Cambridge Coincidences Collection

Well I Never!

Professor David Spiegelhalter of Cambridge University wants to know about your coincidences!

Why? By recording your coincidence stories here, you can help him build a picture of what kinds of coincidences are out there and which ones seem to ‘get to’ us the most. Your coincidence stories can also help him explore the scientific explanations which may account for them – whether by doing the maths to calculate the chances of a coincidence, or speculating on the weird and wonderful workings of our brains.

Coincidences tend to be ‘surprising matches’ – sometimes they are lucky, sometimes unlucky, sometimes just mind-boggling. To help you recall the coincidences that have happened in your life, here’s a list of some common types of coincidence:

  • Surprising repetitions: for instance when you’ve had not contact with someone for ages, then find two connections to them very close together in time. Or when over several years multiple members of the same family are born with the same birthday. Or even a repetition of a really rare event – like winning the lottery twice, or your life being saved twice by the same person!
  • Simultaneous events: for example when two people phone each other at exactly the same time.
  • Parallel lives: such as when two people in a small group find they share a birthday or an unusual name, or when two people discover their lives match each other in bizarre details.
  • Uncanny patterns: imagine picking letters in Scrabble that spell your name.
  • Unlikely chains of events: perhaps you lost your false teeth overboard and found them inside a fish you caught twenty years later?

If anything coincidental has happened to you - anything that made you stop and say "well, what were the chances of that..?" - then please record your story in the form below! Please try to keep your story personal - about you or someone you know. The only thing we'd ask you to steer clear of are premonitions or déjà vu, purely because - whilst fascinating - they're quite common and also difficult to analyse.

You could also tell us about coincidences in the news, but please provide a link to a reliable source!


Title: two or three words that give a simple description of your story, eg ‘old friend’ or ‘birthday coincidence’
Coincidence: tell your coincidence story - and please include plenty of relevant detail (places, dates, numbers etc.) and include your first name if you want.
Email address (optional): please leave an email address, as then we can get in touch to find out more!

All of the information entered below except your email address will be published on this website when you press save





By ticking this box you agree that your email address can be forwarded to Wingspan Productions Ltd, who are making a BBC television programme about Chance and would like to feature Professor David Spiegelhalter's coincidence collection. In doing so you agree that the producers of the programme may contact you directly to ask you more about your story, though whether you decide to help them is entirely up to you. Your details will not be forwarded to any other party or used for marketing purposes.



Vertical Tabs


State line

I was listening to the song "Eyes Without a Face" by Billy Idol in my car while on a trip. The song has the line "hanging out by the state line turning holy water into whine" and I crossed a state line (Ohio-Michigan) precisely as the words "state line" played in the song.

Balloon links peope with same name

The Helium Balloon With a Magical Ending The two have, understandably, become lifelong friends since. (And if you want to know more about their lives since their chance meeting, the Radiolab interview is a great listen.) While there’s no deeper meaning here, the story of the Buxton girls is a reminder that just because something is highly improbable doesn’t mean it’s impossible — hardly.

Words Matching Up

My profession is a writer, which I've done for the past 20 years. I don't recall when I first noticed the phenomenon of words matching up between what I'm doing and what's going on around me, but it's been happening for years. It happens so often that I started documenting it. The following is a list of the occasions when words have matched up just over the past three weeks.

My whole family

My great grandparents, grandmother, and my great grandfathers son all died in May!!

TV commercial for Simple Soap

In 1986, my then colleague and I worked together as a creative team at an advertising agency in London. On one particular occasion, we were briefed to come up with a 30 second TV script for Simple Soap - a range of soap, moisurisers and cleansers that contained no perfume or colouring. We were briefed on Friday and at the weekend we both worked on the brief independently. He in Brighton and myself in London. On Monday morning I shared my idea, which I was pretty pleased with. It involved a white lily being sprayed with paint and perfume by robotic arms.

A Rose by any other name

My mother was asked to see a consultant for some extra tests at Southampton General Hospital. This was arranged for out of clinic hours, i.e. early evening. We have an unusual surname; in fact there is no other family that we know of worldwide with this name spelt in this particular way. When my mother met the consultant he said he was surprised as a new member of staff from Germany ad the same surname but spelt slightly differently. He gave his first name. Later that evening my father collected my mother from the hospital and as they entered our house the telephone rang.

Snap

I was on holidays in Prague walking down Gold Street. It was very crowded and as I took a photograph a man walked in front of my camera. On returning home to London I was telling my neighbour about my holiday. She asked to see my photos. When we came to the one with the man who had walked in front of my camera she said, "How come my best friend is in your photograph?" I did not know her friend and had never seen him before!

THE PHONE BOOTH

Colleague Joe F. explained coincidences: lots of things happen. I agree, but coincidences fascinate. Joe himself was driving in suburban Chicago on the way to visit an old acquaintance, when he realized that he had lost the address and telephone number. Eventually he spotted a phone booth, and stopped to see if it had a telephone directory. There was no directory, but he was astounded to find a note addressed to him with the needed number!

We can't carry on meeting like this

A few years ago we were on holiday in the Lake District and met a family of four. We stopped and chatted. We were living in Bristol at the time and they lived in Carlisle. About a year later we took our kids to Bristol Zoo and bumped into them again. Quite a coincidence. Perhaps a year later we went on a family outing to Legoland near Windsor. You've guessed it ... Three random meets in 3 different parts of the country.

COSTCO RESCUE

I hauled a huge box on a flat-bed cart out into the broiling Costco parking lot. Inside was a porch-set: two chairs, a love-seat, and two glass-topped tables, all intricately packed. I was confident that I could place the pieces here and there in Donna's Camry. Actually, none of the pieces fit, re-packing was impossible, and passers-by couldn't help but laugh as they saw our predicament. After a few minutes the sedan next to us pulled out, and a pickup truck pulled in.

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