As I said in the beginning, this investigation has a lot to it. I probably should have split into three Parts, but I didn’t want it to seem like I was dragging this out. However, it may take you a little extra time to work through everything in this part of the investigation.

There’s a lot to digest.

I know some of you are saying “this guy has way too much time on his hands” but I assure you, I didn’t do this on my own. Especially in regards to this next section.

Once I started my investigation into this rather perplexing Mandela Effect and began voicing my opinion and findings, I had a few great people on Reddit reach out with more examples. Additionally, there’s one user in particular who presents my findings to anyone new that posts about Ed McMahon and Publishers Clearing House and there are videos linked today that are directly from Mandela Effect YouTube channels. So thank you to all of them.

I’m not alone in my fascination with this particular Effect, nor am I alone in my “incorrect” memories.

The Many Times Hollywood Got it Wrong

Now I know that these next examples can easily be “explained away” as a writer making a mistake. However, why didn’t any editors, actors/actresses, directors, producers, etcetera catch these glaring errors?

Especially when you consider that Ed himself appears in some of these.

In this clip from season 2, episode 2 of Golden Girls, Rose gets a phone call stating she’s “one of the winners of the Publisher’s Clearing House” and a certain someone wants to see her right away.

In this clip from Roseanne, Ed is at the door with, you guessed it, a giant check.

Next up, the movie Erin Brockovich has a scene where someone knocks on the door and she tells the baby, “Maybe it’s Ed McMahon.” Immediately before this scene and why she says “wrong Ed.”

In this clip from The Goldbergs, Adam tries to explain away some hidden loot by saying Ed McMahon stopped by because he’d won the Publishers Clearing House.

In this next video, we have Snoop Dogg on a show called Dinner with Don, which is a little talk show with none other than Don Rickles, one of Ed’s longtime friends. You’ll hear Snoop talk about Ed giving away all those millions but “he never found his way to my neighborhood” and yet Don, a man known for telling it how it is, doesn’t correct him.

Then in the television show Sabrina the Teenage Witch season 4, episode 7, I caught this screen cap of Ed presenting a giant check.

Ed appears on Scrubs at 14:05 of season 4, episode 18 and says he has to go change someone’s life and leaves the room with a giant check. I had a link for this but it appears that Disney had it removed. While I couldn’t make out the name of the company on the check this time, it’s still interesting that there’s once again the reference to giant checks.

Next, let’s take a look at a time when David Letterman visited The Tonight Show. In Part 1 of this investigation, we saw Carson give an oversized check to Letterman on his show. In this clip, David straight up asks Ed if he has “actually given away any of those million dollar checks” and Ed answers that he has, “four of them.” He also says twice that he “personally awards” the prize and Dave asks if anyone has ever said “just mail it in,” which Ed answers, “No, they want to see me” and even tells Letterman that “if you win, I’ll come to your house.”

Someone forgot to tell Ed that he doesn’t award winners!

Letterman’s prop department apparently isn’t the only one that could have used more oversight. Dave always opened his show with a short monologue and in this clip from 1985, both he and his writers overlooked a key problem with their joke regarding Publishers Clearing House and winners meeting ole Ed.

Book Authors, Editors, and Publishers Blowing It

Before you start drafting an email or reaching out to me on Twitter, I know that these “mistakes” just mean that the writers are “misremembering.” However, I think it’s important to note that these types of mistakes were missed over and over and if this was such a “common misconception,” why wasn’t it corrected?

Take a look at a few passages from books that I found that get things wrong.

On page 192 of It Takes a Village Books: 30 Years of Building Community, One Book at a Time by Chuck Robinson and published by Village Books, the author writes that a voicemail reminded him of “Ed McMahon’s Publisher’s Clearing House pitches.”

In Old Shorts and Poetree Book One by Ron Runeborg and published by Lulu, there’s a conversation where one character states that it might be Ed at the door with a million dollars.

Then we have From Here to Economy: A Shortcut to Economic Literacy by Todd F. Buchholz and published in 1996 by Plume, where a well-known and mainstream publisher has an interesting quote with, “as individuals we would welcome that knock on the door from Ed McMahon telling us that Publishers Clearing House has chosen us as the $10,000,000 grand prize winner.”

Over in The Journals of Manna (Book 1): Dating by Micheline Alam and published by Xlibris in 2010, the authors describe the look on a character’s face as “you’d think Ed McMahon from Publishers Clearing House was at the door with a one-million dollar check.”

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published by Sheree Bykofsky and Jennifer Basye Sander was published by Alpha with an original edition in 2011 that says, “the odds that one of those books will be yours are much better than the likelihood of Ed McMahon and the Publisher’s Clearing House team showing up on your doorstep.”

