Somebody Must Have Stepped On A Butterfly.


This essay is about Time Travel. We must first, however, start at the beginning.

I didn’t have many talents as a child, but I did learn to read at an extremely young age. Thanks to the tireless urging of my parents, I remember going into Kindergarten already knowing how to read just about anything. To this day, relatives at family reunions will inevitably remark about how I was reading the local newspaper at age two, or reciting Pro Wrestling magazine articles verbatim before preschool. It’s something I never thought too much about, but I do suppose it’s a nice little achievement. I don’t recall a time where I didn’t know how to read; it was always just one of those things that brought a rotating cavalcade of counselors and ‘gifted class’ invitations to my doorstep back in the 80’s.

One of the first book collections that I ever obsessed over was the Berenstein Bears. Since 1962, over 260 Berenstein Bears books have been published, along with numerous television shows and video games. The Berenstein’s, an anthropomorphic bear family of four, taught me about not talking to strangers, minding my manners, budgeting my allowance and not throwing tantrums in supermarkets. The Berenstein Bears were good people, just trying to raise a family in a hollowed-out tree, just like everyone else.

Now, when I say I obsessed over the Berenstein Bears, I absolutely mean it. I got every book on the day it came out and read every one of them cover-to-cover, sometimes dozens in one night. When insomnia got the best of me, I would stay up all night counting the words in each book, literally disseminating every scrap of literature I could from within the page. The Berenstein Bears became a part of me in a way that not even the authors could have possibly predicted. They were my sanctuary, my confidant, my escape and my anxiety medication. The Berenstein Bears were my second family.

So imagine my brain-melting surprise when I turned on my television last week to see the Berenstain Bears looking back at me.

Berenstain, not Berenstein.

A quick dash to the Internet left me baffled. Apparently, the Berenstain Bears were always the Berenstain Bears; always written that way and always pronounced that way (‘stain,’ not ‘steen’). For the last 25 years, I had been incorrectly attributing a name to what I thought was a family I knew absolutely everything about. After all the books, all the memorization and all the obsessing, how on Earth could I have overlooked the fact that I’ve been reading and saying their name wrong for my entire life?

Surely, this had to be incorrect. I went to the Children’s section of the bookstore. All Berenstain. I traced the lineage of the book series back to 1962. All Berenstain. I even looked at old photographs of me reading the books. All Berenstain. It was like a cognitive blockade. I was wrong, and I had always been wrong, about the true identity of the Berenstain Bears.

I initially felt bad for myself, but only because of my egotism. I was never wrong about these sorts of things. I am always the guy that knows the correct name, pronunciation and spelling of everything. It’s something I take pride in, and a huge pet peeve of mine when I see others lacking it. More than anything, I was left really, really confused. This all seemed…wrong. Like my childhood had changed on me when I briefly had my back turned. Some sort of divine episode of Candid Camera.

Then, something interesting (to only me, perhaps) happened. I started talking to people my age about the Berenstain Bears. I made a point to A) Talk to people that read the books as a kid, but hadn’t really thought about them since, and B) Initially pronounced it ‘Berenstein’ as a way to see if they caught my error right off the bat. I didn’t think it was fair to talk to parents that now saw the books as part of their daily routine and could answer the question with the clear, present logic of an adult. I specifically wanted to see if the collective childhood experience of everyone from my generation was bizarrely shifted for one reason or another.

And you know what? Every single person I talked to was as baffled as I was. They were all certain, so damn certain, that it had always been the Berenstein Bears, even to the point of becoming sort of confused and frightened afterward (they almost always asked for proof). Weirdly, I was not the only one this had happened to.

How does something like this happen? How does a seemingly vivid childhood detail get incorrectly remembered by nearly everyone in the exact same way? Statistically, the odds were astronomical. There had to be some sort of explanation; some way this cosmic hiccup could be explained away.

Time Travel. Hang on tight.

My theory is this. At some point between the years 1986 and 2011, someone traveled back in time and inadvertently altered the timeline of human history so that the Berenstein Bears somehow became the Berenstain Bears. This is why everyone remembers the name incorrectly; it was Berenstein when we were kids, but at some point when we weren’t paying attention, someone went back in time and rippled our life experience ever so slightly. Perhaps other things have changed as well, but this is the only detail we’ve discovered so far.

