Almost Unbelievable Coincidences that Really Happened

I don’t believe in synchronicity or any of that mumbo-jumbo, but sometimes things happen that really make you wonder what’s going on.

I went to Ohio State. One weekend I’m back at home watching an Ohio State football game on TV with my brother, and he says, “Matt D---- (a guy from our podunk town) goes to Ohio State.” I knew that my brother knew I didn’t like Matt D----, so I say to him, just to be argumentative, “Like hell he does. I never saw him there.” Not ten seconds later, out of 100,000 people at the game, on the television appears Matt D----'s big ugly face, taking up the entire camera shot. He’s in the marching band, yelling “we’re number one,” etc. I didn’t crap my pants, but if I had, it would not have been surprising, would it’ve?

I get these all the time. I think I just have strange luck. Not good, or bad… just oddly-timed.

For instance, one along the lines of your own coincidence.

I was walking along with a friend of mine, after class, and he was stopped by someone he knew, and I didn’t… after a short conversation, he and I walked on. I made a comment to the effect that he seemed to know everyone at school, because this had happened a few times in the previous days.

He dismissed the notion, and pointed ahead and someone coming down the sidewalk.

‘I don’t know that person.’

Then the person approaching us said: ‘Hey, L____!’ (Name removed to protect the innocent.)

I still haven’t let him live that one down.

You might find this article by Freeman Dyson of interest:

"A simple way to state the paradox is Littlewood’s Law of Miracles. Littlewood was a famous mathematician who was teaching at Cambridge University when I was a student. Being a professional mathematician, he defined miracles precisely before stating his law about them. He defined a miracle as an event that has special significance when it occurs, but occurs with a probability of one in a million. This definition agrees with our common-sense understanding of the word “miracle.”

Littlewood’s Law of Miracles states that in the course of any normal person’s life, miracles happen at a rate of roughly one per month. The proof of the law is simple. During the time that we are awake and actively engaged in living our lives, roughly for eight hours each day, we see and hear things happening at a rate of about one per second. So the total number of events that happen to us is about thirty thousand per day, or about a million per month. With few exceptions, these events are not miracles because they are insignificant. The chance of a miracle is about one per million events. Therefore we should expect about one miracle to happen, on the average, every month. Broch tells stories of some amazing coincidences that happened to him and his friends, all of them easily explained as consequences of Littlewood’s Law."

Years ago I was walking on the street in Manhattan with a friend. As we were crossing the street, a guy was coming in the other direction and I said, “Larry?”
The guy I spoke to looked up and continued crossing the street and then stopped and waited for the light to walk back.
My friend said, “who is Larry?”
“My brother.”

At the time, my brother was in the Navy. He had a totally unexpected layover in NYC and had never been there. At that time I was living in NYC. He didn’t have my phone number as he didn’t know he was going to be there and was just spending his day roaming the streets and bam…we met up!

Another NYC tale…I had lived in Germany a long time and was back in NY just visiting. I turned a corner and ran smack dab into a German friend I had not seen in over a decade. We talked and he said he was going to call me…he even had my old phone number in his top shirt pocket! I told him I now lived in California (at that time), was visiting for a week and hadn’t lived in NY for over 9 years.

I was just saying, in chat, that I hadn’t talked to my best friend in a few months. I don’t even really remember why, but it was probably something really stupid. We weren’t like fighting or anything, we just lived kind of far apart. Anyway, I hadn’t talked to her for a while. One day, out of the blue, I decided I’d call her over for the weekend. She wasn’t home and, sadly, she never called me back. She died in a car accident the following Monday.

I picked up the phone to ring someone and instead of a dial tone I could hear background noise. I said “Hello?” and she started chatting away to me.
“What’s going on?” I said, “I didn’t ring you.”
“No I rang you,” assuming I am going crazy.
“But the phone didn’t ring.”
“Well I got a ring tone for a while. And why did you pick up the phone if it wasn’t ringing?” by now she is really getting worried.
“To ring you.”

After the call I took the phone apart and discovered the striker in the mechanical bell was bent and couldn’t stike the bell.

Next week, three different couples – my roomates, my mom and stepdad, and my aunt and her SO – will all travel ~600 miles to Illinois to visit completely different people for completely unrelated reasons.

