Cambridge Coincidences Collection

Well I Never!

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

Down the Line

Many years ago I phoned a friend of mine, Sarah. On picking up the receiver (house phone, pre-mobile days), instead of hearing a dial tone the line was blank. After a short pause I heard a "hello", and it was Sarah! She had phoned me and I had picked up my phone to call her just before it started to ring.
Total votes: 720
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 16:11:04 +0000Coincidence ID:3374

birthday coincidence

good morning i heard your piece on the radio this morning and you quoted the chances of three children born to the same parents and sharing birthdays. my example is similar in that myself and my brother (two only children) share our birthday with our mother. i was born on her 23rd birthday and my brother was born on her 34th birthday. myself 2 days late and my brother 10 days late. what are the chances of that? regards art
Total votes: 721
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 16:07:46 +0000Coincidence ID:3373

Chance Meeting on a Beach !

I was a graduate of University of Kent until 1982 when one of my best mates went off to University of California to do his MA . In 1984 lying on a beach in Ios, Cyclades i threw back an American football to an American youth on a European tour who was coming to London and due to stay with the mother of a boy he had met at university in California, who lived in Romford, Essex . He unfortunately had misplaced the phone number of the lady. I was able to supply him with that number there and then as it was my students friend mum !!!
Total votes: 688
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 16:04:13 +0000Coincidence ID:3372

Surprise birthday party

During my first semester of college, in December 1963, I was contacted over the winter break by someone I'd known in high school who said that plans were in the works to throw a surprise birthday party for a mutual friend and told me to call Laurel, at whose parents' apartment in upper Manhattan the party was being held. I barely knew Laurel, who also went to my high school but was a year behind me -- so it was a considerable source of embarrassment when I dialed her number and found myself patched through into the middle of an ongoing conversation between her and the friend for whom the party was being planned. This is the only time in my life that this kind of phone mix-up has ever happened, and I was sure I'd just blown the surprise, especially when my friend said to me a couple of days later, "Gee, I didn't know you knew Laurel," and I had to quickly make up a cover story. But the coincidences didn't end there. My father volunteered to drive me to the party, and when I gave him Laurel's full name and address, my mother said, "Isn't that where your cousin Lenny lives?" It turned out Laurel was my second cousin -- which would have been the best cover story of all if I'd only known it a few days earlier.
Total votes: 693
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 16:03:59 +0000Coincidence ID:3371

same day of the week

My brother was born on September 4 My parents were born on February 27 My parents were married on April 10th I was born on July 17 The above all fall on the same day of the week - regardless of year
Total votes: 822
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 15:45:50 +0000Coincidence ID:3370

Wedding & Honeymoon

My honeymoon was arranged by my parents, who purchased everything based on vague instructions (near Carcassone, must have a pool, if I remember correctly). We didn't play any part in it beyond this. The wedding had about 40 guests, and went very well (it happened to be about the only dry day in a very rainy summer, but thats a different - and less impressive coincidence) We arrived at our honeymoon accommodation, and got talking to the owner (who was cleaning the pool). It transpired that he had family near where my wife had just moved from. In fact, on the same street doing the same work as one of my wife's friends. When we enquired if he knew her he answered "Yes - that's my sister" We told him that she had been at our wedding a few days earlier "Oh?" He replied "She did say that she was going to a wedding last weekend" (In short, a completely randomly chosen holiday home, in an area we had never previously visited of another country, was owned - and attended, by the brother of one of the 40 guests at our wedding. With whom she had previously discussed our wedding)
Total votes: 709
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 15:25:59 +0000Coincidence ID:3369

Two cards twice

My mother sent me a card with a drawing of a goose on, since she knew I like drawing and I like geese. A few months or maybe a year later she sent me the same card, having completely forgotten about sending it the first time. Some time later a friend was visiting, and saw one of the cards which was up on the mantelpiece. Not knowing anything about the story behind it, she told me that her mum had sent the same card to her boyfriend on his birthday once. And then sent the same card the next year, having completely forgotten about sending it the first time.
Total votes: 835
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 14:59:03 +0000Coincidence ID:3368

