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

Four Monopoly games.
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

A man in red pants stands on stage in front of a sign that says "the next move" with the Fruit of the Loom logo—which consists of various fruits—on it.
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)
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.

10 of the Most Popular Portable Bluetooth Speakers on Amazon

Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon
Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon

As convenient as smartphones and tablets are, they don’t necessarily offer the best sound quality. But a well-built portable speaker can fill that need. And whether you’re looking for a speaker to use in the shower or a device to take on a long camping trip, these bestselling models from Amazon have you covered.

1. OontZ Angle 3 Bluetooth Portable Speaker; $26-$30 (4.4 stars)

Oontz portable bluetooth speaker
Cambridge Soundworks/Amazon

Of the 57,000-plus reviews that users have left for this speaker on Amazon, 72 percent of them are five stars. So it should come as no surprise that this is currently the best-selling portable Bluetooth speaker on the site. It comes in eight different colors and can play for up to 14 hours straight after a full charge. Plus, it’s splash proof, making it a perfect speaker for the shower, beach, or pool.

Buy it: Amazon

2. JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $110 (4.6 stars)

JBL portable bluetooth speaker
JBL/Amazon

This nifty speaker can connect with up to three devices at one time, so you and your friends can take turns sharing your favorite music. Its built-in battery can play music for up to 20 hours, and it can even charge smartphones and tablets via USB.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker; $25-$28 (4.6 stars)

Anker portable bluetooth speaker
Anker/Amazon

This speaker boasts 24-hour battery life and a strong Bluetooth connection within a 66-foot radius. It also comes with a built-in microphone so you can easily take calls over speakerphone.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker; $129 (4.4 stars)

Bose portable bluetooth speaker
Bose/Amazon

Bose is well-known for building user-friendly products that offer excellent sound quality. This portable speaker lets you connect to the Bose app, which makes it easier to switch between devices and personalize your settings. It’s also water-resistant, making it durable enough to handle a day at the pool or beach.

Buy it: Amazon

5. DOSS Soundbox Touch Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $28-$33 (4.4 stars)

DOSS portable bluetooth speaker
DOSS/Amazon

This portable speaker features an elegant system of touch controls that lets you easily switch between three methods of playing audio—Bluetooth, Micro SD, or auxiliary input. It can play for up to 20 hours after a full charge.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Altec Lansing Mini Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $15-$20 (4.3 stars)

Altec Lansing portable bluetooth speaker
Altec Lansing/Amazon

This lightweight speaker is built for the outdoors. With its certified IP67 rating—meaning that it’s fully waterproof, shockproof, and dust proof—it’s durable enough to withstand harsh environments. Plus, it comes with a carabiner that can attach to a backpack or belt loop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Tribit XSound Go Bluetooth Speaker; $33-$38 (4.6 stars)

Tribit portable bluetooth speaker
Tribit/Amazon

Tribit’s portable Bluetooth speaker weighs less than a pound and is fully waterproof and resistant to scratches and drops. It also comes with a tear-resistant strap for easy transportation, and the rechargeable battery can handle up to 24 hours of continuous use after a full charge. In 2020, it was Wirecutter's pick as the best budget portable Bluetooth speaker on the market.

Buy it: Amazon

8. VicTsing SoundHot C6 Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $18 (4.3 stars)

VicTsing portable bluetooth speaker
VicTsing/Amazon

The SoundHot portable Bluetooth speaker is designed for convenience wherever you go. It comes with a detachable suction cup and a carabiner so you can keep it secure while you’re showering, kayaking, or hiking, to name just a few.

Buy it: Amazon

9. AOMAIS Sport II Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $30 (4.4 stars)

AOMAIS portable bluetooth speaker
AOMAIS/Amazon

This portable speaker is certified to handle deep waters and harsh weather, making it perfect for your next big adventure. It can play for up to 15 hours on a full charge and offers a stable Bluetooth connection within a 100-foot radius.

Buy it: Amazon

10. XLEADER SoundAngel Touch Bluetooth Speaker; $19-$23 (4.4 stars)

XLeader portable bluetooth speaker
XLEADER/Amazon

This stylish device is available in black, silver, gold, and rose gold. Plus, it’s equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, a more powerful technology that can pair with devices up to 800 feet away. The SoundAngel speaker itself isn’t water-resistant, but it comes with a waterproof case for protection in less-than-ideal conditions.

