On 11 August 2015, the popular gonzo news site VICE published a story about a conspiracy theory surrounding the children’s storybook characters the Berenstain Bears. The theory went like this: many people remember that the bears’ name was spelt “Berenstein” – with an “e” – but pictures and old copies proved it was always spelt with an “a”. The fact that so many people had the same false memory was seen as concrete proof of the supernatural.
“Berenstein” truthers believe in something called the “Mandela Effect”: a theory that a large group of people with the same false memory used to live in a parallel universe (the name comes from those who fervently believe that Nelson Mandela died while in prison). VICE’s article about the theory was shared widely, leading thousands of people to r/MandelaEffect, a subreddit for those with false memories to share their experiences.
It was there, just a few hours after the article was posted, that discussions of Shazaam – or the “Sinbad Genie movie” – took off.
Amelia Tait for the New Statesman, on a ’90s movie starring Sinbad that never existed but to some Redditors is proof of media conspiracy and/or alternate universe timelines. Obviously.