The Mandela effect refers to a collection of widely held, completely false memories — and it all started with a conversation about Nelson Mandela.
In 2009, paranormal researcher Fiona Broome attended a conference, she recalled on her YouTube channel, and began speaking about people who falsely remembered the death of the former president of South Africa in the 80s, when in reality, he died in 2013.
"I have no idea which one of us first used the phrase 'Mandela effect,' but it was certainly easier than saying, 'People who remember Nelson Mandela dying years ago," she said in the video.
Following this conversation, Broome began a website around the topic of collective false memories. She amassed other unexplained memories and theories.
Some seemed subtle. Logos had taken different shapes and childhood characters had lost defining features. Others were not so subtle. Turns out, brand names and movie lines that rolled off the tongue actually never existed.
"It turned out the Nelson Mandela theory was the tip of the iceberg," Broome said.
Essentially, the phenomenon is an assortment of misremembered recollections that are held widely. People will swear something existed in a certain way even though all evidence from recorded history point to it being different. Weird, right?
While Broome's website is defunct, the r/MandelaEffect subreddit has amassed over 270,000 rallying members who riff off one false memory after another, or distorted perceptions.
At the very least, the Mandela effect serves as a reminder that memories can be spotty. Try testing yours out by unraveling these 50 notable examples of popular beliefs that just so happen to be fiction.
Popular belief: Pikachu has black tips on his tail
Reality: Pikachu’s tail is yellow, through and through
The iconic Pokemon character’s tail has nothing more to it — it’s simply yellow.
“Risky Business” costume
Popular belief: Tom Cruise danced in sunglasses
Reality: Cruise was wearing a different outfit
Every Halloween, someone inevitably gets fitted in a white oversized button-down shirt and throws on sunglasses and crew socks to portray Cruise’s character, Joel Goodsen, from the 1983 film. And yet, Halloweekend after Halloweekend, people still get the costume wrong. In the famous dance scene, Goodsen wasn’t rocking shades, and he was actually donning a pink shirt.
Captain Crunch or Cap’n Crunch
Popular belief: Captain Crunch
Reality: Cap’n Crunch
Cap’n or captain, the crunch is real — maybe a little too real, as the roofs of our mouths can attest. Also, the cereal’s mascot is named Horatio Magellan Crunch — and get this, he’s not even a captain. He’s a commander, but that’s a whole different story.
Sandy Cheeks’ backpack
Popular belief: Sandy Cheeks carried a backpack
Reality: Sandy Cheeks wore nothing on her back
The sharp squirrel from “SpongeBob SquarePants” is usually dressed in a diving suit. While some fans of the franchise recall Sandy lugging around a white, rectangular backpack that acted as an air tank, she never had one.
Fruit of the Loom logo
Popular belief: Fruit of the Loom logo features a cornucopia
Reality: Fruit of the Loom logo doesn’t have a cornucopia
If you picture the Fruit of the Loom logo, there’s a red apple, of course. There are also grapes, leaves and berries. Now, what’s behind all of this? Nothing. But some people recall seeing a cornucopia sitting in the backdrop of the brand’s logo.
Kit Kat or Kit-Kat
Popular belief: Kit-Kat
Reality: Kit Kat
Yes, it’s true: A hyphen doesn’t separate the “kit” from “kat.” The brand even addressed the Mandela effect in a tweet from 2016, saying “the Kit Kat name has never been hyphenated on either the U.K. or U.S. wrappers.”
“Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” quote
Popular belief: “Luke, I am your father”
Reality: “No, I am your father”
In a galaxy far, far away, Darth Vader dropped one of the biggest plot twists and most-misquoted lines ever.
Popular belief: C-3PO is golden from head to toe
Reality: C-3PO has a silver leg
C-3PO is the face of another Mandela effect within the "Star Wars" franchise. While many remember the robot being golden all over, the character’s right leg is silver below the knee.
Skechers or Sketchers
Popular belief: Sketchers
Hold the “T” — the footwear brand is spelled without one.
“The Matrix” quote
Popular belief: “What if I told you …”
Reality: The line doesn’t exist
Fans of the franchise remember Laurence Fishburne, who played Morpheus, explaining the Matrix to Keanu Reeves’ character Neo by starting his monologue off with “What if I told you.” The line picked up so much traction it became a viral meme. But, as it turns out, the quote was never spoken. Talk about a glitch in the Matrix.
