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

World Trade disaster

While on holiday on a narrow boat on the Kennet & Avon canal, we moored up in Bath. We had the television on and watched in horror as the two planes crashed into the World Trade Centre. Feeling very disconcerted, I went for a walk into the town of Bath. I went into a large bookshop and started browsing computer books as is my interest. My blood ran cold when, flicking through one of the books I saw an ink drawing of a plane flying towards a skyscraper. I was so shocked that I went up to another customer and showed him. Shaken, I replaced the book and left the shop, and have ever since regretted not buying that book!
Total votes: 4
Date submitted:Sun, 20 Jun 2021 18:05:01 +0000Coincidence ID:11298

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Total votes: 3
Date submitted:Sun, 20 Jun 2021 15:12:29 +0000Coincidence ID:11297

How'd this happen?

In the Spring 2020 semester, the following problems were given on an exam in my introductory statistics courses: The quiz scores in a statistics class of size n = 13 were as follows: 8, 4, 7, 9, 9, 6, 5, 6, 7, 10, 8, 3, 3 Problems 1. Assume that the sample of quiz scores represents a simple random sample from a normal distribution with an unknown mean and a known standard deviation of 2.40. Obtain the 88% confidence interval for the mean. 2. Suppose now that we are unwilling to assume that the population standard deviation is known. Obtain the 87% confidence interval for the mean. Solutions 1. To 6 decimal places the solution is (5.503542, 7.573381). 2. To 6 decimal places the solution is (5.503545, 7.573378).
Total votes: 7
Date submitted:Sun, 20 Jun 2021 02:18:25 +0000Coincidence ID:11293

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Total votes: 3
Date submitted:Sat, 19 Jun 2021 22:24:59 +0000Coincidence ID:11292

Somehow positive sign

Lockdown gave me the opportunity to follow a childhood dream. I start painting again doing a serious dedicated to mental health. It’s shows the three steps of depression I went through after my partners suicide it culminates on a fourth painting about him, what aggravated his mental health and it shows on his own words how he was afraid to end the way it did. What motivated me to start painting again was/is to voice my discontent and disgust of how he was ignored.<br /> The coincidence is that six years ago, to this day he was thanking me on Facebook for the support I gave him to find the job he dreamed. Unfortunately, in the end it didn’t work out as it was a zero hours contract. Coincidence or not I see it as a sign of appreciation. So much for my atheism…
Total votes: 3
Date submitted:Sat, 19 Jun 2021 21:21:14 +0000Coincidence ID:11291

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Total votes: 3
Date submitted:Sat, 19 Jun 2021 18:25:59 +0000Coincidence ID:11290

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Total votes: 3
Date submitted:Sat, 19 Jun 2021 18:24:05 +0000Coincidence ID:11289

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I have no experience in doing tricks, but wanting to be funny at my own expence, I took a pack of cards, shuffled them and handed the pack to a friend. I told her to cut anywhere but don;t let me see. She cut the cards, I told her to look at the exposed face card, and said 'seven of hearts'. It was a shock to her, but more of a shock to me as sure enough there was the seven of hearts. I was asked how I did the trick, but said I couldn't divulge my secret. No secret, just an amazing coincidence
Total votes: 7
Date submitted:Fri, 18 Jun 2021 18:14:53 +0000Coincidence ID:11284

Mysterious 7's

I'm Branden. I'll keep this short and only post my most memorable synchronicity since I have a lot of them daily with license plates. This event is what led me to learn of them. One morning on my way to work, I stopped at Walgreens to get a drink and a snack. The receipt came out to $7.77. The same day, on my way home from work, I grabbed a meal from Burger King and the receipt came out to $7.77. I believe I still have the receipts somewhere. Things like this are a common occurence for me, but never have I had anything that was as convincing as this.
Total votes: 6
Date submitted:Fri, 18 Jun 2021 16:20:00 +0000Coincidence ID:11283

