Sometimes strange things happen. And sometimes strange things happen twice, or three times, or more times, in an apparently significant way. Some might attribute this to luck, to fate, or even to divine intervention. Others, however, would say that these events are merely coincidence.
While the use of coincidence to drive a plot forward in a book or movie would likely draw derision from critics as unrealistic, the fact is that everyday life is full of unexpected, and sometimes bizarre, coincidences. You meet a person for the first time only to find out you went to the same high school in some other state. Someone calls you right as you pick up the phone to call them. Everyone in your chemistry class wears the same My Chemical Romance shirt on the same day in an attempt to be witty. You name it.
What follows is a list of some of the strangest coincidences ever recorded. This list was a lot of fun to put together, and there’s a chance you might have fun reading it. Coincidence? We think yes.
Choir survives church explosion because everyone was late
The 1956 hit musical My Fair Lady by the iconic team of Lerner and Loewe features a song called “Get Me to the Church on Time,” in which the eponymous fair lady Eliza Doolittle’s father sings about how he will be married the next day. The song was later recorded by such notable names as Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, and Mel Torme. The song is also referred to in David Bowie’s 1983 hit “Modern Love” and was spoofed by Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street.
All of this to say, by 1956, the idea of getting to church on time was in the cultural consciousness. Fortunately, such was not the case six years earlier among the parishioners of West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice, Nebraska. As explained on Snopes, the church exploded at 7:25 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1, 1950, completely demolishing it. The bad news is, choir rehearsal at West Side Baptist began every Wednesday at 7:20 on the dot.
The good news is, every member of the 15-person choir was late that week. And each one was late for a different reason. Some were delayed by car trouble, others by a dress that needed ironing, another by a particularly tricky geometry problem, and so on. The odds of all 15 members being delayed for different reasons was calculated at 1 in 500,000, which are pretty beefy odds. It might be tempting to assign this event to divine intervention, but you should just admit that, as guaranteed, this coincidence blew your mind.
Woman has heart attack on plane full of cardiologists
The cliche is everywhere: a person collapses, a second helpful, but hapless, person runs to their side and shouts, “Is there a doctor in the house?” According to the BBC, this scenario happened in 2004 on a flight from England to Florida. Of course, the helpful person in this instance presumably shouted, “Is there a doctor on the plane?” when grandmother Dorothy Fletcher began suffering a heart attack on the flight.
And what happened? Fifteen dudes stood up and hopefully shouted “Yes! I am a doctor!” in unison. It turns out that if you’re going to have a heart attack, the best course of action is absolutely just don’t do that. But if you must for some reason, definitely have a heart attack on a plane full of cardiologists on their way to a convention in Orlando. Or, you know, Poughkeepsie or wherever. Just make sure there are at least 15 cardiologists on the plane.
What a completely wild stroke of luck. It’s like falling in a pool at a lifeguard convention or suddenly inheriting a crate of spray cheese just outside a Ritz Cracker factory that’s just been forced to dispose of some overstock. But be careful about that last one — that’s how you end up having a heart attack on a plane.
Anyway, the doctors kept Fletcher alive long enough for the plane to land and for her to get to a hospital. The only bad news is she still had to go to Florida when it was all over.
A street sweeper had a baby fall on his head twice
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: “To have one baby fall on your head may be regarded as misfortune; to have two fall on your head looks like carelessness.” Such is the life of one Joseph Figlock, a Detroit street sweeper from the first half of the 20th century.
In the popular version of Mr. Figlock’s story, he was walking down the street when he caught a baby that had fallen out of a window, and both he and the baby were unharmed. A year later, passing the same window, Mr. Figlock again caught the same falling baby from the same window. A truly improbable coincidence!
And improbable it is indeed. According to a contemporary report from Time magazine in 1938, the details of the modern story have been fudged a bit. The two babies were different; indeed, the Detroit Free Press pointed out that the first was a girl and the second a 2-year-old boy named David. They didn’t fall from the same window, though they did both fall from heights of four stories. And technically he didn’t catch them, they just kind of landed on his head and shoulders, and both he and the babies were actually hurt.
So besides the completely bananas coincidence here, there’s the fact that someone heard that story and said, “Wow, a guy had two babies fall on his head in the course of one year, but I deffo need to fudge some details to make this story more interesting.”
Balloon released by a girl found by a girl with the same name
How many Laura Buxtons do you know? Like, zero, probably? Maybe one? (If you’re reading this and your name is Laura Buxton, … hi, Laura! Just chalk this up to a bonus coincidence that other readers are not getting to enjoy.) Apparently in England, there are so many Laura Buxtons that you can’t release a balloon into the air without hitting one.