We all know how the Butterfly Effect works. Someone travels back in time, being mindful to not break anything and alter the future as it’s supposed to play out. However, this person accidentally leaves a toolbox behind in the year 1410. Because of this, 1400’s technology rapidly evolves and advances faster than our known history dictates, so when our time traveler returns to 2011, he finds that the planet is significantly more futuristic than he remembers. Or perhaps when he was in 1410, he sneezed on someone, giving them a virus that no human was immune to in the 15th Century. He then returns to 2011 to find that he’s the last man on Earth, having wiped out the entire species 600 years ago with what we now think of as the common cold.

This is the only explanation I can surmise. At some point in the last 24 years, someone went back in time, spilled some ink on a piece of parchment, and permanently changed the last names of Stan and Jan Berenstain forever. Poof! The books changed, the photographs changed, the very text on every last page changed. The only thing that couldn’t be changed was our memory of how it was before the Incident occurred.

This is the only logical solution. Me being incorrect is unpossible.

Example #1 and Example #2. (NOTE: Links have gone dead over the years.) – I like these threads, because in each one, my theory that the titles changed at some point fits in with the claims of people swearing they had copies of the book where the name was spelled Berenstein (with no visual proof). I felt the same way; my brain had never been so photographically incorrect before. Something is afoot; there is only truth and credibility on Yahoo! Answers and websites about the dreadlocked lifestyle.

Example #3. (NOTE: Links have gone dead over the years.) – This is my favorite example. This dude proceeds to write a (not so) humorous blog post about the ‘Jewish’ nature of the bears’ namesake, seemingly unaware that he’s got the name totally wrong. Funnier still, the essay is woven around a half-dozen photos of the books, making him look like a complete dumbass in the process. My theory is that he wrote the essay before the Incident, only to return to his website to find that all of the images had changed on him to reflect our newly-altered Universe. I also surmise that this realization caused him to go insane and kill himself.

The only naysayer to this theory, so far, is the Missus. Every time it comes up (more often when I’m drunk), she gets extremely annoyed, proclaims my memory to be faulty and begs me to just shut up already so we can play Scrabble. She can’t stop the conversation fast enough, and even claims that she ‘always remembered it as Berenstain.’

This leads me to yet another airtight conclusion: My wife was the time traveler in question, futilely covering her tracks as to not be discovered. I have found you out, woman. You may have had a good run working as an intergalactic spy, but you weren’t going to fool me forever, Miss Reptile In Human Skin That Married Me So She Could Suckle My Marrow While I Slept. She thought she could shuttle back and forth through time without anyone noticing, and she did for awhile, but eventually slipped up and depended on the collective apathy of Generation X to doubt their childhood memories and overlook the ole’ Berenstein/Berenstain switcheroo. What she didn’t expect was that her husband, the man closest to her, happened to be a historian of the very book series she forever altered.

The jig is up, Skinwalker. I’m solving this mystery, and I want a divorce.

40 thoughts on “Somebody Must Have Stepped On A Butterfly.

  1. Sir, I am behind you 100%. There is no way any self-respecting offer would name his protagonist family, who were intended to teach us NOT to be a “stain” on society, would put the very same word in their surname. I'm firing up the Delorean now to right the wrongs the Missus wrought.


  2. You are right. I think this conspiracy is causing me to lose my mind. I am just like you, a self proclaimed “word wiz” and I am deadly certain that I cannot be wrong about it being Berenstein. Also, if this helps us narrow it down a bit more, I was born in 88 and read the books from late 88 until I was probably about 8 or 9, and the books I read were NOT Berenstain, they were BerenstEin!!!! So the switch was made some time after that. Also, if this were so and we did happen to ALL be flawed readers in our earlier years, what about when we were all in our mid to late teens and we moved out of our parents house and went through our stuff and fondly remenisced as we found our old books and gathered them to put them into the shed or attic, how did we not notice then??? We had plenty of years between then and our misinterpreted childhood, why didn't we notice it then. Why has it only been in the last year??


  3. I'm horrified. I cannot for one moment believe that they were ever BearenSTAIN bears. My memory, near photographic, is absolutely appalled by this and insulted by even looking at the name. I was also absolutely obsessed with the titles as a child and read over the books cautiously, in school, and out loud. How could an entire generation of people lose sight of this?


  4. I agree completely. The essay is a whole lot of joking around, but we're talking potentially millions of people with false memories. here. That's a statistical anomaly.


  5. This is not the only occurrence of the phenomenon. How few of us still remember that the name of the boy wizard was actually Hoary Pooper until the publishers marketing aliens altered our timeline.