BULB afterword

I've been meaning to share this here for a while being a fan of these stories. The following is nonfiction, all true, and happened in 2002 after I completed the first draft of my novel BULB. All these years later, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it. At about 1:45 a.m. I left a party at my friend Mary and Bob’s house. A summer storm hit hard earlier in the evening and the trees darkening the road plus the storm forced me to concentrate. I’d had a few drinks earlier but not enough to not inhibit me. I was heading south on route 611 and just after Curley Hill Road, I noticed an accordioned car had scattered its bumper, glass, and other parts across the yellow lines. “Keep Going” briefly raced through my head, but no one was around, someone might be inside the crushed vehicle and other cars could wreck if they ran into the debris. I backed up my car to the middle of the road and put my caution blinkers and high beams on. Plumsteadville Police was written on the trunk, black letters on white. I yelled hello, feeling as if I were in some dream or movie scene, as I walked closer. I was not prepared for the vision I found on the driver’s side lit by the interior light nor was I ready for the alien smell of opened human head and engine oil. Others stopped and after a cellphone call, the area swarmed with red and blue flashing hazard lights. I stood in the rain avoiding the glaring car beams for about fifteen minutes, finally gave my name and went home to nightmares. Joseph was a few years younger than me. He had a wife, a family and a station of other officers that respected him. I wanted to attend his funeral, feeling a strange obligation since I’d found him. I’d read the interment was to be at five and I left work a little early to attend but when I arrived, only a few minutes after five, I found heaps of flowers over his grave but no people. Could've been the papers misreported the time, or possibly, I had read it wrong. I thought it fitting though. I never knew Joseph in life, but in death, I’d met him twice, alone. There’d been moments in the past where I’d found myself thinking what are the odds of this happening. Obviously, since I’ve read a good deal of Jung and wrote my first novel with coincidence as a main theme, synchronicity is an interest of mine. I know everybody experiences synchronicity, but I don’t believe in fate, no controlling supernatural force has my life mapped out. Not everything happens for a reason. I can’t subscribe to the religious pathology that offers people hope through ambiguous belief and faith. However, standing at the grave, I couldn’t help but think of a character in my book whom I’d named Joseph and wonder how or if there was anything similar about the two. I knew it to be an insane stretch, trying to connect officer Joseph and my character Joseph in some baroque fashion, but I was looking for anything that might make sense of it all. Later, I considered how Joseph was the first Plumsteadville police officer to die in the line of duty, and how he’d died in a car accident on a rain-slicked road. I thought of the deer on the highway in BULB's rainy car accident and how Plumsteadville is in Bucks County. Also, how I’d been drinking, and Joseph had been on his way to assist with a drunk driver. All those connections seemed absurd, but they were likely the product of a without-exaggeration pattern of coincidence that was even more extraordinary though not as emotionally difficult as finding Joseph. These events that followed writing BULB were of such questionable odds that it left me wondering if I’d unearthed some sign. I’m seriously no kooky new-agey, believes-in-magic type, but the following incidents, like the story of my finding the officer Joseph, are true: I started writing BULB in 1998 after a failed internet relationship with a Susan from Chicago. The book was going to be an epistolary novel, something like a direct use of the saved email correspondence, but when I started reading it, it felt far too personal and cringe-inducing. Better ideas, using only a portion of the letters, arose and eventually became what the book is today. After a brief month and half of editing and far too early, I started licking stamps and hitting send on emails to agents. While waiting for responses, I went back to editing. One night I was trying to develop a sense of déjà vu in the novel by renaming minor characters with variations of Susan. I’d already renamed a waitress and a hotel patron, Sue, and Suzanne respectively when I started receiving instant message popups asking me if I was Marco. While editing, I was using a well-known music software at the time called Napster. Napster had a poorly designed messaging aspect. Messages would just pop up from anyone that wanted to say something to you. I ignored all the popups from thirteen-year-olds saying “Your music sucks” and also ignored the first couple I received asking me if I was Marco. Finally, after the user wouldn’t stop, I responded that I was busy, thinking they’d leave me alone. “Okay fine, but are you my friend, Marco?” Having lost my focus, and needing a break anyway, I began a basic chat session. Age-Sex-Location talk. She asked what I was doing, and I told her about trying to develop a déjà vu feeling by renaming characters, Susan. She asked if she could read it, and I said no. She asked could she read it if she could freak me out. I doubted someone from Melbourne could over the Net until she sent me her name: Suzan. She'd done it. Especially as I hadn’t answered any of the other messages that popped up and couldn’t recall when I’d ever discussed anything other than music on Napster messaging. I sent her the book. The following morning, I woke early and drove to the airport, the oddity of the Napster Susan coincidence still occupying my thought. I was visiting my sister in North Carolina and while waiting for the plane to take off, I cracked open Douglas Coupland’s latest book, Miss Wyoming. At the beginning of the book, you’re introduced to the main character whose name just happens to be Susan. She was also on a plane, but unlike mine, her plane crashes and she’s the only survivor. Feeling ridiculous, getting a little nervous, I wrote everything down - obviously so when they recovered my body and found it I’d be known as the one who was forewarned. I landed with no problem in Raleigh. A couple of days later, I felt incredibly excited to receive an email with my first partial manuscript request. It was from The Susan Herner Agency. Still in shock, I hit respond to send the chapters and saw the return email address: As it turned out, there were two Susan’s that worked at the agency. All this might not seem as insanely strange as it did to me, but if you ever read (not a plug!) my book, and knowing how much of it is about synchronicity, "synchronistic activity waves" increasing -- and the fact that the only person whom I’d based a character on from my life that I’d kept their real name intact in the book was Susan, you might be with me on the spectacle of it all. It could have been that I was some powerful conductor of the Higgs Boson particle, that I had God physics on my side, or yeah yeah, Susan is just a common name. Right. I tried to convince myself of it. How many Susan’s do you run into during a regular month and never even notice? I’d left my ATM card in the machine a few days later. I received two messages on my answering machine that day saying they’d found my card and would try calling again later so we could arrange for me to get it back. How did they get my number? Possibly in the yellow pages that were still somewhat commonly used then. I checked the caller ID and there were the last name and the telephone number. When I called, I got their answering machine “Hi, you’ve reached Susan’s machine…” I almost dropped the phone. We met up, she gave me the card and looked completely normal, but I didn't pursue conversation because what was I going to talk to her about? "By the way, your name Susan has been playing a peculiar role in my life for the past week." It would've appeared too strange, even for me. For at least the next month, I waited for more Susans to come into my life, one that would show me the full view. I wish there was some great final revelation, but there wasn’t. I got over it. No more coincidences of Susan after the ATM card call. Since that time, I’d say I’ve confronted an average amount of Susan, but in that brief timeframe…to have come across that many - in the ways that I did - I’m not surprised I was standing at the grave thinking about how finding Joseph might have some secret meaning waiting for discovery. I suppose, if I am honest, I'm still on the lookout.
Total votes: 24
Date submitted:Tue, 08 Jun 2021 17:54:49 +0000Coincidence ID:11245