Scientifically speaking, coincidences are not as strange as we live in a world full of random events. They seem strange because our brains are geared towards recognizing patterns in order to predict future outcomes – both spatially and temporally – even when those patterns actually don’t exist. For example, in the early days, seeing the same mark on different trees in different locations may mean absolutely nothing, although it could also mean that a vicious predator is following you. According to our primitive but cautious minds, why should we take the chance?
However, this does not mean that all coincidences are due to our early brains. Our history is full of examples of coincidences so improbable that they can simply be explained by sophisticated, often supernatural, conspiracy theories. Coincidences like …
7. Abraham Lincoln̵
7;s son was once saved by John Wilkes Booth’s brother
The assassination of President Lincoln in 1865 by the famous stage actor John Wilkes Booth is one of the most talked about events in American history. We don’t even talk about the various fancy conspiracy theories as it’s not that difficult to believe that someone hated him enough to murder him. His death exposed a fault line that was still visible in the country’s politics and proved that the civil war was far from being completely won. What would surprise most, however, is that his death was also part of one of the most bizarre coincidences in history.
It was his son Robert Lincoln and John’s brother Edwin Booth, who were at the same station about a year before the attack. That’s not weird as there are only so many stations to catch a train from … even though next happened.
As Robert leaned on the train and waited for his ticket, he suddenly began to move before he had a chance to balance himself. He almost fell into the gap and injured himself – or worse – even though he was saved at the last moment by a casual passerby. When he turned to thank him, it was none other than Edwin Booth.
Although we are unsure of the exact date of this event, we do know that it happened sometime between 1863 and 1865, as confirmed by Robert even in a letter to the editor of the now-discontinued Century Magazine.
6. The man who survived two atomic bombs
The end of World War II may seem like a long time ago to most people today, though it only takes so long until you read how many of its survivors are either still alive or have died relatively recently. Of all the survivors of the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (aka Hibakusha) I have some of the most terrifying stories to tell as they went through possibly the worst form of warfare against a civilian population in human history.
However, one of those survivors was also one of the happiest men in history (or one of the most unfortunate, depending on how you look at it). Tsutomu Yamaguchi is perhaps the only radiation recorded Survivors of the war for surviving both atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, though they left him with some devastating medical ailments for the rest of his life. When he died in 2010 at the age of 93, he suffered from acute leukemia, complete hearing loss in his left ear, cataracts and a number of other problems as a direct result of the explosions.
5. 15 choir members do not show up to practice … and survive an explosion
Beatrice, Nebraska – with around 12,000 residents – is a pretty small town in every way and certainly not where you would expect interesting things to be. It would have stayed that way if it hadn’t been for a bizarre coincidence that happened in 1950.
On March 1, every member of the 15-member choir practice at the local West Side Baptist Church happened to miss their practice at 7:25 pm – something that had never happened before. They all had different reasons for doing so. The pastor and his family were late because the daughter accidentally soiled her dress and the woman was ironing another one. Another member missed it because they couldn’t start their car in time. The pianist – who actually wanted to arrive early – fell asleep. Two students couldn’t be there because they had to reach the end of a certain radio program and so on.
What they did not know, however, is that this bizarre series of events saved their entire life as the church was precisely hit by a powerful natural gas explosion 7:27 pm. While the building was badly damaged, no one was injured or killed as most of the members came after it happened.
4. Pearl Harbor could have been a lot worse
Even if some people probably had heard of it, it is still warranted to be included on a list of the most bizarre coincidences in history. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a devastating event in every respect for the American military and the catalyst for the United States to finally enter a war that it had avoided for so long.
Unknown to the Japanese military, however, are the most important parts of the Pacific fleet – the aircraft carriers – were not in port at the time of the attack. All four happened to be out of service at sea or for one reason or another 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 aircraft and at least 20th Warships that were stationed at the port at that time. But if Japan had gotten to the porters as well, a fairly damaging attack would instead have been a heavy blow to the entire American war effort.
3. Esther and the dollar bill
The unlikely story of Esther and the dollar bill has become an internet legend by this point, making it nearly impossible to tell if it’s real at all. As we found out, it’s almost definitely like it was shown in an episode of This American life.
Paul and Esther were a couple who wanted to get married in Chicago. Just before he was about to make a suggestion, he was walking to his local deli to eat his favorite food when he took a closer look at the dollar bill he was going to pay with. To his astonishment, the bill had ‘Esther’ scrawled on it, which was a coincidence enough to get it included. However, it gets even stranger when he asked her about it after their marriage.
As it turned out, she was the same Esther who wrote 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 about ten bills and gave them out at random locations. If a man brought one of these back to her, she argued, he would be the one meant for her. And sure enough it turned out to be this man Paul.
2. The guy who missed two major airplane accidents
2014 was a particularly turbulent 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. Amazingly, until now, neither the black box nor any of the passengers on the plane have been found – despite perhaps the most expensive search rescue operation in aviation history – although this may be due to the sheer size of the oceans in the region as something supernatural. But that’s not it, because flight MH17 – another flight operated by Malaysian Airlines – was shot down over Ukraine that same year, killing all 298 people on board.
That would be random enough, but we have a better one. A Dutch cyclist named Maarten de Jonge was scheduled to return to Malaysia on both flights, although he changed his plans at the last minute on both occasions. Of course, he still ended up in a much better place than the aforementioned survivor of the two atomic bombs, although this is even more unlikely. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a few hundred miles apart, and it makes sense that there would have been some unfortunate survivors in both cities during the explosions, as both were important commercial and industrial centers in the same country. The FlightsThey were on completely different international routes, however, and the fact that both were owned by Malaysian Airlines only makes it weird.
1. The D-Day crossword puzzle
Even if most people today know about the Normandy landings – perhaps the largest amphibious military operation in history – it was not at the time. Obviously it was a top secret mission, because what else is it really about? It was the entry point for the Allies to retake Nazi-occupied areas of France and beyond, and if that failed, the chances of it succeeding in any other way were extremely slim. In case you haven’t heard, the Nazis were pretty good at their job.
What most people don’t know, however, is how close we’ve come to voiding the entire plan thanks to the regular crossword column of almost The daily telegraph. For whatever reason, the solutions to the puzzle contained many secret code words for the operation – including code for the name of the exact location of the invasion and the working code for the entire operation. Nobody would have noticed if an officer hadn’t taken his daily crossword puzzle seriously.
While it caused a stir among Allied forces – as spies posed one of the greatest threats to both sides throughout the war – it turned out to be just a major coincidence. The puzzle author was actually an innocent – and presumably confused – teacher who lived in Surrey. All the solutions that match the top secret codes happened to match and were released shortly before the landings.
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