Cambridge Coincidences Collection

Well I Never!

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

Two tales of serendipty

FIRST COINCIDENCE In 1967 I was living and working in my home town of Exeter and every day I used to meet a young chap (whose name I've now forgotten) who used to chat me up. One day he told me that he was moving to London to train as a policeman at Hendon. I told him I was going to work in London too so he said, "Give me a ring when you get there". At first in London I worked as a temp in a hotel and there was a pay phone near our canteen. One lunch time I looked up the number of Hendon and dialed. I got through to their office and they said that cadets couldn't take calls there but that they would give me the number of a call box. If I was lucky someone might be passing who knew my friend. I dialed the call box. There was no ringing tone because someone had just picked up the phone at the other end to make a call. In that split second we had got connected and both said 'Hello'. I said I was looking for 'name of friend' and the voice at the other end said, "I don't believe this! It's me. I just came in to make a call". It would have been quite remarkable if he had been just passing the call box as I rang but he said that there were hundreds of cadets at Hendon and the likelihood of getting him at that time was remote. SECOND COINCIDENCE This also happened when I moved to London. After working as a temp I went for interviews for a permanent job. One day I caught the tube to Euston and as I walked along the platform I recognised a chap standing there looking a bit bewildered. He was someone I had worked with in a summer holiday job in Exeter some years before. Just bumping into him was just a bit amazing but when he told me about his travels that morning it was even more so. He lived in Finchley and caught his morning train as usual but for some reason thought he'd got on the wrong one so got off and got on another one. Then he realised the first train was the right one and the second was the wrong one so he got off again and that was at Euston. He said that was the only morning he had ever done that and the only time he would have been standing there on the Euston platform.
Total votes: 344
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:35:39 +0000Coincidence ID:3701

Sibling birthdays

Dear Professor Spiegelhalter, No doubt you are receiving a flood of mails as a result of this morning's Radio 4 broadcast. My mother had two brothers and a sister (Eddie, Gordon and Margaret Sterry), all born on the same date a few years apart on, I believe, March 19th. I always remember her saying each year that she only had to remember one birthday - and she was the exception, born on January 31. All four siblings are now dead, but if you are interested I can certainly get exact birth dates from my cousins (unless they have already contacted you!) I believe you said there were only 8 such cases in the country - well here's another, With best wishes, Gillian Lathey
Total votes: 300
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:35:37 +0000Coincidence ID:3700

connection with a stranger

I'd decided to join an Alpha course ( to explore Christianity ), and went alone to the church hall at Beverley Minster - totally unfamiliar to me. I was late and apprehensive at the prospect of joining complete strangers for a meal, which is how the course starts. The smallish room crowded with people sitting at tables with no familiar face and no vacant seat in sight! An organiser made space for me at a nearby table where the people seated seemed to know each other. It was difficult not to want to run away. During pleasantries, a man to my left asked had I lived in East Yorks all my life and I explained we had moved around, having lived in Manchester. Wakefield, Bradford and latterly Halifax area before Scarborough and then East Yorks. He said he'd an Aunt in Halifax and struggled to remember the name of the district though described the 'moor', a large area of grass called Saville Park. Belle Hall was the street his Aunt lived in. I knew it well. He went on to say his Aunt used to have carers in to look after her mother. I knew both the Aunt and her mother very well. I was one of the people that used to go in and care for her. A few months later, my youngest daughter and I went for a pub lunch at a village - not a usual haunt at all being 10 miles away. There, totally unexpextedly, I bumped into the Aunt - after 15 years!
Total votes: 419
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:34:24 +0000Coincidence ID:3699

Mr g abrahams

Before the time of mobile phones I was in a phone box to phone a friend. There was a break through on the line and I heard two of the directors of the company I worked for discussing financial problems. Ilest the company and shortly afterwards it broke up
Total votes: 379
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:33:41 +0000Coincidence ID:3698

old acquaintance

I was born in Derry, NI and had lost contact with an old school friend. I read an article about her brother in our university graduate magazine which included his email address. At the time he was a prof in Astrophysics in Georgia Tech. I emailed him asking him for his sister's address. He picked up my email while he was on sabbatical in Harvard. We hadn't met for 35 years. The following day he went into the library and the librarian picked up his accent, asked if he was from Derry and if he knew my family? Nuala Rosher
Total votes: 349
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:33:29 +0000Coincidence ID:3697