  6. I started a FB page recently in order to help get to the bottom of this mystery ( I was beside myself for a couple of days over this discovery. On one hand I am appalled at the name change, but on the other I am excited that time travel has been proved. I just wish someone would come forward, make the announcement, and show us how he/she did it. The fact that a time wave can occur not affect the memories of millions is fascinating. We need to reevaluate everything we thought we knew about time travel.


  7. – When John Titor traveled back to 1975 to obtain the IBM 5100, he caused some kind of Divergence. We were -supposed- to have Endured a Catastrophe in the form of the “Y2K Bug” (remember how it was a forgone conclusion?) … But he went off-mission, Changed something, and we Avoided It.

    Instead of a Grass-roots Renewal of coming back to The Land, our Technology continued to Grow, and we've become the Decadent, Disconnected, Obese, Pornographic Culture you see around you.

    To me, this BerenstEin (which it WAS, and was supposed to have remained) Phenomenon is an Echo of Proof that OUR World-line was Affected by the Time/Dimensional Traveler, John Titor. Maybe he wasn't in Our Specific World-line in 1975, but whatever he did There (or Then) caused Ours to be Created as a Branch-off from that point. But he was CERTAINLY in Ours in 2000-2001, as we have the Posts to prove it.


  8. There's a flaw with your theory. If someone had gone back in time and changed it, we would all remember it BerenstAin. By changing history, we would all remember it the way history went. If ink can be changed in a photograph then our minds should have changed as well.


  9. The flaw is that, as a 30 something, I have the original prints of the books, and it baffles my brain that it's “stAin” and not “stEin.” I was willing to accept the change in the early 2000s, that the name was changed. I cannot accept that right now, I'm looking at my books and they're spelled wrong. My brain hurts


  10. I read the books to my kids in the early 1990's…and I, an adult at the time, recall them being Berenstein. When I see them now as Berenstain, it just looks wrong. Perhaps this was an experiment in changing a tiny thing to determine whether people would trust their memory or the reality they see now. Imagine, then, changing bigger facts from history…say, for example, the holocaust. Makes the original name a little more significant, doesn't it?


  11. My question is IF a time traveler came about and messed with history wouldn't all the subsequent history revolve around us remembering the Berenstain bears as Berenstain? It confuses me to think that when a ripple in time happens the collective whole doesn't follow the new memory. Time is a tricky thing, I sat here making circles in my head as to come up with any logical solution and all I have done is waived logic out the door…


  12. I feel a more likely conclusion may be that the singularity-event, or some type of computer-revolution, already took place between 12-8 years ago and we are all experiencing a Matrix-type, time-simulation program that either accidently, or deliberately, spelled it differently than from what our original memories are which were in real-time. That would be a much more likely occurance than us achieving Time-Travel, IMHO. Maybe in real-time the creators are also called Berenstain but used Berenstein for their creation and the Program didn't adjust or pick-up the switch and just used their name as it was spelled, thus leaving a glitch in the simulation we are experiencing. This could account for why 99% of the people confronted with this who read the books as a kid and recall the spelling being different, and then experience a hollow or dread-like feeling when even considering it being spelled, 'BerenstAin,' as most illusions that marveled us as youngsters are easily digested mentally as adults and we simply confront and realize how our brain could have made this or that registry error, but this one is altogether very different and very persistent, as it's 2015 and most people don't feel or see anything different from what they originally did when they first considered the issue.


  13. Personally, I remember having NUMEROUS conversations — on the order of DOZENS, at least 24 but probably less than 50 — about HOW TO PRONOUNCE THE NAME … “Is it BerenSTEEN or Beren-STINE?” … BerenSTAIN was *never* even OFFERED as a potential pronunciation — which of course precludes the possibility that it was actually SPELLED “BerenstAIN” …. Torture. Contemplating this is torture.


  14. Another theory that is actually realistic is that as children we saw the *a* which is written in a different font, than what we knew as children. The *a* being as so like in the book, or in the font on the screen. For example I didn't learn to write *a * as such until later in school, elementart obviously, but either way, I always knew *A* and lower case a, looking more like a *d* without the top , or an *q* without a bottom. Best way to explain but I think ya'll will get it.


  15. I forgot to mention I'm my stoned rant that we saw this a *a* as an *e* because we didn't know better, and in our young minds it just appeared as an *a*. As for you adults who remember it that way, time travel, fuck yah. Or dyslexia, sorry.


