Tag Archives: false memories

198 – The Mandela Effect: False Memories or Parallel Universes?

The Mandela Effect was first coined as a term in 2010 when paranormal consultant Fiona Broome discovered that she met many people who believed that South African freedom fighter had died in prison in the 1970s and had not survived to eventually be freed an made the leader of the country in the 1990s.

Usually we would just attribute this strange misremembering of history to the whole “human beings are idiots” thing, but since its initial discovery was by someone involved in the paranormal, people started talking about how maybe this might be something more.

One of the first theories was that it’s the result of parallel universes, where there are an infinite number of universes and they can be created every time a different decision is made. People are just “remembering” a different universe.

Another idea is that we’re living in a computer simulation like The Matrix and every time we misremember something it’s actually the programming of the simulation that can be changed.  Much like in the movie, they described deja vu as a “glitch in The Matrix”. There is some evidence that we might be living in a computer simulation, but it’s all just conjecture right now.

We discussed how memories can be easily falsified in episode 55 about alien abductions, past life regression, and satanic ritual abuse, but The Mandela Effect has certainly consumed plenty of oxygen in the paranormal space over the past couple of years. Probably because it’s a fun way of playing “remember when” and we can discuss our childhoods and how faulty actually all of our memories actually are.

The very first time that I learned about the malleability of memory was in a Different Strokes episode. It’s based on the classic Kurosawa film Rashomon (if you would like to know how influential the Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa is, just read this article on how George Lucas was incredibly influenced by the movie The Hidden Fortress in his creation of Star Wars.) Rashomon is a about a trial that shows the same crime happening from several people’s perspectives and how those memories of the same event are different from person to person. Different Strokes even called their episode “Rashomon II”!

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In this episode we go over some of the most compelling examples of The Mandela Effect including:

  • Berenstain Bears vs. Berenstein Bears (the original that blew most people’s minds!)
  • Fruit Loops vs Froot Loops (and Fruit Loup Garou, the psychedelic werewolf!)
  • Field of Dreams‘ most famous line
  • “Luke, I am your father.”
  • C-3PO’s silver leg

This week’s song is actually one of our oldest recorded Sunspot tracks. It’s about nostalgia and how nice it is to live in the past sometimes, even when that past might be something you invented for yourself. But in the end, you have to come back to the real world, even if you wished you’d made different choices in your past and feel left behind. The song is called “Pretend”.

I think I lost you along the road,
because I didn’t know how to grow up.
Maybe that’s why I feel so old,
my life flashes before my eyes.
Maybe we could talk over a beer,
about the way we think things ought to be.
We could try to remember how we got here,
and whatever, and whatever became of me.

Wouldn’t it be fun to pretend,
that the Earth was round,
and we were sixteen again?
We could drive all night,
until the sun comes up my friend,
and I’ll listen for your name in the wind.

And I think I missed the train,
well, I guess I should have bought a ticket.
I don’t think I ever changed,
time slips by and I’m still the same.
We were running hand in hand,
I didn’t know you’d go so fast.
That’s why I just don’t understand,
how you reached your destination and I’m still living in the past.

Wouldn’t it be fun to pretend,
that the Earth was round,
and we were sixteen again?
We could drive all night,
until the sun comes up my friend,
and I’ll listen for your name in the wind.

I’m the last one standing here.
Just a relic in the museum of our lives.
I’ll be waiting when you come back.
I’ll be the one who’s just a step,
just a step behind the times.

Wouldn’t it be fun to pretend,
that the Earth was round,
and we were sixteen again?
We could drive all night,
until the sun comes up my friend,
and I’ll listen for your name in the wind.

55 – False Memories: Alien Abductions, Past Life Regression, and Satanic Ritual Abuse

So let’s say you go to a party and get black out drunk. It happens to the best of us, right? RIGHT!? Well, anyway, you don’t remember what happened but one of your friends tells you some stories about how you took your shirt off and put a tie on 80s-style, you put the lampshade on your head and jumped on the couch to dance. You start to remember bits and pieces of it and think that you can picture yourself wearing your favorite necktie and the lampshade and twerking to “Turn Down For What”, you start seeing it in your head. In fact, even though you start telling people stories about it.

“Oh man, I got so wasted, I started making it clap on top of the couch on Saturday night, I’m so crazy, man, I’m so crazy…” Except when you tell someone else who was at that party the story, they say, “That’s weird, I saw you just passed out in the coat room all night AND you barfed on my girlfriend’s suede boots, not cool, yo, not cool.” Um, but you KNOW it happened to you, right? I mean, you remember it, and it’s not like you can remember something that never happened…

But you can remember things that have never happened. Especially during hypnosis, where you’re at your most suggestible and that’s what we’re talking about in this episode (well, it’s the main topic, we talk a couple random haunted stories about Madison locations and congratulate Wendy for running her first 5K race!)

