Last year, the internet worked itself into a tizzy over the spelling of the popular children's book series Berenstain Bears. Many people misremembered the name as being spelled "Berenstein," which was taken as either evidence of the common fallibility of the everyday human brain or an insidious plot to conceal the existence of a parallel universe.
The case of the Berenst(e)ain Bears is an example of what paranormal author and researcher Fiona Broome called the "Mandela Effect," named after the false memories many people have of Nelson Mandela dying in jail sometime in the 1980s. The Mandela Effect—or simply the "Effect" as its more inclusive proponents prefer to call it—refers to memories shared by large segments of the population that don't line up with the current reality. In recent months, an online community has quickly grown around exposing new instances of the Effect and identifying the nefarious elitist culprits behind it.
As an example of what they're talking about here, complete the following iconic movie quotes:
In Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Darth Vader says: "____, I am your father." In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), the wicked queen says: "__________ mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?" If you answered "Luke" and "Mirror," you are wrong. The correct answers are "No" and "Magic." Seriously, google it. There's more going on here than mere widespread misconceptions that spread through the culture, those who believe in the Effect insist. It is history that has been changed, edited somewhere by someone. Changes to movie quotes, book titles, brand logos, and song lyrics are an entry point for most, and scores of YouTube content creators like Esoteric Detective (ED) have created compilation videos of the most popular Effects for newcomers, such as "Top 5 Mandela Effects - Is SOMETHING editing HISTORY?" "It is hard to say whether [the Effect] is real or not real because at its heart it is about memories. But there are parts of it that really feel real, at least to me," ED tells me. What got ED invested in the Effect was A Picture ofDorian Gray, which he says has the wrong title. "That really twisted my mind," he says."Because I always knew it as A Portrait of Dorian Gray—and I've read the book a number of times." Fairly innocuous pop-culture edits like these are just the tip of the iceberg, a way to set you down the rabbit hole. Since observing the Effect, ED has also helped unearth much darker historical edits to our timeline. Among them, he highlights changes made to the King James Bible that convinced many devout Christians to join the Effect community earlier this year, as well as alterations made to the assassination of JFK. "If you have a memory of the past that is contradicted by nearly all currently available evidence, does that make it less real?" asks Nathan Stolpman, who frequently uploads videos that investigate the realness of current events at Lift the Veil. "Does your 'allegedly' erroneous memory become more real because there are others who remember it the same way?" Stolpman doesn't pretend to know the answers to those question exactly, but would like to see the concept of the Effect "open people's minds to the idea that reality may not be what we think it is." He suggests this lighthearted LtV video as a way to casually introduce the Effect to people. "Just because somebody believes reality to be different than you and all of your friends think it is, it doesn't mean that person is wrong. It could just mean that the past is different for him than it is for you." "For many people, the world is a confusing, overwhelming, and even frightening place that appears to be chaotic and random," says David Schmid, an English professor at University at Buffalo who specializes in studying pop culture and the public's fascination with true crime. "Conspiracy theories, no matter how bizarre they may appear, give people the feeling that the universe is a structured, ordered, and predictable place that obeys definite rules." Everything confusing, unpredictable, or puzzling about the world can, when stuffed inside a conspiracy, be ascribed to this single cause, says Schmid. Conspiracies "provide an explanation," says Schmid's colleague Phillips Stevens Jr., a professor of anthropology and expert on superstitions, cultural identities, and cults. "It promotes social unity among the believers. They coalesce around this belief, and their social bonds are strengthened by their sharing this belief." What makes the Effect into a conspiracy isn't the notion that refugees from parallel universes are living among us, but who is causes all this shifting of reality. The two main imagined culprits are the elite Satanic Overlords at CERN and the quantum-computing Nazi shadow government of the United States. CERN, or the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is a partnership between top physicists and engineers from 22 European countries. If you believe the official story, the geniuses at CERN invented the world wide web and have discovered the Higgs Boson "God particle." If you doubt the official story, these scientific breakthroughs are just a cover for the real agenda of opening up an interdimensional portal to hell. CERN, some in the community believe, is a Satanic organization with occult ties. The group's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will, it is thought, opens a portal like the one hinted at by CERN's director of research and scientific computing in a thoroughly parsed press conference he gave at CERN HQ a few years back. Major reboots and shutdowns of the LHC sometimes coincide with extreme weather and seismic events, and it is believed that subsequent glitches in our reality occur as CERN gets closer to opening the doorway. Changes will continue to take place until inter-dimensional beings are released from the LHC doorway to destroy mankind. Other observers of the Effect are less concerned with CERN and believe the quantum computing Nazi shadow government of the United States is the true cause of our changing reality. This talk given by Geordie Rose, creator of the first commercially available quantum-computing machine, has become a frequently referenced staple within the Effect community. In it, he excitedly discusses the existence of parallel universes and promises that science has now made it possible to "exploit" these alternate realities to "enhance" our own. He reveals that NASA and Google have partnered up to harness the power of one of his quantum-computing devices, which is troubling to the conspiracy-prone because they believe that after NASA hired a bunch of German scientists after World War II under Operation Paperclip, the American government was infiltrated by Nazis. A general theory of how quantum computers are causing the Effect has NASA, Google, and (by implication) the Nazi-infiltrated shadow government of the United States using quantum computers to merge our universe with a parallel one, most likely one where Germany won World War II (hence the Jewish-sounding Berenstein becomes Berenstain). Our timelines will continue to merge, the community believes, until the reality that is most desirable to the Nazi elites is reached. "What is the meaning of all of this?" Dani Arnold McKenney from Removing the Shackles, wrote to me in an email. "The 'reality' (lol) is that no one really knows. We can theorize about crossing timelines, quantum entanglement, the multiverse being systematically re-absorbed back into a single One, CERN busting portals into other dimensions… but we have no hard and true answer. We have theories. Hypothesis. Ideas. Perspectives." Whatever universe you're living in, YouTube is still a really great place to go fuck your mind up. Follow Jay Stephens on Twitter.