Cambridge Coincidences Collection

As of the 23rd May 2022 this website is archived and will receive no further updates. was produced by the Winton programme for the public understanding of risk based in the Statistical Laboratory in the University of Cambridge. The aim was to help improve the way that uncertainty and risk are discussed in society, and show how probability and statistics can be both useful and entertaining.

Many of the animations were produced using Flash and will no longer work.

Well I Never!

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


When I was a young bride I had a terrible dream in which my father stood at the bottom of a staircase (the staircase was once in my mother's aunt's house) engulfed in fog, calling to me. I answered but he couldn't hear me. I woke in a cold sweat and so shaken my husband woke up. A bit later we decided since it was early we'd just get up and make breakfast as I tried to calm down. At 6am the phone rang and it was my father. He apologized for calling so early but added, "I been up for hours, honey, and it's so good to hear your voice." Before I could say much he went on, "I had a dream that shook me up something terrible. "Member that big old staircase at Aunt Bessie's house? You was calling to me from the upstairs but there was all this fog and I couldn't see you." I motioned to my husband and said, "Daddy, please say that again". My husband listened in and as my father repeated the dream my husband got spooked. I felt much better and calmer hearing Dad's voice but now my husband was all shook up. It's now been 43 years since then and I still remember the confusion and fear of that dream.

Finding a family, one by one.

In 1978, age 27, I was recovering from a serious illness and had returned to my home town in Hertfordshire to live with my parents for six months. While there I made phone contact with a local co-counselling group that was advertising in a local library. The contact person told me she was withdrawing from the group, and passed me on to someone else, but not before I'd been smitten by her voice. I couldn't get it out of my head for months. Some while later, I forget how long, a year-and-a-half perhaps, I met a young girl while doing an English A level class at the local college. I'll call her Angela here. We became friends and used to meet in the college refectory after classes to discuss the work we had been set. By that time I was living in a flat in town. At some point during that year I moved out of the flat and into a larger one. The next time I met Angela she told me that she, too, had moved. She had left her family home and, as it turned out, moved into my old flat. She hadn't previously known where I lived. The landlady of my new house share asked me to interview a couple of people for a spare room.


In 1991 I attended an Open University residential course in Durham, having travelled from Glasgow. In my tutorial group was another woman who lived locally to Durham but was Scottish. We talked during breaks and she said she was still mourning the recent loss of her elderly, much-loved, Great Dane. At this time I also had a Great Dane, younger than hers, which we'd adopted following the untimely death of our previous dog, also a Great Dane. As the week went on we probably became quite boring as we shared so many "doggy" incidents, and because she lived locally she brought in some photos of her dog and the new Great Dane puppy she'd recently acquired. Eventually towards the end of the week she said "I'll never forget driving up the road to Moffat to collect my first puppy ".

Family Link

I am a concert pianist and use my maiden name professionally. One day after I'd played a concert a lady approached me and said she had the same maiden name and wondered if we could be related. We talked and she told me her gg-grandfather was a gamekeeper on an estate about 150 miles away. My gg-grandfather was also a gamekeeper, but the first name was different and I didn't know the location. Some additional research revealed we shared a ggg-grandfather, but her line wasn't shown on the ancestry information I'd been given. Our relationship is described as "distant" and we keep in touch - she lives about 3 miles from me.

Finding a relative like a needle in a haystack

My in-laws, who have Greek heritage, lived in a small Australian town called Cooranbong on Australia’s East Coast, it has a population of perhaps 2,000 people. 2 doors down lived an elderly couple who were well known and respected in the community and they had 2 kids, both adopted. I had grown up in Sydney (Australia’s most populated city) and when I met my wife-to-be and her parents living in Cooranbong in the mid 1980’s, the coincidence was that the daughter (adopted) of the neighbours was a teacher of mine several years before. But that wasn’t the story. It turns out that Karen had sought out her birth parents and had found her mother’s name 4,000 kms across Australia in the city of Perth. She shared the name with my in-laws who quickly recognised the name being both Greek and familiar in the true sense. It turned out that across the vast country that is Australia, in a small town a long way from anywhere, my father-in-law was able to connect with a second cousin, who had been adopted and now lived 2 doors from him.

Same book referenced in book and movie on same day

I'm reading Triptych by Karin Slaughter. Earlier today, while I was reading, one of the characters has his books checked by a parole officer. He has a copy of Tess of the the D'Urbervilles which seems highly unlikely for him but it was the last book he was supposed to read in high school before he is jailed as a teenager for a rape and murder (he might not have committed). Less than an hour later I'm watching Once Upon a time in Hollywood and the character of Sharon Tate goes to a bookstore to purchase a rare copy of Tess of the D'Urbevilles. I've not read this book but I'm thinking maybe I should. It was also one of my friends from college favourite books. I've not spoken to her in a long time and now I'm feeling I should.

Twins & wedding anniversary

We got married 9:4 1983 Our only children ( twins) were born 3.8.1994 We thought this was an amazing coincidence of having the same numbers What are the chances of this ?

Funeral story

About 15 years ago, a near-neighbour where I grew up in north wales died, and I attended her funeral (the first I had ever been to). A day later, someone I knew, who lived in a tiny village 120 miles or so away in Derbyshire, messaged to ask if I could help another friend of his: she was giving a speech at her aunt’s funeral and wanted to say something in Welsh, so could I help translate it? Needless to say, it was the aunt’s funeral that I had attended a day earlier without knowing. His request had reached me too late. Still freaks me out to think about this.

A chance encounter

I have always lived and worked in the UK. In 2008, while holidaying in New Zealand, I visited the Franz Josef Glacier and was walking across the nearby Douglas Bridge when I recognised a familiar figure advancing from the opposite side. This was a former colleague who had left my employers several years before and who, like me, had flown half way round the world for a holiday.

friendly coincidence

My name is Vihini (I'm tall and I have a dark skin complexion) and my best friend is Lochana (she is short and she has a fair complexion). After our o/l we went to separate schools. The person who sat next to my friend in her new school was also another Vihini (short and dark complexion). My friend was surprised and she also have mentioned the other Vihini about me, Vihini as her best friend. but then that Vihini have told Lochana that the best friend of her was also another Lochana (tall and fair) in the same school. and surprisingly Lochana and other Vihini did biology stream and me and other Lochana did maths stream. it was like a paradoxical coincidence.