  16. I forgot to mention I'm my stoned rant that we saw this a *a* as an *e* because we didn't know better, and in our young minds it just appeared as an *a*. As for you adults who remember it that way, time travel, fuck yah. Or dyslexia, sorry.


  17. Another theory that is actually realistic is that as children we saw the *a* which is written in a different font, than what we knew as children. The *a* being as so like in the book, or in the font on the screen. For example I didn't learn to write *a * as such until later in school, elementart obviously, but either way, I always knew *A* and lower case a, looking more like a *d* without the top , or an *q* without a bottom. Best way to explain but I think ya'll will get it.


  18. This phenomenon has happened to other people with other things. For me some changes have been, movie endings changing, an empty lot having a building on it the next day. There are a few others. Whether or not Titor was real or a hoax, several people connected with that experienced the same type of things. I think someone in that group dubbed them alter-vu. And yes, it should be Bernstein. Best explanation I ever came up with was a glitch in the matrix/hologram.


  19. AWESOME READ!! This rabbit hole goes much deeper, too. This is only the surface. And it WAS BerenSTEIN. There is documented proof on a thread about this very topic. I remember it as BerenSTEIN, because it was. Why else would I need to ask how to pronounce it? Stain gives you only ONE pronunciation. Stein gives you two. This blew my mind when I first came across it. Great essay, though. It made my day, bc I am obsessed with John Titor.


  20. It was BerenstEin because my name is Ben Stein (yes, it's the same name as the famous one)and I used to read these to my daughter who was born in 88. She alwya asked me to read the BenStein Bears. It was our personal joke : ) I believe there has been a divergence and it may have something to do with CERN. They turned the collider on in 2010 and turned it off in 2013. In those three years, something “Universal” may have occured.


  21. Here is one Interesting thing. I grew up with the cartoon in Mexico and I perfectly remember being “Los osos berestein” even this YouTube video in Spanish pronounces it as berestein still. If in fact it would have been stain then the show would have pronounced it as stain as Spanish is a phonetic language; it makes no sense to say berestein if there is an A in berestain. Please watch this video and listen to berestein even thought the spelling is berestain in the video

    Liked by 1 person

  22. This is any insanely late response, but I want to say, your theory couldn't work.

    Now, hear me out. I honestly believe it was Berenstein, as well, HOWEVER, the way the butterfly effect works make it so that we wouldn't be confused and remember it a certain way if it truly did change. The ONLY person that would be baffled would be the one to cause the butterfly effect. Because if they went back and accidentally changed history, that would've always been fact for us.

    ANOTHER theory states that this is a parallel world, in which some of us, from a different world, switched places with this world's counterparts of our own [An unknown cause, but through my boyfriend and me debating, we think a huge event would have to cause a rip to even occur for this to happen]. This theory is also more sound because there ARE people that state that it's always been stain.

    For further thoughts on this, Google “The Mandela Effect”. Hell, I have a similar effect in which I SWEAR that John Cena died, and every time I see him on tv I get profusely confused and have a crisis of sorts. I know, being a person of Tumblr, that there was a huge meme of him in 2014/2015, but I can find no such reference of any memes joking about him being dead.

    But anyways, that search will yield supposed “changed history” and also a subreddit of people with random “changed history” or like confusion.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I have had the same thing with carrol burnet I can remember her having passed away a long time ago also remember barenstein bears I remember songs and diolauge for years and the theme song for the show them talking about themselves in the show and it was always barenstein among many other things. I've felt Alone for years always thought it was another reality thing…food for thought

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Am I the only one who thinks he's being extremely sarcastic? Towards the end he accuses his wife of being an intergalactic spy, reptilian in human skin, basically making fun of every conspiracy theory ever. In one paragraph he says he can't believe that a guy like him, who knows how to spell, write and prononunce everything correctly, could remember it wrong – and then pronounces 'Berenstein' as ber-en-steen (because we all know that Frankenstein is pronounced Frank-en-steen, right?). Also, 'unpossible'? You're shitting me right now.

    What he's trying to show is how confident some 'Mandela Effect' believers are in their abilities to reason, remember, spell or pronounce, when they are actually prone to error. When he says that 'it's a matter of ego', he's right. Many of us don't want to admit that our memory is fallible, because it might damage our self-perception. Satire senses tingling.

    Liked by 1 person

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