Scientifically speaking, coincidences aren’t that peculiar, as we live in a world full of so many random occurrences. They seem weird because our brains are wired to spot patterns to predict future outcomes – in space as well as time – even if those patterns don’t actually exist. As an example, in the early days, spotting the same mark on various trees in different locations may mean absolutely nothing, though it could also mean that a vicious predator is following you. According to our primitive-yet-cautious brains, why take the chance?
However, that doesn’t mean that all coincidences could be chalked up to our early-man brains acting up. Our history is full of examples of coincidences so unlikely that they simply can’t be explained by anything other than elaborate, often-supernatural conspiracy theories. Coincidences like…
7. Abraham Lincoln’s Son Was Once Saved By John Wilkes Booth’s Brother
President Lincoln’s assasination in 1865 at the hands of the famous stage actor John Wilkes Booth is one of the most-discussed events in American history. We’re not even talking about the various outlandish conspiracy theories surrounding it, as it’s not that hard to believe that someone hated him enough to assassinate him. His death exposed – and rather widened – a fault line still visible in the country’s politics, and proved that the Civil War was still far from being completely won. What would come as a surprise to most, though, is that his death was also a part of one of the most bizarre coincidences in history.
It involved his son, Robert, and John’s brother, Edwin, who happened to be at the same train station around a year before the assassination. That’s not weird, as there are only so many train stations one can catch a train from… though what happened next is.
As Robert was leaning on the train waiting for his ticket, it suddenly started to move before he had a chance to balance himself. He almost fell inside the gap and injured himself – or worse – though was saved at the last moment by a random passerby. When he turned to thank him, it was none other than Edwin Booth.
While we’re not sure about the exact date of this event, we know that it happened some time between 1863 and 1865, as it was confirmed by Robert himself in a letter to the editor of the now-discontinued Century Magazine.
6. The Man Who Survived Two Atomic Bombs
The end of the Second World War may seem like a long time ago to most people today, though that’s only until you read up on how many of its survivors are either still alive or died fairly recently. Out of all of them, the survivors of the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (also known as hibakusha) have some of the most horrific tales to tell, as they went through possibly the worst form of warfare on a civilian population in human history.
One of those survivors, however, was also one of the luckiest men in history (or one of the unluckiest, depending on how you look at it). Tsutomu Yamaguchi is perhaps the only recorded radiation survivor of the war to have survived both of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, though they left him with some devastating medical ailments for the rest of his life. When he died at 93 in 2010, he was suffering from acute leukemia, complete loss of hearing in his left ear, cataracts, and a bunch of other issues as a direct result of the blasts.
5. 15 Choir Members Fail To Show Up For Practice… And Survive An Explosion
Beatrice in Nebraska – with its roughly 12,000 residents – is a fairly small town by all measures, and certainly not the kind of place you’d expect interesting things to happen. It would have stayed that way, too, if not for a bizarre coincidence that happened back in 1950.
On March 1, every member of the 15-member choir practice at the local West Side Baptist Church happened to miss their 7:25 p.m. practice – something that had never occurred before. All of them had varying reasons for it, too. The pastor and his family were late because the daughter had accidentally soiled her dress, and the wife was ironing another one. Another member missed it because they couldn’t start their car on time. The pianist – who had actually planned to arrive early – fell asleep. Two students couldn’t be there because they had to catch the end of a particular radio program, and so on.
What they didn’t know, though, is that this bizarre series of events ended up saving all of their lives, as the church was hit by a strong natural gas explosion at exactly 7:27 p.m. While the building was badly damaged, no one ended up getting hurt or killed, as most of the members arrived after it happened.
4. Pearl Harbor Could Have Been Way Worse
Even if quite a few people would’ve probably heard of this one, it still warrants inclusion on any list of the most bizarre coincidence in history. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a devastating event for the American military by all accounts, as well as the trigger for the USA to finally enter a war they’d been avoiding for so long.
Unbeknownst to the Japanese military, though, the most important parts of the Pacific fleet – the aircraft carriers – were not in the harbor at the time of the attack. All four of them were coincidentally out at sea or out of commission for one reason or the other, as the Japanese navy only encountered battleships and heavy cruisers.
Mind you, that doesn’t mean that the attack wasn’t still devastating for the fleet, as it destroyed hundreds of planes and at least 20 warships stationed at the harbor at the time. If Japan had got to the carriers, too, though, what was a fairly damaging attack would have instead been a crippling blow to the entire American war effort.
3. Esther And The Dollar Bill
The unlikely story of Esther and the dollar bill has turned into an internet legend at this point, so much so that it’s almost impossible to track down if it’s even real. As we found out, it almost definitely is, as it was featured on an episode of This American Life.
Paul and Esther were a couple about to get married in Chicago. Just before he was about to propose, he went to his local deli to eat his favorite meal, when he took a closer look at the dollar bill he was about to pay with. To his astonishment, the bill had ‘Esther’ scribbled on it, which was already a freak enough coincidence to be included here. It gets even weirder, however, when he asked her about it after they were married.
As it turns out, she was the same Esther who had written it back when she was 19 and in the middle of a bad relationship. As a call to the universe, she wrote her name on around ten bills and spent them at random places. If a man brought one of these back to her, she argued, he’d be the one meant for her. And sure enough, that man turned out to be Paul.
2. The Guy Who Missed Two Major Plane Accidents
2014 was a particularly tumultuous year for Malaysian Airlines. For those who may remember, it was the year of the infamous disappearance of flight MH370 somewhere over the Indian Ocean, with a total of 239 people on board. Shockingly, neither the black box nor any of the passengers on the plane have been found till now – despite perhaps the most costly search rescue operation in aviation history – though that may be due to the sheer enormity of the oceans in the region than anything supernatural. That’s not it, though, as flight MH17 – another flight owned by Malaysian Airlines – was shot down over Ukraine in the same year, killing all of the 298 people on board.
While that would be coincidental enough on its own, we have a better one. One Dutch cyclist named Maarten de Jonge was supposed to get on both of those flights to go back to Malaysia, though changed his plans at the last minute on both of the occasions. Of course, he still ended up in a much better place than the above-mentioned survivor of the two atom bombs, though this one is still more unlikely. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are separated by a few hundred miles, and it makes sense that some unlucky survivor would have been in both of the cities during the time of the blasts, as both of them were important centres of commerce and industry in the same country. The flights, however, were on totally different International routes, and the fact that both of them were owned by Malaysian Airlines only makes it weirder.
1. The D-Day Crossword Mystery
Even if most people today know of the Normandy Landings – perhaps the largest amphibian military operation in history – that wasn’t the case when it was happening. Obviously, it was a top secret mission, as otherwise what would be the point, really? It was the entry point for the allies to retake the Nazi occupied territories of France and beyond, and if it failed, chances of that successfully happening via any other route were absymally low. In case you haven’t heard, the Nazis were fairly good at their jobs.
What most people don’t know, though, is how close we got to almost canceling the whole plan, thanks to the regular crossword puzzle column of The Daily Telegraph. Against all reason, the solutions to the puzzle contained many secret codewords for the operation – including code for the name of the precise location of the invasion, as well as the working code for the entire operation, among others. No one would have even noticed it, if it wasn’t for an officer who took his daily crosswords seriously.
While it did create quite a stir among the allied forces – as spies were one of the biggest threats for both the sides throughout the war – it turned out to be no more than a huge coincidence. The author of the puzzle was actually an innocent – and presumably bewildered – teacher living in Surrey. All of the solutions matching the top secret codes just happened to match and published just before the landings.