As related by Snopes, in 2001, a girl named Laura Buxton was at her grandparents’ anniversary party and released a balloon into the air with the message “Please return to Laura Buxton” and her address attached. The balloon landed 140 miles away and was found by a man who lived next door to a Buxton family who had a daughter named Laura. He gave the second Laura the balloon, and she contacted the first Laura, and another series of coincidences unfolded therefrom.
Besides having the same name, the two Lauras Buxton were only a few months apart in age, were both only children, had the same color hair and eyes, and had freakily similar taste in pets: each one had a 3-year-old black Lab, a gray rabbit, and a guinea pig. Weirder still, when they met in person for the first time, both Lauras wore jeans and pink sweaters, and both brought their guinea pigs, which turned out to look the same.
And to answer the question that is desperately roiling around your mind, that you worry is too good to be true: yes, of course they became best friends. Obviously.
The winning numbers in the New York lottery on the first anniversary of 9/11 were 9-1-1
According to MSN, the chances of winning the lottery in the U.S. are 1 in 292 million. Here are some things math says is more likely to happen than your lucky numbers coming in: dying in a plane crash (1 in 11 million); getting hit by an asteroid (1 in 1.6 million); being born with six fingers (1.7 in 1,000); a monkey randomly typing the French word for “mother” (1 in 12 million). In fact, that French monkey could type “maman” 24 times before you hit the big one.
But if you’re the type of edgelord who would play the numbers 9-1-1 in the New York lottery on the anniversary of 9/11, great news: as Snopes confirms, your ship would have come in on that date in 2002, the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Admittedly, this wasn’t the Powerball with its 1 in 292 million odds. This was a state lottery with a twice-daily three-digit number pick, meaning that the odds were a mere 1 in 500, which are much better, but you’re still more likely to have been ambidextrous than to have won. According to lottery officials, 5,631 different people had played those winning numbers and each one took home about $500.
Winning the lottery, even if it’s just a small state lottery, is a pretty big deal. For those 5,631 people, September 11 must surely be a day they’ll never forget.
The word for 'dog' in one Aboriginal Australian language is 'dog'
If you have studied a foreign language, or even better, more than one, then you’re probably familiar with the idea of language families: languages that share a common ancestor and as a result have vocabularies that look and sound similar. The family you’re probably most familiar with is the Romance languages, which are modern European languages derived from Latin, including Spanish, French, Italian, and some lesser-known ones like Occitan and Walloon. For example, the Latin word cattus becomes gato (Spanish), gatto (Italian), chat (French), and cat (English). These related words are called cognates, which basically just means cousin words.
All that to say, you expect cognates to be in languages spoken in geographically linked areas. So you can imagine the surprise of linguist R.M.W. Dixon when he learned that the word for “dog” in the Aboriginal Australian language Mbabaram is just … “dog.” This could be a revolution in linguistics! Does this mean that English and Mbabaram are somehow related? Strange, unexpected dog cousins? Did a secret tribe of Anglo-Saxons surreptitiously migrate to Australia and start talking exclusively about heckin’ puppers?
Nah. It’s a coincidence. Real cognates of the Mbabaram “dog” include words like gudaga,guda, and gurraa in other Aboriginal languages. Meanwhile, words actually related to the English dog occur in Europe, where you would expect, like the French dogue and the Spanish dogo. Let this be a lesson to you young language students out there: beware of false cognates. Beware, in short, of dog.
Brad Pitt hurt his Achilles tendon while filming Troy
According to ancient Greek myth, the brave young hero Achilles, leader of the Myrmidons, was the most powerful warrior on either side of the Trojan War, single-handedly turning the tide of battle by his presence or absence. In some stories, this is because his mother, the sea goddess Thetis, had dipped him in the river Styx, making him completely invulnerable. Except, of course, for the one part of him that didn’t get wet: his heel, by which his mother had held him during the dipping process. In the final days of the 10-year Trojan War, Achilles was shot through his one vulnerable spot by Legolas — er, sorry — by the Trojan prince Paris giving rise to not only the term “Achilles’ heel” referring to a person’s weakness, but also the medical term “Achilles tendon” referring to the tendon that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone.
In 2004, Brad Pitt starred as the brash young Achaean warrior in the film Troy, which retold many of the events surrounding the Trojan war while removing the supernatural elements, most of the gay stuff, and also most of the quality found in the original mythological stories. While filming in Mexico (it was supposed to film in Iraq, but around that time someone decided one war was not enough for America to be in), Pitt injured his — wait for it — Achilles tendon.
