The wildest so-called 'whistle-blower' of 2016 is the 4chan boards 'CERN scientist,' who insisted the Mandela effect was real on 21 August 2016. (Click to enlarge.) Image Source.
In 2015, astrologer Liz Greene summarized the spirit of our times (her extended comment on the subject is here):
In the spirit of understanding the power of perception over rationality and belief, I sometimes cover strange material on this blog. I discuss this material with reservations, and save the weirdest stories for the Hallowe'en countdown."The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once wrote that nothing is certain except change. In the last two decades we have been forced to acknowledge this ancient truth, for many of our time-honoured and reliable religious, economic and social structures and definitions of reality have undergone major upheavals. Because human beings instinctively fear change, we imagine global disasters as we move into the future, or global redemption through the miracles of technology or some extraordinary new spiritual or political revolution. We are filled with both anxiety and hope. Is this really a time of great opportunity, spiritually and materially? Or does it seem so merely because we believe it to be so?"
This summer, a deranged rumour on the Internet combined disasters with miracles. It is called the 'Mandela effect,' a meme which asserts that "large groups of people have alternate memories about past events." The effect is likely a jarring dyslexia of shared memory in the era of kinetic information. The Mandela effect is the creepiest meme I have ever encountered (even creepier than this one). It made me think of the line from David Lynch's 1997 neo-noir horror film, Lost Highway: "I like to remember things my own way. ... How I remember them. Not necessarily the way they happened."
The Mandela effect resembles Lynch's plot structures, especially in Mulholland Drive (2001) and Inland Empire (2006), where characters and incidents repeat, transform, and overlap in new contexts. In Lynch's most recent work, the characters share a basic story. This is the 'highway' of everyday experience, the type of historical story we all know, expect and recognize. It follows a linear chronology. Radical variations in this kind of story are almost always rationally comprehensible. They may involve one character missing a critical piece of information; or big differences in opinion or perspective between characters; or a character's tragic flaw forcing him to act in a way he should not. A larger fate, god, or mystery can play a role in these stories, but the linear highway of the narrative remains predominant, even if the characters take an off-ramp.
From the Lost Highway soundtrack. I'm Deranged. LP: Outside (25 September 1995) © David Bowie/Brian Eno/RCA. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.
But in the Lynchian universe, that main highway chronology is overlaid with other narratives which follow the separate stories of symbols (or archetypes), of the individual subconscious (possibly the soul), and of a larger, collective unconscious (perhaps the group soul). Those other, eerie narratives are non-linear and have different shapes. In Lost Highway, the plot relating to death symbols was constructed like a Möbius strip. Some of those unconventional narratives may have no shape at all and may be quantum, popping in and out of the linear narrative of conventional sanity, and co-existing in many times and realities. This allows Lynch's characters to disappear and reappear, sometimes with new identities, for no apparent linear reason. It is easy to dismiss these films as crazy, but Lynch's aim seems rather to tell the complete story of reality. The characters' behaviour and the events in these films would only make sense if you could map all the different narratives at play, and understand how they were interacting.
The Mandela effect also reminds me of Dark City (1998); the time travel and tangent universe of Donnie Darko (2001); and the Matrix films (1999-2003). In these movies, anomalies are explained as the products of manipulation by higher, outside actors. This is all fine, if you are a film critic or a post-Postmodern novelist. The only problem is, believers think the Mandela effect is real.
Clip from Lost Highway (1997) © October Films. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.
Clip from Dark City (1998) © New Line Cinema. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.
Clip from The Matrix (1999) © Warner/Roadshow Entertainment. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.
Inland Empire (2006) official trailer. Video Source: Youtube.
Interview with the Vampire (1994) contains one example of the supposed Mandela effect. The film is © Warner, reproduced under Fair Use. Image Source: Goodreads.
Clip from Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) with the line, 'magic mirror,' not 'mirror mirror.' © Disney, reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.