I used to live in a town called Dunedin in New Zealand, and one day I had to be in the nearby city of Christchurch, for just one day. We were having breakfast there and I was watching people walk past the cafe we were in, when I thought to myself “Wouldn’t it be funny if I saw someone I recognised from Dunedin walk past,” and in my head I pictured a particular person. He was a stranger I saw often on the streets of Dunedin, a distinctive fellow who looks kind of dorky, with thick-lensed glasses and a kind of vacant stare that he would always turn towards me whenever I walked past him.

Not five seconds later, he walked right past the window. And more than that, he turned and looked straight at me.


A similar thing happened earlier that same year. I was walking through town one day and I saw a pretty girl I’d never seen before, someone who for some reason stood out in my mind the rest of that day.

The very next day, I was hoping to catch a glimpse of her again, and I was thinking directly about her at one point when I heard footsteps behind me. I thought to myself “That’ll be her,” and let whoever it was walk past me.

It was her.

Never saw her again after that day.

This is actually not my story, but my aunt’s. I find it spectacular.

My aunt Mary took her daughter, my cousin Melissa, to Disney World for a week, to celebrate Melissa’s eighth birthday. They weren’t staying in the Disney World complex, instead choosing a hotel about 20 minutes drive from the park, near a residential neighborhood of Orlando. Their hotel room had a kitchenette, so Aunt Mary decided to pick up a few food items for breakfasts and whatnot, and got directions from the desk clerk to the nearest supermarket.

While walking through the supermarket, Melissa heard some woman saying “Mary!” and said to her mom “Mom, someone’s calling your name.” Aunt Mary said “Melissa, Mary is the most common name in the world. They can’t be calling me. We don’t even know anyone who lives in Orlando.” Well, of course the woman was calling Aunt Mary and happened to be Aunt Mary’s former next door neighbor. She was also vacationing at Disney World but staying with her niece who lived in that neighborhood. She volunteered to pick up a few groceries for her niece while the niece was at work…

…as the desk clerk at the hotel where Aunt Mary and Melissa were staying.

I always thought that was the weirdest coincidence-on-coincidence-on-coincidence story ever.

TeaElle just reminded me of a very odd one.

When I was a kid, we went to Disney for a vacation. When I came back, I brought my pictures to school to share with my friends. As we flipped through them one of them pointed and said.

Oh my God, that’s Leslie!! (schoolmate of ours, but not really a friend)

Sure enough, turned out Leslie had also been to Disney during the same time, and someone in my family had unknowingly included her in a picture. We took it to Leslie to verify, and it was indeed her.


I’m involved in a research project with a group from another part of the university. We had a meeting scheduled for when I returned from holidays. The guy who heads the group was someone I hadn’t had any contact with for a decade. He starts the meeting by saying that he too had just returned from holiday. He went to Nepal, but had some time left over and on a whim caught a plane to Varanasi in India. At the airport he engages a guide. He gets him to take him to a hotel. It turns out to be full. The guide says “Funnily enough, that’s the same hotel my last clients asked me to take them to, and it was full then too [not surprising given the popularity of the Lonely Planet books]. You know they were Australians too” - and hands him my business card.

I sat in on a class at the University of Tennessee once when I was visiting. A guy next to me heard my accent and said “you’re English? There’s an English girl sitting over there”. So I went up and said “hi”. Turned out she came from a village a mile down the road from me, and was my friend’s tennis coach.

I swear this really happened, and I have no explanation.

I was thinking about calling someone, so I was next to the phone when it rang. It was my friend. She was astonished to hear my voice, because she had been thinking about calling me, had picked up the phone, but had not yet dialed it. Really. The phone did not have a “speed dial” button. Our phones got connected without anybody dialing a number.

The only explanation we could think of – and this is *really * far-fetched – is that since we were both involved in local politics at the time someone had tapped both our phones and accidentally connected them. I don’t even know if that’s possible to do.

When I returned from Scotland after going to the Scotland Vs. Iceland game in the Euopean Championship qualifiers I heard:

“Hey! I was visiting a friend who was watching the game, I told them a friend of mine was at the game and EXACTLY when I told them, there was like a 10 second close up of you!”

No biggie as such, but I heard it from 5 different persons, one who had seen the game on TV in England, one in Germany and three here in Iceland. None of them ever watches football games and they all saw the beginnining of this game by accident, at someone else’s place.

At the same match we met a guy who we had met in Reykjavik when the Scots were here. There were about 35.000 people at Hampden Park that day and of course we (all 150 of us or so) were seated in a different area of the stadium than the Scots. He was wearing a red wig, a kilt and a jacket, which would normally have stood out of the crowd but when the crowd is wearing the same it make the finding all the wierder.

