By Joan Seth
A coincidence occurs when something uncanny, accidental and unexpected happens. It can be further defined as when two or more events that are unrelated and are unlikely to occur together by chance, manage to happen together in a meaningful manner. Here, we look at some of the most amazing coincidences ever.
1. A bullet finds its intended target years later
Henry Ziegland broke off a relationship with his girlfriend who, out of distress, committed suicide in 1883. The girl's brother was so enraged that he hunted down Ziegland and shot him, then took his own life. But the bullet only grazed his face and then lodged in a tree.
Some years later, Ziegland decided to cut down the large tree, which still had the bullet in it. He decided to blow it up with a few sticks of dynamite. The explosion propelled the bullet into Ziegland's head, killing him.
2. The unknown monk
Joseph Aigner was a painter living in Austria in the 19th century. He was depressed and tried to hang himself when he was 18, but was interrupted by a mysterious Capuchin monk. At age 22, he was interrupted by the same monk again. 8 years later, he was sentenced to death for his political activities, but was saved by the monk again.
Finally at age 68, Aigner finally managed to shoot himself. His funeral was conducted by the same Capuchin monk.
3. Plum Pudding
Émile Deschamps was a writer living in France in 1805. He was treated to some plum pudding by a M. de Fortgibu and liked it. 10 years later, Deschamps was in a restaraunt and wanted to order some plum pudding but the waiter informed him that the last order had already been served to another customer. He went over to the customer and was surprised to see that it was de Fortgibu.
Many years later in 1832 Émile Deschamps was at a diner, and was once again offered plum pudding. He recalled the earlier incident and told his friends that only de Fortgibu was missing to make the setting complete — and in the same instant the now senile de Fortgibu entered the room.
4. A curious case of plagiarism
In 1979, the German magazin, Das Besteran, ran a writing competition. Readers had to send in unusual but true stories. The winner, Walter Kellner of Munich, had his story published . He wrote about a time when he was flying a Cessna 421 between Sardinia and Sicily and encountered engine trouble at sea, landed in the water, spent some time in an emergency dinghy and was then rescued.
This story was spotted by an Austrian, also named Walter Kellner, who said that the German Kellner had plagiarized the story. The Austrian Kellner said that he had flown a Cessna 421 over the same sea, experienced engine trouble and was forced to land in Sardinia. It was essentially the same story, with a slightly different ending. The magazine checked both stories, and both turned out to be true, even though they were nearly identical.
5. Titan and the Titanic
Morgan Robertson's 1898 novella Futility had many parallels with the RMS Titanic disaster; the book concerned a fictional state-of-the-art ocean liner called Titan, which eventually collides with an iceberg on a calm April night whilst en route to New York, with many dying because of the lack of lifeboats.
Later, he wrote a book called Beyond the Spectrum, that described a future war fought with aircraft that carried "sun bombs". Incredibly powerful, one bomb could destroy a city, erupting in a flash of light that blinds all who look at it. The war begins in December, started by the Japanese with a sneak attack on Hawaii.
6. The Girl From Petrovka
The British actor Anthony Hopkins once landed a leading role in a film based on the book The Girl From Petrovka by George Feifer. A few days later, Hopkins travelled to London to buy a copy of the book, but failed to find any. Waiting at Leicester Square underground for his train home, he noticed a book apparently discarded on a bench. Incredibly, it was The Girl From Petrovka.
Two years later, in the middle of filming in Vienna, Hopkins was visited by George Feifer, the author. Feifer mentioned that he did not have a copy of his own book. He had lent the last one - containing his own annotations - to a friend who had lost it somewhere in London. With mounting astonishment, Hopkins handed Feifer the book he had found. 'Is this the one?' he asked, 'with the notes scribbled in the margins?' It was the same book.
7. Triple coincidences
One of the oddest coincidences ever recorded spans a period of nearly 200 years and involved three ships that sank in the Menai Strait of the coast of Wales. The first vessel went down on December 5, 1664, and of its 81 passengers, only one survived, and he was called Hugh Williams. On December 5, 1785, 121 years later, another ship sank in the Menai Strait, and again, all of the passenger perished except one – named Hugh Williams.
Two ships sinking in the same area on the same day of the month certainly is not earth-shattering, but when each of them have only one survivor of the same name, it gets a little eerie. But the story does not end at that.
On December 5, 1860, yet another ship, a small 25 passenger vessel, sank in the Menai Strait. And once again there was only one survivor – and once again his name was Hugh Williams.
8. King Umberto's double
On July 28th 1900, the King of Italy Umberto I was having dinner in a restaurant in the city of Monza. It turned out later that the restaurant's owner looked identical to the king. The restaurant owner's name was Umberto, his wife's name was the same as the queen's and the restaurant was opened on the same date as the king's inauguration. The Restaurant-owner Umberto was shot dead the next day. So was King Umberto.
9. A taxi driver kills 2 brothers 1 year apart
In 1975, while riding a moped in Bermuda, a man was accidentally struck and killed by a taxi. One year later, this man's bother was killed in the very same way. In fact, he was riding the very same moped. And to stretch the odds even further, he was struck by the very same taxi driven by the same driver - and even carrying the very same passenger!
10. Twin boys, Twin lifes
The stories of identical twins' nearly identical lives are often astonishing, but perhaps none more so than those of identical twins born in Ohio. The twin boys were separated at birth, being adopted by different families. Unknown to each other, both families named the boys James.
And here the coincidences just begin. Both James grew up not even knowing of the other, yet both sought law-enforcement training, both had abilities in mechanical drawing and carpentry, and each had married women named Linda. They both had sons whom one named James Alan and the other named James Allan. The twin brothers also divorced their wives and married other women - both named Betty. And they both owned dogs which they named Toy. Forty years after their childhood separation, the two men were reunited to share their amazingly similar lives.
Note: This story came out in the January 1980 edition of Reader's Digest