Play It Again, Sam

What may be learned from
the Mandela Effect?

1 August 2017

Inquiring about when someone recalls first having observed a Mandela Effect leads to an interesting series of questions.

Briefly, the Mandela Effect highlights where in some cases a statistically significant proportion of people surveyed hold a very strong belief of remembering something differently than how it has been recorded by history.

Not easily dismissed as a person with faulty recall, the volume of those “misremembering” with precisely the same account carries substantial weight.

The name of this effect references people being able to recall a funeral of South African leader, Nelson Mandela, that coincided with his time in prison during the 1980’s. While his colleague died during that period and at least one newspaper mistakenly attributed this other passing to be Mandela (and later retracted), that doesn’t diminish recollections that some people strongly maintain of Mandela’s widow at her husband’s funeral. Such accounts emerged in large numbers when he in fact died in 2013.

Researchers cover specific details and analysis of that particular situation, elsewhere.

Many only come to learn of all this once someone else points it out. Some then confirm for themselves.

Others however have strong recollections of something being changed at a specific point of time in the past.

Divergent historical accounts go back much further than the term “Mandela Effect” being coined.

Bits of trivia regarding the movie, Casablanca (1942) starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, involve the line “Play it again, Sam.” This catch-phrase was often cited by the generation that saw the original in their local cinema.

That line is not uttered in the original film or ever by Bogart in any film. Instead the closest similar set of lines is “Play it once, Sam. For old times' sake.” followed by “Play it, Sam.” but said by Bergman’s character, Ilsa– not Bogart’s Rick as many remembered.

The actual lines Bogart’s character said were “You played it for her. You can play it for me,” followed by, “Play it.”

There was a Broadway play and later popular film with Woody Allen and Diane Keaton using the misquote as its title. Play It Again, Sam (1972) when released came to be known as a misquote, but many people were previously unaware.

Does this qualify as an early occurrence of the Mandela Effect?

What other effects may have occurred much earlier yet have been taken to the graves of generations past?

Have any of us observed something like this yet quickly dismissed it with a readily available rationale?

Just because Occam’s razor advises that an explanation relying upon the fewest assumptions is most likely to be the correct one, this doesn’t mean it shall always hold. It’s a guideline, not an immutable law of nature.

One person observed a before-and-after Mandela Effect pertaining to Warner Bros. cartoon franchise Looney Tunes (1930-69).

Some remember it as “Looney Toons”, yet historical records indicate that it has always been Looney Tunes. That’s the least of it in this case.

This witness commented how the change stood out in his mind ever since.

It was approximately 1980, give or take a couple of years. Young enough to occasionally watch classic ‘toons yet old enough to be conscious about consciousness, how one’s own mind works, the scientific method and so on– this always stood-out as an anomaly. Certainty of the time period stems from having resided in a particular home, the span of which provides an upper bound to the time-frame.

Any relevant cognitive dissonance would have been short-lived. The 1980’s were a time where certain legal issues or matters of rights were topics of polite discussion. This would be similar to a middle school student in North America of the Twenty-First Century having basic knowledge of stock options because tech startups since the dot-com era held such a prominent place in pop culture and modern society at large.

With the Copyright Act of 1976 having been recent US history plus ongoing commentary in various news media, he dismissed the apparent change from “Looney Toons” to Looney Tunes as relating to this.

Also learning that many film projects would incorporate for production, post-production, release, advertisement and distribution in part to limit liability of losses or an Errors & Omissions perspective, it made sense that there might be a new legal entity with a slightly different name for the animated collection for similar purposes. Television was different enough terrain than theatrical projection of film, so a distinct legal entity held some merit for emerging gratuitous litigation of the 1980’s.

That rationale held because of possibly having observed yet more anomalies with these shorts from Warner Bros.

In Hocus Pocus Bugs Bunny gives the monster, Gossamer, a manicure. There were several variations to this clip observed across Saturday mornings of the late 1970’s including many edits of the larger episode. Some were apparently edited for length for fitting between commercial advertisements. Others were edited in seemingly arbitrary ways. All were dismissed by this person as giving Warner Bros. a larger catalog from which to appease buyers for broadcast and ever-expanding cable television programming.

In the manicure scene, one line from memory beginning the sequence is:

My, I’ll bet you monsters lead fascinating lives.

However, the recurring word is not “fascinating” but “interesting,” as in:

My, I’ll bet you monsters lead interesting lives.

Unfortunately, using any motion picture as evidence here is problematic.

If for no other reason, films are edited for different distribution channels. For instance, Brazil (1985) has at least three official versions: original US release, the “Love conquers all” edit for HBO and the director’s cut. Apparently, the ending was also different for theatrical releases in different countries.

Archival formats can also become corrupted such that subsequent releases are modified due to necessary restoration efforts.

When first observing Darth Vader’s line in Empire Strikes Back (1980) as “No, I am your father” instead of the oft quoted “Luke, I am your father” for another person was late 1997 or early ‘98.

This one was while watching the final issue VHS tape edition. It had been purchased in late 1995 at Costco but sat on a shelf for a couple of years still in its shrink-wrap. Other factors corroborate the time-frame to within a two year period.

When watching this VHS edition, the DVD boxed set was already available or at least announced by that stage, complete with edits that upset the purists. Having observed different dialog in the VHS edition than the 1980 theatrical release was easily dismissed 17 or so years later as a back-ported restoration.

At that time there was chatter of how Lucasfilm nearly lost the original Star Wars (1977) movie due primarily to time and chemistry. presents thorough details.

One topic of discussion back then was that for the DVD release, more money was spent restoring and re-doing visual effects than entirety of the original budget. Inflation may be a factor in that comparison. However, a major issue according to was that parts of the original negative were damaged and unusable. Restoration efforts required redoing optical transitions, as an example for the degree of corruption.

