Phantom memory?

Disclaimer: I am about to justify all of your suspicions regarding my sanity (or lack thereof). I think I am crazy, and it’s okay that you do too.

I think I have experienced what I have until today referred to as a ‘false memory.’ Today I looked up what a False Memory is, and in what must be one of the shortest Wikipedia pages ever, it said simply “False memory refers to the recollection of an event, or the details of an event, that did not occur.”

But that’s not right, because the memory I have is of an event that actually happened and is historically documented, not something that I fabricated and convinced myself is real (like my brother, who swears to this day that I fell out of a tree and broke my leg as a child…this never happened). I actually think that is more common; it’s really not too difficult to convince your mind that something actually happened. But remembering something that did happen that I can’t possibly remember….because I wasn’t alive yet? Is it more of a Phantom Memory (like phantom limb)? That doesn’t really work either, because that implies something more like recalling memories from a previous life (if you believe in that…I don’t) that you no longer are living. What should I call this phenomena? Is it new? Can I name it after myself??? (Would I even want to?!)

I swear this is true. I distinctly remember the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger n January 28, 1986. I remember watching it on live television, rising into the air only to tragically explode a minute later. I remember feeling the shock and sadness of the tragedy and I remember my Mom’s reaction to it, with her hand over her mouth and the quiet “Oh my God.” I remember it in almost as much detail as I do the 9/11 attacks when I was in high school.

How is this possible, since I wasn’t born for another eight months? Even if I had been a newborn, or even a toddler, I would be skeptical about remembering something like this in such detail when I would have been too young to even know what was really happening. The only somewhat logical explanation I can come up with is that somewhere along to line, I watched a TV program about it or something that stuck with me through the years and my mind somehow transformed that knowledge into a memory-format. Do you know what I mean by that? Knowing some facts about an event just feels different than a real memory does, a memory formed by watching something happen live the day it happens as opposed to hearing the facts later on. I learned in school about Jonestown in Guyana, but I don’t have an actual memory of the event occurring. Yet I feel as though I have a memory of the Challenger tragedy. A real memory brought to the front of my mind whenever I see or hear something relating to it.

So am I crazy? Well, I know I’m crazy. I guess I should ask, should I be worried?

P.S. In case you are wondering what made me think of this today, I came across this list of 31 Great Iconic Photos From History, and the Challenger was on there. And I reacted to that photo differently from most of the others because the others are just things I learned, trivial knowledge and not experiences (yes yes I know, I didn’t actually experience the Challenger, but I think by now you know what I mean. I hope).

R.I.P. to the seven crew members who lost their lives aboard the Challenger

4 thoughts on “Phantom memory?

  1. mikereverb says:

    Yup, you’re nuts, but that’s ok. 🙂

    Hmm, of the explanations you gave, the only logical one is that you constructed the memory out of information you learned later, scenes you might have seen somewhere, and other thoughts you had.

    Like you said: how can you remember something if you weren’t even alive then? More importantly is did your mother really say “Oh My God!” while watching the same exact television you picture in the same room with the same furniture as your “memory”?

    Or perhaps you’re just a time traveler who lost most of her memory and gets flashbacks of other time periods you visited. 😛

    Either way, thanks for sharing.

  2. andy says:

    maybe you remember it on tv?

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