10 Examples of the Mandela Effect

Tom Cruise stars in Risky Business (1983).
Tom Cruise stars in Risky Business (1983).
Warner Home Video

Would you believe us if we told you the most famous line of 1980’s Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, was never uttered? Darth Vader doesn’t reveal his paternity to Luke Skywalker by saying, “Luke, I am your father.” He actually says, “No, I am your father.” The line is but one instance of what blogger Fiona Broome dubbed the “Mandela Effect” a decade ago, after she learned that a number of people shared her erroneous belief that human rights activist Nelson Mandela had perished in prison in the 1980s. (He died a free man in 2013.)

With apologies to conspiracy theorists, the idea of a shared false memory isn’t proof of alternate realities. It’s simply a product of how our brain works to retrieve information. “What we know about false memory is that it arises through the reconstruction process,” Gene Brewer, Ph.D., an associate professor in cognitive psychology at Arizona State University, tells Mental Floss. “When you recall an event, you use memories around it, taking elements or pieces of other events and fitting them where they make sense.”

Take a look at 10 of the more prevalent examples of things that people swear are real but are merely a product of the brain’s imperfect recall.

1. The Monopoly Man’s Monocle

Scott Olson, Getty Images

For decades, Rich Uncle Pennybags (or Mr. Monopoly) has been the de facto mascot for Monopoly, the Parker Brothers (now Hasbro) game that somehow made real estate exciting. Some insist Pennybags completes his top hat and business attire ensemble with a monocle, but that’s not true. He’s never worn one. People appear to be conflating his depiction with that of Mr. Peanut, the Planters mascot who sports a single corrective lens. That’s because our brain can easily take subjects with similar traits and blend them together. “In studies, when you show participants word pairs and ask them to remember ‘blackmail’ and ‘jailbird,’ half of them will later say they remember learning the word blackbird,” Brewer says.

2. Jiffy Peanut Butter

If you looked forward to your school lunch break because your parent or guardian packed a Jiffy peanut butter sandwich, your childhood may be a lie. While both Jif and Skippy brands have lined store shelves, there’s never been a “Jiffy” brand. “They may have had a false memory by incorporating elements in the reconstruction process of Jif and Skippy,” Brewer says. “Now that’s encoded in their memory, and the false memory is what they’re remembering. They don’t remember the experience of seeing it but the experience of falsely remembering.”

3. “Hello, Clarice”

The tense meetings between imprisoned cannibal Hannibal Lecter and FBI agent Clarice Starling fueled 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs, based on the Thomas Harris novel. “Hello, Clarice” has become a default line reading for people looking to emulate Anthony Hopkins’s creepy Lecter. But the killer never says the line in the movie. Instead, he says “Good morning” when meeting Starling for the first time. People remember Lecter greeting Starling and remember him saying “Clarice” in a melodic tone, creating a false memory of a classic non-quote. “Your memory can try to recreate things based on available evidence using context cues,” Brewer says.

4. The Fruit of the Loom Label

Neilson Barnard, Getty Images

Some people have a fond recollection of a cornucopia of fruit on the label inside this popular brand of underwear. But the fruit was never spilling out of a basket: It was always illustrated as a pile of food. “The more exposure we get to things like advertising, the more memories for things become decontextualized,” Brewer says. In other words, people who remember the cornucopia might not have a distinct memory of pulling on a pair of briefs and seeing it. “They remember fruit was involved, and then begin to think, ‘Well, how is fruit usually portrayed? Okay, maybe a cornucopia.’ That’s reconstruction.”

5. A Frowning Mona Lisa

Leonardo da Vinci’s painting is among the most famous works of art in recorded history. So why do so many admirers insist the demure subject of the portrait is frowning instead of correctly describing her with a smirk? Brewer can’t say for certain, but conjuring an image of the painting might involve filling in the blanks with segments of other paintings. “It would be interesting to look at the statistical frequencies of frowns, not smiling, or smiling in paintings,” he says. “Maybe people are just taking the statistical regularity of the [art] environment. People get exposed to a lot of art where people aren’t smiling.”

6. Ed McMahon and the Publishers Clearing House

Do you recall The Tonight Show sidekick Ed McMahon showing up on doorsteps to hand people oversized checks and balloons because they struck it rich in the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes? McMahon never made any house calls. He endorsed American Family Publishers. While the entities were similar, McMahon never appeared on camera as part of the Prize Patrol. It’s an example of what Brewer refers to as source confusion: You may remember a detail like McMahon appearing on television but not the source—in this case, a rival sweepstakes promotion.

7. The Berenstain Bears Fail a Spelling Bee

The Berenstain Bears have been imparting life lessons for children in a series of illustrated books since 1962. The bears are even named after their creators, Stan and Jan Berenstain, meaning the name appears at least twice on the book covers. So why do some readers insist it’s spelled “Berenstein”? It’s likely due to the fact kids may have seen the name misspelled in newspaper articles or in handwritten references from other kids or adults. According to Brewer, it’s a bit of a self-perpetuating problem: “There were studies in the 1980s that showed when students were exposed to misspelled words in an education setting as a way to test their spelling proficiency, the misspelled words got recorded in their memory and interfered with their ability to spell the words correctly in the future.”

