Recently, it has come to light that a popular children’s book and TV series by the name “The Berenst(A/E)in Bears” has had a mysterious name change…or has it? Millions of people worldwide, when asked, remember and spell the books as “BerenstEin,” and swear that it was spelled that way. Age ranges from 25 year olds to 60 year olds and above. Each time, almost ALL of them remember it spelled with an E. Surely hundreds of thousands of adults, normal working and functioning adults, can’t all be wrong?
Many theories exist as to why this has occurred; theories such as ‘The Mandela Effect’ and other general ‘time shifts’ spearhead the controversy, yet no one can exactly pinpoint it. The Mandela Effect mainly focuses on the idea that parallel universes exist, and that our perception of the world often swaps with these parallels due to the ‘butterfly effect’, where a time traveler made one small change that made a larger impact further down the timeline.
In fact, this issue has existed for quite some time. Maybe not with as much light and media intensity as today, but decades ago, the show was commonly misspelled as BerenstEin in external documents; newspaper clippings, television schedules and posters alike. Of course, this does not explain why so many people remember it as being with an E, and remember it with such passion and certainty.
Exploring the Mandela Effect
As briefly touched upon previously, The Mandela Effect has really brought this to attention. The Mandela Effect is, as described by the dedicated Reddit board to the theory, “…the effect where a lot of people seem to remember an event happening, that did not happen. ‘Widespread alternate memories’.”
The name ‘Mandela’ snaked it’s way cleverly into this title by its own ‘Mandela Effect’ wherein many thousands seem to remember Mandela dying in prison in 1980, when of course he passed away in 2013. I remember both. Throughout my entire ‘early education’ life, I remember knowing Nelson Mandela had died in prison, and that the famous song “Nelson Mandela” by The Specials was a metaphorical homage to him, where is ‘freedom’ was his spiritual resting. I also remember, as a journalist in modern society, his passing in 2013 and his health decline up until that point. In fact, I remember the exact location I was in when told the news of his death.
The subject-specific website, ‘The Mandela Effect,’ which appears to be self-hosted, bears hundreds of ‘effects’ listed, from an illustrious and vague missing Star Wars scene to the death of Betty White, from the spelling of Barbra Streisand to the now infamous BerenstEin Bear debate. When I originally wrote this article two years ago, the website was receiving that much traffic that it crashed permanently. That’s how popular this theory was.
Intrigued by this theory, I set out to find answers myself.
First, I looked to the adults around me. With my age being much younger than those who watched Berenstain Bears, I do not remember ever reading the book itself, but adults around me almost certainly do. In fact, I asked 50 adults (from family to neighbors) to spell it as they remember it, with a 90 percent success rate of “BerenstEin”(45 out of 50), three spelled it as Berenstain, and two misspelled it completely.
Secondly, I studied past and present literature. As far as recorded proof, EVERY book of “Berenstein Bears” bore the A rather than the E (BerenstAin). Problems, did however, come to prominence when studying external literature, such as television guides (one of which was detailing the premier of the show on television, yet ‘misspelled’ it as “BerenstAin”). Although not definite, and what could easily be a simple spelling error, it seems odd that a detailing of a show’s entire premier would be misspelled. Surely something as big as a show’s debut on television would have been carefully looked over?
Next, I found a rather interesting website by the name of www.80scartoons.net. This website has been taking ‘screenshots’ of its own history for over ten years. Within this, I found a rather interesting thing; an April 7th 2000 version (and ALL previous versions) spelled every instance of the controversial title as BerenstEin. Every instance, from copyright disclaimers to title headers. Literally every time the word was used, it was spelled as above. But, ever since a large edit on August 5th 2001, and ALL thereafter, all instances of the word were changed to BerenstAin.
Is this proof of alternate universes? I’m skeptical. Perhaps the screenshots are fake, or perhaps the owner of the website misspelled it before the 2001 edit, and made the big correction thereafter. Who knows.
Of course it’s a really freaky thing to happen, for hundreds of thousands of people to ‘remember’ the exact same thing as each other, yet it hasn’t actually happened that way. Of course, that’s odd, but there must be a natural explanation. Whilst there haven’t been many, if any, actual scientific insight into this phenomenon, I have my own theory.
My Own Conclusion
After long revisions of possible causes, I have reached my own conclusion that it came as a simple ‘following’ of popular culture at the time of release/ popularity. Such spellings as ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Goldstein’ were drilled into our young minds through mainstream cultural influences such as film and television (remember, this was during the serious dawn of television, and age-specific marketing of magazines and books such as Berenstain Bears. “Stein not Stien!” Perhaps this caused us to read any further instances of “stain” or anything similar as “stein,” because it’s almost second nature to us. Much as you skim-read words rather than acknowledging every single letter, we could have simply overlooked it.
Secondly, it is easier to pronounce BerenstEin than BerenstAin. Common linguistics and child psychology leads us to pronounce words as easily as possible, especially more so when we were younger, and more impressionable. (For a very long time, I pronounced “Gnasher” from the comic "Dennis and Gnasher" as “Gh-nasher,” not taking into regard of the silent G).
Despite the theory of alternate timelines and universes being mystical and entertaining reads, reigniting the vivid imagination of my youthful days, it is my belief that our remembrance of the word “BerenstEin” only came around due to popular culture at the time, emphasis on spelling these words properly, and the ease of which we read words to ourselves. Of course, nothing can be proven or disproven here, so I’ll leave it up to you to decide.
What do you think about the Berenstein VS Berenstain debate, and do you believe in The Mandela Effect? Is this just a really coincidental case of Déjà vu, experienced by so many people at once, or is this proof that our universe swapped with an alternate? Is it that some clumsy time traveler bumped into someone, and caused a chain reaction of events that changed the letter?
Stephen Hawking recently created a ‘time travel’ experiment, where he threw a party and announced it days later. If time travel is to exist, surely someone would travel to this event to prove it. No one did, and poor Hawking was alone that day. I’m not saying the theory isn’t plausible, but wouldn’t you turn up to a time-travel party hosted by Hawking himself?