This past summer, social media exploded with examples of and debates on this meme, merging conspiracy theories to create a new online mythology. Almost all examples are from American popular culture, now with some British elements, and international translations of English examples tending to show 'old' non-Mandela-effect versions of reality; the fact that the examples are all from the Anglosphere, the pop culture of the Internet's lingua franca, is perhaps the biggest red flag in this evolving meme. Here are some examples, from the hundreds discussed online:
- Some passages in the Bible have changed, which can be explained by new editions and modernized wording. Believers claim that CERN enabled time travel back in time to change Biblical wording and Christianity.
- People remember the Oscar Wilde book, The Portrait of Dorian Gray, whereas it is now The Picture of Dorian Gray. Non-English translations of the book translate the title as 'portrait.'
- People remember the Disney film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with the queen saying "Mirror, mirror on the wall." Now she says, "Magic mirror on the wall."
- People remember four seats in JFK's vehicle when he was assassinated. Photographs online now show six seats in his car.
- Some people remember the colour chartreuse as being red, not an off-lime green.
- People remember the Anne Rice book and film, Interview with a Vampire, whereas now it is Interview with the Vampire. Believers have dug up old videos to prove the original wording; however, interviews and film clips from the 1990s show the title with 'the.' Anne Rice was asked about the Mandela effect, and stated the title of her book always contained 'the.' Skeptics say the effect is due to a widespread verbal confusion, in which 'a' was used when describing the title of the book and film.
- Similarly, people remember the television show and film, Sex in the City, but now it is Sex and the City.
- The children's book, Berenstain Bears, used to be Bernstein Bears or Berenstein Bears. VICE investigated this example in August, 2015.
- People remember names of American consumer goods and brands being spelt differently: Febreeze versus Febreze; Fruit Loops versus Froot Loops; Sketchers versus Skechers; J. C. Penny versus J. C. Penney, different logos, etc.
- People remember lines in certain films as being different, notably E.T., Forrest Gump and Star Wars.
- People remember maps of North America and South America with the two continents directly above one another, but South America is now depicted as further to the east.
- People remember maps of Indonesia and New Zealand in different locations, with New Zealand being further north; similar geographical confusions can be explained by the scaling of maps - and poor education in geography.
- The Mona Lisa is now supposedly smiling more than she did before. Analyses have proved that there is an optical illusion embedded by da Vinci in the painting; she is both smiling and frowning. This means that what you see depends on how you look at the painting.
- The Vitruvian Man was in a circle surrounded by a square. He is now in an encircled square. Actually it is both.
- As with Nelson Mandela, other celebrities, such as Muhammad Ali, died, with people remembering their funerals, and then mysteriously reappeared, alive. This could simply be explained by the fact that when a celebrity's star fades, he or she dies in the public mind, even if the celebrity physically outlives his or her fame.
- Marilyn Monroe's moles moved from one side to the other of her face. This can be explained by photo edits, film negative reversals, and make-up.
Oscar Wilde's novel about a degenerate youth, Dorian Gray, who makes a deal with the devil and splits his corrupted soul from his physical existence, is included in the Mandela effect, in which people remember the title as The Portrait of Dorian Gray, not The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). Non-English titles translate as 'portrait,' not 'picture.' Images Sources: Geek and Sundry; Stop and Learn English; Nite Hawk Cinema; Source; Canal Blog; Buecher.de; Sololibri; What's the Word ISB 8?; Terapeak.