Plane Crash in 1943

In 1943 a Messerschmitt was shot down over Woking,It fell in the garden of a house called "Little Ingestree",near Mytchett.In the garden was a circle of Yew trees with a mature Lime in the middle.The plane sliced right through the Lime,and there was considerable fire.Considering that Yew has been associated with death for hundreds of years,I think that this was remarkable.The crew are buried in Brookwood cemetary.Afterwards,a blacksmith made a brace and bolted the two parts of the tree together. It is worth mentioning that Rudolph Hess was held in a house about 100 yards from the crash site.
Total votes: 448
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:33:06 +0000Coincidence ID:3696

How close can you get

My wife and i went on a nile cruise. Standing in the queue to go through customs, we found we were behind a close friend and his wife. They were also going on a nile cruise. It later transpired thar not only were we on the same boat but that their cabin was immediately above ours and we could talk to each other from our balconies.
Total votes: 373
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:32:30 +0000Coincidence ID:3695

Birthday dates

Many of our family have been born on the same dates as the Royal Family. My sister was the first one to be known. She was born in Hull on the 14th. of November, 1948, the same day as Prince Charles. She was sent a silver-plated teaspoon as a gift. The spoon was known in our family as "the Charlie spoon".
Total votes: 370
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:32:24 +0000Coincidence ID:3694

Mrs Valerie Shaw

Births My step daughter was born on the same date as my grandfather 100 years later and her daughter was born on the same date as my mother 100 years later. I have always thought that remarkable especially as we are not blood related. Telepathy My youngest daughter and I often contact each other just as one of us was thinking of the other. This can be email, text or phone call and it has been like this for years. It happened when we lived close and still continues now that she lives in Australia.
Total votes: 375
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:30:38 +0000Coincidence ID:3693


Dear Professor Spiegelhalter, Sixteen years ago I woke up in my Paris apartment one Sunday morning and immediately thought of Leslie Crowther. Why Leslie Crowther? A figure I had never thought about since last seeing him in revue in Edinburgh 40 years earlier. At one o'clock London time I tuned into the BBC whose newsreader altered her tone appropriately at the end of the bulletin to announce that "the comedian Leslie Crowther died early this morning." I wondered whether I'd left my radio on overnight. I had not, and in any case the Press Association was not likely to have received and published the news until later in the course of the morning, after I awoke. Not long after, I spent several days suffering from that insufferable condition in which one cannot remember a tune. I had heard it in a movie about the German close harmony group, the Comedian Harmonists. The song: "Das ist die Liebe der Matrosen." Then one Sunday morning (again) I awoke early and there it was! "Das ist die Liebe der Matrosen." I sang it under the shower, sang it over breakfast, sang it on my way through the nearby Luxembourg Garden to a news stand to buy my Observer. Then I doubled back through the Luxembourg Garden to meet a friend for lunch, and entered a street called the rue Fleurus. There I witnessed something which I had never seen before, and have never seen since. Someone standing in the street grinding a barrel organ. A young woman. You have one guess which tune was grinding out of her barrel organ. I pondered whether she had maybe been busy at it at six o'clock in the morning, and that I had heard it in the distance through half-sleep. But no. Not a way to turn a buck at six a.m. on a Paris Sunday morning. I can't make much out of Jung's theory of synchronicity. Instead, I prefer to believe that coincidence is like what the poet said about beauty, that it is in the mind of the beholder. Our human minds are surely conditioned or programmed to start drawing strange conclusions from effect to cause about perceived weird phenomena such as coincidences. Animals in the forest do not cry "Good heavens!" when they suddenly stumble on old chums after a long absence. Surely coincidence is just that -- chance. I also found it of significance that I had started noticing strange coincidences so soon after I had retired and retreated to the relaxed pleasures of life in Paris. Perhaps coincidences are actually much more frequent than generally perceived, and working people simply don't notice them because they're busy, sometimes harassed, suffering from tension and anxiety etc, all conditions likely to undermine the state in which one can be more observant about the quirky little detail of the daily round. Still. My two stories make great tales, and I've dined off 'em more than once. Now I send them to you after just hearing you on Radio Four. Hope they might amuse you. Sincerely Donald A
Total votes: 351
Date submitted:Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:29:26 +0000Coincidence ID:3692