and aided by the mass media saturation and the hubris that comes with the commons of the internet. Everyone seems to pose as an expert, constantly announcing and pronouncing, regularly excommunicating and chiding those ‘sheeple’ that disagree.

Here is some more ‘proof’. One devout Christian vlogger, going by the YouTube handle Photohelix, reviews his bible to see that changes in wording do no mesh with his recollection. He cites the CERN particle physics lab, often suggested as being a satanic endeavor to bring demons onto the earth, as a potential source of all the ‘unexplained’ changes.


Another Christian vlogger, Nephtali, has a different suggestion as to the origin of The Mandela Effect, that the claims of such an effect are, themselves, a satanic deception perpetrated by ‘occultist’ Fiona Broome.



Here is a third YouTube video from regular conspiracy vloggers, Bonnie and John, who were also featured on Conspiracy Theory Digest in 2014 due to their theory regarding Sigil Magick on Digital Television. Bonnie and John also heavily promote their belief in a Flat Earth as well as the standard Illuminati cover-ups.



Every one of these vloggers is convinced that they are ‘awake’ and you are ‘asleep’ and in need of waking up.

The map is not the territory. Memory is not fact. This, to believers in the Mandela Effect, go counter their worldview. They see themselves as those ‘in the know’ and their memories are proof of their knowledge. The general insignificance of the majority of these ‘shift’ claims (celebrity gossip and mistaken medieval cartography) shows the general mismatch these peoples’ claims with their overall state of alarm.

It is actually obviously more likely that I have incorrectly remembered an event or piece of datum when it is shown that I am wrong, yet I know that I will likely still want to believe the original version of the event or interpretation of said datum regardless of the facts. If I were still, as I once was, inclined to paranormal, mystical and/or occult beliefs I may have perhaps adopted a belief in The Mandela Effect … but, perhaps not.

Why is it that we cannot accept that our memories, from the genuinely arbitrary to the profoundly physical reality, can be completely incorrect?

I refer, again, to the West Wing clip. When C.J. Cregg is shown how the map of the world if oriented upside-down, she insists “but you can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s freaking me out.”


See Also: Christian Biblical Literalists consider The Mandela Effect with regard to a ‘changing’ King James’ Bible.

Victim of Mandela Effect not sure if Columbine shooting occurred in 1999 or 1996.


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