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FLUKEY OR SPOOKY? Incredible real-life coincidences or are they?

  1. Mar 15, 2004 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    I have no idea if any of these stories are true.

    http://www.people.co.uk/news/conten...68_headline=-FLUKEY-OR-SPOOKY--name_page.html

    Similar stories?

    When I was fifteen, an older friend and I took a 250 [roundtrip] mile bicycle ride from a suburb of Los Angeles to a camping area in the mountains above the town of Hemet. The trip out required about 18 hours of pedaling; much of it either up hill and/or through the desert. Since for a good part of the trip the primary highway was off limits to cyclists, for about eight of the eighteen hours we road along miles and miles of hot, flat, lonely desert roads that were well off the beaten tract. Right about the time I thought we had actually arrived at the middle of nowhere, being about eighty miles from my home and forty miles from any significant population centers, far ahead we noticed a small figure emerging from the blurry heat layer above the road. As we approached what we could then see was a rider on a horse, I finally saw that it was a fellow classmate - a girl from my [current] ninth grade class. It turned out that her family owned land out there and often spent weekends in the desert. She was the only person that we saw for many hours.

    This is the one that really gets me. At age sixteen I was a complete off-road motorcycle nut. I often went to a place called El Mirage dry lake bed with one or several friends for some desert biking. The lake bed is surrounded by miles and miles of sand dunes and hills. On one unlucky occasion, while riding with just one other friend we got lost in the dunes. We had no visible points of reference and had gotten completely turned around. Having about one gallon of gasoline left in our tanks and only a little water, and since it was about a hundred degrees out that day…at least, we agreed that the situation was serious and we started a systematic search for the truck. After about 30 minutes, since we seemed to be even more lost than before we agree to each ride opposite directions to two visible high points for a look. Well, let me tell you, those sand dunes are quite confounding; before long we lost each other. Since I couldn’t hear or see my riding partner I started getting really worried. Finally I decided to start a large circular pattern and rode for another fifteen minutes or so and saw nothing even vaguely familiar. Now I was getting really, really worried but what to do? Gas is getting low…oh sh*t! Again I started out with some other plan. No sooner has I started out around a dune that directly ahead was the truck AND my riding partner who was coming from the opposite direction. He also had just spotted the truck. I couldn’t believe my eyes!
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2004
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  3. Mar 28, 2004 #2
    I was doing a little off road motorcycle riding in the Colorado Peru Creek mining district, a rather remote area. It was early in December an the weather was quite chilly, cold enough for water to freeze on my boots and motorcycle both, it was rather windy and also snowing lightly all day.
    Around 5PM it was starting to get dark so I loaded up my motorcycle and headed back down the only dirt road to the nearest highway which was about 5 miles away. About 1/2 mile into my trip I saw two nuns, their habits blowing in the wind, walking with a Great Dane, I waved and they smiled and waved back. My first thought was "if I don't see them in my rear view mirror I am heading straight for the nearest church" but they were in my mirror and I watched them walk down the road as long as I could keep them in sight.
    This wouldn't be too unusual however in the direction they were heading, remember it is almost dark by this time, it is winter windy and well below freezing, they were dressed in nothing more than their habits, there was nothing except a very long walk over a very high mountain pass in front of them. Since I spent the day riding this area I knew there were no cars or trucks, no houses, certainly no churches and no real shelter other than a few remnants of old mining buildings. I did not pass any cars or trucks either moving or parked on my way back down that dirt road.
    To this very day I still wonder what that was all about, I guess I should have stopped for a chat...
     
  4. Mar 28, 2004 #3

    Ivan Seeking

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    Now that is a strange one. I really wish you had stopped and asked. I will probably always wonder about this...especially since nuns normally can't have dogs. My SWAG is that they were walking the dog for someone locally; perhaps an invalid. There must have been a house somewhere nearby that you missed.
     
  5. Mar 28, 2004 #4
    I have a few stories that are interesting with regards to "small world" coincidences.

    The first involves my brother. He was spending time in Europe. About six months into his trip he stayed in a B'n'B in Portugal. At the time, although he was enjoyibg his adventures immensely, he was longing for some of the familiarities of home. He got up for breakfast and sat at a community table. The woman facing him was a very close family friend our home town.

    The second involves a co-worker. I was working for an international company and our US office was participating in a large convention in Paris. One evening after work we were on foot heading towards our dinner destination when the coworker excused himself from the group and approached a couple on the opposite side of the street. We watched as smiles, handshakes, and hugs were exchanged. After a brief conversation, the co-worker rejoined us and explained that these were his next-door neighbors. Neither were aware of the others travel plans to Paris.