Thinking at that time: a few tweaks along the way by the restoration crew may have been necessary such as if the original audio track had been corrupted.

There was little or no opportunity for cognitive dissonance about this one either.

The next question coming to mind:

How far back can observations of the Mandela Effect be tracked?

That line of questioning, however, misses the larger issue.

Understanding what it is, how it occurs or why some people observe this yet others don’t– while interesting, those fall short of the big picture.

What may we learn using the Mandela Effect as catalyst?

Let’s accept for the sake of argument that there is some real phenomenon to account for large numbers of people having exactly the same recollection– a phenomenon other than faulty memory.

First, history is not absolute.

We already know this. Primary school students learn that history gets written by the victors and colored by which side of a national border it gets told.

For instance, those in the US are taught of their own history that the White House burned and was rebuilt after the War of 1812, and few learn that the fire may have been set by the British on 24 August 1814. US history tells of the British invasion that continued after winning the Battle of Bladensburg and were ultimately defeated by a hurricane 26 hours later, which extinguished the fires.

Across the border, however, Canadians tell a very different account.

Although formally part of the British Empire until 1867, its residents were very much Canadian– or Canadien in French-speaking regions. This fire of history was indeed intentional but also punitive. Responding to what would be but one attempted invasion by the US, Canadians pushed back all the way to the Presidential neighborhood and punctuated this reply with several fires. The Mansion was so charred that what little remained had to be bleached white, and the rest of the rebuilt structure was painted to match.

Without belaboring the point England likely has their own perspective, and France having then been defeated undoubtedly tells yet another.

Between all these versions lies the truth, but an objective measure might never be found.

Lest we forget, both of those countries in North America of course were built atop existing societies of indigenous nations. Therefore, battles involving either of the official sides violated moral rights (beyond bureaucracy of later Aboriginal Title) of those who were there already.

Having taken the long way around, clearly accounts of history are fluid.

Second, consider that reality is malleable.

Teachings from Vedic traditions have been talking about this for a very long time, and this legacy is thousands of years old. For instance, guidance for those moving beyond Hatha Yoga up the ladder towards Raja Yoga advises against engaging in abilities that may seem to emerge along that journey.

Examples given in Philosophy And Practice of Yoga by James McCartney (L.N.Fowler, 1978) are what he described as the path to black magic and includes levitation among others.

A Harvard researcher studied monks practicing “inner fire meditation” (properly, g Tum-mo) able to produce steam while draped in ice cold, damp material within a frigid environment. There is a bit more in Harvard Gazette (2002).

Other accounts describe monks barely dressed, sitting outside on snow capped mountains, generating enough heat that snow melts rapidly enough to produce steam.

While many people dismiss this evidence as curios, tricks or beyond their reach, perhaps the larger pattern asks that we step beyond understanding these to be mere novelties.

One western practitioner claims this meditation is not only within reach but gives concise instructions within The Way Of Meditation.

This brings us to the main point of what we may learn from the Mandela Effect.

We are more capable beings than most would believe.

Due to the significant number of people who apparently misremember precisely the same way, whatever phenomena might be in play should not be easily dismissed as faulty recall.

However, some artifacts that are referenced such as cinema or broadcast media make for weak evidence due to edits, decay and restoration. We accept a certain level of fluidity in things like who’s version of history is being told.

We can work with all that.

There is now mainstream awareness of these apparent changes, even if most have never heard the attached label. Again, the fact that Woody Allen named one of his plays and films after the apparently mistaken Casablanca quote supports this claim.

Previously relegated to the realm of trivia, we now have websites, blogs, podcasts and as of 2016, major news outlets covering the topic. Of course, articles can be divided into various camps of skeptics, believers and many others.

Perhaps larger numbers of people are ready for more.

What were once esoteric have since become topics of discussions at office lunch tables, or at least that’s been my observation throughout North America. Many of these conversations over the years involved co-workers from roughly fifty nations, not to mention diverse regions and provinces within those various countries. While a relatively small number from around the world, we must appreciate cultural diversity of this subset.

Taken together, these points indicate that the world at large might be ready for whatever follows.

The final question to ask here:

If the Mandela Effect indicates a certain malleability to reality, how would we like it to be?

The namesake scenario references circumstances affirming Nelson Mandela’s productive life of 95 years. Most of the other Effects to date have been playful or a change in trivial details. Few seem negative in the larger context.

While we may identify certain systemic problems in modern society as “too big to fail”, perhaps we awake one day to a world where those issues simply never existed– except in a few faulty memories.

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Researchers should continue exploring, but please be rigorous and methodical– as in using the scientific method correctly.

Skeptics should continue challenging all accounts and evidence, but please use valid criticism. Many attempts at debunking build upon logical fallacy, and such immature nonsense must cease for productive discourse. A proper response must address statistical significance (or at least suggestive by proposed new definitions) of the sampled population that apparently “misremember” with identical details. Anything less risks being a straw man argument, thus invalid.

Of the general population: attend to your recollections carefully. If something seems different, please keep a journal about the matter. Try to be objective about the facts. Identify context of the original and current circumstances such as names, dates, coincidental events, etc.

For all involved: when asking others, refrain from leading the answer in your questions. For instance, get the person to tell you what they know about a particular subject (rather than asking if they remember A versus B). Their recall may be guided by asking for “more detail” on a particular point.

To other writers of essays such as this one, let’s find where the Mandela Effect might cross-over into other topics of interest. Look beyond the hype and arguments. Find connections for something greater.

For everyone else, get some popcorn. Sit back, and enjoy the show!

Copyright © 2017 Daniel Joseph Pezely
May be licensed via Creative Commons Attribution.