History is full of unpredictable, unexpected, and unbelievable events. The sheer number of crazy coincidences that have occurred certainly make you believe that the universe has a sense of humor and is routinely playing jokes on us. We’ve covered a number of the craziest coincidences in history already, and here are 10 more that stretch credulity to its limits.
10. Chadwick Boseman, Jack Kirby, and Jackie Robinson Day
Chadwick Boseman had been a rising star in Hollywood for years. While there’s no doubt that his turn as Black Panther in the MCU cemented him as a worldwide superstar, he had more than his fair share of success with previous roles. Notably his breakout role was Jackie Robinson in the movie 42 back in the year 2013.
Jackie Robinson was not the first character Boseman played, and Black Panther was not the last, but you can make a good argument that those were his two biggest roles. It’s something of a coincidence, then, that we tragically lost Boseman on August 28, 2020.
August 28, 2020 was Jackie Robinson Day. In and of itself that is definitely something of a coincidence that Boseman, famous for playing Jackie Robinson, would die on Jackie Robinson Day. More remarkable is the fact that August 28 is not generally Jackie Robinson Day. In fact, Jackie Robinson Day is April 15, and has been since 2004. It was changed in the year 2020, the only time it’s ever been changed, because of Covid-19. Since no games were played on April 15 in 2020, the MLB moved Jackie Robinson Day to August 28 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the day Robinson discussed joining the Dodgers with Branch Rickey, as well as the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington.
Another coincidence that lines up with this curious date is that August 28 is also the birthday of Jack Kirby. Kirby, along with Stan Lee, was responsible for much of Marvel Comics early success and created numerous characters during his lifetime. One of those characters was, of course, Black Panther, and Kirby was the first artist to draw the iconic superhero.
9. Mbabaram Dogs
If you have any interest in word etymology then you know many words in English are very similar to words in other languages. This is because English is like a flea market of languages with bits and pieces from all over the world. Latin and Greek roots are very prevalent with a solid smattering of Germanic and the odd French word here and there, too. One thing English has very little of is any smilary to the Mbabaram language.
Mbabaram is a dead and notoriously difficult to speak language that was once spoken by Aboriginal Australians. Despite the fact that this language and English evolved totally distinct from one another and had no influence over each other in any way, the Mbabaram word for dog was dog. The pronunciation is pretty much identical to English, entirely by coincidence.
8. The Menaces Dennis
Once upon a time people used to read comic strips in their daily paper. Things like Garfield, the Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, and of course Dennis the Menace. The curious thing about Dennis the Menace is that you actually need to clarify which Dennis the Menace you’re talking about. There are in fact two Dennises the Menace and their existence is entirely coincidental.
The arguably more popular Dennis the Menace, at least to American audiences, is the yellow-haired Dennis Mitchell whose cartoon first appeared in papers back in March 1951. This Dennis has been immortalized on film and was the bane of his neighbor Mr. Wilson.
On the other side of the ocean, a comic called Beano — which had been around since the 1930s in the UK — also introduced a character in March 1951 who was named Dennis the Menace. The fact that this happened at the exact same time indicates there is really no way whatsoever that one creator could have known what the other creator was doing.
The American Dennis the Menace was created by a man named Hank Ketcham, who had in part based the character on his own son Dennis. The UK Dennis the Menace was a much less personal creation, and was less mischievous and more criminal in nature. But the fact remains that both characters showed up at the exact same time seemingly out of the blue.
7. The Feigl “Twins”
In the movie The Matrix when a character experiences deja vu it means that the machines change something. This is exemplified by a scene in which Neo sees the same black cat walk past him twice. That’s all fine and good for movies, but in real life sometimes the same thing just happens more than once. Such is the case with Brady Feigl and… well, Brady Feigl.
In a perplexing coincidence that no one would have believed if it wasn’t real, Brady Feigl is a 6-foot-4 pitcher with red hair and a red beard who plays, at the time of this writing, in the Oakland Athletics’ minor league system. Meanwhile in Texas, another Brady Feigl is a 6-foot-4 pitcher with red hair and a red beard who plays in the Texas Rangers’ system.
Both Bradys have undergone ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery, also known as Tommy John surgery, and they both even went to the same doctor to get it done. After they were discovered as nearly identical twins, Inside Edition performed a DNA test on them and it was determined that both of them also have 53% Germanic ancestry and absolutely no DNA in common. It’s just an amazing coincidence that they look exactly the same, have the same name, the same job, and the same doctor.
6. The Separated Twins
If there’s one thing psychologists love it’s finding ways to use human subjects as guinea pigs without subjecting them to horrible lifelong trauma. How do you do that? You want it to happen naturally so you can just observe the results. If you’re interested in studying something like the comparative impact of heredity versus the environment, what better subjects than identical twins who were separated at birth? That’s not generally an easy thing to come across but it did happen in the case of James Allan Springer and James Alan Lewis.
