Strangest Historical Coincidences That Can't Be Explained
Let's investigate whether a new pandemic really happens every 100 years, plus more historical coincidences that are hard to explain!History
Human history has only been recorded for the last 5000 years; a fraction of the 80,000 years we’ve been knocking around on this planet! And in that short space of time, since history began, we’ve packed in a whole lot, from Empires rising and falling, to space travel, to the creation of the internet’s busiest monkey cage, YouTube! Nevertheless, even in those five busy millennia, a strange pattern has started to emerge.
Every 100 years, a fatal and infectious event has struck like clockwork! It hit in 1720, 1820, 1920, and the infamous 2020! That just can’t be a coincidence, can it? Grab your hazmat suits, because we’re going to explore some of the most contagious and strangest historical coincidences of all time!
The Mysterious 20s: Does A New Pandemic Happen Every 100 Years?
Let’s begin in the year 1720, in the French city of Marseille, where the locals were suddenly struck down by a grotesque sickness. Pus-filled black boils the size of eggs erupted in their armpits, groins, and necks! These super gross symptoms were also accompanied by vomiting and high fevers. What a combo.
This is the dreaded Bubonic Plague; a bacterial infection spread by the bite of the common flea. It’s a sickness that’s really made a mark on human history, decimating populations all over Europe in pandemics back in the 6th and 14th centuries.
But this particular outbreak of plague in the 18th century would result in the deaths of some 100,000 people in the city of Marseille and the surrounding provinces! It was such a deadly event, it became known as The Great Plague of Marseille. However, this outbreak was tiny compared to the pandemic that ran rampant through Eurasia only 100 years later!
In the year 1820, most of South Asia was infected with an incredibly deadly disease: Cholera. Cholera is a bacterial infection of the small intestine, which causes the body to expel large amounts of watery diarrhea. And this non-stop pooping can be deadly, as your body loses a huge volume of water resulting in dangerous levels of dehydration within hours!
Cholera is spread through dirty water or undercooked food which has been in contact with infected human feces. Undercooked shellfish are a common source of infection, so always make sure your prawns are pink all the way through, otherwise you’re in for a "krilling" time on the toilet!
Fortunately, in the 21st century, we have antibiotic treatments to cure cholera. But back during the South Asian pandemic of 1820, this outbreak of cholera resulted in 3.2 million deaths! The colossal death toll was due to the fact that this pandemic had spread further than any other! It originated in the Indian city of Calcutta but spread as far as China and the Mediterranean Coast before finally subsiding!
However, even this high death toll was nothing compared to the next pandemic that shook the world. The date is 1920. Are you starting to see the creepy pattern? They say that history repeats itself, but this is just too similar, and in this case, the world was only just starting to recover from the aftermath of World War 1, when it was hit with one of the deadliest pandemics of all time!
It was known as the Spanish flu and was a strain of influenza that successfully infected 500 million people: a third of the global population at the time! And this flu wasn’t just a bad case of the sniffles that could be cured with chicken soup, rather it was a virus that triggered a cytokine storm in the immune systems of young adults!
A cytokine storm is where the body’s immune system goes into overdrive, releasing a huge surge of proteins, known as cytokines, which flood the body. This condition can be life-threatening and result in multiple organ failure.
Ultimately Spanish flu resulted in a death toll estimated to be between 17 million to 50 million! Though other historians argue its death toll could be as high as 100 million! Without a doubt, it was one of the deadliest pandemics of all time. With modern medicine and annual flu vaccinations, some might have believed the Spanish flu would be the last worldwide pandemic. But then the curse of the ‘20s struck again!
As you probably remember, in 2020 the whole world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic! Though the virus itself wasn’t as deadly when compared to other pandemics on this list such as Spanish flu, it was by far the most transmissible. The virus jumped borders and crossed oceans, spreading through the human population like wildfire!
In total, a jaw-dropping 655 million cases were recorded worldwide! And for those with underlying health issues or compromised immune systems, getting ill with covid often proved fatal, sadly resulting in some 6.6 million deaths.