True Love (And Other Lies): A Novel by Whitney Gaskell has a character that considers a situation as being the exact opposite of opening your door to “find Ed McMahon and the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol on the other side, holding a bunch of balloons and an enormous cardboard check made out in your name for ten million dollars.”

On page 131 of the fairly-well reviewed Her: A Memoir by Christa Parravani and published by Henry Holt and Company, says that a certain person “filled out the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes form yearly” and that she “inflated a dozen pink balloons and strung them to our mailbox,” saying it was to make it easy for Ed McMahon to find them.

Just search Google Books for these terms folks, it’s utterly mind boggling how many publications included such well-known “wrong” information.

He Won $10 Million From Who?

In 2016, we have an article regarding then Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs’ announcement for his Congressional run. Apparently, almost a quarter of a century before the article, Biggs was the winner of a $10 million sweepstakes from none other than… Publishers Clearing House.

Biggs was even in a commercial in 1993 for the 10 year anniversary of the Sweepstakes and was touted as being the latest $10 million winner. However, the article states that Biggs was congratulated by Ed and Dick Clark, who joined American Family Publishers as spokesman in 1993. Well, let’s take a look at the commercial.

Okay, so the article writer didn’t do his homework. And the editor was asleep. Ed and Dick are clearly working for AFP.

Additionally, take a look at the image on the article and you’ll see that it shows Biggs with words that clearly say:

American Family

$10 Million Winner

Yet, just below it in the photo credits it says that Biggs is a “Former Publishers Clearing House winner.” 

Sure, it’s a small news site but even those have editors that check credits to ensure there aren’t any issues. And no one from Biggs’ office called to correct the entire second paragraph of the article announcing his Congressional aspirations? 

Or was there a glitch that only “edited” the photo and missed the text?

Another interesting tidbit here is that apparently Biggs won’t talk publicly about his win. 

More People Getting it Wrong

Even the Chicago Tribune got it wrong in 1997 when they ran an article revealing that Ed was writing a book about his time on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Once again, the writer and editor were apparently asleep at the wheel as the first paragraph gets two major points wrong.

“After years of doling out big checks from Publisher’s Clearinghouse (Sic).”

Don’t laugh. As you’ll see in an upcoming section, The Tribune isn’t the last news agency to fall victim to the McMahon Effect.

However, this next one has been touted by various Mandela Effect blogs and websites as definitive proof, it needs to be taken with a grain of salt as it appears to be a satire site. Additionally, thus far I’ve been unable to locate any further information on the PCH “marketing director” that the article quotes but even if it’s in jest, I find it interesting that the author’s satire touches on this popular ME without realizing it. 

The article discusses Ed’s financial woes at the time and reveals that he plans on entering the PCH sweepstakes. While going into a few details regarding possible conflicts with his contract, the article quotes Chad Kramer, the aforementioned marketing director, as saying “Besides, what’s he going to do, show up at his own house with that big check and pretend to hand it to himself?” 

Towards the end, the author states that Ed shouldn’t have any problem entering or even winning the PCH sweepstakes as “he is not technically an employee, but a celebrity spokesperson who makes a stipend for his appearances on TV, radio, and when handing a check the size of a Buick to the lucky winner of the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.”

Ed Get’s It Wrong… BIG Time

Well folks, this one is absolutely flabbergasting. In an interview with CNN in 2008, a year before his death, Ed talked about his rap commercial. Now, you can read the entire transcript yourself on CNN, but I’ve pulled out the relevant part of the discussion and you’re not going to believe what Ed says here.

HAMMER: Well, the premise of the “FreeCreditReport.com” commercials are hilarious. 

MCMAHON: Yes. I think of it – 

HAMMER: I mean, I have to say they`re terrific. You`re driving around … 

MCMAHON: Yes.

HAMMER: All over the place dressed as a rapper. You`re rapping and you`re tracking down these people who you used to hand those giant checks …

MCMAHON: Oh, I had to – big checks. 

HAMMER: … in the Publisher`s Clearinghouse 

MCMAHON: I saw Howie Mandel the other night. He got out of the car. He`s got a big check and he says, “I look like Ed McMahon.” You know, here he is, doing the same thing I was doing. He`s got a version of, you know, the new “Deal or No Deal” where he`s bringing money to houses. That`s what I did and I gave away $130 million doing that. 

He gave away $130 million with giant checks?

Really? That’s not what history says now Ed!

And why didn’t Ed correct him about the company name?

Anchor Memories

The next two references are rather intriguing to me because the authors have rather strong “anchor memories” to Ed and PCH. What I mean is, a personal reason to specifically remember the details the way that they do. While you and I may recall seeing commercials with Ed working for PCH, delivering oversized checks, and his face being on the envelopes for them instead of their direct competitor, these folks appear to have rather strong “emotional” attachments as well.

