One of the great discussions of human history is focused on a simple question: Is what we do with our lives pre-determined, or can we do whatever we please? Are our lives governed by fate, or is it simply random chance that governs our experiences?
It’s a fascinating question, precisely because we have no firm answer. And none of us, likely, will ever know.
What we do know, though, is this: History is full of coincidences that often seem stranger than fiction. From kings to soldiers, stewardesses to bands, no matter who you are, life has a way of making the impossible come true. It’s almost enough to make a person believe that everything happens for a reason…
But whether you believe in that or not, there’s no doubting that stories like this can be absolutely hair-raising. So for your enjoyment, here are some of the most mind-boggling and interesting coincidences in history.
34. Twain’s Comet
Mark Twain was a comedic seer.
“Hold on,” you might be thinking now, “comedy—sure, but a fortune teller?”
Well, Twain predicted his own death. Having been born during a passing of Halley’s Comet in 1835, Twain proclaimed that he came in with the comet, and expected to go out with it. Sure enough, the day of the next Halley’s Comet revolution, Twain passed away.
33. Flight Luck
It’s a great feeling when you find a cheap flight, and an even better feeling when you find an even cheaper one, and swap your tickets. But it’s hard to imagine the feeling when you learn your previous flight has crashed. Maarten de Jong knows this feeling all too well, though, as this happened to him not once but twice, as he was traveling around Malaysia to try out for Malaysia’s Terengganu cycling team. That’s right, de Jong had a flight on both of Malaysia Airline’s tragic flights and changed his ticket to a cheaper flight at the last minute.
32. It’s Raining Babies, Baby
They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but how about babies? Imagine you’re just walking along your daily stroll, and bam! A baby comes crashing down on you. That would suck, not only for you, but also for that poor baby. Now imagine that same thing happens to you TWICE. That’s the story of Joseph Figlock, and twice a baby came tumbling out of a window above his head, only to survive by having its fall broken by Figlock.
31. Unfortunate Excuse
The Steam classic Deus Ex is a computer game that has a cult following, and is famed for it’s great narrative. However, a coincidence proved too real in 2000, when they accidentally forgot to add the Twin Towers to the New York City skyline upon the game’s release. Their in-game explanation? It was as a result of a terrorist attack.
30. Conspiracy Cards
In the 1980s, there was a popular trilogy of novels called The Illuminatus, which was a satire on fanatical global conspiracy theories. After the success of the books, a card game was released, in which there were cards depicting both the World Trade Center being attacked and an explosion at the Pentagon.
29. Coincidental Cartoons
In a 1994 issue of Vice magazine, there was an article on al-Qaeda. This article was accompanied by a full-page cartoon depicting Beavis and Butthead as al-Qaeda operatives, wearing turbans and with and bombs in hand, flying planes into the Twin Towers.
Now that is absolutely freaky. It must have felt strange for the artist, too. He obviously didn’t do anything wrong, but… it would still feel very wrong.
28. Reality Theater
Live Scenes from New York is a live album recorded by Dream Theater in 2000 and was originally released on September 11, 2001. It was unfortunate timing for the release of the album, however. The cover of the album depicts a burning New York City skyline, including the Twin Towers, inside of a big apple.
27. Uncanny Album Cover
Okay, okay, last one on 9/11. But this is one is too eerie to not know about. The Coup is a legendary hip-hop band out of Oakland, California known for their political awareness, revolutionary tone, and biting critique of western patriarchal exploitation. Their 2001 album Party Music was released in November 2001, but it was lucky to get a release at all, as the album cover—created in June of 2001—depicted the group members detonating the Twin Towers.
26. Keep The Cover
While this album was pulled and released with a different cover, that didn’t stop lead singer Boots Riley from fighting to keep the original version as a way have a platform to counter the media’s narrative and bring attention to the violent role the United States plays in politics internationally.
25. Can’t Stop Me
Life working as a stewardess comes with a little bit of danger. Violet Jessop knows all about this danger, but she didn’t let it stop her from living. In 1911, she was working on the RMS Olympic and survived its deadly collision with a British warship. Only a year later she was working aboard the Titanic and managed to survive its sinking as well.
Talk about workplace safety hazards.
24. Another Sinking
But that’s not all! After four years, again, she survived the sinking of the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic. After several years off, she returned to work aboard ocean liners and worked on the seas until her retirement in 1950.