Due to covid’s highly infectious nature with no immediately available vaccine, many governments issued lockdown orders, with citizens of many nations forced to stay in their homes with minimal social contact for over a year. Even when the stay-at-home orders were lifted, the COVID-19 virus still hung around. Fortunately, these days many of us are vaccinated and can fight off infection!
But given the pattern we’ve discovered, does that mean the world is due for an even deadlier pandemic in 2120? It seems the world is destined to suffer from a global pandemic every 100 years! At least that’s what article headlines all over the internet would have you believe. But it turns out that this entire concept is a total historical hoax!
To break this down, we need to address what a pandemic actually is. A pandemic is defined as a disease that has spread over multiple countries or continents. Therefore, that rules out the Great Plague of Marseille as a pandemic; rather it was an epidemic, as it was a disease that affected a large number of people but only within the borders of France.
As for the 1820 cholera outbreak, which did cross international borders, therefore, making it a pandemic, the outbreak actually began in 1817 and continued until 1824. Meanwhile, the Spanish flu pandemic actually began in 1918 and ended in 1920. And it’s not just the dates that are wrong, but the name of the pandemic too!
Even though this deadly disease was known as “Spanish flu”, modern scientists have tracked the source of this particular influenza strain to the heart of the Southern US, to Fort Riley in Kansas!
The disease only became known as “Spanish flu” as Spanish newspapers were the only ones who freely reported on the pandemic at the time. Other countries, the US included, had wartime censorship in place that suppressed any bad news stories to maintain morale, meanwhile, Spain was neutral in the war.
As a result, the disease gained the nickname “Spanish flu”, though it would be more accurate to call it the “Kansas flu”. Which sounds like the sort of fever you’d have where you’d hallucinate visiting the Wizard of Oz!
As for the last piece of flimsy evidence for this historical hoax, the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no denying this pandemic did force us to stay in our homes and listen to the terrible off-tune singing of bored celebrities in the year 2020.
However, the actual first cases of this previously unknown strain of coronavirus were reported to the World Health Organization from Wuhan City in China, on 31st December 2019! Hence this strain of coronavirus is called COVID-19 as that was the year it was first identified.
And technically the COVID-19 pandemic has yet to end, having evolved into different strains such as Alpha, Epsilon, Theta, Kappa, and Omicron. This disease has had more comebacks than Madonna!
But COVID-19 hasn’t been the only viral celebrity of the 21st century. Rather huge areas of West Africa were overrun with the Ebola virus epidemic between 2014 to 2016. And Brazil was severely impacted by the Zika virus epidemic between 2015 to 2016.
Therefore, though pandemic memes would like you to believe that disease outbreaks occur precisely every 100 years, history is never that neat. Rather pandemic outbreaks are far more random and often caused by unsanitary close contact between animals, such as bats, and humans, causing pathogens to jump from one species to the other.
While in our ever more interconnected world, with transport and trade links, diseases have never been able to spread across continents so easily. So, we simply can’t predict when the next global pandemic will strike. Though to be prepared, you can always have your sanitizer spray at the ready!
The Word For Dog In Mbabaram Is "Dog"
In 1788 the first British settlers arrived in Australia. And a few deadly bites later, they soon discovered how dangerous its wildlife is! But of course, the British weren’t the first to arrive.
Australia has been populated by aboriginal tribes for centuries! European culture and aboriginal cultures had developed independently, with different practices, beliefs, and languages. True to this, aboriginal peoples had their own unique vocabulary, worlds away from English. Or at least that’s what linguists thought until 1964.
It was this year that one linguist professor, Robert M.W. Dixon, committed himself to the study of the language of the Mbabaram tribe, who were native to Queensland in north-eastern Australia.
Here’s a crash course in linguistics: in order to study a new language, you usually begin with basic nouns. You might point to different objects in a room and call them a “table” or a “chair”, for example. To learn these words, Professor Dixon would regularly meet with a native speaker of Mbabaram, known as Albert Bennett.