Extremely opposite emotional attachments at that.

Patti Digh, a published author and blogger, has this article from back in 2006 where she describes her family’s Super Bowl Sunday routine. This was not only a day to root for their favorite teams, Digh’s mom would get dressed up and await “Ed McMahon and the Publisher’s Clearing House Prize Patrol.”

A quote directly from the author’s mom indicates she has been entering the contest for 35 years and while she doesn’t directly name Ed herself, it’s obvious that this is a special memory to Patti and one she emulates herself. She said, “How could I portray you as a nut for dressing up those 35 years in anticipation of Ed McMahon” and admitted that she does the same herself now but for the HGTV Dream Home Prize Patrol.

And then there’s this next guy.

He hates direct mail campaigns. PCH in particular apparently.

In this two part blog entry from 2012, Shel Horowitz goes off on PCH and anything direct market, but it’s on page 2 that things get interesting. 

Horowitz specifically calls out PCH’s use of celebrities instead of “real credibility builders” like testimonials, and says that PCH “used the late Ed McMahon for many years (in fact, I first heard of Ed McMahon through PCH sweepstakes, and had to find out later that he was a TV star).”

He doesn’t mention AFP even once.

Though this next one appears to be fiction, I wanted to include it because it seems like the author is writing from a unique place. A book entitled Circa 2000: Gay Fiction at the Millennium by Robert Drake and Terry Wolverton and published by Alyson Books, is an anthology that includes writing by Bernard Cooper, Scott Heim, David Leavitt, William J. Mann, Jameson Currier, Jaime Manrique, Andy Quan, and Keith Ridgway. One page 396, which unfortunately Google Books doesn’t tell me which author it is, the writer or character describes an “unexplainable terror of Ed McMahon.” It goes on to say that they saw a commercial “with Ed McMahon walking up to someone’s house with a Publishers Clearing House envelope and ringing their doorbell.”

Why did the author come up with this phobia if Ed never, not once, walked up to a winner’s door?

They Even Got it Wrong Upon His Death

Obituaries are generally one of the last tributes that any of us receive but when a celebrity dies, their obits tend to get published across a wide range of news agencies. Granted, many of those are likely “spin” type articles where the writers just quickly grabbed information from the “wire” and attempt to get it out as quickly as possible.

But once again, in the case of Ed McMahon, we have writers and editors that missed the boat. When Ed passed away in June of 2009, in case after case they get key parts of his career completely wrong and apparently, at least from what I can find, not a single one of them ran a correction or retraction.

The NY Post says “Good Night, Ed” and about the third paragraph in says he was the spokesperson for Publishers Clearing House.

NPR called Ed “The Greatest Sidekick Of All Time” and then immediately said he was “doing ads for Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.”

Variety blew it and said Ed made “a killing as a commercial spokesman (Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes for many years)”

Business Insider said Ed was a pitchman for several products, “most notably the Publisher’s Clearinghouse sweepstakes.”

Another death announcement from a site called FlavorWire said Ed was, “the bearer of oversized checks.”

In this announcement of his death, CNN did a nice little tribute about his time with Carson and Star Search and, you know it’s coming, Publishers Clearing House.

No one from the estate corrected them?

None of Ed’s celebrity friends bothered to set the record straight?

Strangely, an article on CNN completely omitted any mention of his Sweepstakes pitching days.

The L.A. Times got it correct and named AFP. So did The New York Times and Today, and actually quite a few publications. But not these guys.. at least not according to the way things are now 😉

Even The Federal Government Got it Wrong

While hearing that government officials got some facts wrong isn’t necessarily anything new, this civil case filed back in 2012 has a rather interesting mistake. You can check out the case in its entirety here, but here’s a snapshot that was sent to me that highlights page 6, section 16 in the last sentence where the United States Government, on the record and in a serious court case, says that Ed worked for the wrong company.

Lawyers & Lawsuits & Blowing It, Oh My

Publishers Clearing House has faced lawsuits several times throughout its tenure, but a Class Action lawsuit that was recently dismissed caught my eye. Of course it’s no surprise that attorneys across the country tried to draw more people to the Class Action, but their claims against PCH seem to be a bit…. wrong.

In this announcement from May of last year, this website went into detail about the lawsuit and how PCH “rose to prominence in the 1980’s when celebrity Ed McMahon endorsed the sweepstakes and television advertisements portrayed unwitting consumers answering their doorbell to the Publishers Clearing House “Prize Patrol” surprising consumers with flowers and ribbons and announcing they had won the Sweepstakes.”

Interestingly enough, in the actual Class Action Lawsuit that was filed in April of last year in the Eastern District of New York, just as the FTC over 6 years prior, on page 6 section 26, they claim that Ed worked for PCH.