The Mandela effect has inspired people to search through their old VHS tape collections to find 1980s' and 1990s' footage which is distinct from the digital media of the 2010s. They get very upset when they find the old versions to be different from the way they remember them to be. In 2012, I wrote a post, Apollo 18's Lunar Truth: Alternate History or Time Shift? about moon landing denial and its online mythical connection to Nelson Mandela and parallel universes. One reader left a comment describing two personal experiences with the Mandela effect. He struggled to explain his experiences in terms of a faulty memory, and not as insanity or a paranormal experience:
"I totally believe in the timeline modification thing. I have had two very mind-blowing experiences of my own, each one happening around the same year, and I tell you, it makes a person question their sanity at times.The one that really bothers me the most, is that of a high school friend. We were very close. During the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, my friend, who was a very talented football and baseball player for our team, was with friends pulling a railroad car down the tracks. He lost his footing and it ran over his right leg. This resulted in an amputation at the knee. I worked all summer at a local fast food restaurant. He lived in the area. He would stop by and we would spend a lot of time talking. And then, when school resumed, it was obviously the talk of the campus. And for months I remember him withdrawing from friends, and becoming a kind of recluse. But him and I would always talk. This went on for the entire year.So, I had the summer before senior year, and the entire senior year of memories.Three years ago, I finally gave in, and opened a Facebook account. I reconnected with all of my high school friends. He was one of them, and he seemed to be doing well. I didn't look through his pictures much or anything, so I didn't know right away. But eventually, my wife looked through his pics. She had heard the story (we were married twenty two years, so she knew most of my stories lol). She noticed that he didn't have an amputation. She told me this, and I looked. I was shocked to see she was right.I had a tremendous issue accepting this. I had almost two years of memories regarding this...Lots of memories... But, at the risk of sounding (and literally feeling) insane, I laughed it off and said I must have been thinking of someone else. But inside, I am torn apart. I asked my other high school friends who was the guy that got run over by a railroad car, and no-one can remember anything about anyone that that happened to. Really??? I mean, really??? There is another memory from that same year that is totally gone from existence, and has been replaced by another. It's weird. It seems insignificant, but it's really not. It has to do with a top 40 hit pop song from a well known artist. I remember a song that was played over and over and over, for a year...I remember eventually hating this song. It was so annoying. It was this artist's comeback hit. He had another back in the sixties, and this one in the eighties. It played all the time, I'm not crazy.About a month ago, I was talking to a friend about the eighties, and I mentioned this artist. I couldn't remember the name of the song, so I googled him. The song no longer exists. There is an eighties hit tho, but it's not the same one. And it's certainly not as big as the one I remember. But I do remember it. I remember watching the video on MTV. I remember everything about him as well, but now, the song is gone, and I can't remember the exact name of it. It's on the tip of my tongue, but I can grasp it anymore with my mind.. I've been trying for months.Anyway, that's my story. I had to post it. Thanks for listening."
On 21 August 2016, a 'scientist whistle-blower' claimed on the 4chan boards that: "We are currently at 12,783 changes to the original timeline." (Click to enlarge; for links to the screengrabs from the conversation with the whistle-blower, go here.) Image Source.
You can see many Mandela effect speculations on Youtube, some from individuals, as here. The phenomenon is explained on a spectrum (from dead rational to eye-wateringly wild) as follows:
- People who believe in the Mandela effect are batshit crazy.
- People who believe in the Mandela effect are not totally batshit crazy, but they are confused, misremember things, and have been staring at the Internet too long.
- People never had the original information right in the first place and their memories are flawed. At the same time, they are immersed in an environment of increasingly kinetic technological media, in which books, images, films, and other forms of mass entertainment are indeed edited and altered over time. Varying releases - cinema, television, VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, director's cuts, allow different versions of entertainment media to coexist and circulate on the Internet. The official, dominant version is no longer the latest one in a series of linear releases. In addition, companies hire marketing agencies for subtle corporate rebranding to update their images, which confuses consumers.
- Computers and the Internet have allowed information to be altered quickly and easily, at a rate which surpasses a human cognitive comfort level; this is frightening people and muddling their memories. I have previously discussed a report that Facebook secretly considered photoshopping people's private photos without permission, in order to insert product placements. This practice would have constituted corporate alteration of records of private, indvidual memories for advertising purposes.
- On 21 August 2016, on the 4chan forums, an anonymous, alt-human 'scientist whistle-blower' claimed he or she was one of 23 CERN physicists who had messed up a time graft experiment that produced the Mandela effect in a Russian-doll reality: "Like I said earlier, it was an experiment, to try and graft another timeline into ours, one that was similar but had subtle differences. But they fucked it up." This so-called whistle-blower claimed earth was now in a different part of the Milky Way galaxy and our hearts are now in the centre of the chest instead of the left side of the chest; and other parts of human anatomy had changed (really!). He or she also insisted that an extinction-level event occurred (or was avoided?) in 2012 and the survivors all had memory implants in relation to it. The 4chan forum members took it as good fun: "How did you change the JFK assassination? Now it looks like jackie did it." You can see an attempt from 7 September 2016 to summarize and explain the 4chan whistle-blower here. The whistle-blower, whoever he or she was, told the forum to ask the physicist Jeremy Bernstein for answers.