In their first meeting, the professor only recorded 28 words. But over the course of five months, he learned 250 words and 300 short sentences. Though imagine the Professor’s surprise when in one such meeting, he requested the word for “dog” and got the exact same response “dog”.
Professor Dixon at first thought Albert had gotten mixed up with his English. But when he repeated the question, pointing to the pupper, he got the same response, “Dog”. By complete coincidence, the pronunciation of the Mbabaram word is identical to the English version!
But there was no discernible relationship between Mbabaram and English, and the countries are almost 10,000 miles apart. It truly was a wild coincidence! Sometimes the world is just barking mad!
King Umberto I And His Doppelganger
Have you ever dealt with a case of mistaken identity, where someone comes up to you and is sure they recognize you from somewhere? But did you know that the chances of someone being your perfect doppelganger is about 1 in 1 trillion? But that’s not even as impossible as the odds of what supposedly happened to King Umberto I of Italy.
On July 28, 1900, it’s claimed that King Umberto decided to go for dinner in the city of Monza. He was joined by his trusted assistant, and the pair chose a random local restaurant to dine in.
They were enjoying their meal, when, as is customary, the owner of the restaurant came out to greet the prestigious guests. But as King Umberto looked up, he thought the restaurant owner was holding up a mirror. Because, unbelievably, the restaurant owner and King Umberto looked exactly alike! They were a pair of real-life doppelgangers!
The uncanny resemblance didn’t just end with the men’s appearance. The restaurant owner was also called Umberto, and both men had been born on the exact same day in the city of Turin! But it gets even spookier, as both men had married on the same day, both to women named Margherita!
Even more astonishingly, the 2nd Umberto, had opened his restaurant on the exact same day of King Umberto’s coronation, and both had sons named Vittorio! The two men couldn’t believe the stunning set of coincidences they shared; they were almost too similar.
The meeting was so strange, that the King decided to meet the other Umberto the very next day to further discuss the similarities between them. Though, tragically the restaurant owner died the next morning, after being shot in unexplained circumstances. But in a shocking twist of fate, King Umberto himself was also assassinated in a shooting incident.
One popular theory is that the two Umbertos were actually twins that had been separated at birth. Furthermore, it’s thought that King Umberto’s assassin, an Italian American anarchist known as Gaetano Bresci, had also attended the restaurant that fateful night. Gaetano had possibly seen the identical Umbertos and assumed, to be on the safe side, that he should take out both men!
However, despite all my digging, I couldn’t find a single reputable source from this time that backed this story up! While I want to believe Umberto found his doppelganger, I wonder if their sons & wives really had the same names, or if they really shared a birthday. Either way, without proof, this one is just a historical rumor!
Baby Fell Twice On Joseph Figlock
Can you imagine walking down the street, when all of a sudden it starts raining money? That would be a sweet green miracle! But in the case of Joseph Figlock, the miracle that fell out of the sky gave him more of a fright!
When Joseph was walking down a neighborhood street in Detroit in the 1930s, he heard a wail and looked up to see a falling baby! Thankfully, Joseph caught the baby, and the day was saved.
But by some wacky coincidence, one year later Joseph found himself in Groundhog Day, as he caught the same baby falling from a window again! Or at least that’s how the story is told, as urban legends such as this tend to take on a life of their own.
Joseph was a street worker, which is why he spent so many of his days out on the sidewalk. And he did in fact catch two young children falling out of windows. However, it was 2 separate children at different locations, the first being a baby girl, and the second being a 2-year-old boy.
And Joseph didn’t so much catch the babies; rather they landed on him. Though thanks to Joseph breaking their fall, neither child met a fatal end on the concrete sidewalk. But why were there so many babies falling out of windows?
That was the result of an insane baby cage trend that literally swept the nation! The parenting myth at the time was that babies need to be “aired” for their health. And so many over-eager, but ignorant parents literally hung-up chicken wire cages outside of their apartments to “air” their babies.