Can you even imagine that? It’s like having your breakfast poisoned, and then celebrating your survival with a nice big lunch buffet. Talk about brave.
23. Fuel for Conspiracy
Before becoming president of the United States, Barack Obama was the US Senator from Illinois. The day after his election to the Oval Office, a strange combination of numbers were the winning combination for the Illinois State Lottery: 6-6-6.
As if conspiracy theorists needed more ammo to work with.
22. Clothes of the Creator
Professor Marvel is a charlatan, no doubt about it. The con artist was seedy. He took advantage of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz for his own gain and his tattered clothes communicated his dirty nature. However, unknown to the costume designers at MGM, the clothes they had selected for the character originally belonged the L. Frank Baum himself. Don’t know who Baum is? Oh, well he’s just the guy that wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
21. Waking Ancient Forces
Genghis Khan is known for his violent rampages throughout the Eurasian continent, and his direct descendant Tamerlane was no different. On June 20, 1941, archaeologists from the Soviet Union uncovered his tomb, which had a message waiting for them inscribed in it when they opened it: “Whoever opens my tomb shall unleash an invader more terrible than I.” Two days later, the Nazis launched their invasion of the USSR with Operation Barbarossa.
20. Collapse Coincidence
The founding of Rome was based on the figure of Romulus, who established Roman traditions as their first king. The first emperor of the Roman Empire was Augustus. When the Roman Empire collapsed, the emperor that watched it burn was Romulus Augustus. Yeah, maybe they should have avoided that combination of names.
19. Little Rulers
129 years after Napoleon Bonaparte was born, Adolph Hitler was born. Does that number seem arbitrary? Well, 129 years after Napoleon came to power, so did Hitler. Want more? How about 129 years after Napoleon attempted to invade Russian Territory, Hitler tried to do the same thing. Had enough? We’re not done. 129 years after Napoleon finally fell from power and was defeated, so was Hitler.
18. Survivor Name
Williams is one of the most common names in the English language, and the name Hugh used to be rather common as well. In 1660 and 1767, a ship sank in the Dover Straits, and each time the lone survivor was a man named Hugh Williams. In 1820, the only survivor of a ship capsizing on the river Thames was a man named Hugh Williams. And in 1940, a German mine sunk a ship, that saw only two men survive, a man and his nephew. Surely they didn’t both have the same name, right? Wrong, they were both Hugh Williams.
17. Name of a Victim
The last woman believed to have been killed by Jack the Ripper was named Mary Kelly. The second to last woman was Catherine Edwards, who was murdered shortly after being released by the police. While at the police station, she had provided a fake name to the cops. The name? Mary Kelly.
Oooooooooh. That one is legitimately spooky.
16. The Book From The Bench
The Girl from Petrovka is a film from 1974 starring Anthony Hopkins. Upon his casting in the movie, Hopkins set out to find a copy of the book the film was based on. After a day of searching throughout London, he was unable to find a single copy for sale. Right as he was calling it a day, he found a stray copy of the novel sitting on a bench. When the time came for production to begin, he met with the author of the novel George Feifer, who admitted to Hopkins that he didn’t even have a copy of the book, as a friend he lent it to lost it on a park bench.
15. Brother Like Brother
One day in 2002, a cargo truck struck and killed a 70-year-old man who was bicycling along a highway 600 kilometers (approx. 373 miles) north of Helsinki, Finland. Two hours later, another 70-year-old man was killed after being hit by a cargo truck while riding along the highway, also 600 kilometers north of Helsinki. It turns out that these men were identical twins, who just happened to have the same idea that day.
14. Old Bottles
Mark Anderson and Andrew Leaper were friends who also happened to be fishermen. In 2006, Anderson secured himself a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records by retrieving a message in a bottle while out on the sea that turned out to be the oldest ever found. Anderson annoyed his friend with incessant bragging for years, until 2012, when Leaper found an even older message in a bottle while manning the very same boat Anderson had been on when he found his message in a bottle.
13. Identical Lives
Sometimes you cannot escape your own fate. In Ohio, there was two male twins who were separated at birth. Neither of these men knew about their history and lived ordinary lives. That is, until they met, and found out that not only were they separated at birth, but that they were both named James, both worked as police officers, were both married to women named Betty, divorced from women both named Linda, had named their sons James Allan, and also had a dog called Toy. You can’t make this stuff up.