He called the ironic situation “bizarre,” but if you’ve seen the dumb jump move he does like 30 times over the course of the movie, you know it’s not that weird.
The curse of Little Bastard
There’s no easy way to say this, but: curses are … not real. It turns out they’re just ways of retroactively connecting coincidentally similar tragedies in an attempt to find meaning in a possibly meaningless universe. Or, you know, to diffuse guilt about despoiling an ancient culture that is not your own or whatever.
One well-known curse is the set of almost shocking tragic circumstances surrounding a car that once belonged to James Dean. (The actor, not the sausage guy.) As Jalopnik explains, Dean purchased a Porsche 550 Spyder that he had customized by George Barris (the guy who made the best Batmobile) and that he named “Little Bastard,” because he was a Rebel Without a Grandma to Tell Him Not to Say Words Like That. Dean died when he wrecked Little Bastard in 1955, a week after fellow actor Alec Guinness told him he would die in that car, undoubtedly using some kind of Jedi mind trick to tell the future.
Bad news followed the Bastard around: Barris bought the wrecked car and soon it slipped off its trailer and broke a mechanic’s leg. Two other guys who bought parts off Little Bastard wrecked their own cars, with one dying and the other seriously injured. Tires from the car exploded. A thief trying to steal the steering wheel sliced his arm open in the attempt. There are more related accidents, but perhaps worst of all, when Barris donated the car to an auto safety exhibit, the garage housing the car burned down, with the Bastard unharmed.
The Erdington Murders
Maybe scroll past this one if you’re sensitive to stories involving murder and sexual violence. If you’re still reading, these are the facts, according to Huffington Post:
On May 27, 1817, 20-year-old Mary Ashford was found dead in the town of Erdington in England, seemingly having been raped before her death. She had been out dancing, and late at night a young man walked her most of the way home, before allegedly never seeing her again. The prime suspect was a young man named Abraham Thornton, who was found not guilty due to lack of evidence. Ashford’s brother refused to accept this verdict and challenged it, to no avail. Before her death, Ashford had said she had “bad feelings about the week to come.”
On May 27, 1974, 20-year-old Barbara Forrest was found dead in the town of Erdington in England, seemingly having been raped before her death. She had been out dancing, and late at night a young man walked her most of the way home, before allegedly never seeing her again. The prime suspect was a young man named Michael Ian Thornton, who was found not guilty due to lack of evidence. Forrest’s sister refused to accept this verdict and challenged it, to no avail. Before her death, Forrest had said, “This is going to be my unlucky month. I just know it. Don’t ask me why.”
If the similarity of these events 157 years apart strikes you as more than coincidence, maybe don’t go to Erdington on May 27, 2131.
Christmas twins crash into each other on Christmas Eve
You might have heard the story about how in 1895 there were only two cars in the state of Ohio, but they still somehow managed to crash into each other. That story is not what experts would refer to as “super likely,” but if you’re hankering for weird car crash coincidences, maybe this one will get your motor running.
According to The (Scotland) Herald, in 1994, twin sisters in England named Lorraine and Levinia Christmas crashed into each other while driving on an icy single lane road. Allegedly, Levinia was on her way to take over Lorraine’s shift at the gas station where they both worked. The two sisters were taken to the hospital for injuries including whiplash and concussion, and according to the book Weird and Wonderful Christmas, police on the scene thought it was a joke. Why? Because the crash happened on December 24, Christmas Eve. The Christmas twins crashed into each other on Christmas Eve. Weird and Wonderful Christmas adds the detail that the sisters were on their way to deliver Christmas presents to each other, which is another sweet layer to the irony cake, ergo making it seem less probable than the gas station version of the story. Some versions of the story add the detail that their father — i.e., Father Christmas — was recovering from surgery in the same hospital.
While the Christmas twins definitely crashed on Christmas Eve, you can decide whether the other elements are true. But if there’s anything more powerful than Christmas magic, it might be the magic of coincidence.
Why You'll Never Want To Cross Paths With Flying Ice Shards On Neptune
Christmas Is A Summer Holiday In Australia. Here's How It's Celebrated
The Church Where People Line Up To Stand In The Devil's Footprint
The Truth About The Man Who Ate An Airplane
Tsutomu Yamaguchi: The Man Who Survived Both Atomic Bombs
Shell Shock: This Turtle May Have Been The Largest To Ever Live
Canada Accidentally Sent A Nuke Alert To Millions Of Citizens
What Life Is Really Like As A Conjoined Twin
Europe Launching 'Suicide Robot' To Hug Space Trash To Death
The Smallest Cat Breed In The World