The trend was popularized by President Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, who hung a baby cage outside of her New York City apartment to place her daughter in for naps. Thankfully, in the 1950s people finally came to their senses and realized that babies and heights don’t mix. Forget the baby boomers, the generation before were baby droppers!
The First And Last Soldiers To Die In WWI Are Buried Opposite One Another
World War 1 was one of the deadliest conflicts in all of human history, with 20 million deaths and 21 million people wounded all over the globe! You might think after such a catastrophic death toll, the world would learn its lesson, that it would be the war to end all wars. But of course, we all know how history turned out; it’s called World War One for a reason.
However, there is a chilling coincidence linked to the St. Symphorien military cemetery in Belgium, where many of the fallen British soldiers of World War I are buried. As, without any deliberate planning, the first recorded British casualty of the war, 17-year-old soldier John Parr is buried just 15 feet away from the last recorded casualty, 30-year-old George Ellison.
The two graves even face one another, like haunting bookends of the war. Private John Parr’s death was recorded just 17 days after Britain declared war. While Private George Ellison died just 90 minutes before the armistice was declared. A morbid reminder of the cost of war, but a testament to the fact that war does end, eventually.
The Jim Twins
We all like to think we’re unique, but what if there was someone else out there who’d lived your exact same life? That’s exactly what happened to two twin boys put up for adoption separately in 1940, at only 3 weeks old.
Both sets of adoptive parents named the boys James, though they both went by “Jim” instead. Both Jim’s had beloved childhood dogs, both named Toy. And at school, they both excelled at math and woodworking, but neither had a knack for spelling.
As adults, both Jim’s were heavy smokers, drove the same Chevrolet car, and even vacationed at the same Florida beach. They even had identical taste in women, as both Jims married women named Linda, though neither marriage worked out, and instead, both men divorced and went on to marry a pair of Betty’s!
Nevertheless, the creepy coincidences of the Jim Twins even carried onto the next generation, as both men named their sons James Alan. This train of coincidences just ain’t stopping! Eventually, at age 37, one of the Jim’s was able to get the contact details of his twin brother through the Ohio courthouse.
He tracked him down, and the pair spoke on the phone, eventually agreeing to meet. But it wasn’t until February 9, 1979, the Jim Twins were finally reunited! From baby boys to full-grown men, it was practically impossible to tell them apart! Given the striking similarities between the lives they had led, they were invited to take part in a study conducted at the University of Minnesota.
The study found that their medical histories and brain-wave tests were almost identical. And so were the results of their personality tests! So, is that the whole nature vs nurture debate completely settled then? Does our DNA determine our entire personality over the environment we’re raised in after all?
Well, it’s worth noting that the two Jim’s only grew up 40 miles apart from each other in small midwestern towns. So, they were raised with the same suburban American culture of apple pies and white picket fences! And it’s likely that if one of the boys had been adopted internationally, things might have turned out differently.
The Unsinkable Violet Jessop
Crossing the ocean used to be a pretty dangerous affair, and there are enough shipwrecks at the bottom of the seafloor to prove it! That’s why sailors have developed a whole hoard of superstitions over the years, such as never whistling into the wind, in case you conjure up a storm!
Though one of the strictest rules of all was to never set sail with a woman on board, as they’ll make the sea angry. Seems like a load of old nonsense, however after hearing about Miss Violet Jessop, perhaps there was reason to this superstition after all!
Violet was originally born in Argentina to Irish immigrant parents. To support her family, she became a stewardess for the Royal Mail Line shipping company and was assigned to the RMS Olympic in 1911, the largest civilian liner ship at the time! However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing, as Violet found out on 20th September 1911 when the RMS Olympic collided with the HMS Hawke warship!
The two ships were sailing parallel to each other through the Solent; a small stretch of water between southern England and the Isle of Wight. However, when the RMS Olympic turned right, the ship swung into the path of the HMS Hawke. The Hawke’s captain couldn’t steer the warship away in time before its hull crashed into the Olympics’ starboard side.
Two giant gaping holes were ripped into the ship’s hull and its compartments took on water. However, miraculously the Olympic managed to stay afloat! It sailed back to port for repairs, with no one harmed in the crash. Following this, Violet was assigned to sail aboard the Olympics’ sister ship, the RMS Titanic.