12. Let Love Go
Sometimes you lose something you love, and after holding on the hope that it may show up, you might accept that it is gone. But every once in a while that thing pops back up into your life, once you’ve forgotten it. This is what happened to American writer Anne Parrish, who, in the 1920s, found a copy of her childhood favorite Jack Frost and Other Stories in a Paris bookshop. Upon opening the book to its inner flyleaf, she found that it was the very same book she had as a child in Colorado Springs, with her name and address inscribed in it.
11. Founding the Fourth
The founding fathers of the United States of America lived lives that were full of coincidences. Not only did Thomas Jefferson die on the 50th anniversary of the 4th of July, but so did John Adams. Eager to keep up the tradition, fellow founder and president James Monroe died on the 4th of July just five years later.
10. Knock Knock
The South African astronomer Daniel du Toit was renowned for his lectures. After one such lecture, in which he was discussing the possibility of death and that one never knows when it will arrive, he decided to treat himself with a peppermint candy that lodged itself in his throat and choked him to death.
9. Double Exposure
During the beginning of the 20th century, if you wanted to have a picture of your family, you needed to purchase a photographic plate and have the image developed by a specialty shop. In 1914, a German woman did just this in Strasbourg, in order to have the image of her young son forever. While the plate was being developed, World War I broke out, and she was unable to retrieve her photo. Two years and 100 miles later, she was living in Frankfurt, where she decided to have a photo taken of her newborn daughter. After picking up the new photograph, she found that the new photo was superimposed over the very photo of her son from two years prior.
8. City Hot Spot
Vienna was a cultural hotbed in the 20th century, and many intellectuals lived there. In 1913, there were also many revolutionaries in the city. That year saw Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Leon Trotsky, Josip Broz Tito, and Sigmund Freud all living in the same area, and frequenting the same parks and bars. The combined legacy of these men? Together, they’re responsible for over 79 million deaths, and probably just as many visits to the therapist about mommy issues throughout the rest of the century.
7. Beginning and End of War
Undertakers don’t necessarily use a science in order to bury the dead, and when war comes, it can be extremely difficult to make space for the tragically deceased. In a coincidental bookending of World War I, the first and last British troops to die in the war are buried facing each other, from 15 feet away.
6. Bad Omen
Sometimes you receive an eerie omen which jolts you. During the filming of the 1976 film The Omen, a private plane was hired by the film crew to transport them but they had to make a last minute cancellation. Instead, the plane flew elsewhere, and on its trip, it crashed onto a road, into two traveling cars. Tragically, one of the cars held the wife and children of the pilot who crashed the plane.
5. Try Uber Next Time
Mopeds can be dangerous. You’re pretty much unprotected and fragile on the motorized scooters, and accidents can prove fatal. In 1974, a taxi in Bermuda crashed into a moped, subsequently killing its driver. One year later, the same taxi driver crashed into another moped, killing the brother of the man from the previous year’s accident, while also carrying the same passenger.
4. Double Trouble
The day before his death, King Umberto I of Italy was dining at a restaurant when he noticed that the owner of the place was not only his doppelganger, but also named Umberto. That’s not all, as they also shared the same birthday, were born in the same city, and had both married women with the same name. The day of King Umberto’s coronation was also the day the other Umberto opened his restaurant. The very next day, right before King Umberto was assassinated, he learned that his new friend had been shot and killed only hours prior.
3. Late Intervention
For many, showing up on time basically means you’re late. This was the policy at West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice., Nebraska, as they held choir practice every Wednesday evening at 7:20 pm. However, on March 1, 1950, every one of the 15 choir members was running late, and when each of them showed up to practice, they found it ablaze after exploding from a natural gas leak at 7:27. So, the next time your hyper-punctual friend guilts you for being a few minutes late, tell them this story.
2. Poe’s Tales Come Alive
Edgar Allen Poe could not only creep into your bones and shake your soul but apparently, he could also tell the future. His only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket was published in 1838 and tells the story of a crew stranded in the middle of the sea who draw straws in order to decide which one of the men will be killed and eaten. The character who lost was named Richard Parker. 46 years later, the crew of the Mignonette faced the same struggle and sacrificed a boy to consume, whose name just so happened to be Richard Parker. Hey, Parker families of the world: maybe don’t name your son Richard.
1. Father and Son
During the construction of the United States’ famed Hoover Dam, a total of 112 workers lost their lives working on the project. The first of these men was John Gregory Tierney on December 20, 1922. The second of these men, tragically, was his son Patrick Williams Tierney…13 years to the day later, on December 20, 1935.