Oh, for Christmas’ Sake! More false memory: best-selling author Neale Donald Walsch (Tomorrow’s God: Our Greatest Spiritual Challenge) has admitted that he is not the author of a heartwarming Christmas story he posted on Beliefnet.com (“Christmas Essay Was Not His, Author Admits,” by Motoko Rich, New York Times). The real author is Candy Chand, who first published the story 10 years ago. (It’s been republished all over the place since–read it here.) But while Walsch admits he made a mistake, he claims that the nearly verbatim theft was completely unintentional:
“All I can say now — because I am truly mystified and taken aback by this — is that someone must have sent it to me over the Internet ten years or so ago,” Mr. Walsch wrote. “Finding it utterly charming and its message indelible, I must have clipped and pasted it into my file of ‘stories to tell that have a message I want to share.’ I have told the story verbally so many times over the years that I had it memorized … and then, somewhere along the way, internalized it as my own experience.”
In a telephone interview, Mr. Walsch, 65, who said he regularly gave 10 to 20 speeches a year, said he had been retelling the anecdote in public as his own for years. “I am chagrined and astonished that my mind could play such a trick on me,” he said.
I, too, often remove all attribution from a story before I read it so many times that I know every word by heart. Who doesn’t?