Buy it: Amazon

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

10 Surprising Uses for Coffee That Don’t Involve Drinking It

Coffee is not a one-trick pony.
Coffee is not a one-trick pony.
RyanJLane/iStock via Getty Images

For the people who manage to make it through each day without tossing back cup after cup of Mother Nature’s deliciously bitter bean water, coffee might seem totally useless. And even if you do run on java, you may not realize how useful those leftover grounds can be. From fertilizing your garden to making boxed brownies taste homemade, here are 10 ways to make the most of coffee without drinking a drop.

1. Fix furniture scuffs and scratches.

You can claim the scuffs are what give your coffee table its character, but would you say the same if you knew how easy it was to get rid of them? This DIY stain from PopSugar calls for your leftover coffee grounds, 1/4 cup of warm water, and 1/4 cup of vinegar; shake the mixture, let it sit for at least an hour, and then rub it into furniture blemishes with a rag (you may need to apply a few layers for darker shades of wood).

2. Make an air freshener for just about anywhere.

Funnel some dried coffee grounds into an old pair of pantyhose and tie it off at the top for a simple air freshener that will neutralize funky smells in your fridge, car, gym bag, or any other place that has you wrinkling your nose.

3. Eliminate lingering odors on your hands.

hand scrub with coffee grounds
Soft, stench-free hands, courtesy of coffee.
iprogressman/iStock via Getty Images

The natural deodorizing property of coffee can help when you want to get a stubborn stench off your hands, too. Mix a pinch of coffee grounds into your soap and scrub until your fingers no longer smell like onions, garlic, or whatever else you’ve been chopping.

4. Exfoliate your face.

Finely ground coffee is gentle enough to use as a facial exfoliant, and it’s also packed with antioxidants that are great for your skin. This recipe from Nyakio Grieco, founder of the skincare line Nyakio Beauty, is a mixture of coffee grounds, brown sugar, avocado oil, and coconut oil, with additional options to modify it based on your skin type.

5. Fertilize your garden.

coffee grounds as plant fertilizer
Plants run on coffee, too.
MonthiraYodtiwong/iStock via Getty Images

According to Healthline, coffee grounds release nitrogen, potassium, magnesium, and other minerals that stimulate plant growth—and they also repel insects that might damage those plants. You can sprinkle coffee grounds directly on the soil, or you can add them to your compost and work it into your garden once everything’s decomposed.

6. Clean your fireplace.

Cleaning out your fireplace can fill the air with ash, making it a pretty miserable task even for people without respiratory issues. Sprinkling a thin layer of coffee grounds on top first will prevent the ash from rising when you sweep it up.

7. Enrich your baked goods.

Coffee-flavored cakes, muffins, and other desserts are delicious to anyone who loves a good cup of Joe, but coffee can also take certain baked goods to the next level without making them taste like moist, fluffy espresso beans. According to Lifehacker, this works best for chocolate desserts like brownies and cakes, especially if you’re using a box mix. Just substitute brewed coffee for whatever amount of water the recipe calls for; the coffee will add richness and complexity to the chocolate flavor, and your guests will think you made the dessert from scratch.

8. Fill a homemade pincushion.

cupcake pincushion
Let's put a pin in it.
anskuw/iStock via Getty Images

Filling your homemade pincushion with dried coffee grounds will keep all your pins in one place and make your sewing box smell delightful. Here are step-by-step instructions to create your own from the Queen Bean Coffee Company blog.

9. Enhance your fish bait.

There’s not much scientific evidence that coffee does indeed attract more fish, but plenty of seasoned fishers vouch for its efficacy—there are even coffee-scented bait products on the market. Gone Outdoors recommends letting worms wriggle around in coffee grounds for a while before putting them on the hook.

10. Dye some fabric.

You’re one large pot of coffee away from nailing the natural prairie look. Dyeing your clothes fifty shades of tan really just entails soaking them in brewed coffee for varying lengths of time, but these additional tips from The Spruce Crafts can help you get your desired results. (Even if you’re not interested in revolutionizing your wardrobe, using coffee as dye can come in handy if you need to dirty an item for a Halloween costume or upcycle an already-stained kitchen towel.)