Wednesday Weirdness: A Missing Photo and the Mandela Effect

pathway between large, gnarled trees with words "on the a path of Wednesday Weirdness" superimposed over image

Today’s Wednesday Weirdness piggybacks off last week’s post about Thunderbirds, and the disappearance of a Pennsylvania farmhand named Tom Eggleton. If you missed it, you can find it HERE. Many of the townspeople where Tom lived were convinced he’d been carried off by a Thunderbird. Why?

Perhaps they’d seen a photo supposedly circulated in 1890. I say supposedly, because no one—up to the present time—has been able to find the photograph despite thousands of people who remember seeing it, and numerous publications which insist they published it.

If you’re scratching your head, let me backtrack.

In April 1890, two Arizona cowboys (or prospectors, depending on who is doing the telling) shot and killed a pterodactyl-like creature. The enormous bird was featherless with smooth skin, a head like an alligator, and a wingspan of one-hundred, sixty feet. The two men loaded the creature into a wagon and hauled it into Tombstone, where it was nailed, wings outspread, across the entire length of a barn.

The Tombstone Gazette ran an article about the incident on April 26, 1890. No photo.

In 1963, a writer by the name of Jack Pearl—while recounting other large bird sightings in Saga magazine—stated the Gazette published a photo of the “Tombstone Thunderbird” in 1886. Notice the discrepancy in the dates.

Also in 1963, a correspondent for Fate magazine would claim the photo had been published by the Gazette—and countless newspapers across the country. Still others claimed to have seen the photo in Saga or Fate. Others in magazines devoted to the Old West.

Grit was one of the newspapers thought to have published the Thunderbird photo. This is the Grit office as it looked in the 1890s: Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons unknown; uploaded to the English language Wikipedia by Pepso in February 2006 (file log). [Public domain]

Biologist and writer, Ivan T. Sanderson said he loaned a photostat of the image to an associate who lost it. Mothman Prophecies author, John Keel, was certain he’d seen the photograph in a magazine; there was even talk of it having been shown on a Canadian television show devoted to the supernatural. With more and more individuals claiming to have seen the photo, staffers at the Gazette searched their archives. Other newspapers and magazines did as well, but the photo has never been found.

So how could so many people have such distinct memories of something that doesn’t exist?

The “lost” Thunderbird photo is an example of a shared false memory most commonly called the Mandela Effect. Named for former South African President and philanthropist, Nelson Mandela, the phenomenon occurs when a large group of people recall something that never happened. Nelson Mandela passed away in 2013, but many people distinctly remember him dying in prison in the 1980s.

Author and paranormal researcher, Fiona Broome, coined the phrase in 2019, and runs a website devoted to it. Here’s a list of some cool “Mandela Effect” items that may make you realize you’ve shared a false memory.

And, finally about that thunderbird photo…I can’t find one in free use, but you can check out an example of it HERE.

When you’re all done browsing around, come back and share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to know you think about the lost photograph and the Mandela Effect.

68 thoughts on “Wednesday Weirdness: A Missing Photo and the Mandela Effect

  1. A couple of years back, I actually got in a friendly argument over Jif/Jiffy peanut butter. And Billy Graham’s death, I could have SWORN it was earlier. And the BerenstEIn bears.

    I must be traveling back and forth between alternate universes.:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really had to stop and think about Jiffy, too. Then I thought maybe I got it confused with the popcorn. I think Jif/Jiffy is probably the most common but those others are up there at the top of misconceptions, too.

      Yep, alternate realities is the logical explanation, LOL!

      Like

    • Yep, those Bears are stars in the Mandela Effect loop, LOL.
      And for the photo, if you Google “Tombstone Thunderbird” and click on images, there are all manner of staged ones that come up. They’re really pretty clever.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love it, but that isn’t a 160 foot wingspan. Something that big would be Rodan. Memory is a fun place to look for stories. I had a bit on one of the Idea Mill posts about the third man syndrome. People swear someone showed up and helped them, but no evidence exists of that person. I always wanted to include that in a story, but never have. My goofy mind couldn’t get any further than “Play it Again Sam.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ooo, third man syndrome could be spun in so many different ways when it comes to stories. It would be fun to play with that. “Play it Again Sam” sounds like a remark the Hat would make about it 😉

      The photo isn’t the one I wanted–it’s definitely a smaller bird–but believe it or not, I can’t find the one with the barn. And I SWORE I saw it when I was researching this topic last year for a talk I gave on urban legends. Maybe I got sucked up into the Mandela Effect while doing the post!

      Google Images has a bunch of staged photos that are really clever, but that link took too long to load, so I went with this one. I liked the old time feel of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That photo was pretty cool. The Mandela Effect doesn’t surprise me at all. People are prone to groupthink and believing what they want to believe. I see the disparity in memories in my own family – huge variations in our memories of the exact same events! Fascinating post, Mae.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve always heard it said if you ask several people to recall the same event you’ll get different answers. I’ve seen that in play a few times myself. But I do like the idea of a large group having the same wrong memory. As you said—groupthink. That’s a good word for it!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I know, the poor thing!