Curious George’s tail
Popular belief: Curious George has a tail
Reality: Curious George doesn’t have a tail
Sure, monkeys have tails. Curious George just isn’t one of them.
Popular belief: Comedian Sinbad starred in “Shazaam”
Reality: “Shazaam” doesn’t exist
There’s major confusion surrounding this one. People say they remember Sinbad acting as a genie in a film called “Shazaam” even though it never happened. You know who really did play a genie in a movie? Shaquille O’Neal in “Kazaam.”
Febreze or Febreeze
Popular belief: Febreeze
The air freshener chose to stray from word play with “breeze,” landing on a spelling with one “e” in the middle.
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” quote
False belief: “Mirror, mirror on the wall …”
Reality: “Magic mirror on the wall …”
And to think, you were probably reciting the Evil Queen’s famous line incorrectly all these years.
Oscar Mayer or Oscar Meyer
Popular belief: Oscar Meyer
Reality: Oscar Mayer
The brand is known for its hot dogs and cold cuts. It’s even the mastermind behind hot dog-flavored ice pops and bologna-inspired face masks. But did you know Mayer is spelled with an “a,” not an “e”?
The Monopoly Man
Popular belief: The Monopoly Man wears a monocle
Reality: The Monopoly Man doesn’t wear a monocle
Rich Uncle Pennybags — yes, that’s his name — has 20/20 vision, apparently. Maybe we’re the ones that need to have our eyes checked.
Cheez-It or Cheez-Itz
Popular belief: Cheez-Itz
The cheesy snack makes do without the extra “z.”
JCPenny or JCPenney
Popular belief: JCPenny
Some people vividly remember the department store being spelled without the “e,” but the brand has always existed as JCPenney.
Totino’s or Tostino’s
Popular belief: Tostino’s
Maybe you're among the population who mispronounces the company known for its decadent pizza rolls by adding an extra “s” to its name. Know this: You are not alone.
“The Berenstein Bears” or “The Berenstain Bears”
Popular belief: "The Berenstein Bears"
Reality: "The Berenstain Bears"
A family of bears found themselves at the center of a hot debate when people recalled the children’s series being spelled with an “e” over an “a.”
Jif or Jiffy
Popular belief: Jiffy Peanut Butter
Reality: Jif Peanut Butter
The peanut butter brand could be getting confused with its competitor, Skippy.
Chick-fil-A or Chic-fil-A
Popular belief: Chic-fil-A
The chain is spelled Chick-fil-A, a nod to its specialty chicken sandwiches.
Popular belief: “We’re gonna need a bigger boat”
Reality: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”
The change is slight, but it makes all the difference.
“Sex in the City” or “Sex and in the City”
Popular belief: "Sex in the City"
Reality: "Sex and the City"
Shaggy’s Adam’s apple
Popular belief: Shaggy has a protruding Adam’s apple
Reality: Shaggy doesn’t have a visible Adam’s apple
It looks like we found ourselves a mystery with this one. “Scooby-Doo!” viewers recall Shaggy having an absurdly massive Adam’s apple, but the character appears to lack such a feature.
“Forrest Gump” quote
Popular belief: “Life is like a box of chocolates”
Reality: “Life was like a box of chocolates”
Regardless of the verb tense, Tom Hanks’ Forrest Gump offered up some wise words on that park bench.
Pixie Sticks, Pixy Sticks, Pixy Stix or Pixie Stix
Popular belief: Pixie Sticks, Pixy Sticks, or Pixie Stix
Reality: Pixy Stix
Of all the iterations floating around, only one remains true: Pixy Stix.
Froot Loops or Fruit Loops
Popular belief: Fruit Loops
Reality: Froot Loops
Let’s be real. We were all thrown in for a loop with this one.
“I love Lucy” quote
Popular belief: “Lucy, you've got some ‘splainin’ to do”
Reality: The quote was never said
You remember Ricky Ricardo’s catchphrase, right? He would cross his arms and say, “Lucy, you've got some ‘splainin’ to do.” Well, trick question. That line wasn’t uttered once in the sitcom’s six seasons.
