The 13th Floor

How THE BERENSTAIN BEARS Broke the Entire Universe

There seems to be a debate raging on the internet right now, more important than presidential nominees or what to do about ISIS. I’m talking about the Berenstain Bears. This cuddly, anthropomorphic family of bears is a staple for most children, in a series of books and a cartoon. It certainly was part of my childhood. The debate seems to be over the spelling of the name: BerenstAin or BerenstEin?

According to internet conspiracies, everyone seems to remember the Bears with the surname Berenstein. But as people get older, they discover that the name is spelled (or currently being spelled) Berenstain. This has led to mass internet hysteria, broken minds, broken dreams.

I should give you my own Berenstain experience. When I was little, reading the books, I assumed it was Berenstein. The “E” ending felt more natural to me, what with names like Frankenstein and various Jewish names familiar to me. My brother is seven years younger than me, so by the time he started reading the Bears, I was about ten or eleven; old enough to realize I was spelling Berenstain wrong. It was a little strange, but I accepted the mistake, learned from it, and moved on with my life.

Current theories suggest that the change of spelling is evidence of time travel, that someone inadvertently changed history. Others suggest that if enough people share a false memory, this must be proof of an alternate history and parallel realities. This involves some intense physics equations that I won’t even pretend to understand. Some people think the spelling was changed because BerenstEin was too Jewish.

So BerenstEin versus BerenstAin: proof of a conspiracy the likes of which hasn’t been seen since THE MATRIX, or just grown-ups remembering things through the eyes of children?