Shared childhood home

I worked for one of the London open top bus sightseeing tours from around 1993 to 1998. Initially I worked on the pavement for a few years as a supervisor (organising the departure of buses and so on) and in doing so got to know the various bus drivers and tour guides that started out or passed by the departure points I covered. One of my tour guide colleagues - Alice Robinson, who I believe is around 3-4 years younger than I - started around the same time as me and then was brought into the central office after a few years of service to be the sales rep selling tickets to the various agencies we dealt with around town. About a year after that I got reassigned to work in the main office as the marketing assistant. This then meant we worked together side by side on numerous occasions, typically travelling around town together seeing the ticket agents she dealt with, and in the course of our travels we naturally began to exchange snippets of our life stories. One thing we established was that both our fathers had served with the RAF, although while my dad flew on Vulcans, her father was in the RAF Regiment, the ground force tasked with protecting RAF bases. One thing Alice often repeated was her upbringing in Cornwall where her parents still resided and it was only after several months that I pointed out that while she often professed to having this strong Cornish background she spoke with an accent that had distinctly Northern attributes. This, she explained, had been due to her father's service in the RAF, as for the earliest part of her life, despite being born in Cornwall, they had lived in the North, where many RAF bases are located. I mentioned that up until the age of 10 I too had lived on or nearby RAF bases in the North of England due to my own father's service but had lost the traces of any Northern accent I had acquired. In support of this, I then mentioned that even though my three siblings had been born in the Lincoln and Doncaster areas, we had all managed to divest ourselves of our accents, having moved south to Hampshire (I was born in Surrey but we moved North when I was 3 months old, so hadn't yet had a chance to acquire a Home Counties accent!) It was on mentioning Lincoln that Alice responded that they too had lived in that area for a few years. This was not entirely surprising as the RAF had several bases there - for instance, at Waddington and Scampton at which both our fathers had served. I then told her that barring a two spells of 2 years living on the bases at RAF Finningley and RAF Waddington we had, in the main, lived in Heighington, a fairly large village a few miles outside of Lincoln. When I mentioned Heighington Alice exclaimed that she too had spent part of her childhood living there. The obvious question was where in Heighington. As I say, it is a large village that, even during the time we lived there (1968-1970), had seen considerable post war development and I would estimate that its population amounted to around 2000-2500 even then. I answered that we lived in a road named Daniel Crescent (one of, I would estimate, 30-40 streets in the village at the time). At this Alice retorted that they too had lived in that same road. At what number was the following question. No. 12 was my reply. On this occasion we had arrived at one of the main departure points on the sightseeeing tour and so stopped there so that Alice could call her Mum in Cornwall. She told her Mum all about this amazing coincidence, about how this guy who worked alongside her here in London in the mid 1990s had lived in the same road as her in this village outside of Lincoln at the very end of the1960s. She then told her mum that we [my family] had lived at number 12, and asked her Mum to tell her the number at which they had lived. To this her Mum replied that that couldn't be right as that was the number of their house. It was only then that we realised that it was to Alice's parents that my mother and father had sold their house in November 1970 and that Alice and I therefore had both spent our early childhoods in the same house. It was an odd feeling for both of us for the next few weeks and months afterwards although this certainly helped cement our friendship!
Total votes: 705
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 14:59:00 +0000Coincidence ID:3367

Lock and key!

My father, Terry, had some friends around for a drink in the 'pub' he'd built under his house. He mentioned that he had to get a new lock for the bought door he'd bought from a reclaim yard, and fitted to the 'pub'. It had no key. One of his guests, John, thought the door looked remarkably similar to one he'd recently taken to a tip. He still had the key on his ring: it fitted!
Total votes: 761
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 14:56:57 +0000Coincidence ID:3366

Exam coincidence

I was taking the Oxford University entrance exam at school in Birmingham in 1981. One of the papers I had to take involved writing a precis of an unseen passage and then answering questions about it. On the morning of that paper I chose to practice by taking a book from the school library shelves (Rousseau's The Social Contract - not quite a random choice since I chose something that interested me but not something I had any reason at all to believe would figure in the exam), selecting a page at random and writing a precis of the argument. That afternoon the unseen passage in the exam came from the same section of the same chapter of the same book. When answering the comprehension section of the paper I was able to discuss in detail the way that Rousseau developed his argument in subsequent pages. I worried for weeks afterwards that the examiners would think that I must have cheated somehow because I showed specific knowledge that was so improbable.
Total votes: 802
Date submitted:Fri, 13 Jan 2012 14:56:11 +0000Coincidence ID:3365