Cambridge Coincidences Collection

Well I Never!

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

A malfunctioning auto saved my career from disaster

April, 1978. I was still in graduate school. I had promised the company I had accepted a job with that I would start work on this date. There was only one problem. My doctoral dissertation (in chemistry) was incomplete. I thought, "Oh, well, I'll finish it in the evenings after I start my new job", but secretly I feared that I never would.

A Bluegrass Connection

I love Bluegrass and early country music and am something of an aficionado. I attended the first few multi-day Bluegrass festivals, centered around the career of Bluegrass founder Bill Monroe, in Fincastle, VA in 1965 and '66. A few years later, as an undergraduate, my room-mate and I attended Bill Monroe's "Brown Country Jamboree", in Bean Blossom, IN, one week-end. A surprising thing happened at Bean Blossom. We arrived in the middle of torrential downpour.

Found the pilot

In 1971 I was a Dallas policeman working the evening shift (3:00pm - 11:00pm) in early summer. Near the end of the shift a call came out at Redbird Airport regarding a young boy who was beheaded while riding his mini-bike down the runway. The runway was dark and he was struck by one of the propellers of a twin engine plane that was landing. After the the shift ended I learned the details of the accident from the officers that answered the call. In 1986 I boarded a Southwest Airlines flight from Dallas to San Antonio at Love Field. The plane was packed but I found a seat.

"Could that possibly be true?"

One night my then-wife told me a story about a spiritual experience she once had. It was a strange and vivid story that involved her (and the people with her) feeling that she was emitting or transferring what could be called a "divine energy." She left the room, and I puzzled over it. I was sure she was telling the truth about what it felt like to her, but she made no claims about whether it was "real" or not. But I wondered: could that possibly be true? As I pondered this, I was setting the clock radio alarm.

Lost ring

Several years ago I was creating a new native plant garden with my significant other.The new garden was lawn before I scalped it and started putting in native plants. I was digging the holes for the plants and my SO was planting them. She got to one hole and reached in and pulled out her deceased husband's wedding band that he had lost several years before his death. When he lost it, they searched for days. I had dug a small 6 inch hole exactly where it was, out of an area of 150 sq ft.<br />


My family was checking in at a Hilton in St. Louis in 2001/2002 there was a long line. I went to the ATM & put in my pin combined with my student ID # (8 digits total) just to waste time. Much to my surprise, people's account information came up.

Two near-disasters

I spent a weekend on retreat in a small cabin with no phone, computer, or other communication. I went for a walk in the afternoon. A big storm came up, the sky turned green, I heard a sound like a runaway train, and thinking it might be a tornado, I ran back toward the cabin. As I was crossing a road, a very large tree fell. The trunk hitting the ground ten feet from me made the ground shake; a nearby truck was speared by a branch; but I was not hurt.


Human life came to exist on (probably?) the ONLY planet in the universe that happens to have 2 neighbors, which coincidentally have distance and size so perfectly offsetting, that we have these events where one fits perfectly inside the other, from our vantage point! Incredibly, the cultures that came before us thought of this as profound and formed their entire cosmology around this fact, yet if you ask an average person the trick question, which one is bigger on the retina, the sun or the moon, they will think about it and then make a guess.

Foreign Exchange Student

In 1989 I was teaching English at a high school in Istanbul, Turkey. In one of my classes there was an American foreign exchange student. When she introduced herself she told me she was from California, where I am also from! I asked if she was from northern or Southern California...she was from Los Angeles, just like me. I asked her what part of Los Angeles, and she said the Pasadena area, which is where I was from. Then I asked her what high school she attended, and she said she went to a small, girls' Catholic school.

An unknown cousin

As a prologue, I have explain that I inherited rather distinctive last name. Chances are, that if we share my last name, we're related. In the 90s, I worked my way through college working in a gas station. Routinely, people would pas for gasoline with a credit card, so I would learn the names of random people. One day, a gentleman handed me his credit card. In processing his purchase, I noted we shared a last name. When I told him this, he didn't believe me. I had to show him my driver's license to prove it.