    I have more, but time is short - I'll post later.
     
  6. Mar 28, 2004 #5

    Evo

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    I've got a couple of stories my mother used to tell of her experiences during WWII in Algiers, Algeria, N Africa. (formerly a French colony)

    Her father was a Captain in the French Navy during the war. Her and her step sisters were at home in an upstairs room. No one else was home and no one was expected for quite awhile.

    They heard the front door open and heard someone waking across the floor. Then they heard someone open the piano and start to run their hand up and down the keys. Obviously they were a bit frightened, wondering who was in the house and doing this. Finally, one of them got up the courage to go out and look to see who was there and there was no one. The piano was closed, the front door was locked from the inside.

    Before long a soldier came to the house telling them that their father had been in an accident, the jeep he had been riding in had crashed and he had been pinned under and was in the hospital, but was in good condition.

    When they got to the hospital they told their father about hearing someone come into the house and the piano playing. He asked what time it happened and they said around 3:30pm. He said that was the same time that he had been brought into the hospital and had heard the radio and thought about the piano at home.

    Another time her mother & father were sitting in the den and there was an old antique clock sitting on the mantle that had not worked in years. Suddenly the clock started chiming. Her father looked over at her mother and asked her when she had gotten the clock repaired. She said that she hadn't.

    A bit later a messenger arrived with news for her father. Her father had let another officer use his quarters to work in on board ship while they were in the harbor because it roomier. The messenger said that a fire had broken out and the officer had been trapped and perished. This happened at approximately the same time as when the clock started chiming.

    There are a lot of these odd "coincidences". I wish I could remember all of them.

    Even now with my youngest daughter, I've suddenly sensed & even been awoken from a sound sleep knowing that she was trying to phone me and was angry. I often unplug the phone so I am not annoyed and forget to plug it back in. Many of these times as soon as I reached over and plugged the phone in, it would be ringing and she would start yelling at me telling me she'd been calling me a dozen times.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2004
  7. Jun 22, 2007 #6

    Ivan Seeking

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    I had a strange coincidence occur this morning. For some reason I thought about a guy who had done some work for me in the past - a software engineer who has since moved to New Mexico. Since he moved last year he has emailed me twice, and only in response to specific questions.

    This morning, for some reason I was thinking about him and his response when, during his last visit [family visit], I told him about my work with algae as an alternative energy source. He was most enthusiastic and I wondered it he had given it any more thought. A little while later when I checked my email, I had one from him about the new mileage standards for cars that Congress has been considering. As nearly as I can tell, it was sent at almost the exact time that I was thinking about him.

    He has no role in the business and I have no idea why I would think of him. Since he moved he is pretty much out of the picture.

    Very odd.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2007
  8. Jun 22, 2007 #7

    Evo

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    I have the same things happen. I'll suddenly think of a client I haven't spoken to in over a year and the phone will ring and guess who? :bugeye: It happens quite often, so often that I don't know what to think of it.
     
  9. Jun 22, 2007 #8

    siddharth

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    Well, whenever something like this happens to me, I think of the number of coincidences that didn't happen.
     
  10. Jun 22, 2007 #9

    Evo

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    I knew you were going to say that! :tongue:
     
  11. Jun 22, 2007 #10
    These are very interesting events indeed. But look at it this way: you are cherry picking so few events from billions of events, majority of which are not surprising or interesting. I think I basically just repeated what you said siddharth, but I just felt I had to say it.
     
  12. Jun 22, 2007 #11

    russ_watters

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    It is a standing joke in my office that if we have a job that is languishing, we just remove it from our list of active jobs. Invariably, the client immediately calls to reactivate the job.
     
  13. Jun 22, 2007 #12

    Evo

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    Speak of the devil, that just happened 15 minutes ago. I had to give my boss my forecast today, and this customer hadn't returned my calls for 4 months, so I removed it and within an hour he called me and said to go ahead. :bugeye:

    Now if I add him back to my forecast, he will disappear again, so I am leaving him off. :uhh:
     
  14. Jun 22, 2007 #13
    I tend to think that it is observation selection on statistical anomalies.
     
  15. Jun 22, 2007 #14
    The TV programme Million2One airs a lot of real-life incidents like some of the above, and in the end calculates the probability of that happening.

    There's this old man, somewhere in England. His daughter takes care of him, but for a few hours on a particular day, she goes back to her house, which was just down the street (or somewhere pretty close by). During those fateful hours, the old man has a heart attack. He tries to call his daughter, but by mistake dials the wrong number. But guess what, he dials to a public phone in a quiet corridor in a city hospital. And who was walking by when the phone rang? His granddaughter, who happens to be working as a nurse there! He was eventually brought to the hospital and was saved.
     
