Cambridge Coincidences Collection

Well I Never!

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

Balloon links peope with same name

The Helium Balloon With a Magical Ending The two have, understandably, become lifelong friends since. (And if you want to know more about their lives since their chance meeting, the Radiolab interview is a great listen.) While there’s no deeper meaning here, the story of the Buxton girls is a reminder that just because something is highly improbable doesn’t mean it’s impossible — hardly.

Words Matching Up

My profession is a writer, which I've done for the past 20 years. I don't recall when I first noticed the phenomenon of words matching up between what I'm doing and what's going on around me, but it's been happening for years. It happens so often that I started documenting it. The following is a list of the occasions when words have matched up just over the past three weeks.

My whole family

My great grandparents, grandmother, and my great grandfathers son all died in May!!

TV commercial for Simple Soap

In 1986, my then colleague and I worked together as a creative team at an advertising agency in London. On one particular occasion, we were briefed to come up with a 30 second TV script for Simple Soap - a range of soap, moisurisers and cleansers that contained no perfume or colouring. We were briefed on Friday and at the weekend we both worked on the brief independently. He in Brighton and myself in London. On Monday morning I shared my idea, which I was pretty pleased with. It involved a white lily being sprayed with paint and perfume by robotic arms.

A Rose by any other name

My mother was asked to see a consultant for some extra tests at Southampton General Hospital. This was arranged for out of clinic hours, i.e. early evening. We have an unusual surname; in fact there is no other family that we know of worldwide with this name spelt in this particular way. When my mother met the consultant he said he was surprised as a new member of staff from Germany ad the same surname but spelt slightly differently. He gave his first name. Later that evening my father collected my mother from the hospital and as they entered our house the telephone rang.


I was on holidays in Prague walking down Gold Street. It was very crowded and as I took a photograph a man walked in front of my camera. On returning home to London I was telling my neighbour about my holiday. She asked to see my photos. When we came to the one with the man who had walked in front of my camera she said, "How come my best friend is in your photograph?" I did not know her friend and had never seen him before!

We can't carry on meeting like this

A few years ago we were on holiday in the Lake District and met a family of four. We stopped and chatted. We were living in Bristol at the time and they lived in Carlisle. About a year later we took our kids to Bristol Zoo and bumped into them again. Quite a coincidence. Perhaps a year later we went on a family outing to Legoland near Windsor. You've guessed it ... Three random meets in 3 different parts of the country.


Colleague Joe F. explained coincidences: lots of things happen. I agree, but coincidences fascinate. Joe himself was driving in suburban Chicago on the way to visit an old acquaintance, when he realized that he had lost the address and telephone number. Eventually he spotted a phone booth, and stopped to see if it had a telephone directory. There was no directory, but he was astounded to find a note addressed to him with the needed number!


I hauled a huge box on a flat-bed cart out into the broiling Costco parking lot. Inside was a porch-set: two chairs, a love-seat, and two glass-topped tables, all intricately packed. I was confident that I could place the pieces here and there in Donna's Camry. Actually, none of the pieces fit, re-packing was impossible, and passers-by couldn't help but laugh as they saw our predicament. After a few minutes the sedan next to us pulled out, and a pickup truck pulled in.

Almost (but not quite) spooky

My wife died last year. I'm now in the very early stages of seeing a woman I've known on and off for 30 years, all going nicely, very low key. So last Saturday, I was out for dinner with some friends in a completely different circle, when the wife of the couple asked me how Christine is. I talked about Christine for a bit, then she explained to my friend's sister, who was at the dinner and is in yet another social circle, that I am in the early stages of going out with this woman, and what she did for a living. The sister then turned out to know her from a yoga group.