I’ve never been afraid of clowns, even when I was a little kid. This is probably because my baby blanket featured clowns. There were four of them that I remembered for the longest time. The pattern with the four clowns was repeated across one side of the blanket, where the clowns hung from pink or orange ladders and held balloons in various colors.
One day, when I was about four, I happened to glance down at my blanket and discovered that a fifth clown had appeared on the pattern. It was a large clown that wore a pink, frilly costume and carried a single balloon while it smiled out from the ladder on which it hung. I knew every inch of my baby blanket since birth, and never before had I noticed this pink clown.
Could it have always been there? It’s entirely possible. Maybe for some odd reason I didn’t notice it before, even though I was always attracted to bright colors and objects in the past. I don’t know how I would’ve missed such a brightly lit clown, but maybe I did. I’m one of those rare people who didn’t experience much childhood amnesia, and my earliest documented memory is from sixteen months old, so memory lapses aren’t likely.
I guess some people consider it something known as the Mandela effect. It stems from an incident where several people remembered Nelson Mandela dying in prison when he actually was released and became the leader of South Africa. This phenomenon refers to incidents where collective social memory differs from reality. But what if you are the only one who remembers? Does it still count or is this another phenomenon entirely? We're venturing very closely to the paranormal here.
Let’s fast forward to January of 1986 and the explosion that rocked the world. I will never forget that day. I was in kindergarten class and the teacher came in looking rather pale. She said that there had been a terrible accident. At first I thought that she was referring to the busy street in front of the elementary school, but then the door opened and the other kindergarten class gathered in our classroom while a teacher turned on the TV. This is how we found out about the Challenger explosion.
We watched the footage in dreadful silence, and that was how we spent the rest of the day. Eventually we had to go home, where I found Mom watching the same news on CNN in the living room. Among the footage I remember clearly is a shot of the shell-shocked audience in the bleachers at Cape Canaveral. There was also the infamous footage of the explosion itself, where the cloud appeared as a pink and orange demon-like thing with two horns.
Probably the most upsetting footage of all were the images that CNN broadcast of a flaming, triangular object arcing away from the main explosion and heading for the ocean. The footage was played over and over again while reporters speculated as to what it meant. That particular part of the video played over and over again in my head after I went to bed that night, just as it had played repeated on the TV.
Let’s fast forward again to the twenty-first century, and this is where it gets bizarre. Every video and documentary discussing the accident, books and websites, YouTube reports, all say the same thing. This particular footage was supposedly kept from the public and only broadcast for the first time two years after the incident.
Um... No, it wasn’t. It was repeated for hours on CNN in 1986 on the day of the incident. We discussed it within my family because it was so disturbing. We were pretty sure it was the Challenger itself and Mom said it was unlikely anyone survived that.
Am I remembering it wrong? No, of that I am certain. Do all these works cite the same flawed source with the wrong information? It’s entirely possible. Pretty much everything I’ve seen with this information comes from authors who were not alive in 1986 and don’t remember the incident, so they would not recognize a mistake when they saw it.
But it’s not as easy to dismiss some of the other incidents I remember, and some are downright frightening. Three years after the Challenger explosion, chaos broke out in Tiananmen Square in China. The most famous footage of the incident was when a college-aged protestor stood down a tank in the street, but that is not the footage I am talking about today.
Among the journalists who came to film the incident was a middle-aged American reporter with a graying beard and mustache, as well as wire-rimmed glasses. As I recall, he worked for ABC News. For some reason he was not able to broadcast by camera, so he was calling into the New York studio on a long distance phone. Viewers could hear the chaos in the background as he answered questions from the studio reporters.
I remember this report clearly, as I was sitting in the living room that evening at my family’s first Florida house. Mom and Dad were watching with me as dinner cooked in the background. I believe we were having chicken in white sauce, one of my most loathed meals that my dad subjected me to in childhood. But that’s not important here.
The interview on the television was suddenly interrupted by a man shouting in Chinese. The reporter said something along the lines of “hey, you can’t do that!” Seconds later, there was a rattling sound, like a muffled machine gun. After a series of beeps, the call ended abruptly, with the baffled studio reporters trying to rouse their field man again. He never returned and he was later reported missing.
Now for the scary part. I can find no reference to this incident today, even though it occurred live on national television. I’ve found only references to a British reporter who was captured and later released, but he looked nothing like the man whose picture was broadcast on the screen that night. Also, I remember clearly that the missing reporter was American, not British.
As far as I can see, the incident never occurred and the reporter never existed in the first place. Ever more scary, no one I’ve spoken to who was alive in that time period remembers the incident. Before she died, I spoke to Mom about the broadcast that she had commented on the night it occurred, but she had no memory of it ever happening. I can find no one else who saw the broadcast.
How does an entire incident disappear from the collective memory? How does a man vanish from existence without leaving a single trace? I wish I knew.
Perhaps he went the same way as the chocolate Twix. No, I don’t mean that candy bar that was under limited release in 1990. That is the one that internet sources acknowledge. I’m talking about the chocolate Twix bar that existed in the mid-eighties, which has no references today.
Back in the mid-1980s, there were two flavors of Twix. One was peanut butter and the other had chocolate cookies inside. In about 1987, the chocolate one disappeared again and was replaced by the original recipe, the caramel Twix we know today. The peanut butter one eventually was taken off the market, though it rears its head every now and then even today.
I’m not sure of the exact date the chocolate Twix disappeared. It just wasn’t there one day when I was in the second grade. That’s when I discovered the caramel Twix and never looked back, at least until a different type of chocolate Twix was released in 1990, but it wasn’t the same when I tried it. What became of the chocolate Twix? The answer has been lost to time and erased from memory without a trace.
It seems like a trivial thing when compared to exploding Space Shuttles and missing reporters, but it’s no less disturbing. When it seems like you’re the only person who remembers these things, you have to wonder just what else you’re missing, or if you’re just completely crazy.
I can’t call this phenomenon the Mandela effect. That refers to a collective social memory. This only involves one person. I refer to this as the Fifth Clown Phenomenon, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has experienced it. It could be something as big as a vanishing man, or as mundane as your carpet cleaner suddenly beeping three times at the end of a cycle instead of the usual two. Something has changed, and you’re the only one who’s noticed.
What do you remember that no one else does? What have you seen disappear from the collective consciousness without explanation? Is time even progressing the way we think it is? Do we understand time in the first place? Are you even on the same plain of existence today that you were at birth? I leave you to turn these questions over in your head. Don’t let it keep you up too late tonight.