Bizarre flukes. Impossible fortuity. Haphazard kismet. What are the chances? Most of us, at some point or another, have experienced unusual coincidences that cause us to question events. Do these strange occurrences hold deeper meaning for our lives, or are they chance events?

History’s Greatest Coincidences

History, with its billions of people and countless stories, has undoubtedly seen its share of highly improbable occurrences. However, it is always surprising when some of those stories result in especially inexplicable “coin-ki-dinks.” Examples can be found all throughout history if you are willing to look. Two of the Founding Fathers, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, died hours apart on the same day. July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of our nation’s independence. 

Violet Jessop survived the sinking of the Olympic in 1911, the sinking of the Titanic the following year, and the sinking of the Britannic during World War I―all three were sister ships. And speaking of bad luck, Tsutomu Yamaguchi was visiting Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, when the atomic bomb was dropped. Three days later, he decided he’d be safer in his hometown of Nagasaki.

And that’s not all: 

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Damn Hoover Dam Deaths

The building of the Hoover Dam would have been an OSHA nightmare, and nearly 120 men died during its construction. In the 1920s, it was decided that a dam should be built to control the frequently flooded Colorado River and to supply hydroelectric power to Southern California, and plans and surveys began immediately. The project eventually employed thousands, but one of the first employees was John Gregory Tierney, a surveyor who helped to mark the river’s course and the dam’s placement. 

On December 20, 1921, a storm sparked a flash flood that swept Tierney into the Colorado River and to his death. He was the first fatality of the Hoover Dam project. Fast forward 14 years later to the day―December 20, 1935―when the project claimed its last fatality. A worker fell to his death from one of the two intake towers of the dam. That man was Patrick William Tierney, John Gregory Tierney’s only son.

The Coat Of Coincidences

Film costume designer Adrian Adolph Greenberg Adrian’s best-known design was the ruby red slippers worn by Dorothy in the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. The film was an adaptation of the children’s novel by L. Frank Baum, published in 1900. 

One of the most accomplished actors in the movie was Frank Morgan, who played five different roles, most notably Professor Marvel and the Wizard himself. Adrian rejected the original costume for Professor Marvel, and the search for another one got underway. Mary Mayer, the movie’s publicist, later recalled, “For Professor Marvel’s coat, they wanted grandeur gone to seed. A nice-looking coat but very tattered.” 

The wardrobe department bought an entire rack of coats from a thrift shop in Los Angeles, and Adrian, Frank Morgan, and director Victor Fleming got together to choose the perfect one. Frank Morgan tried on their final selection, and it fit. During filming one hot afternoon, Morgan pulled off the coat and noticed a tag in the pocket. When he turned out the pocket, he saw that the tag was from a tailor in Chicago that identified the original customer. By a crazy coincidence, the tag on the jacket read, “L. Frank Baum.”

Abraham Lincoln had his fair share of coincidences throughout his tragically short life.
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Lincoln’s Savior

Everyone reviles the name John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln. However, few know he had a much more famous brother, Edwin, who is still considered one of America’s greatest actors. Unlike John, Edwin was a devoted supporter of the Union and proudly called Lincoln “My president.” 

In late 1864, Lincoln’s son Robert Todd Lincoln was traveling by train to Washington D.C. While on the platform during a train transfer in Jersey City, Robert Todd Lincoln stepped back to avoid the crush of the crowd. While doing so, he was pressed against a nearby stationary train car. It suddenly jerked forward, and Lincoln was thrown off balance and down between the platform and the now-moving train.

He surely would have been crushed if not for a stranger who yanked him back by the collar. Lincoln immediately recognized the man who had saved his life as Edwin Booth and thanked him by name. Several months later, Adam Badeau, a friend of Robert Todd Lincoln’s, sent a letter to Edwin Booth relating the experience. Knowing this reportedly helped Edwin Booth cope with his brother’s horrific and treasonous misdeed. 

What is equally strange is that Robert Todd Lincoln, even though he was not present at Ford’s Theatre when his father was shot, was present at the assassinations of two other U.S. presidents: James Garfield and William McKinley. That is some bad luck. 

The American Civil War is full of coincidences and weird history.
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Wilmer McLean’s War

The first battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Bull Run, began on July 21, 1861, on Wilmer McLean’s farm. After Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard took over the farm for his headquarters, McLean was pretty peeved to see a cannonball destroy his kitchen stove and ruin his dinner. When the battle ended, McLean picked up his family, his favorite possessions, and the family cow and moved 120 miles southwest to a quiet little hamlet named Appomattox Court House, thinking he was now well enough away from the war. 

Besides supplying sugar to the Confederate forces, he otherwise tried to avoid the conflict that consumed the South. However, on April 9, 1865, Confederate Colonel Charles Marshal approached McLean. He asked for help finding a suitable place for Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant to meet to discuss the Confederate surrender. McLean reluctantly offered his front parlor, and after the surrender, the room was stripped clean of furnishings for souvenirs against McLean’s will. Later, McLean put the house up for sale and famously claimed that the Civil War had started in his front yard and ended in his front parlor. 

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There are plenty more weird history and coincidences to read about here on SkillsetMag: H.H. Holmes America’s First Serial Killer

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