He's been putting out fires for 75 years — but do you know his name?
The phenomenon of collective false memory is really quite astounding.
Important dates, famous lines from movies, song lyrics and even traumatic events can be misremembered by millions of people — who all collectively misremember it the very same way.
Memory is a very fallible thing.
In our amazing minds, we are capable of remembering thousands upon thousands of memories. But often, those memories are like old photographs. They start to fade with time. And when there are blurry parts of those memories, our minds sometimes fill in those blanks with either incorrect information or we confuse them with other events. Or you remember an incident — even a traumatic one — and misremember the details.
That condition has been called "The Mandela Effect."
The Mandela Effect has been defined as a collective false memory. The term was coined by writer Fiona Broome when she discovered she shared a particular false memory with many other people — namely that South African human rights activist Nelson Mandela had died in prison in the 1980s.
So why do so many people remember Mandela dying 30 years before he actually did?
Well, it may be a simple case of combining two separate pieces of information — that Mandela spent a long time in prison — and that he died — then piecing them together into a false memory.
The interesting thing about the Mandela Effect is that so many people can misremember something in exactly the same way. Those things can be sayings or movie lines and even famous advertising campaigns.
For example, one of the most enduring public service campaigns was developed back in 1944.
The U.S. Forest Service established a forest fire prevention program. That same year, Walt Disney released Bambi, the animated motion picture. Disney agreed to lend Bambi to the Forest Service to be used in that first fire prevention campaign.
But Bambi was only lent out for one year.
As that year began to wind down, the Forest Service asked the war Advertising Council — later renamed just the advertising council — to come up with a new mascot.
In 1944 that new mascot was unveiled. And for the next 75 years, he became famous for saying one line: "Remember, only you can prevent forest fires."
So, do you remember the mascot's name?
If you said Smokey The Bear, you would be wrong. His actual name — and the name he has had for over 75 years — is Smokey Bear. Not Smokey the Bear.
It is a collective false memory. That incorrect recollection may have been aided by this song, written in 1950, by the same songwriters who penned Frosty the Snowman:
The composers added the word "the" purely to help the rhythm of the song. But chances are you've never heard that novelty song before. And you've probably seen dozens of Smokey Bear commercials over the years. And yet we all experience the collective false memory.
His name is Smokey Bear.
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