      According to the story it was injured and on the ground, when the two cowboys happened upon it, but it did manage to fly away. They chased it for miles and shot at it with rifles. When it fell from the sky, it was exhausted and perished. They took the carcass into town. The actual article from the Tombstone Gazette can be found online—just no photo to go with it.

      Like

    • And that picture is just one of many staged photos. There are dozens of them on Google Images, all of them very clever.
      I think the use of group psychology would be wonderful factored into a novel.
      Thanks for visiting, Judi!

      Like

  4. “Mandela Effect” proves how stories are made and passed on from one generation to another and they keep changing as each era adds some perspective to it… that’s why they tend to become unbelievable with time. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tall tales that grow taller 🙂
      I think in the telling, many people want to add their own little embellishments, which transition into a snowball effect with each retelling.
      I do love hearing old stories, though. There’s so many fascinating aspects of folklore and legends.
      Thanks for visiting, Balroop!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Events, photos, anecdotes, and other things of the past tend to be blurred in the memory of those who either claim to have seen them or claim to have actually been there. False memories are created because we, as normal every day human beings, are not too observant. We think we see something but the reality of what is actually there might be different, either in small details or in large portions. I know from my previous profession that eye witnesses think they saw something and may recall it well, a few minutes or short hours after the event, but those same eye witnesses begin to change details as the days go by and the memory becomes blurred. If you have multiple eye witnesses then you have multiple descriptions and you usually have groups that remember things one way and others who remember them different. This is what I think the Mandela Effect is all about. Confusion is part of our mental structure with regards to memories…but it is fun reading about them and fun seeing the “proof” that the Mandela Effect really exists. Great and entertaining post!
    All the best and my greetings from Spain,
    Francesc

    Liked by 2 people

    • What an awesome and insightful comment, Francisco! I’m delighted you dropped by to share your thoughts. It sounds like your previous profession may have involved law enforcement in some capacity. I have often heard multiple eye witnesses will view an event differently. I also think the passage of time changes what we remember and how we remember it. I’ve had that experience myself.

      It is all utterly fascinating! And despite the passage of centuries, human beings still react the same way when it comes to events and memories.

      Thank you for visiting! I’m delighted you enjoyed the post!

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are so very welcome and it is my pleasure, for sure for I thoroughly enjoy your blog and will go back to read more. I love to read of strange things, and yes, even though I was a law enforcement officer for many many years, I never lost my love of dreams, the supernatural and of magic and never really cared much for rational explanations. As an artist (my true profession) I like the world as being a mysterious place rather than a place that can be scientifically determined. However, during the course of my official duties all that I had to place aside, now I can enjoy it by readings such posts as yours which are wonderful.
        All the best,
        Francesc

        Like

      • I’m glad you’re now able to embrace your love of dreams and the mysteries of the world. My father was an artist and I admire that talent in others. He also had a love of words that he passed on to me, but I got “zilch” when it came to artistic genes, LOL.

        Thank you again for visiting. It’s wonderful to connect!

        Like

  6. I guess I’m a cynic, the photo makes me think of things like the jackalope, Sasquatch, Yeti, and Ogopogo (Canadian version of Loch Ness). Many people are sure they’ve read or seen them, but there’s no real proof.
    For the Mandela Effect, I always thought (and am sure we were taught it in school) that Alaska once belonged to Canada, but I’ve looked it up and there is no documentation to prove it. Weird.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahh, I think perhaps your Alaska memory could be part of the Mandela Effect 🙂
      And, hey, you mean Jackalopes don’t exist? LOL

      There are dozens of other staged photos of the Tombstone Thunderbird on Google Images. Some of them are really clever. Although I am mostly a skeptic, I love thinking “what if?”

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What a strange photo. The body looks human shaped and the wings like a bat. I have thought people were dead who weren’t, but my memory is bad to begin with. Maybe they are in another dimension? Great post. Mae.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The woman who runs the Mandela Effect website mostly chalks the explanations up to alternate realities. I think it’s more faulty memory, but it is fun investigating these things. And the photo is just one of a a few dozen staged photos I found on Google Images. It’s amazing how many people have tried to track down the “actual” image 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m glad to read that the photo isn’t the one that’s been “lost.” My first thought on reading the description was no way you could get a creature with a wingspan like that folded into a wagon. I’m not buying it. And then when I saw the picture, it was obvious that THAT picture, whatever it is and wherever it was taken, wasn’t even close to being over 100 feet. But seriously. Are we supposed to think that one is real, or is it likely photoshopped?