GuanoLad, you probably know that about that daredevil and the orange peel thing from Christchurch but did you know that one of Iceland’s most promising young musicians was raised in Christchurch? Small world etc.

I just remembered another one. I had just arrived in Japan, and was in Fukuoka staying at a Japanese friend’s house. She asked me if I wanted to watch TV, so I said yeah. I was channel hopping and all of a sudden I saw an English schoolfriend of mine who I hadn’t seen for 5 years, reading the news!

In '96 I was going to school in TX, and a girl I knew moved to Orlando.

'99 I moved to Tampa, actually a suburb south of it, and as I was walking down the hall to class one day, I heard someone calling my name. I spun around, and it was her. She had apparently moved to Tampa about a year before and we ended up in some of the same classes. It was… just wierd.

Years ago (about 15 now), I went to school in New Orleans.

The year after I transferred out, a friend from there moved to Chicago.

I moved to Chicago last summer. Late last fall, I was thinking I should try to see if he still lived here and if I could find him. In fact, I made a commitment to myself that day to try to find him, and had been googling him all afternoon, trying to locate him.

So, that afternoon I’m leaving work and had decided to take the Red Line home. But for some reason, I stopped to ponder whether I should walk down to the Brown Line, instead (which I never do).

So, after thinking about it for a few moments, I decide to take that train. As I got to the stop, I stopped to smoke a cigarette first (which I never do. I always have my “post-work” cigarette right outside my office).

As I’m climbing the stairs, I just miss the train, so I have to wait ten minutes for the next one.

I get on the next train, and it’s full, so I have to stand. At a later stop, it clears out enough to allow me to sit down. In fact, I have my choice of a seat facing forward, and one facing backward. I chose the one facing backward (which I never do if I have the option of facing foward).

As the train goes to its next few stops, I’m reading a mag or paper, or something. As usual, not paying attention.

For some reason, when we got to Fullerton, I looked up, and a very pregnant woman caught my eye. As she was exiting from the train, I recognized the man getting off with her. It was my friend!!!

Obviously, he had been standing within a few feet of me the whole time! I almost nearly missed him, as he was almost off the train.

But I never would have been there, at that time, if I hadn’t done several things I would not normally do (including leaving work 20 minutes later than normal because I was reading The Straight Dope!). That was totally fucking weird that I happened to be on that train, on *that * car, at *that * time.

Wow. These stories bring back a lot of memories but the Disneys ones in particular. Last summer My wife and I took the boys to Great America, a theme park here in the Bay Area. We were in the Nickelodeon section of the park when my wife and I decided to go get some Cotton Candy for the boys. As we were standing in line, I was telling my wife about the first time I went to the park on my own. My best friend in HS was this guy named Willie and I told her how we once caught the bus and Bart to the park. I hadn’t seen the guy in years, we fell out of contact when I joined the Army. Not five seconds later he turns from the window ahead of us with Cotton Candy.
About five years ago my wife (then my fiancee) and I were in the local supermarket shopping for BBQ faire for our July 4th cookout. I was telling her about this guy Gerald who used to live upstairs from me and my ex. We were pretty good friends and we would get together and throw these amazing cookouts. I mean our cookouts had a way of turning into block parties, and I was telling my wife how I wished we hadn’t lost contact. I hadn’t seen him since I moved out of my old home with my ex. When I hear somebody call my name. I look up and there’s his wife. I ask her where he is when he rounds the corner. It was pretty cool.

I went to grade school - high school with a girl named Karrie. She actually went out with my best friend for over year, so she and I were friendly. After graduating high school, I went to community college and saw her there. No big deal, it’s right near my hometown.

After that, I went to Northern Illinois University (100 miles from my hometown). Right before my very first class, I show up to find her sitting outside the door, also waiting for that very class. A little creepy, but lots of people from my hometown went there.

After NIU, I got a job at the ad agency in which I currently work. After less than a month with the company, I’m looking for the phone extension of a co-worker and Karrie was in the phone list, too! I made a joke that she was just following me.

Most recently, she and her husband moved to Minneapolis and, while I haven’t yet had any reason to move there, I won’t surprised if I have to for some reason. I’ll probably live next door to her.

This isn’t a really weird coincidence, but I thought it odd nonetheless. One of my coworkers - I run a college computer lab - is from that huge country India. Somehow he ended up in the same dorm as someone from his Indian high school. This guy my coworker knew from high school also somehow ended up in all my classes this semester, and had become my physics lab partner. Bizzare. I suppose it is a small world.