Listen, we live in a big, strange world. So big and so strange, in fact, that the weirdest possible day would be one where nothing weird happens at all. Coincidences are a perfectly normal and expected part of life, in other words – usually nothing more than unrelated events being strung together by human brains that are wired to see patterns, even when there’s nothing there. But some coincidences are so bizarre we can’t just dismiss them as business as usual. Let’s take a look at some of the wildest coincidences that ever actually happened.
10. Struck by lightning 7 times
Roy Sullivan, a park ranger in the United States, holds a bleak record: the guy has been struck by lightning not once, not twice, but seven separate times between 1942 and 1977. The odds of that happening to anyone are roughly 4.5 in 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. To be fair, it’s far more likely to happen to a man who spends all his time in a place like Shenandoah Valley, Virginia as opposed to say, a software engineer. But still, it’s not normal for anyone to get fried like that.
The circumstances of these lightning strikes were varied—Sullivan was struck inside a ranger station, in his truck, while on patrol, and even after his park ranger career had concluded. The repeated lightning strikes not only caused significant physical injuries, including burns and other health issues, but they also brought Sullivan an unusual and unwanted level of attention due to the statistical improbability of such recurrent lightning strikes on a single individual. Sadly, Roy did not get super powers from any of the strikes.
9. The weirdest double tragedy ever
Let’s clarify that there’s an even more bizarre version of this story doing the rounds online. In that version, Erskine Lawrence Ebbin was struck and killed by the same taxi, with the same driver and passenger, that struck and killed his brother twin Neville at the exact same spot exactly one year later to the day. Pretty wild, right?
Now, not all of that is true. But it’s pretty close. Erskine and Neville weren’t twins, but they were both 17 when they were killed in accidents that, yes, involved the same cab with the same driver and passenger, on the same street, while riding the same moped. It is worth noting that the area of Bermuda this took place in was small, sparsely populated, and had a smaller number of cab drivers than say, New York City. But still, we say this is wild and tragic enough to qualify for placement on this list.
8. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams die on the same day
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson have quite a bit in common. Both served as president (the 2nd and 3rd, respectively), after all, and both wore goofy looking powdered wigs. But that’s to be expected of America’s founding fathers.
What’s less expected is that both men died on the same day, just hours apart. And not just any day – it was July 4, 1826, fifty years to the day after the signing of the Declaration of Independence they’d both had a huge hand in (Jefferson especially). As you can imagine, news didn’t travel very fast in the early 19th century. Allegedly, Adams’ last words were “Jefferson still lives.” Which wasn’t true – Thomas had passed away hours earlier. But the nation did mourn when it learned the truth. And, interestingly, it mourned again exactly five years later on July 4, 1831, when another president, James Monroe, breathes his last. Maybe the British had something to do with this?
7. The only man who’s ever been nuked twice
Tsutomu Yamaguchi, a Japanese engineer, holds a remarkable distinction—he is the only person officially recognized to have survived both atomic bombings during World War II. On August 6, 1945, he was in the city of Hiroshima for a work-related trip when the first atomic bomb was dropped by a US B-29. He suffered injuries but managed to escape the immediate blast zone, even though tens of thousands of others in the area were vaporized or suffered agonizing deaths due to injuries or radiation poisoning.
Despite being wounded, Yamaguchi returned to his hometown of Nagasaki, where he arrived just in time for the second atomic bombing on August 9, 1945. He survived this second devastating event as well. Later in life, he became an outspoken advocate for nuclear disarmament and shared his firsthand experiences to emphasize the horrors of nuclear warfare. Thank God, weapons like that haven’t been used in warfare since. And hopefully they never will be again.
6. Jim and Jim, separated at birth
Jim Lewis and Jim Springer were identical twins separated at birth and raised in different adoptive families. Their unique life story gained attention due to the coincidences and similarities that emerged in their lives despite being apart. In 1979, when they were 39, the twins were reunited. Already a pretty nice story. But we’re just getting started.
Both Jims had been named James by their respective adoptive families. Ok, weird but not insanely so – it’s not like James is that uncommon of a name. But get a load of these: both had a childhood dog named Toy. Both had married and divorced women named Linda and remarried to women named Betty. Both had a son, one named James Alan and the other named – let us check our notes here – James Allan.