We being the conversation by talking about Betty and Barney Hill, their “missing time” experience in the 1960s is the Big Daddy of all UFO abduction cases, and it only came out under hypnosis. You can actually listen to the entirety of Barney Hill’s hypnosis session.

Regressing people under hypnosis and uncovering alien abductions became de rigueur in UFOlogy since and have included books like Intruders which came from investigator Budd Hopkins and Harvard professor John Mack (in fact, watch the whole TV movie from 1992 right here online), the (allegedly) non-fiction Communion by Whitley Strieber (the book that put the grey aliens in the grocery checkout lane in every town in the United States), and also the fictional The Fourth Kind, a found footage movie in the vein of The Blair Witch Project, which featured “recordings” of alien abduction hypnosis (with a title based on  Dr. J. Allen Hynek’s scale of alien contact, the third kind (like the Steven Spielberg movie) is seeing an alien being, the fourth kind is abduction and being experimented upon.)

cover of communion by whitley strieber
So why did all different kinds of people start seeing grey aliens in the late 80s?

But it’s not just aliens people are seeing, they’re also remembering past lives under hypnosis. And this isn’t just kids remembering things that they shouldn’t remember, it’s adults who are reaching way back to before they are born. The X-Files has a very memorable episode called The Field Where I Died, where Mulder remembers being in the American Civil War with Scully. It’s one of my personal favorite episodes.

And this isn’t just something from fiction though, even Oprah has had on doctors who regress people to past lives through hypnosis to uncover the basis of irrational fears in their present-day life. Celebrities like Shirley MacClaine have famously talked about their beliefs in the lives they’ve lived before and learning about these lives through hypnosis.

Man, hypnosis seems like the key to unlocking our memories, doesn’t it? It’s like a miracle because it can access details that we can’t recall consciously or memories we’ve repressed. It can even break the chains of the material world to teach us where our souls have been.

Well, I’m not saying that it’s not possible. I’m not saying that some people haven’t been abducted by aliens or have lived past lives, but I do know that the human mind is very suggestible, particularly under hypnosis (as per Wendy’s example in the show, hypnotists seem to love to make people act like a chicken. Sounds pretty benign… or is it?)

And sometimes people can have things suggested to them that destroy other people’s lives. The book Michelle Remembers about a woman, who regressed through hypnosis to her childhood, remembered a horrifying Satanic cult that abused her in 1950s Canada (a hotbed of Satanism as ever there was one) and practically set off the whole “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, where people were actually afraid that there was a cult of Satan worshippers that had infiltrated American life to the point where they could sexually abuse our children (Rosemary’s Baby as well as Arnold’s End of Days both insinuate the same thing). We’ll have a whole episode on the Satanic Panic and heavy metal and Dungeons & Dragons and the whole thing sometime soon, but the fact is, people’s lives were several affected by the suggestibility of hypnosis.

michelle remembers
These book artists love to terrify people, don’t they?

In one of her articles on the implantation of false memories, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, who is the foremost researcher on the subject, details how in 1986 a Wisconsin woman was regressed by her psychiatrist to help her cope with some Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and in the repression, they learned that past satanic sexual abuse was the cause of her present mental illness. A Missouri woman in 1992 was convinced through hypnotherapy that her pastor father raped her repeatedly and forced an abortion on her twice. In both of these cases, the women later sued their therapists for millions of dollars.  Loftus’ article (which you should read because it’s brilliant research into an unpopular but important topic) even details how they were able to suggest childhood memories of getting lost in a mall into grown adults’ recollections even down to various details that never happened.

Memory, as it turns out, is a very plastic thing. A few years ago,  scientists were even able to physically implant a fear memory into a mouse through encoding its “engrams” (the collection of neurons where we think that individual memories exist). Memories have a physical form in our brains but we don’t remember things like a photograph, we remember things like a thought. Which means that we filter the idea of what we had that happened through our present beliefs. The truth is, our memories are easily manipulated, which means that while it’s important to react to fantastic stories of alien abductions and past lives (and especially any type of abuse) with sensitivity, understanding, and empathy, we must also be aware of the suggestibility of memory. People are telling what they believe to be the truth, even if it’s not necessarily true.

This episode’s song is about how people often choose to remember the things that make them happy while forgetting the things they’ve done that have hurt people.

“Selective Amnesia” by Sunspot

You know when they say you’re so bad it feels go good,
You just don’t know why you’re mad,
but you know you should.

And you were right when you said I was wrong,
And you were right, you were the lucky one all along.

I hope you’ll guilt is stultifying,
I got a feeling it’s not,
Because I remember everything you forgot.

Forgiveness is supposed to be,
a weight lifted away.
It’s hard when you can’t forget,
pain felt every day.

And you were right when you said I was wrong,
And you were right, you were the lucky one all along.

And I will pull up the anchor,
And I’ll untie the knot.
Because I remember everything you forgot.