‘Mandela Effect’: Ed McMahon and Publishers Clearing House

Entertainer Ed McMahon presented big checks at the doorsteps of Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes winners.

Fact check

Entertainer Ed McMahon never handed out big checks at the doorsteps of Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes prize winners, nor did he ever work for the company. However, there appears to be a large number of Americans who believe that he did. This is an example of false memory, known as the “Mandela Effect.”

It’s called the “Mandela Effect” because of the false memory of so many people who believed Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 1980s. In reality, he died in 2013.

The false memory that McMahon gave out big checks to sweepstakes prize winners for Publishers Clearing House likely existed in the minds of many Americans for one or a combination of several reasons.

Reason #1: Old Television Commercials

Some readers might fondly remember Publishers Clearing House television commercials from past decades where sweepstakes winners were notified at their doorsteps by PCH Prize Patrol that they had won large cash prizes, sometimes with a big check. However, McMahon never appeared in the ads. Here’s an example of one such commercial:

Reason #2: American Family Publishers

McMahon appeared in television commercials for a company similar to Publishers Clearing House that was named American Family Publishers. However, we found little if any evidence that he ever delivered big checks to doorsteps:

Reason #3: McMahon’s Face on Envelopes

While working as a spokesperson for American Family Publishers, a drawing of McMahon’s face appeared on envelopes that were sent to American households. However, his face never appeared on Publishers Clearing House envelopes, because again, he never worked for the company. McMahon hinted at the competition (Publishers Clearing House) and his face on the envelopes in this old television commercial:

Reason #4: 1994 Television Commercial

In 1994, McMahon and fellow spokesperson Dick Clark took part in a television commercial for American Family Publishers. A woman in the ad said that McMahon showed up to her door to present the check. However, we were unable to find any video that documented the purportedly celebratory moment:

Reason #5: The Mysterious Picture

A photograph shared online appears to show McMahon holding a check that reads, “Big Win.” It did not show any markings that were associated with Publishers Clearing House or American Family Publishers.

Source: Unknown

We were unable to find any trace of McMahon being associated with a show or other company with the name, “Big Win.” We searched high and low on old websites and in newspaper archives, but came up empty. Additionally, some of the text on the check looked like it may have been altered with picture editing software such as Adobe Photoshop.

Reason #6: Neighborhood Watch Television Commercial

In an unknown year, McMahon took part in a commercial for Neighborhood Watch. The idea for the humorous ad was to have McMahon visit people’s doorsteps to sign them up for the program. The script called for the actors who played homeowners to pretend as if they believed they had won a cash prize, simply because McMahon was standing in front of their houses:

Reason #7: Appearances on Sitcoms and Late Night Shows

While there’s no evidence that McMahon ever visited sweepstakes prize winners’ doorsteps for Publishers Clearing House or American Family Publishers, he did appear in several television sitcoms and on late night talk shows doing that very thing (albeit with nondescript checks).

According to screenshots gathered by a YouTube user, McMahon appeared at front doors with big checks on “Roseanne,” “Who’s the Boss?,” “The Nanny,” “Boy Meets World,” and several other shows. The checks sometimes said “Jackpot” or “Sweepstakes” and did not show a company name:

Reason #8: Additional References and Media

On an episode of “The Golden Girls,” actor Betty White once mentioned McMahon working for Publishers Clearing House, even though he never had any association with the company:

We also found three more references. A picture showed that McMahon once handed out a small check as a joke on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Former late night talk show host Johnny Carson once visited “The Late Show with David Letterman,” where he delivered a big (and apparently fake) check with the Publishers Clearing House name, apologizing in jest that McMahon couldn’t be there to present it . There was also a photograph that showed him preparing to present a big check to winners of the MegaBingo Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2003.

All of these examples are likely part of the reason why so many people seem to think that McMahon used to work for Publishers Clearing House where he presented big checks to sweepstakes prize winners at their front doors, even though he did not. The “Mandela Effect” strikes again.


“5 Ways To Know If It’s A Publishers Clearing House Scam!” PCH blog5 Apr 2013, https://blog.pch.com/2013/04/05/5-ways-to-know-if-its-a-publishers-clearing-house-scam/.

American Family Publishers – AFP – Clearing House Commercial – Ed McMahon (1984). 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bE_b36jEyeg.

BruceWayne1970. “PCH ME – Do I Have This Right?” r/Mandela Effect via Reddit, 31 May 2017, www.reddit.com/r/MandelaEffect/comments/6ecdb7/pch_me_do_i_have_this_right/.

Ed McMahon and Publishers Clearing House: The Smoking Gun of Mandela Effect Residue Evidence. 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D96-Fpg37b4.

Ed McMahon DID Delivery Door to Door Checks! (Mandela Effect). 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpAv77xFSE0.

Ed McMahon with Giant Check (Roseanne 1995). 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUqMJG-RfT8.

Grayhead, Sandra. “Ed McMahon Delivered Checks for PCH — True or False?” LiveAbout20 Mar 2022, https://www.liveabout.com/ed-mcmahon-association-with-publishers-clearing-house-896841.

Mandela Effect: Ed McMahon & Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes Golden Girls Reference. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0BXHupyWZg.

Mandela Effect Proof Ed McMahon/PCH Carson on Letterman ’91 w/ Publishers Clearinghouse. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYrjrlMh_Rg.

Phelan, Joe. “What Is the Mandela Effect? And Have You Experienced It?” Livescience.com19 Mar 2022, https://www.livescience.com/what-is-mandela-effect.

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