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.



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Rob

In the early 90's our family went on a trip to Denmark. It was an organised trip including a coach load of family's going to Copenhagen and Lego Land! We arrived at the airport to board our flight only be to told that we already checked in?! It turns out that a family of four like ours who were on the same trip had the same surname as us. Not a huge coincidence but the system did more complex checks than simply checking the name. Turns out the other family had a son and daughter with the initials R and J the same as me and my sister. And they were the same age. The daughter had the same initial as me and was my age and the son the same age as my sister. Again not a massive coincidence as the names were different. However the father had the same name as my Dad was almost the same age and was born in the same town. The mother was Scottish like my mum had the same name and was the same age. Suffice to say that every hotel we were booked thought it was a double booking leading to a difficult week for the poor tour guide.

Sailing coincidence

In December 2006 I was south west of Australia on a singlehanded, non-stop circumnavigation in my yacht Elsi Arrub. My appendix had burst. I was taken off and my yacht had to be abandoned at sea approx. 300 nautical miles from the southwest tip of Australia. I was transferred to a hospital in Albany, southwest Australia. We hired a plane twice to try and find her but had no luck. In mid February we got a call from the coastguard to say Elsi Arrub had been found, 54 days after I had left her. It turned out an American singlehanded yachtsman, James Burwick, who was sailing from Cape Town to Auckland, had got into trouble in roughly the same area. On the way out to assist him the coastguard plane had flown over what looked like an abandoned yacht. They knew my story and this turned out to be my yacht. She was rescued and taken back to my home in Shetland. In March 2014 I was on another singlehanded, non-stop circumnavigation in the same yacht, Elsi Arrub. This time I was dismasted in a storm near Cape Horn. The same storm dismasted another yacht 100 miles away. It was James Burwick again.

Same car

I used to live in north Wales. And my eldest son lived in Dublin. Aside from his wife and himself, his greatest love was his car, a black German motor with a personalised number plate. He occasionally would come over to do some work in England and if he had the time he would drop in for a drink and a chat. One day I was walkng to the pub and saw a black German motor car with a familiar number plate coming up the road. This surprised me as he hadn't told me he was coming over, and moreover he had driven right past my house - and me - without stopping.I called him on the phone immediately and asked what he was doing. Why, he answered, I'm at home working. No you're not, I replied, I've just seen you motoring up my road! Impossible, he retorted, I'm looking at my car parked here on the drive. Well that's weird, I carried on, your car with reg P33PMD has just gone up the hill in the direction of Mold. But dad, he said, my car number is P13PMD. Similar car, similar (VERY similar) number, right place right time. I never saw that other car again

Auntie Kadine's gift

When I was a little girl, my great auntie Kathleen (pet name Kadine) gave me a hymnbook, which she inscribed with my name. Years later, after about 15 years away from the church, I went back to the church with my fiancé to talk to the minister about getting married. The minister was busy with some other parishioners at the time and gave us some hymnbooks, telling us to familiarise ourselves with the wedding ceremony on a particular page. We read through the ceremony, but the minster was still busy, so to fill the time, I started to flick through the hymnbook. On the inside page I found the inscription 'To Tara, with love from Auntie Kadine'. I didn't even know I had lost my old hymnbook! I asked the minister if he had known it was mine when he gave it to me, but he didn't - he was absolutely gobsmacked and said it was astonishing.

View from the Bog

A few years ago I was managing a small charity in Cinderford, Glos when, late one afternoon, there was a tap on the window. A young lady was looking for an internet cafe or similar to print a document for a friend. Being a kind hearted soul (and knowing Cinderford has never been over-endowed with internet cafes and the library was closed) I suggested I could print it in return for a small donation to the organisation. With the document opened to review before printing I couldn't help noticing it was a piece of work on the hydrology of Borth Bog. Knowing the area well from my Uni days at Aberystwyth we got chatting and it turned out her friend worked there on research. A bit of a coincidence but nothing remarkable. The reason the friend wasn't there was she was in the area looking to buy a house. Where I asked - near Borth came the reply. It's a lovely bungalow north of Borth in Ynyslas by the railway and river and sits up on a tump. It's called ******** I said at which point the lady clearly thought she was in the presence of either a genius or an incredible anorak.

Brought to book. What's in a name?

Making a regular visit to a place that asked all visitors to sign-in, I signed-in as usual using the initial B and then my surname. On signing-out some time later, I noticed that someone else had signed-in immediately under my name with the same surname and initial. That person had also given the name of their company. I took a picture of the signatures in the visitors book and was later able to make contact and shared the co-incidence.

Dr

Making a regular visit to a place that asked all visitors to sign-in, I signed-in as usual using the initial B and then my surname. On signing-out some time later, I noticed that someone else had signed-in immediately under my name with the same surname and initial. That person had also given the name of their company. I took a picture of the signatures in the visitors book and was later able to make contact and shared the co-incidence.

Fortune cookie

I grabbed a fortune cookie that was sitting on the table. I was watching tv so I wasn’t paying a lot of attention and realized the fortune was in my mouth. I spit it out to read the fortune and it said Warning: Do not eat your fortune

Everyone/everything has the same name

My immediate family has multiple examples of coincidences involving names. Examples: I have three children. My daughter is named Anna. My youngest son’s wife is named Anna. My oldest son’s first serious relationship, lasting eight years, was with a young woman named Anna. He is now married to Jana—finally a different name, but still very close. One more thing: all four of these women are attorneys. Two graduated from the same law school; two worked in the same public defender office in New Orleans. Those connections happened totally independent of the family link. Another example: our family had two dogs while my kids were growing up. We adopted both as adult dogs, and both were already named Jenny when we got them. Not a common dog’s name, btw. My former wife’s parents had a second home in a town on the New Jersey shore called Spring Lake. I now live near the beach in Delaware, in a condo community called Spring Lake. My kids grew up with summer beach vacations in Spring Lake. Now they bring their kids for beach vacations in a different Spring Lake. My youngest son and his wife Anna had the first grandchild on our side of the family.

Same House

I was in a work meeting at a new job with someone I'd never met (who doesn't work for the same company). While we were talking we discovered that she used to live in my current neighborhood. When i asked her the house number, she said my address. She lived in the same house that I live in now. We've become friends and have discovered that we have other things in common.

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