The Mandela Effect has been dismissed as mere memory disturbance. Linda Theodorou is not so sure.
By Linda Theodorou
I’ve never been a conspiracy theorist. I know for a fact the earth is round, I strongly believe that man has landed on the moon (though I reserve judgement on ALL the footage – some of it is just too neat!) and I’m pretty sure the Bermuda Triangle is just a concatenation of magnetic forces. Yes, I’m a creative synesthete with an overactive imagination, but I like to think of myself as eminently logical at the end of the day. I mean, I’m British – try telling your relatives that Elvis lives, and you soon learn the value of cold, hard fact (along with the precise meaning of the word ‘piffle’). But lately, something has come to my notice that I’ve been finding impossible to dismiss as utter nonsense. And while it’s sent the left side of my brain into a spin, there’s just too much evidence to consign the concept to the Purely Coincidence/Fanciful Notion bin. It’s called ‘The Mandela Effect’. And you too could be casualty…
First – and bear with me here – three quick questions. 1) When did Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid activist and all-round good guy, pass away? Don’t think about it, just answer instinctively. 2) Get a mental picture of the world map. Focus on the Orient, and zoom in on Japan. Where is it, exactly, in relation to China? And 3) What colour is chartreuse? – Don’t look it up (or phone a friend or ask the audience), just picture the first colour you see in your head.
There’s a reason for these seemingly unrelated questions, and I’m getting to it. But first, let’s look at the correct answers. Mandela died in 2013 – fairly peacefully, and free from everything save a prolonged respiratory infection. Japan, well – look at a world map. And chartreuse is a greeny-yellow, a sort of cross between neon and lime. But for me, these answers – while eminently Googleable and proven fact-– are all incorrect. Because I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Mandela died in prison in the eighties; I am 100 per cent sure that Japan is much further south than is cartographically evidenced; and chartreuse – far from being the kind of colour you’d be seeing coming up the wrong way if you’d had a bad head of broccoli – is actually, to my mind, a pleasant pinky red.
Am I mad? Well, no. Not according to the so-called Mandela Effect. Because I – and possibly you – are part of a growing number of people who are beginning to realise that all is not what it seems – or what we’ve always known to be true. Many of us are solid academics in high-powered jobs (not sandwich-board swathed hippies with an axe to grind and a screw loose) who clearly, irrefutably, remember their sorrow when Mandela – may he rest in peace – died in a South African gaol cell in the late eighties. And this, along with a host of other ‘facts’ that we know to be true, is the crux of the matter. Something, it seems, Has Changed – and it’s not our memories.
The Mandela Effect postulates an answer. It suggests a myriad of alternate universes, in which a large number of people have, at some point in the recent past, ended up in the Wrong One! The science behind this is fairly sound. Much lauded by those who make quantum mechanics their business, it’s known as the Many Worlds Interpretation: “an interpretation of quantum mechanics that asserts the objective reality of the universal wavefunction and denies the actuality of wavefunction collapse.” In layman’s terms, this implies an infinite number of universes, in which everything that could possibly have happened in our past but did not, has occurred in the past of some other universe or universes. And it’s pretty popular, resolving all sorts of quantum inconsistencies including the EPR paradox (named for its originators, eminent scientists Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen) and the problem of Schrodinger’s cat.
Even Elon Musk – founder of Space X, Tesla and PayPal and the authority on everything future – has suggested there may be some truth to the idea of multiple realties and states quite firmly that “the odds we are actually living in base reality are one in billions.” In other words, the parallel reality of my youth – in which Mandela popped his clogs in prison, and Rice Krispies were not named by a dyslexic advertising exec – is not the world in which I now live. Somewhere along the line, I’ve unwittingly tripped from one universe to the next. And if any of the examples sound familiar, then maybe you have too…
Consider spellings. If you know it be ‘Rice Crispies’, you too may have stumbled into the wrong reality. Apparently it’s ‘Rice Krispies’. And yet as a child who read everything they could get their hands on, including all the cereal boxes on the breakfast table, I clearly recall the capital ‘C’. If there had been a ‘K’ on the old snap, crackle and pop, I’m pretty sure it would have bothered my pedantically grammatical little mind, and stuck with me as a source of constant annoyance. Kit-Kat is another. Turns out there’s no hyphen. So why do I so vividly remember eating down to the dash, and saving the rest for later? And – following on from the cartographical anomaly that is Japan – when did Australia get that close to Papua New Guinea, and why does South America now appear to be at least 1000km to the east of where it once was?
Granted, it’s all pretty damn wild. But there seem to be just too many coincidences to dismiss this as pure supposition. And so, while the majority of you, dear readers, are probably thinking about turning the page, putting in a quick call to the owners of Ayia Skepi and sending heartfelt letters of condolence to my loved ones, the odd few may just be having the kind of moment experienced by the bathing Archimedes, an orchard-bound Newton and a slovenly Alexander Fleming. Because how is it that hundreds of people – seemingly without any connection or similarity of emotional factors – are all misremembering Exactly The Same Things?
Detractors of the theory suggest it’s all down to cognitive dissonance: “The mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds beliefs, ideas, or values and is confronted by new information which conflicts with existing data.” But why should I care that I’m wrong? I live for learning new things; if I discovered I’d been inveterately incorrect in one of my closely-held assumptions, I’d happily adopt a new position. (For heaven’s sake, I thought the word was ‘pacifically’ for years: that didn’t faze me at all!) But The Mandela Effect is nothing to do with acquiring new information: in contrast, it’s all to do with memory, and knowing yours is 100 per cent spot on… despite the fact that if you type ‘Mandela Effect’ into Wikipedia you’re whisked straight to a page entitled ‘Confabulation’ (“a memory disturbance, defined as the production of fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive)!”
Look. At the end of the day, I may be totally nuts. Nine of the ten people I’ve told about this have suggested (in soothing tones, while subtly scanning for sharp objects) that The Work May Be Getting To Me. But one – an eminently down-to-earth colleague with an incredibly sound knowledge of events both past and present – appeared utterly shell-shocked by my revelations, storming into my office not 10 minutes later in total disbelief that Japan had moved a thousand kilometres; that Rice Krispies had changed their brand spelling; and that Mandela had died peacefully in his bed. Three years ago.
Perhaps, one day, physics will prove that my colleague and I (plus thousands of others who have exactly the same memories) have indeed stepped from one reality to another. Or maybe the mathematicians will postulate a theory which explains these mass mis-recollections, and ascribers will be publicly shamed in the manner of Game of Thrones’ Cersei. But for now, I’m going to reserve judgement and look to a maxim of the past – not the future – for my defence… ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy…’
For more information (and an amusing quiz), on The Mandela Effect, suspend your disbelief and visit www.mandelaeffect.com