Cambridge Coincidences Collection

Well I Never!

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

Cranes - a series of coincidences

In May 2009 I saw my daughter just after she had returned from her honeymoon. We talked about a lot of things but she briefly mentioned that a friend, Neil, and his wife had just had a baby girl. Neil was often at our house when the children were growing up but he now lived in Scotland and I had not seen him for about six years. My daughter, Wendy said she was going to buy the baby a mobile for above his cot. Two days later, I left for a city break in Copenhagen and filled three days with visits to Elsinore, Roskilde and the city. On the final day, I had an hour to kill before leaving and, on a whim, went to the Danish Design Museum shop in the centre. The shop had a whole wall devoted to mobiles of every imaginable type and subject - did the Danes invent the mobile? - and I decided to buy one for Wendy to send to the baby. I chose one of cranes - the bird - because a Chinese friend of mine once told me that they were a sign of long life. When I got home, I told my daughter but she said that, unable to find a mobile herself, she had sent something else. "Why don't you send it to Neil?" she said and gave me his address. I duly sent it.

Seeing and hearing the same word

Reading the word "sibling" in a novel and hearing the same word on the radio. Without being frequent, this sort of verbal coincidence happens often enough, with different words, for me to have noted it. Trevor

Best friends

I was looking through photos with an old friend (L) and she suddenly recognised my brother's wife (S). L had been good friends with S at school in Liverpool while I knew her (L) from Essex University. My brother and I had grown up in London but he met S in Seville and later married her. What are the chances of my brother marrying someone who was good friends at school with the person who became my best friend at university?

happy birthday

I was working alone at a playgroup, digging a hole on an outdoor project. I was 22 and still recovering from depression at the time, after my mother had died of leukemia 5 months ealier. It was my birthday and I was worried about being pregnant because I felt I was in no fit state to bring up a child. I was listening to a portable radio. My mum's favourite musician was Stevie Wonder. I played his songs at her funeral. I was religious at this time and on hearing the DJ say he was going to give a special request for any birthdays, I started praying for some sort of sign that my mum was watching me. The DJ played "happy birthday to ya "by Stevie wonder. This event contributed to the choice to keep my baby. Many years later, in 2010, I had another huge episode of reactive depression and needed hospitalisation. My psychotic thoughts responsible for my erratic behaviour all revolved around an abortion I had had prior to my 1st child (above). I had worked for the Glastonbury Festival for 18 years and was hospitalised on a locked ward throughout the festival and the solstice period so could not work that year or attend the event.

Encounter in Rwanda

I was working on a project in Ruhengeri in northern Rwanda, but had to go to the capital at the week-end because of dental trouble. I’d just got back to the hotel after a visit to the dentist, and was having a lunchtime drink in the bar when an old gentleman walked past, looking for a seat. I greeted him “Mwirirwe neza, Mzee.” (Good afternoon, elder.) and he sat down at my table. We started chatting in French, and he said he was from Ruhengeri, and he used to work at the university here. Where was I from? England. “Oh, I have a daughter who lives in Scotland. She has 2 sons, and they are at present here in Kigali.” So I asked him, “Is her name, by any chance, C****** M****?” He was amazed, and asked, “How can this be?” 2 years earlier when I was on my way home, I met a Rwandese lady in the Kenya Airways lounge at Nairobi airport. She had 2 boys with her, aged about 6 and 2. We got talking – there was a 6 hour delay before my flight to Amsterdam – and it turned out that she was going on the same flight to Amsterdam, then on to Glenrothes in Fife.

Spirit Contact or coincidence?

Following my father-in-law's death in 1971 I bought his well loved 1956 Morris Minor as our family car. At the time I was in the RAF and stationed near Bedford.On our first trip down to Bristol we reached the arboretum at Westonbirt when the engine suddenly died. The car ran on for a couple of hundred yards and then started again without any intervention from myself and we continued on without further incident. When we later discussed the incident we were reminded that my wife's father had died at the Westonbirt golf course right next to where the engine failed. The car never repeated this failure. To this day we still believe it was Bert giving us a wave.

ferry meet

In 1996 whilst on holiday in the US, my husband and I were walking the coastal path around the 'cottages' of Newport, Rhode Island. A couple walking towards us heard our accents and stopped - they were British, living in California and naturalised Americans, also on holiday but originally from Bristol, UK, where we live, and where the husband had worked for British Aerospace at Filton, just a few miles from our house. Some days later when driving back to Boston, we decided to visit Martha's Vineyard from Wood's Hole, Cape Cod. On returning from the ferry that evening, we stopped to look at the menu of a local restaurant for dinner; who should come along but the same couple we had met in Newport. We ended up having a meal together - how's that for a coincidence?

Man and book

I booked a sailing holiday in Portoheli, Greece in May 1984. There were only about a dozen people in the small group. A couple of days into the holiday, I found out that one of the other participants worked at an institutiion I had worked at several years previously. He knew some of the same people I had known there. So far, not so amazing, perhaps, but we had each brought with us as holiday reading a copy of the same paperback book - 'The Collector' by John Fowles. Spooky. Peter.

Birthday coincidence

I have 3 brothers, an elder one who is 67, a younger one who is 60 and an even younger one who is 55. In fact the 55 year old is my half brother as my father died and my mother re-married, so his father was my step-father. The birthdays of my elder and youngest brother, the 67 and 55 year old, is 25 January. However, this is also the birthday of the wife of my younger brother who is 60. I have no difficulty in remembering to buy a birthday cards!


In the late 1970's my wife Anne and I were on a touring holiday in Scotland and quite by chance decided to 'speed rusty boat' across to Skye, driving along out in the middle of nowhere we were, quite genuinely, discussing how different to be somewhere so empty and deserted when a car appeared in the distance behind us, it rapidly overtook us then screeched to a halt, it was a friend keith from Leeds who we hadn't seen for some time, he had recognised our car.