8. C-3PO’s Golden Moment

The Mandela Effect is strong in Star Wars fans, who sometimes err in quoting the film’s dialogue but also recall protocol droid C-3PO as having a gold-plated chassis. And he does—with one notable exception. The lower portion of his right leg below the knee was silver when we first saw him, a fact that sometimes surprises people who have seen the original trilogy dozens of times. “People trying to reconstruct an event are taking whatever information they can, which can mean glossing over things or making inferences,” Brewer says. Unless you stared at the droid’s leg, you probably just assumed he was the same color all over.

9. Risky Business

Remember Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear, a dress shirt, and Ray-Bans while home alone in 1983’s Risky Business? Your brain got most of it right. If you watch that now-iconic scene again, you may be surprised to see Cruise isn’t wearing sunglasses. The mistake likely comes from seeing Cruise in the shades in other scenes or in the film’s advertising material. “When you watch a movie, it’s a big chunk of information,” Brewer says. “And a lot of things happen in that chunk. When you go back to recreate it, you’ll get interference from other things that happened in the movie.”

10. Kazaam, not Shazam

Shaquille O'Neal in Kazaam (1996).Kino Lorber

The most startling example of the Mandela Effect? The widespread belief that an entire feature film exists titled Shazam (or Shazaam) starring actor and comedian Sinbad as a genie. What people are recollecting is probably Kazaam, a 1996 comedy starring NBA great Shaquille O’Neal as a wish-granting mystical figure. Part of the confusion stems from the fact that Sinbad appeared in several children’s films in the 1990s. One of them, First Kid, reportedly had a preview for Kazaam on the VHS release, which could have strengthened the tendency to reconstruct the actor as starring in it rather than O’Neal. This one is so convincing even Brewer himself says he’s caught himself “remembering” it.

Should these processes that lead to false memories be considered flaws? Not exactly. Current theories in psychology are exploring the idea that our ability to cull details from past experiences to create theoretical concepts is actually part of a survival mechanism. “Taking episodes from our past allows us to construct possible futures and anticipate those events,” Brewer says. “It makes us adaptive to new environments.” Like living in a world without Jiffy.

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

SIGN UP TODAY: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping Newsletter!

Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

6 Fascinating Facts About Vincent Price

There’s more to Vincent Price than just his iconic horror movie roles.
There’s more to Vincent Price than just his iconic horror movie roles.
Photoshot/Getty Images

It’s basically impossible to talk about classic horror movies without mentioning at least one film starring Vincent Price. With his menacing voice, laugh, and presence, Price easily became a staple in Hollywood horror cinema. The actor may be known for House of Wax (1953), The Last Man on Earth (1964), and The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), but he has more than 200 acting credits across film, television, and theater.

Although his contributions to the horror genre are truly unparalleled, few people know that there is much more to him beyond these performances. He once wrote that he is passionate about three things: work, art, and food. Here are six fascinating facts you may not know about Vincent Price.

1. Vincent Price initially studied for a master’s degree in Fine Arts.

Price graduated from Yale University with a degree in English and a minor in Art History. He taught at his alma mater for a year before entering the Courtauld Institute of Art of the University of London. Although he fully intended to study for a master’s degree in Fine Arts, he was drawn to theater and decided to become an actor instead.

2. A museum in East Los Angeles is named after Vincent Price.

In addition to being an actor, Price was also a well-respected art collector and consultant. In 1957, he and his then-wife Mary Grant donated 90 pieces of art to the East Los Angeles College (ELAC) because they wanted students to have “first-hand experiences with art.” The institution named the art gallery, now the Vincent Price Art Museum, in their honor. Price had recognized art’s significance in education ever since he was a student himself. As he once said, "A picture was worth a thousand words, even if I had to read 10 million words to get to see more pictures.”

3. Vincent Price was a major foodie.

Vincent Price was as talented in the kitchen as he was on the screen.Frank Barratt/Stringer/Getty Images

Price was born into a family of food businessmen, so it's perhaps no surprise that he embarked upon his own culinary adventures. He went on to earn a reputation as a gourmet cook, cementing his culinary legacy by authoring several cookbooks and hosting his own cooking television show, Cooking Price-Wise.

4. Tim Burton’s Vincent Price documentary remains incomplete and unreleased to this day.

Price was Tim Burton’s good friend, frequent collaborator, and childhood idol. During the filming of Edward Scissorhands (1990), Burton approached Price to discuss the idea of an independent documentary about the actor’s life. They shot some interviews at the ELAC, and the project was tentatively titled Conversations with Vincent.

After Price’s death, Burton wanted to complete the documentary, which he then renamed A Visit with Vincent. However, it never happened. Some say the film wasn’t released because it became too personal for Burton, while others believe studios refused to grant any budget for the project.

5. Vincent Price's daughter says he was bisexual.

“I am as close to certain as I can be that my dad had physically intimate relationships with men,” said his daughter Victoria Price in an exclusive interview with #Boom Magazine. He was also supportive of her when she came out to him. She recalled that he said, “You know, I know just how you feel because I have had these deep, loving relationships with men in my life and all my wives were jealous.”

6. Vincent Price’s voice is featured on a Disneyland attraction.

With a voice as iconic and distinctive as Price had, it’s no wonder Disneyland Paris hired him to record narration for their dark ride attraction, Phantom Manor. However, the audio was shortly replaced by a French narration, so only Price’s evil laugh remained. After a major renovation in 2019, Walt Disney Imagineering brought back his recordings and included previously unused material in the refurbished attraction.