The Mandela Effect and me

Confession: When I used the word chartreuse in a blog post and some of you said you had to look it up, I decided I ought to as well, to see if Google Images showed the color I had in mind.

It did.

(For something breathtaking, try googling chartreuse and gray.)

It also led me down a pleasantly unrelated path into the intricacies of the human brain, which remembers things that are not, and mistakes things that are.

I found that many, many people are confused about the word chartreuse, and “distinctly remember” it being previously a dark reddish-purple instead of a light yellow-green. How does that happen? they said. My mother was an artist, and I knew! It was on a Crayola crayon, and I knew!

This led me into briefly researching the Mandela Effect, of which I’d never heard (meanwhile my dishes were not getting washed). The Mandela Effect describes collective false memory, when a large group of people remembers something that apparently never happened – such as many people feeling sure that the Berenstain Bears were once spelled Berenstein. The “Mandela” piece comes from a large number of people “remembering” that Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 80’s, whereas he actually died in bed in 2013.

It tickles my brain. How can we remember what is not?

This leads some folks down the path toward conspiracy theory, paranormal explanations, and alternate realities. I don’t follow. I attribute it instead to confusion – substituting this for that. For example, someone pointed out that chartreuse is not a very different word from cerise, which IS a pinkish-reddish-purple Crayola color. And probably there was a famous black man who died in prison in the 80’s, and people saw his funeral on TV and got him confused with Mr. Mandela. Or they believed he was going to die until, in their minds, he did. Then too, many cited Mandela Effect cases involve discrepancies in spelling, such as for KitKat (not Kit-Kat with a hyphen) and Chick-fil-A (not Chik-fil-A or any variant). Easy to get goofed up about a thing like that – I found it rather amusing than not.

Then I went to a party and created a false memory of my own, which was not as funny.

I attended a Lilla Rose event at a friend’s house, and was pleased with the FlexiClip. I wondered how it kept from slipping apart, and so when I saw one up close, I distinctly noted the grooves for the catch, lined up in a row of three for three different size adjustments. They were deep and sharp, angled like a backslash to avoid the wire slipping out. I thought the consultant even called attention to this clever design. One of the women had trouble releasing the clasp once it was in her hair, and had to be told to push the clip farther together, to get the catch past its groove so it could release.

It was a lovely design, I thought.

Several weeks later, when my FlexiClip arrived, my first thought upon pulling it out of the package was “Oh no! The grooves are all wrong!” They were smooth, flat little half-moons, utterly unable to keep anything from sliding out unless the hair itself added strong outward pressure to hold it in place. I complained to my consultant (who compared with her stock and said it looked the same to her, but kindly offered to exchange for a smaller size if it was having trouble staying in my hair), and I looked online (where every image I found of the FlexiClip showed it identical in design to the one that I held in my hand).


I realize it’s not really the Mandela Effect, because I am the only one mistaken, although one friend initially agreed with me: “Your grooves should not be like that!” Later we concluded we must have the same kind of brain.

But – How could I have distinctly remembered something imaginary? How could I have come up with three separate memories to verify my impression? I had 1) a visual {clear mental image of what the clip looked like}, 2) a verbal {comment by the consultant on the nice design to avoid slipping}, and 3) a case in point {when another guest struggled to release the clasp}.

How could I have invented at first glance a better design than what was?

You tell me and Mr. Mandela – and maybe I can sleep again at night.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
7 years ago

Wow. Is your subconscious mind an inventor?

7 years ago
Reply to  Treva

By the way, I have had the same experience (having false memories), and it IS disturbing!

7 years ago

I’m laughing (Sorry. I know you said it’s not funny.) My nine year old could identify with your confusion. All I’ve been able to conclude with her vehement memories of things that are not, is that her busy mind looks at things or hears things and thinks how/what they SHOULD be and later is sure that’s how/what they WERE.

Btw, I just got a FlexiClip and love it!

7 years ago
Reply to  Bethany

P.S. And, for the record, I don’t think you made up the case in point. In order to get the clip out of your hair, you do have to push it forward to release it – at least, I do!

7 years ago

Sorry! I laughed too! Mostly out of relief that there are other people out there with this disturbing memory thing & because it actually is a little humorous. ?Maybe it’s because I can relate to that experience of remembering something only to discover it’s all wrong! It mystifies me when you can distinctively “remember ” details about your “memory” & it’s incorrect as your family so patiently points out to you making you certain that your memory is on its way out the door! I even rather loudly defend my memory ..I remember where I sat..who I was talking with..what dress I was wearing ..(those details often elude me) & when I remember those things then I’m certain I’m right & wow! How deflating when you discover you are dead wrong! Thanks for clarifying the Mandela Effect! I shall happily tell my family I’m not nuts but Mr Mandela is effecting me!

7 years ago

I think you must have had a dream that night after the party that was more ‘real’ to your memory than the party. Hee Hee! That’s my theory anyways.

7 years ago

Note to Ryan. The next time Shari tries to insist you said thus and so just remind her that by her own admission she has a faulty memory.

7 years ago
Reply to  Travis

This approach would not end well.

Tabitha Schmidt
7 years ago

I can relate! I can’t think of anything specific, right now, but this has happened to me too. So nice to have a name for this “condition!”

7 years ago

Oh yes! When I got this post, I first saw the picture of the (now famous) clip with its beads, then glanced down and saw “chartreuse.” I was dismayed because I hadn’t thought chartreuse was anything like the color of those beads, except that it was in the green family. Imagine my relief when I followed your link to those lovely photos of chartreuse and gray rooms!

7 years ago

I don’t have much experience with false memories, at least not that can be proven/disproven. There’s always the he said/she said or he said/she heard scenarios, but of COURSE I am always right in those debates. 😀

I do know that sometimes my dreams are so vivid, I have trouble separating them from reality, especially when I don’t recall them immediately upon awakening, but hours or days later. Sometimes it takes awhile to sort out, and there’s always a chance I’ve taken dream memories for real ones. There is at least one thing lately that I couldn’t remember whether my memory was real or a dream. It was inconsequential, but still, it kind of bugged me.

7 years ago

My brain is on fire.

I occasionally burn up all my long term and short term memory and simply begin anew.

7 years ago

Ok–so I literally looked up the Berenstain Bears! I would have declared that they were spelled with an E! Fascinating!

7 years ago

Fascinating! Seriously, though, this post brought up something I’ve been wanting to ask you for awhile. It has to do with How to Manage Long Hair. (I assume your Flexi-clip purchase had something to do with this). You see, we Mennonites talk about managing housework, managing cooking, managing daily schedules, managing children, but we never, ever talk about how to manage our long hair. I won’t tell you how often I want to trim mine to a manageable length (which I can’t do without giving up my church membership). So, I’m stuck with this long hair that greets me every single morning and is really quite overwhelming to me. Maybe this isn’t the place to voice my frustrations (forgive me, if you must) but I’d love to hear you address this subject as a mom who has 101 other constant demands.

7 years ago
Reply to  Shari Zook

Oh, good! I’ll stay tuned 🙂

7 years ago

The Garment of Praise has a good friend in OH that has “followed” us over the years, donated, blessed us. But the last time we saw him in OH, we could’ve sworn he had died the previous year! Hadn’t we even sent flowers to his widow (or something along that line!?) But no… then we remembered two years ago when we had seen him we had also thought that he had died. Very disturbing! I think at least half of us definitely recalled his dying.

Join the conversation to share your comments.x
Scroll to Top