- Similarly, some Mandela effect believers think that CERN is a big time traveling device which has caused a ripple effect in a reality; one angry Australian thinks we need to find a lawyer to shut CERN down because it has already shifted us 80,000 light years from where we were.
- People who believe in the Mandela effect are paranoid conspiracy theorists who imagine that bits of information are being tampered with in a psyop, prelude to a police state. The entertainment media and / or the state and /or tech giants seek to control and confuse the public by altering versions of popular culture; they implement guerrilla marketing through gaslighting. Believers point to real, historical, Stalinist precedents.
- The truly paranoid argue that the Illuminati have orchestrated Orwellian edits of popular media as part of Luciferian and mystical rites in their march toward a New World Order, somehow involving CERN and the Gotthard Base Tunnel.
- The pseudo-scientific claim that there has been a parallel world or multi-dimension shift, which can be explained by Nikola Tesla's theories, or quantum physics, quantum jumping, or quantum superposition. Some speak of Terence McKenna's fringe novelty theory, or 'timewave zero,' based on divinatory futurist fractals produced by the I Ching.
- One earth has split into two earths, which are separating; or two earths are merging.
- Timelines have shifted and / or split.
- We have entered or are entering a new dimension dominated by different divine principles. This is a New Age belief dominated by gnostic revival, also known as the 'Sophia effect.'
Parallel Worlds. Image Source: Infinite Quantum Zen.
The meme also spurs on online community building and discussion, which is one mundane source of the Mandela effect's popularity. Myth-making and fantastical theorizing provide comfort in times of change, particularly when at least some of the paranoia is justified. Stephen King once defined terror at its most frightening:
"Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute."No wonder people seek comfort in Internet forums to make sense of these anomalies, whether they are perceived or real. That search for communal comfort is an important factor in understanding this phenomenon.
The Orwellian potential in kinetic popular media, which inspired the fear behind this meme, is a genuine concern. Orwell understood that if you can falsify the recorded facts of history, you alter people's sanity and their grasp of reality. That alteration would be an enormous source of power in any totalitarian state. This is why computer developers argue that we need a Permanent Web, with encrypted, permanent records of all changes made to online media and information, and trackable authorship. I have written about how the coding language of the Internet affects our perception of history, time, and reality, here.
The Adjustment Bureau (2011) based on the Philip K. Dick short story, Adjustment Team (1954). Image Source.
ADDENDUM (18 October 2016): After publishing this post, I wanted to check my own VHS tape collection. I was a huge movie buff in the 1990s, and taped a lot of films that came on television. This is what I found.
So, in my own experience, the Mandela effect shows that I never remembered the title of this film correctly in the first place, and labeled the tape wrongly, without realizing it, in the 1990s. This was Toronto's CityTV première of the film, from 1995. Playing this VHS tape reminded me of the huge difference in technology between then and now. At that time, one could hear the title wrongly, see the film once in the cinema or on television, and not notice the mistake. I was not a fan of the books, so I cannot say if a deeper knowledge of the material would make a difference. There are anecdotes on the Web that people who were huge fans of Anne Rice's work recalled 'a' in the title, returned to their beloved paperbacks, and found the title changed.
The difference between that more limited world of information access and the current engagement with data is enormous, with corresponding shifts in experience, mentality and memory. Before, if you remembered something incorrectly, or never knew it properly in the first place, you could not instantly check it. It's not that there was comfort in being wrong, but the anxiety that one might be wrong about such a small detail simply was not there.
See all my posts on Memory.
See all my posts in the series, Awaken the Amnesiacs, on how hyper-technology is acquiring spiritual connotations.
See all my posts on Horror.
See all my posts on the Paranormal.