It’s amazing what you discover when you watch a quiz show on telly like Only Connect – the one where I don’t even know what the answer means, let alone the questions.
However, this week, courtesy of host Victoria Coren Mitchell, I have been finding out all about the Mandela Effect?
The what, you say? Well, it’s a bizarre phenomenon where swathes of people remember something from their past that didn’t happen or was simply wrong.
The example is the number of people who swear blind that Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 80s and they watched his funeral, complete with a moving eulogy from Winnie Mandela. Except it didn’t happen. Mandela lived on until 2013 after serving as South African president and was a revered world-leader.
The phenomenon was identified by Fiona Broome, a paranormal consultant, who thought she was the only one with the Mandela false memory syndrome, until she was at a conference and met many others who thought exactly the same.
And it has led to some people believing the misremembered past is proof we are living in an alternate reality.
If you go trawling the internet, as I did as the Only Connect credits were rolling, you will find a surprising number of nostalgia not being what it used to be, thanks to the Mandela Effect.
Such as, there are people who swear blind Darth Vader says “Luke, I am your father”. He doesn’t, it’s just “No, I am your father”.
Mind you, I knew that courtesy of being an uber geek. But others did absolutely blindside me.
Remember Curious George, the monkey from the kids’ books when you were wee – and subsequently read to your kids. The illustrations were well cute, what with his tail and everything. Except he didn’t have one.
Now, I would have sworn blind George had a tail. Even as I write this, I can picture the S-shape of it in all those cartoons. But it was never there.
More recently, there was Pickachu, the Pokemon critter. Before you go any further, visualise him. What do you see? For me it’s the yellow mouse thing with the zig-zag tail like a lightning strike with the black strip at the tip.
Except there is no black stripe. Not there, never has been. So how come I saw it so clearly for all those years?
The one that did get me, though, loops back to my Star Wars obsession.
C-3P0 had an entirely gold-coloured body, right? Well, except for his right leg that was silver from the knee down. No, seriously it is.
As I write this, I have the opening sequence of the first Star Wars playing on a screen beside me, with the picture frozen at C-3PO and R2-D2’s first appearance. There it is. Right leg. Silver.
How, in the literally countless times I have watched Star Wars, did I not see that detail? How did I miss that? I can’t have.
Which is where the Mandela Effect becomes either interesting or daft, depending on your world view.
There are those who think these aren’t just wrong memories of small details for some of the populace – that it’s Sex And The City, not Sex In The City, Kit-Kat has never had a hyphen, it was Looney Tunes, not Looney Toons.
Some people believe it is proof we are in an alternate universe, these collective false memories are evidence of a glitch in the Matrix, of one parallel reality bumping up against the other.
They even blame the large hadron collider at CERN for messing with the fabric of reality by smashing all those particles together.
Funnily enough, it’s a bit unnerving when you start going down this particular Alice In The Wonderland rabbit hole and looking at your own memories.
It doesn’t help some household brand names in this country were changed in the name of corporate globalisation rather than a breakdown in the space-time continuum. Snickers? Nah, Marathon. Is it Cif or Jif? Let’s ask Neo.
I have also had a spectacular false reality moment myself as a young reporter. I loudly opined to my gruff news editor about the typhoid epidemic of the 60s having been caused by the Water Of Leith.
He looked at me askance and asked what was I talking about – with some expletives thrown in. It was caused by contaminated corned beef and it was in Aberdeen, not Edinburgh, he abruptly informed me.
No temporal rift at play here. The typhoid yarn was spun by my mother when I was wee to stop me playing on a Tarzan rope over the burn. She only corrected that impression after I trotted it out about 15 years later and looked like a wazzock in front of my boss. Thanks mum.
In my Mandela Effect research, I came across one theory that had me nodding and saying “that explains so much.”
Someone posited CERN shifted us into an alternative reality where Donald Trump became President. That would explain his claims there had been a terrorist attack in Sweden and Muslims had been cheering in the streets after 9/11, neither of which happened. Mandela enthusiasts say this comes from memories of the parallel universe Trump used to live in. Personally, I’ll just go with him being unhinged.
I have to admit to finding the whole thing fascinating, but also inexplicable and no doubt one of those conspiracy/theories that will run and run until a clever person explains it.
At least, though, I can take comfort in some certainties of this reality. Such as the Monopoly man having a monocle. What do you mean he doesn’t?