Cracked has an article about insane coincidences that actually happened:
- The Civil War started in Wilmer McLean‘s front yard and ended in his parlor: in 1861 the first cannonball shot of the war landed in his house in northern Virginia; a couple years later he moved 120 miles southwest, to central Virginia; by coincidence, in 1865 General Lee surrendered in McLean’s new house.
- Ohio is the home state to the first aviators (the Wright brothers), the first American to orbit the Earth (John Glenn), the first person to set foot on the moon (Neil Armstrong), and 22 other astronauts — by far the most of any state.
- The Battle of Midway in World War II was almost won by the Japanese until, by coincidence, American bombers from elsewhere arrived at the exact moment when all of the Japanese planes were refueling on the Japanese aircraft carriers. Within minutes, all three of them were destroyed along with all of their aircraft.
- Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson — respectively, the 2nd and 3rd Presidents of the US — died on July 4th, 1826, exactly 50 years after they both signed the Declaration of Independence. The 5th President, James Monroe, also died on July 4th, in 1831. And the famous Civil War Battle of Gettysburg also ended on July 4th, in 1863.
Those are interesting coincidences, but the other two they mention are actually more like accidental prophecies.
The Cannibalism of Richard Parker
Edgar Allan Poe wrote a book called The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, which is a sea-faring story that inspired Moby Dick. In it there is a part where four sailors are stranded at sea without food and water, which eventually causes them to resort to killing and eating one of the characters, Richard Parker. The book was published in 1838, but guess what happened in real life forty-six years later, in 1884? Four sailors got stranded at sea without food and water, which eventually caused them to resort to killing and eating one of their numbers, a Richard Parker.
The real life story is interesting on its own, too: the four sailors were transporting a yacht called the Mignonette from England to Australia when it sank in the South Atlantic. After almost three weeks during which all they had to eat was a turtle and two cans of turnips, and during which Richard Parker became comatose and dying after falling ill from drinking sea water, they cut his jugular and ate him. Almost another week later, they were rescued by a German ship. Two of the three survivors were put on trial for murder; the third was not part of the killing, though he did eat a lot of Mr. Parker. After a famous trial full of legal errors, the two were found guilty and sentenced to death, but due to public opinion in favor of the defendants, their sentence was commuted to six months in prison by the secretary of the UK Home Office, who is kind of like the US Attorney General.
The Unsinkable Titan(ic)
Construction of the Titanic started in 1909 and the infamous sinking happened in 1912. But fourteen years earlier, in 1898, a book came out called Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan, which describes in amazing detail the sinking of a ship much like the Titanic:
- In the book, the ship is called the Titan
- The book describes the Titan as “unsinkable”; the media used the same word for the Titanic
- The Titan was 800 ft long — the Titanic 883
- The Titan displaced 75,000 tons — the Titanic 53,000
- They both had a capacity of 3,000 people
- They both carried less than half the number of lifeboats needed: 24 for the Titan, 20 for the Titanic
- The Titan had 19 water-tight compartments — the Titanic, 16
- The Titan could stay afloat with 9 flooded compartments — the Titanic, 4
- They both hit an iceberg 400 miles from Newfoundland on an April night
- They were both going too fast when they hit the iceberg: the Titan at 25 knots, the Titanic at 22.5
- The Titan was carrying 2500 passengers — the Titanic, 2200
- Both went down bow first
There are differences too: the Titan was sailing backwards from the Titanic, from the US to Britain; 710 people survived the Titanic, but only 13 survived the Titan; the Titanic took over two hours to sink, but the Titan sank within minutes; the Titan had sails to assist the engines, and the Titanic did not. Still, the similarities are astounding.
Perhaps prophets, like dinosaurs, didn’t go extinct, and instead they evolved into fiction writers. In any case, these two are way better prophets than Nostradamus.