This classic was called Shazaam, of course — but in “today’s news that will totally blow your mind,” it never actually existed. And the reason why we all think it did is being hotly debated by Reddit truthers who have taken on Shazaam‘s existence as their pet cause.
Amelia Tait at New Statesman wrote an excellent deep dive into the Shazaam situation on Wednesday, December 21st, tracing the phenomenon back to its origins — a 2009 Yahoo! Answers post asking “Do you remember that Sinbad movie?”
People did, but no one could find evidence online that it existed.
A short time later, some Redditors were on the case, latching themselves on to a wide assortment of conspiracy theories on why this movie is impossible to find online.
The most popular and mind-blowing of these theories is called the “Mandela Effect,” made popular by both Reddit and a Vice article about the Berenstein Bears. Sorry, make that the Berenstain Bears — because even though the titular Bears were always Berenstains, there’s a whole contingent of people out there (raises hand) who distinctly remember the popular book series being spelled Berenstein.
If you’re wondering how these Bears are connected to Shazaam and South African anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela, it all has to do with collective memory. A large group of people distinctly remember Mandela dying in prison, just as a large group of people distinctly remember the Berensteins and the existence of Shazaam. And so, according to the internet, that means that there are thousands of us with the same false memory who used to live in a parallel universe. A universe with a Sinbad genie movie, Berensteins, and a far earlier end for Mandela.