Their similarities did not end there. They both pursued similar professions; Lewis was a security guard, while Springer was a deputy sheriff. Both had skills in carpentry and mechanical drawing, and they enjoyed woodworking in their spare time. We could keep going. But we’re starting to get a little spooked.
5. Mark Twain and Halley’s Comet
Mark Twain, the celebrated American author and humorist, was born on November 30, 1835. What’s so interesting about that date? Well, it was shortly after the passing of Halley’s Comet, one of the most famous and visible comets, with a distinctive bright tail. That alone isn’t that amazing. Interestingly, Halley’s Comet is visible from Earth approximately once every 76 years, and its appearance has been recorded for centuries.
Twain had a fascination with this celestial event. He wasn’t alone – groups of people all over the planet had their own stories and superstitions about the comet. But Twain in particular often remarked that he came into the world with the comet, and he expected to leave with it as well. We’re not sure how he guessed that, but, true to his prediction, Twain passed away on April 21, 1910, once again just a day after the comet passed by Earth.
4. A Lincoln saved by a Booth
On April 13, 1865, days after Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, effectively ending the American Civil War, famous stage actor John Wilkes Booth assassinated president Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C., while watching a play. It was a tragic end to a tragic chapter in US history. But it’s also bizarre, since, a year or two earlier (accounts differ), John’s brother had saved Abraham’s son.
It’s true. The incident took place on a train platform in Jersey City in 1863 or 1864, when Robert Todd Lincoln – a young lawyer at the time – lost his footing and stumbled, very nearly falling onto the tracks. Before anyone could react, Edwin Booth, who happened to be nearby, swiftly pulled him away from the edge, preventing a potentially fatal accident. Another bizarre little factoid here: Booth happened to be traveling with John T. Ford, owner and namesake of – you guessed it – Ford’s Theater, where president Lincoln was fatally shot.
3. November 9 in Germany
Often referred to as the country’s “Day of Fate,” November 9 has just so happened to host a number of pivotal events in German history. On November 9, 1918, at the end of the First World War, Kaiser Wilhelm II was forced to abdicate his throne by the victorious Entente (Allied) powers, signaling the beginning of the Weimar Republic of Germany’s interwar period.
On November 9, 1938, on what became known as Kristallnacht or the “Night of Broken Glass,” violent anti-Jewish pogroms erupted across Nazi Germany. Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues were vandalized and destroyed, and many Jews were arrested, injured, or killed. This brutal event signified a harrowing escalation of anti-Semitic policies, setting the stage for the Holocaust.
And on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, symbolizing the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany. We imagine the whole country is on the edge of its seat every time this date rolls around, wondering what’s coming down the pipeline next.
2. Why solar eclipses are possible
Solar eclipses happen when the moon passes between the earth and sun, blocking out the sun and turning day into night. It’s a predictable, understandable, and still fascinating and unmissable event that occurs every few years.
But it’s pretty bizarre, if you think about it, that the moon just so happens to be the right size, and the right distance from the earth, to almost perfectly block out the sun. If it was any closer, any further, or any bigger, the phenomenon wouldn’t be nearly as wild to see.
Specifically, the moon’s diameter is about 400 times smaller than that of the sun, but it’s also almost exactly 400 times closer to the earth. This allows for a perfect blockage that still leaves the sun’s corona eerily visible around the edge. But please just take our word for that last part and don’t look directly at it.
1. Stephen Hawking’s amazing lifespan
On January 8, 1942, in Oxford, England, future physicist Stephen Hawking was born. But January 8th also happened to be significant for another world-changing cosmologist—Galileo Galilei, the Italian polymath who pioneered contributions to modern science, passed away on January 8, 1642, precisely 300 years before Hawking’s birth.
It doesn’t stop there. Stephen Hawking passed away on March 14, 2018. Well, March 14 is no ordinary day, either. First of all, it’s renowned as Pi Day (3.14, get it?), a day dedicated to celebrating the mathematical constant ? (pi). And it’s also the birthday of another scientific luminary, Albert Einstein (ever heard of him?), whose groundbreaking theories of relativity changed our understanding of the universe and set the stage for Hawking’s own discoveries, particularly those revolving around black holes, singularities, and the nature of time. But we doubt any of these three geniuses could’ve seen this coming.