Cambridge Coincidences Collection

Well I Never!

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

Down the Line

Many years ago I phoned a friend of mine, Sarah. On picking up the receiver (house phone, pre-mobile days), instead of hearing a dial tone the line was blank. After a short pause I heard a "hello", and it was Sarah! She had phoned me and I had picked up my phone to call her just before it started to ring.

birthday coincidence

good morning i heard your piece on the radio this morning and you quoted the chances of three children born to the same parents and sharing birthdays. my example is similar in that myself and my brother (two only children) share our birthday with our mother. i was born on her 23rd birthday and my brother was born on her 34th birthday. myself 2 days late and my brother 10 days late. what are the chances of that? regards art

Chance Meeting on a Beach !

I was a graduate of University of Kent until 1982 when one of my best mates went off to University of California to do his MA . In 1984 lying on a beach in Ios, Cyclades i threw back an American football to an American youth on a European tour who was coming to London and due to stay with the mother of a boy he had met at university in California, who lived in Romford, Essex . He unfortunately had misplaced the phone number of the lady. I was able to supply him with that number there and then as it was my students friend mum !!!

Surprise birthday party

During my first semester of college, in December 1963, I was contacted over the winter break by someone I'd known in high school who said that plans were in the works to throw a surprise birthday party for a mutual friend and told me to call Laurel, at whose parents' apartment in upper Manhattan the party was being held. I barely knew Laurel, who also went to my high school but was a year behind me -- so it was a considerable source of embarrassment when I dialed her number and found myself patched through into the middle of an ongoing conversation between her and the friend for whom the party was being planned. This is the only time in my life that this kind of phone mix-up has ever happened, and I was sure I'd just blown the surprise, especially when my friend said to me a couple of days later, "Gee, I didn't know you knew Laurel," and I had to quickly make up a cover story. But the coincidences didn't end there.

same day of the week

My brother was born on September 4 My parents were born on February 27 My parents were married on April 10th I was born on July 17 The above all fall on the same day of the week - regardless of year

Wedding & Honeymoon

My honeymoon was arranged by my parents, who purchased everything based on vague instructions (near Carcassone, must have a pool, if I remember correctly). We didn't play any part in it beyond this. The wedding had about 40 guests, and went very well (it happened to be about the only dry day in a very rainy summer, but thats a different - and less impressive coincidence) We arrived at our honeymoon accommodation, and got talking to the owner (who was cleaning the pool). It transpired that he had family near where my wife had just moved from. In fact, on the same street doing the same work as one of my wife's friends. When we enquired if he knew her he answered "Yes - that's my sister" We told him that she had been at our wedding a few days earlier "Oh?" He replied "She did say that she was going to a wedding last weekend" (In short, a completely randomly chosen holiday home, in an area we had never previously visited of another country, was owned - and attended, by the brother of one of the 40 guests at our wedding. With whom she had previously discussed our wedding)

Two cards twice

My mother sent me a card with a drawing of a goose on, since she knew I like drawing and I like geese. A few months or maybe a year later she sent me the same card, having completely forgotten about sending it the first time. Some time later a friend was visiting, and saw one of the cards which was up on the mantelpiece. Not knowing anything about the story behind it, she told me that her mum had sent the same card to her boyfriend on his birthday once. And then sent the same card the next year, having completely forgotten about sending it the first time.

Shared childhood home

I worked for one of the London open top bus sightseeing tours from around 1993 to 1998. Initially I worked on the pavement for a few years as a supervisor (organising the departure of buses and so on) and in doing so got to know the various bus drivers and tour guides that started out or passed by the departure points I covered. One of my tour guide colleagues - Alice Robinson, who I believe is around 3-4 years younger than I - started around the same time as me and then was brought into the central office after a few years of service to be the sales rep selling tickets to the various agencies we dealt with around town. About a year after that I got reassigned to work in the main office as the marketing assistant. This then meant we worked together side by side on numerous occasions, typically travelling around town together seeing the ticket agents she dealt with, and in the course of our travels we naturally began to exchange snippets of our life stories. One thing we established was that both our fathers had served with the RAF, although while my dad flew on Vulcans, her father was in the RAF Regiment, the ground force tasked with protecting RAF bases.

Lock and key!

My father, Terry, had some friends around for a drink in the 'pub' he'd built under his house. He mentioned that he had to get a new lock for the bought door he'd bought from a reclaim yard, and fitted to the 'pub'. It had no key. One of his guests, John, thought the door looked remarkably similar to one he'd recently taken to a tip. He still had the key on his ring: it fitted!

Exam coincidence

I was taking the Oxford University entrance exam at school in Birmingham in 1981. One of the papers I had to take involved writing a precis of an unseen passage and then answering questions about it. On the morning of that paper I chose to practice by taking a book from the school library shelves (Rousseau's The Social Contract - not quite a random choice since I chose something that interested me but not something I had any reason at all to believe would figure in the exam), selecting a page at random and writing a precis of the argument. That afternoon the unseen passage in the exam came from the same section of the same chapter of the same book. When answering the comprehension section of the paper I was able to discuss in detail the way that Rousseau developed his argument in subsequent pages. I worried for weeks afterwards that the examiners would think that I must have cheated somehow because I showed specific knowledge that was so improbable.

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