While I can’t find the specific website that this came from as of yet, this image was sent to me and seems to be another attempt at drawing more to the Class Action. But low and behold, what do they claim?

MediaPost reported the Class Action and though they waited until the end of the article to do so, they said “PCH is known for iconic TV spots featuring the late Ed McMahon.”

You would think that these lawyers would check their facts. It’s rather quite simple these days to see in Ed’s bio that he worked for the competitor AFP and can’t mistakes like this get an entire case thrown out? I’m no lawyer, but it seems to me that these sort of things are checked, rechecked, and checked again before filing.

Time For Rebranding?

With AFP apparently going with the worst advertising campaign in the history of advertising and doing it for almost two decades, I think the ME community may want to learn a lesson from their mistake. 

The term Mandela Effect comes from a single incident of a large group of us remembering watching Nelson Mandela’s funeral in the late 80’s, only to be more than a little surprised when he was released from prison a few years later. While that is a rather significant event in the lives of those who experienced it and it resulted in Fiona Broome bringing many of us together, these days the impact of the phenomena has been somewhat diminished.

With every other person claiming an ME on the color of the sky and obscure song lyrics, true Effects seem to have less of an impact. This does NOT include Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll.” I don’t care what you say, the opening lyrics were always “I saw him ____ there by the record machine. What did you sing? Well if you’re like me, it was “standing” but go listen to it now and watch the video and ask yourself how in the world you ever made that mistake.

Perhaps we should consider attempting to rebrand it to the McMahon Effect. 

It’s got a nice ring to it and there’s ton’s of “residue” showing that many, including Ed himself, seem to remember events quite a bit differently than they actually occurred.

I’m kidding of course. Kind of.

This new name would also be able to cover skeptics, giving them the ability to say that all of these Ed events are what attributed to our collective “false” memories of him and PCH to begin with – a case of “life imitating art.”

Well, I think it may be the exact opposite… “art imitating life that not everyone remembers.”

The Conclusion

That’s everything I have at this point folks. Over a year of investigating and snagging links and it’s been so long in fact, I had other examples cited that are no longer available. Additionally, as I went to put this all together for this article, several good examples had moved and I had to track down the new links for them.

So, what did I learn from this? 

Let’s see….

  • Ed McMahon worked for a company for 15 years called American Family Publishers.
  • Even though Ed said many times over many years that he would “personally award” the winners, he never did.
  • For that entire span of time, and even decades afterwards, pretty much the whole world confused AFP, their spokesperson, and their expansive advertising campaign for those of their main competitor. Making them the absolute worst marketers and advertisers in the history of the world. Yet no one mentions that fact.
  • While Publishers Clearing House had the Prize Patrol and did in fact surprise winners at home with oversized checks, there was no celebrity involved and no evidence can be found of AFP arriving at winner’s homes at all. In fact, searching for “American Family Publishers winner” on YouTube only brings up PCH commercials with, of course, winners being surprised with oversized checks.
  • Numerous screenwriters, editors, fact checkers, and producers suck at their jobs.
  • Ed can’t rap worth a shit.
  • PCH these days does send out celebrities apparently. As I was writing this, I saw their new commercial with Steve Harvey and apparently he will be with the Prize Patrol.

Did this change my views on the Ed and PCH Mandela Effect, or ME as a whole? Nope!

  • Ed DID work for PCH, his damn face was on their envelopes and he surprised winners at home with oversized checks.

Sure, it can be convincingly argued that all of the examples, or “reside,” is what culminated into the mass “misconception” that Ed worked for PCH. Hell, apparently Ed didn’t do much himself to quell the inaccuracies. But I truly do not think that is the answer.

Why do so few people, if any, who are affected by this Effect not recall AFP at all? How did the whole idea of Ed handing out the checks get started? If PCH was the one with the Prize Patrol and oversized checks but didn’t use any celebrities, why do thousands of people associate Ed with arriving at the door with those checks?

You can’t find a single piece of evidence of Ed ever knocking on a winner’s door, so why do so many television shows and movies portray this as being funny?

Why did AFP keep using a spokesperson who was giving free advertising to their main competition?

Why didn’t Ed correct people when presented with incorrect history?

This is one of the most compelling MEs, if not the most compelling, and I hope you enjoyed this trip down the rabbit hole with me. If you have any Ed and PCH examples that I missed, please comment below so that I can add them to my list. 

The Mandela Effect is real, whether you believe it’s all confabulation and memory issues or you think something much deeper is going on, the fact remains that there are hundreds upon hundreds of things these days that just don’t seem to fit well-established memories of countless people. I’ve seen things that have rocked me to my very core and while I’ve personally discounted numerous MEs simply because I don’t have a strong enough connection to them myself, for every four or five I dismiss, there’s one that comes slamming home hard.

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