  16. Jun 22, 2007 #15

    Ivan Seeking

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    I once tried to quantify situations like this and generate a probability, but there are often sooooooo many variables that the task was non-trivial to say the least. My position on this is that the most strking accounts it might be explained by statistics, but there are many examples where this is difficult to defend when you lay it all out, and perhaps impossible [or nearly so] to quantify.

    I tend to think that events with odds of something like one in a billion happen too often, but, as I said, it was beyond me to develop a model that could test this idea.
     
  17. Jun 22, 2007 #16

    Moonbear

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    Let's see, I have explanations for the ones in the quote in the OP:
    1) Both sisters were equally bad drivers, so if they both had to head down the same road in opposite directions to get to each other's houses, it's no wonder they collided.

    2) Of COURSE she was locked out...her brother had the spare key! We have no idea how often this person locked herself out, and she may have given her brother the spare key she usually leaves hidden outside for these frequent lockouts.

    3) Of all the kids in the world who have tied messages to balloons or stuck them in bottles, is it really surprising that there'd be ONE case where they'd wind up in the hands of someone with the same name? I wonder how common the name Buxton is?

    I'd have to agree with siddharth that it's just confirmation bias. We tend to notice if something happens, but don't notice all the times nothing happens, or we only meet up with strangers. And, the wider our circle of acquaintances, the more likely we'll bump into them in unexpected places. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to meet up with an old classmate in a town far from home (I wound up living only a town over from one in OH and didn't know it until a mutual friend mentioned he was coming out to visit and was going to visit my other classmate while out there too). People from similar backgrounds are attracted to similar places I think.
     
  18. Jun 23, 2007 #17

    siddharth

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    This is where I found the "law" of truly large numbers illuminating.

    (http://skepdic.com/lawofnumbers.html)
     
  19. Jun 23, 2007 #18

    Ivan Seeking

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    I am well aware of the laws of large numbers, but the fact is, to attribute all such "coincidences" to odds is a faith statement. Unless we have a way to quantify each episode and compare the frequency of such events, we can't know if they are explained by the odds. From a scientific pov we would expect this all to be explained by the laws of very large numbers, but without a model to test this assertion, we are only guessing.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2007
  20. Jun 23, 2007 #19

    turbo

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    One thing we should consider is the holistic nature of consciousness. I have a friend of 35+ years who lives a thousand miles away. He is in the import-export business, so he is often either out of the country (often in Nepal or Kashmir), or criss-crossing the US with his wife to attend trade shows. He and I have given each other rocks and minerals, native American artifacts, and other objects, and it's natural that when you see these things daily in your house, you connect with the other person a bit, even on an unconscious level. If he calls or emails saying that he and Barb are going to be up to visit his dad and they want to get together with us, I usually think "I was just thinking about him", when in fact, he is probably a frequent low-level stimulant in my mind because of all the connections that we have made over the years. I have pictures that I took when his only child was about 4 and we made an easy hike into a beautiful waterfall, and others when the son was a teen and we climbed Mt. Katahdin with some other friends and family. It's not that I discount the times when these coincidences pop up, but I have to realize that my brain replays a lot of stuff and that sometimes the coincidences are a function of this.

    There is a guy that I consider a friend, though he lives on the left coast and I have never met him, and I think of him often. He was a Navy surgeon during the Viet Nam war, and he insisted on accompanying Marines in hot fire-fights, so he could treat their injuries more effectively than just waiting for them to be flown in to a field hospital. He once removed a live mortar round from the abdomen of a Marine (who survived) with his bare hands, and got a Silver Star for that. He should have gotten the Congressional Medal of Honor for that. We haven't hooked up for a couple of years, but if he called tomorrow, I could say with complete honesty "I was just thinking of you earlier". Go to page ten, and get ready to love this guy.

    http://permanent.access.gpo.gov/lps17064/IssueAll10.pdf
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2007
  21. Jun 23, 2007 #20

    Evo

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    Not to mention all the times that I don't think of someone and they call me.

    Just last month my ex partner at my former employer called me looking for a job. I hadn't thought about him in almost a year! :tongue2:

    When the girls were little I could always tell when their dad (my ex) was calling. We got tons of phone calls, but every time he called, I wouldn't answer and I'd tell them to pick up because it was their dad. I was never wrong and I never accidently answered one of his calls. It got to the point where they asked how I could tell daddy's ring apart from everyone else's. I told them (it's a joke between me and the girls) and they thought it was hysterical. But it was true, the hair on the nap of my neck would rise when he called.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2007
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