    As for the Mandela effect, that’s very interesting. I checked out the links and didn’t find any right off the bat that I think I remembered incorrectly, but didn’t have time to look more closely. When it comes to dates, I’m awful, anyway. But who and what things are much easier for me to remember correctly. And I will never, EVER forget “Choosy moms choose JIF.” 😀 I’ll be going back over some of those things again, because it’s fascinating, and I’m sure when I look closely, I’ll find things I’ve mis-remembered, too.

    Super post, Mae, all the way around! Sharing!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • The photo I wanted to use I couldn’t find again. I originally stumbled over it when researching the story for a talk on Urban Legends last year. I SWEAR I saw it–the one with the barn–but who knows. Maybe I got sucked up into the whole drama of the “lost photo,” LOL. What I do find interesting is that the Gazette actually published the story of the two cowboys. From what I’ve read, it was common during that time for newspapers to run fanciful tales. You can find several dozen staged photos of the bird online if you Google it. They’re pretty cool to look at.

      I think I was originally one of those people who believed Nelson Mandela died before he did, and I think the Jif/Jiffy thing happens because of Jiffy popcorn. Like you, I do remember “Choosy moms choose Jif.” Amazing how those slogans stick in your head!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hahaha. Slogans! I still have jingles and slogans running around in my head from the FIFTIES!! And maybe earlier. Like Bucky the Beaver, singing “Brush-a, brush-a, brush-a, with the new Ipana, it’s a brand new toothpaste, Knocks out decay germs fast, fast, fast, be sure you’re right! Ipana for your teeee-eeeeeth.” Hahahahahahahaha. Oh, I’ve been working too hard. I’ve gone ’round the bend! 😀

        Like

    • I agree with you about criminal investigators, Jan. I think trial lawyers can also play on those faulty/false memories. Having witnessed an accident once and being interviewed by police, I can relate to just how tricky precise memory can be.

      Like

    • Wow, how cool! I think law enforcement and investigators often run into issues with witnesses having faulty memories. The Mandela Effect and the Missing Photo make for great discussions and urban legend fodder! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This has happened to me on a few occasions. Once I was positive a TV announcer mentioned something that I thought was out of line. Soon others came forward and agreed with me. One of us found the broadcast and discovered that the announcer said no such thing. It is amazing what we can convince our minds of.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The Mandela Effect is fascinating to me, as I have several examples of it from my own experience, including spelling the word dilemma. I was taught to spell it dilemna– as were a great number of other people, come to find out. There is a website about how many people share a memory of learning to spell the word dilemna. Great post about the Thunderbird photo!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, ha! I am one of those people who was taught to spell it dilemma. I thought maybe I imagined that (just tried to spell it that way last week). Glad to know I wasn’t the only one, and that I’m not crazy thinking that, LOL!

      Like

  11. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Monday February 24th 2020 – #Angels Jan Sikes, #Review Olga Nunez Miret, #Mystery Mae Clair | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  12. False memories are a fascinating subject, although it is true that people in groups are more likely to become more convinced of something if they find support from their peers. We are not very good ar recalling in general, as Fernando said, and we’re likely to be even worse depending on the circumstances. But I’d never heard it referred to as the Mandela Effect. (In some cases one wonders if there might have been false rumours or the equivalent to fake news at the time and some people got stuck on that, although it does not explain many other examples). I’m sure the list will keep growing! Thanks, Mae!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for visiting, Olga. I agree with you that group memory tends to be skewed when it has support from others. I know I am horrible at recalling events. Some I will swear up and down happened a certain way when they didn’t. Other times, I know my memory is spot on. I often wonder if the event itself could be the deciding factor on how I remember it.
      Yes, I am sure the list will keep growing, especially given all the variations that happen related to most anything today!

      Like

    • Yes, it does. I’ve heard it called false memory, but there is also another name I stumbled across while researching this. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what it is! I’d take a stab at it, but I’m afraid I’d remember it incorrectly, LOL.

      The concept has been around for centuries, I suppose, and is probably well known among students of psychology. The author who coined the name Mandela Effect did that when she realized how many people had remembered Mr. Mandela’s date of death incorrectly. She also suggests alternate timelines as a theory.

      I’m more of the opinion people just have bad memories, and reinforce those same bad memories over time 🙂

      So nice of you to visit, Mary!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. So interesting! I’ve never heard specifically of the Mandela effect, but I don’t know how many times I’ve done the “is that person still around? I thought he/she died ages ago” thing. And what an interesting photo! More interesting is that no one can find the photo so many have claimed to have seen. Fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the idea of the lost “thunderbird photo” floating around out there and so many people insistent that it exists and they saw it. Even weirder, the publications that say–yes, we published that, we just can’t find it, LOL. But even more, I’m fascinated by the idea of the Mandela Effect and how groups of people can be influenced by shared memories. So bizarre!
      Thanks for visiting, Julie!

      Liked by 1 person

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