“Barbie Girl” lyrics
Popular belief: “I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world”
Reality: “I’m a Barbie girl, in the Barbie world”
The lyrics to Aqua’s catchy song implies there’s only one Barbie world — “the” Barbie world, not “a” Barbie world.
“Silence of the Lambs” quote
Popular belief: “Hello, Clarice”
Reality: “Good morning”
When Hannibal Lecter first meets Clarice Starling, he says “good morning,” but a great deal of people recall the line being “hello, Clarice.”
Mike and Ike or Mike n’ Ike
Popular belief: Mike n’ Ike
Reality: Mike and Ike
The candy has always been Mike and Ike.
Uncle Sam’s hat
Popular belief: Uncle Sam’s hat is white with red stripes
Reality: Uncle Sam’s hat is white
Uncle Sam’s hat is lined with stars near the brim, but there aren’t any red stripes on there.
Clif Bar or Cliff Bar
Popular belief: Cliff Bar
Reality: Clif Bar
While a cliff adorns the energy bar’s wrapper, the snack is called Clif Bar. According to the company’s website, “Clif” is short for Clifford, the founder’s father.
Mickey Mouse’s suspenders
Popular belief: Mickey Mouse wears suspenders
Reality: Mickey Mouse doesn’t wear suspenders
Nothing’s holding up Mickey’s red shorts.
Mickey Mouse’s tail
Popular belief: Mickey Mouse doesn’t have a tail
Reality: Mickey Mouse has a tail
After all, he is a mouse.
“Field of Dreams” quote
Popular belief: “If you build it, he will come”
Reality: “If you build it, they will come”
Still can’t believe we’ve been saying this line wrong for so long.
Popular belief: Chartreuse is a shade of red
Reality: Chartreuse is a shade of green
Chartreuse — like the liqueur — has always been a shade of green.
Popular belief: “Play it again, Sam”
Reality: “Play it once, Sam”
Ingrid Bergman’s character Ilsa Lund just wanted to listen to “As Time Goes By.”
White Out or Wite-Out
Popular belief: White Out
The correct spelling of the branded correction fluid includes a hyphen and leaves out an “h.”
“Star Trek” quote
Popular belief: “Beam me up, Scotty”
Reality: The line doesn’t exist
In his portrayal of James T. Kirk, William Shatner never recites the line “Beam me up, Scotty” in the original "Star Trek" series. Though, he does come close with quotes like “beam us up” and “Scotty, beam me up.”
Side mirror safety warning
Popular belief: Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear
Reality: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear
This one’s a doozy.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar wins
Popular belief: DiCaprio won an Oscar for his role in “Titanic”
Reality: DiCaprio didn’t win his first Oscar until 2016
While DiCaprio has racked up a running list of Academy Award nominations, he clinched his first award in 2016 for best actor for his performance in “The Revenant.”
"The Flintstones" or "The Flinstones"
Popular belief: "The Flinstones"
Reality: "The Flintstones"
Meet the Flintstones, a modern Stone Age family, and pay special attention to the “T” in their name.
Funyuns or Funions
Popular belief: Funions
Contrary to popular belief, the onion flavored rings are spelled “Funyuns.” Consider it a Funyuns fun fact.
“Lord of the Rings” quote
Popular belief: “Run, you fools”
Reality: “Fly, you fools”
Don’t be fooled by the Mandela effect. Gandalf says “fly” instead of “run” in his commonly misquoted line.
Popular belief: Mona Lisa’s expression has changed
Reality: Mona Lisa’s expression has stayed the same
Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting has stirred quite a buzz, especially around the subject’s enigmatic expression. Some admirers remember Mona Lisa frowning, and others insist she was always smiling.
Smokey the Bear or Smokey Bear
Popular belief: Smokey the Bear
Reality: Smokey Bear
He campaigns about campfire safety. He gives tips about wildfire prevention. He’s … Smokey Bear.
King Henry VIII's portrait
Popular belief: Henry VIII holds a turkey leg in a portrait
Reality: The portrait doesn’t feature a turkey leg
If you look through portraits of the monarch, there won’t be a turkey leg in sight. Not one in his hands, at least.
“Looney Toons” or “Looney Tunes”
Popular belief: “Looney Toons”
Reality: “Looney Tunes”
Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety and co. all starred in “Looney Tunes,” not the “Looney Toons.” That’s all, folks!