“Million-to-one chances…crop up nine times out of ten.” ― Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites
Humans are pattern-making animals, and when given random coincidences, we start trying to superimpose some kind of order on them. That means we’re very easily impressed by small coincidences, and often see them as the result of some kind of overarching plan/government conspiracy/Illuminati plot.
Most of the time, coincidences are just coincidences. After all, if something has a million-in-one chance of happening, and there are seven billion people on the globe, it’s probably going to happen eventually. (I’m pretty sure that’s why the bus sometimes comes on time).
Sometimes, though, coincidences really do seem too eerie to be the result of random chance. When true-crime stories match previously-written books, when wars start and end at the same person’s house, when actors injure themselves in terribly ironic ways, even the most unsuperstitious of us start to wonder if it’s really random. Take a look at these twelve strange coincidences, and see what you think!
1. I’ll Be Dammed: During the building of the Hoover Dam, a hundred and twelve people died. J. G. Tierney, the first to die, passed away on December 20th. Thirteen years later, on December 20th, the last dam-related death happened. It was, Patrick W. Tierney, J.G’s son.
2. Second Time’s The Charm: Wilmer McLean just couldn’t catch a break. The Civil War’s first land fight, the Battle of Bull Run happened on his farm, and he recounted “a federal shell that fell into the fire-place.” When his place got too hot to handle, he moved away to a smaller cottage – but the Confederacy’s surrender was signed in his house anyway. I’d almost feel bad for the man … then again, he was a Confederate.
3. Ready, Aim, Wait…: After Henry Ziegland’s breakup with his girlfriend left her suicidal, her brother was so angry that he went to his property to shoot him. The bullet went wide and hit a nearby tree instead. But several years later, when Ziegland dynamited the tree to bring it down, the explosion sent the bullet flying towards its intended target, killing him. Now, that’s some delayed action!
4. Written in the Stars: Author Mark Twain was born on a very special day – the 1835 appearance of Halley’s Comet. In 1909, he remarked that the comet was coming back in the next year, and predicted that he would die the day it appeared again. Guess when he died?
5. Murder He Wrote: Edgar Allen Poe, everyone’s favorite emo-before-it-was-cool, wrote a novel about four survivors of a shipwreck who cannibalized the cabin boy. Several years later, the ship Mignonette sank, leaving four survivors, who decided to eat the cabin boy. The kicker? Both cabin boys were named Richard Parker.
6. Rest In War: Egypt doesn’t have a monopoly on tomb curses. In 1941, Soviet archaeologists in Samarkand unearthed the tomb of Tamerlane, a Turco-Mongol conqueror. Locals were extremely worried because of the legend of a tomb curse, but the expedition was unconcerned. Two days later, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. And, right after his bones re re-interred some years later, the Soviet Union won the decisive Battle of Stalingrad.
7. Luck of the Draw: Robert Fallon was shot during a particularly contentious game of poker, where the other players accused him of cheating. Amusingly, they continued playing after he had been shot, drafting a new player into the game. When the police showed up, the new player was winning, and they demanded that he give the money to Fallon’s next-of-kin. Well, that was pretty easily done, as the man happened to be Fallon’s estranged son!
8. Cursed Car: Fatal car accidents are always unlucky, but the one that killed James Dean was unluckier than most. When the car was being towed afterward, the engine fell out, crushing both of the mechanic’s legs. And it didn’t end there: two drivers with the car’s parts in it died in their cars, the garage it was repaired in was burned down, it fell out of its display twice (once almost injuring a teen and once shattering a window) and FINALLY, it broke up into eleven pieces for no apparent reason. Presumably, people finally got the message that the car didn’t want to be fixed.
9. Please Stop Vacationing: One Birmingham couple has inadvertently witnessed three separate terrorist attacks while on holiday. They were in New York for the attack on the World Trade Center, in London during the Tube train bombings, and in Mumbai during the 2008 shooting and bombing attacks. We all hope they decided to stay home after that.
10. Good Neighbors: What’s with writers and wacky coincidences? Norman Mailer’s novel Barbary Shore involved a Russian spy hiding out in the US. Several years later, he lived above Colonel Rudolph Abel, one of the most prolific Russian spies in America at the time.
11. History Repeats Itself: Brad Pitt starred in 2004’s Troy as the almost-invincible hero Achilles. In one fight scene for the movie, Pitt sustained an injury that cost the movie two weeks of filming. The location? His Achilles tendon.
12. Happy Accident: Not all coincidences are about death or doom; sometimes, they end up saving a person’s life! Dorothy Fletcher had a heart attack on a 2003 flight but was saved by the 15 (!!!) cardiologists present on the plane. It wasn’t totally coincidental, as they were all going to the same conference. But I’m sure she was grateful for it anyway!