At the time, this was ironically known as the “unsinkable” ship. Though as most of you probably know, the Titanic is the most famous ship to ever sink! The Titanic struck an iceberg on 15th April 1912, which ripped open the ship’s starboard side and caused it to sink to its watery grave at the bottom of the North Atlantic.
Though the giant iceberg wasn’t the only thing the ship’s crew overlooked. Shockingly, the Titanic was only equipped with 20 lifeboats for a total carrying capacity of 1,176 people. Which was barely over half the total of 2,224 people sailing aboard the Titanic!
But that’s because the lifeboats were only designed to ferry people to nearby rescue ships, rather than as a complete evacuation measure. Tragically, the Titanic sank rapidly, before any nearby ships could come to its rescue. Fortunately, Violet was one of the few who managed to get into a lifeboat and survived. Though more than 1,500 people lost their lives in the disaster.
You’d think two shipwrecks is enough of an unlucky streak to never set foot in a paddling pool, let alone the ocean, again! But Violet was unfazed, and she went on to serve upon the HMHS Britannic. During World War I, it was refitted as a hospital ship, and Violet served on board as a British Red Cross nurse.
But on November 21st, 1916, the ship was struck by a sea mine planted by a German U-boat in the Aegean Sea. The explosion wrecked the ship, causing such extensive damage that, you guessed it, the Britannic sank in less than an hour. But having learned from the tragedy of the Titanic, the boat was equipped with far more lifeboats, and as a result, there were only 30 casualties out of 1,030 survivors.
Despite her string of shipwrecks, Violet kept working on cruise ships for the rest of her 42-year-long career! This woman knew no fear, but other passengers would get super nervous when they discovered the infamous Violet Jessop was on board. However, it’s not fair to put all the blame of this shipwreck curse upon Violet, despite having sailed on three ships that sunk.
There’s a far more important common denominator, all three of these ships, the Olympic, Titanic, and Britannic, were all owned by the White Star Line company as part of their Olympic class of steamships. Maybe they should have spent longer on the design process before putting these ships out to sea. Because it turned out that the Titanic was never the unsinkable one, it was Miss Violet Jessop all along!
The Strange Story Of Richard Parker
They say that art imitates life, but what if art could predict life? It sure would be fun if we could have Iron Man’s cool gadgets or explore the galaxy like Han Solo. But unfortunately, the only time real life was accurately predicted was in a dark, gothic novel.
Before there was Stephen King, the world’s premier horror writer was Edgar Allan Poe. Though he preferred short stories, he did publish one novel, known as The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, published in 1838.
The most memorable scene in the book features a crew of sailors stranded in the ocean without food. The men draw straws to decide which one of them will be sacrificed to become a steak meal for the others! The character who lost was known as Richard Parker.
But in a stunning coincidence in 1884, over 46 years later, the crew aboard the Mignonette ship found themselves in the same situation after their boat sank in a terrible storm. Stranded without food in a lifeboat, the men had no hope for survival.
Until a 17-year-old crew member decided to drink salt water to quench his thirst. A fatal mistake to make as drinking salt water causes an excess of salt in your blood that your kidneys have to filter out with more water. As a result, drinking seawater makes you even more dehydrated!
The boy’s health was rapidly deteriorating, and the sailors were very hungry. So, they sacrificed him for their grizzly meal instead! The spookiest thing of all was the boy’s name – one Richard Parker! An impossibly creepy coincidence! Maybe Edgar Allan Poe had a vision of the future predicting these cannibal sailors.
Although it’s more likely that Richard Parker was just an incredibly common name at the time, one that these two happened to share. Still, you can't help but get goosebumps from that real-life horror story. Hopefully, none of Stephen King’s novels predict the future. Otherwise, clowns at children’s parties will never be the same again!
If you were amazed at these strange historical coincidences, you might want to read our article about the most bizarre historical coincidences. Thanks for reading!