The two twins discovered each other again at age 39. Both had been named James by their adoptive parents. Both were good at math and carpentry in school but were not big on spelling. James Lewis had been working as a security guard for a living. James Springer became a deputy sheriff. Both of these men married a woman named Linda. Both got divorced. And then they both married a woman named Betty. Both of them had a son that they gave the exact same name to as well.
5. The Fires of October 8, 1871
October 8, 1871 was a bad day across the board. It was a Sunday and the town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin suffered one of the most horrible disasters in American history: a massive fire raged across parts of Michigan and Wisconsin. 1,200 people died, 800 of them in Peshtigo alone.
In what proved to be a horrifying coincidence, miles away in the city of Chicago another disaster ignited on the very same day. This would come to be known as the Great Chicago Fire. While the conditions in America at the time were perfect for such a horrible turn of events, there had been very little rain during the preceding months and for October it was unusually warm, and strong winds contributed to the spread of the fires. Still, no one actually knows what precipitated the fire in Chicago that day.
4. L. Frank Baum’s Coat
Back in 1938, Frank Morgan was cast in The Wizard of Oz as the wizard himself and also Professor Marvel. In fact, he played several other characters in the film, but for his Professor Marvel character the costume department wanted to have the exact right look. According to film historian Aljean Harmetz the idea was shabby nobility. Nice clothes that had gone to pot, as some might say.
In order to nail the look the wardrobe team headed to a second hand store in Hollywood. Morgan, along with the director and someone from wardrobe, chose one coat in particular that fit the bill: a Prince Albert coat made of black broadcloth with a worn velvet collar. It fit Morgan perfectly and absolutely looks like a coat once owned by someone of high esteem who had fallen on hard times. And, according to the story as told by Harmetz and allegedly confirmed by several others, when Morgan turned out the pocket he saw written inside was the name… L. Frank Baum. The coat had once belonged to the author of The Wizard of Oz.
3. Tamerlane’s Curse
The conqueror known as Tamerlane is considered one of the greatest military leaders of all time. His empire, the Timurid Empire, was founded back in 1370 and covered massive parts of the Middle East including sections of India, Russia, Persia, and Afghanistan. He was known as The Sword of Islam and was related to Genghis Khan.
Fast forward to the 1940s and Soviet scientists had found the tomb of Tamerlane and were intent on opening it. There was allegedly a curse on the tomb, but who in modern times believes in curses?
The tomb was inscribed with a warning, “When I rise from the dead the world shall tremble,” as well as the more foreboding words “Whosoever disturbs my tomb will unleash an invader more terrible than I.” Sounds scary, but what’s the worst that could happen?
The tomb was opened on June 20, 1941. Two days later was the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, which was the codename for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union. This was one of the most devastating operations of the entire war and saw nearly 5 million dead on the Soviet side.
Word is that Stalin believed that the curse was real — and after this why wouldn’t he? — and ordered that the tomb be reburied again shortly thereafter.
2. Foul Balls
It’s never nice to laugh at someone else’s misfortune, and yet comedy has often been born from someone else’s misfortune for years. Just look at nearly every Looney Tunes cartoon ever, or the Three Stooges. With that in mind, it’s probably okay to laugh a little bit at the misfortune of Alice Roth.
On August 17, 1957 Roth was in attendance in Philadelphia for a baseball game between the Phillies and the New York Giants. Richie Ashburn hit a foul ball that made a beeline for Roth and popped her square in the face. It ended up breaking her nose, which is of course not funny at all. The game was paused as medics took care of Roth. Once everyone was sure things were okay, Roth was being taken from the stadium on a stretcher to get medical attention and the game started up again. Ashburn was still at bat and fouled off another pitch. The ball flew into the stands… and hit Roth again as she was being carried away on the stretcher. Bafflingly, this second ball hit her in the knee and broke another bone.
The upside to the story is that Roth was visited in the hospital by Ashburn, and they actually ended up becoming good friends. Her grandchildren were given star treatment at the stadium and she continued to go to games, although she had adjusted her seating to sit out of the way of foul balls.
1. Robert Lincoln and the Presidential Assassinations
To this day the life of Abraham Lincoln fascinates people. Along with George Washington he’s arguably the most famous president in US history. And as interesting as his life was, the life of his son Robert Todd Lincoln was not without its dramatic moments.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Robert Lincoln devoted his life to politics. He was the Secretary of War under President James Garfield and then Chester A. Arthur. He also was apparently haunted by presidential assassinations.
Obviously the assassination of Abraham Lincoln was the first presidential assassination that Robert was in close proximity to. He wasn’t present at the theater that night, but he was not far away and was at his father’s side when he actually passed on. In 1881, Lincoln was a first-hand witness to the assassination of President Garfield in Washington DC. And 20 years later he was on a trip to Buffalo with his family, at the invitation of President William McKinley, when McKinley himself was shot. Again, Lincoln wasn’t there to witness it first-hand but he did go to visit McKinley later in the day before he died.
In another strangely ironic twist, Lincoln’s own life was saved once after he lost his footing at a train station and was nearly hit by a train. A man named Edwin Booth grabbed Lincoln by the collar and pulled him to safety. Booth, of course, was the brother of John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated Lincoln’s father.