Among the nooks and crannies of the internet lurk new generations of paranormal stories, rumors of alternate universes, and shared institutional memories that are presented as proof of parallel timelines bleeding into one another in a broader theory popularly called the “Mandela Effect.”
In one such shared (but inaccurate) memory, fans of the 2000 film Scary Movie have pointed out a line they remember from initial viewings (“I see white people”) has “changed” to “I see dead people” in recurring posts on social media, citing the phenomenon as a prime example.
A page maintained by aerospace firm Northrup Grumman notes that the Mandela Effect nomenclature was coined by self-identified paranormal expert Fiona Broome. Grumman adds that the Mandela Effect is described as “false memory” by those skeptical of it and an example of a multiverse by others, and defines the term:
The Mandela Effect is named for South African statesman and civil rights activist Nelson Mandela. When he died in 2013, news of his death stirred up some surprising — and mysterious — memories. People around the world reported that they remembered hearing of his death decades earlier, in the 1980s. Some even vividly recalled watching his funeral on television … Thus, people who remember seeing Mandela’s funeral in the 1980s may not be simply misremembering. They might have somehow slipped across from an alternate history where Nelson Mandela did die in the 1980s. In our world, he was imprisoned for many years. Likewise, people who recall “The Berenstein Bears” may have grown up in a parallel world where the bears’ name really did end in -stein.
It was not uncommon for users to tag Wayans brothers in an effort to confirm whether their recollection was accurate:
The earliest mention of Scary Movie‘s “I see white people” Mandela Effect we found was from November 2017. In that iteration, the writer surmised the line appeared in the trailer but was later removed for reasons of “political correctness”:
[Mass Memory Discrepancy Effect or MMDE]: I see white people
Current: I see dead people
Some claim that the scene in the original Scary Movie, which lampooned The 6th Sense, had the line “I see white people”, whereas now it’s seen as “I see dead people”. Is this a false memory, or was it really this way originally?
It must be said, “I see dead people” just doesn’t make sense. Not only is it the exact line from the film it is parodying, but the black dude saying it just isn’t funny the way “white people” is, or would be … Many people definitely recall this being in the trailer but suspect it was dropped from the main movie. These days, anything remotely racist will come under increased scrutiny – even obvious comedy such as this.
But before Mandela died, a comment on a decade-old Yahoo Answers thread responded to the original post about Scary Movie and “I see dead people,” claiming the quote was in actuality “I see white people”:
no Scary movie quotes ” I see white people” the Sixth Sense is the movie that quotes that
A commenter responded:
All you have to do is read his lips! You can definitely see him say white, and they put smoke to try and cover it up.
On February 12 2018, a YouTube video about the Scary Movie “I see white people” Mandela Effect appeared. In its description, the uploader said:
In Scary Movie There is a funny line where Shorty does a spoof on the movie Sixth Sense and says” I see white people” instead of dead people. Well guess what I never said that in this reality.
More than one commenter described the discrepancy as the “freakiest” one yet, and others referenced it as a pop culture touchstone among their friends:
Oh HELL NO!! I have a friend that lives by us and him and his family are the only black family in the area, he says “I see white people” all the time when he walks our door. The freakiest one yet!!
Other commenters blamed CERN, an aspect of the conspiracy discussed in broader detail on our page “Did the World End in 2012?” One sub-theory around the Mandela Effect is that European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) experiments with particle physics in 2012 managed to alter reality in minor ways:
Mandela Effects like this is why I believe someone (most likely CERN) is doing this intentionally.
However, there are non-conspiracy theory answers to many of these questions. One response in objection to this particular claim involves the 2002 movie Undercover Brother. In a March 22 2019 r/MandelaEffect thread, a commenter claimed that the exact line appeared in a portion of Undercover Brother:
An embedded YouTube clip uploaded on March 22 2009 (approximately around the time the Yahoo Answers thread appeared, but several years before Mandela’s death coined the term and popularized the theory and ten years to the date of the thread citing it) was cued to a part where the main character says “I see white people.”
The line also appeared in a similar clip uploaded in July 2014. Comments on that thread were divisive, with some users positing Undercover Brother‘s trailer contained the line and caused Mandela Effect proponents to conflate their memories, a theory vociferously rejected by fellow commenters:
haha,so you are suggesting to people who NEVER saw the undercover brother movie and vividly feel as if they heard the line in scary movie that they instead had their memories contaminated by “possibly” seeing the trailer for a completely different movie perhaps once or a few times??….bahahaha….oooooooookay then….and they say believers have some out-there theories.
Scary Movie was released in July 2000, and preceded by trailers; one of the lines the film parodied was from The Sixth Sense, released in August 1999. The Sixth Sense was a breakout hit, which is why the very next year it was parodied in Scary Movie. Another hugely well-received 1999 film was novella adaptation The Green Mile, by Stephen King; it was another runaway hit, and both were widely viewed by moviegoers.
Both of these films were large presences at the 72nd Academy Awards ceremony in March 2000, honoring film efforts from the previous year, 1999. Of note is while the 72nd Academy Awards in 2000 was not the most viewed (viewership peaked in 1998), an estimated 46 million Americans watched the ceremony — a number which dropped each year, clocking in at 29 million in 2019.
People who have watched the Oscars are likely aware the program’s host typically intersperses announcement and distribution of the awards with entertainment segments, featuring musical numbers and comedy sketches. Comedian Billy Crystal hosted the 72nd Academy Awards in 2000, and one of his comedy bits was a segment panning various celebrities in the audience, musing about what they might be thinking.
That segment was uploaded to YouTube in October 2010 (prior to the death of Mandela and the ensuing “Mandela Effect” theory). One joke in particular was well-received by both ceremony attendees as well as YouTube commenters commenting — often before the Mandela Effect Scary Movie rumor took root. At around the 1:15 mark, the camera panned to The Green Mile‘s Michael Clarke Duncan, who died in 2012. As Duncan’s face appeared on the screen, Crystal quipped:
I see white people.
On a side note, Crystal’s joke was incidentally prescient; the 88th Academy Awards in 2016 (for films released in 2015) led to controversy and boycotts due to the snubbing of nominees of color. In response, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was used to voice frustration in the entertainment industry, ushering in changes in the coming years.
Regarding the Scary Movie “I see white people” Mandela Effect rumor, it is impossible to assign a truth value to a claim hinging on the possible existence of multiple parallel universes. It is, however, true that a large number of people recall the line and feel the “I see dead people” joke didn’t “work” on the same level as the other did. In discourse, some have speculated that “Mandela Effected” people conflated that line with another in 2002’s Undercover Brother.
It also seems possible that some of the 46 million viewers of the 72nd Academy Awards in 2000 remembered Duncan reacting to Crystal’s “I see white people” quip, the two films, and later conflated the joke with Scary Movie.
But since it’s impossible to prove a negative, we also can’t really rule out the possibility the line truly was spoken as it is commonly remembered — but in an alternate timeline.