8 Insane Coincidences You Won't Believe Happened (Pt. 2)
We've all lived through a coincidence that no one will ever believe happened, usually involving pop-ups of nude women appearing on your screen just when someone walks past your computer. Fortunately, the following coincidences are very well-documented, otherwise there's no way in hell we'd buy any of this shit.
Various World Leaders Fall to the "Two Pandas" Curse, All at the Same Time
In 1974, three world leaders were forced to step down. Their scandals weren't connected, but the three had one very strange, very specific thing in common: They had all been given exactly two pandas.
In 1976, the BBC ran a documentary called Very Important Pandas that pointed out this bizarre and quite frankly ridiculous coincidence. It starts with Richard Nixon, who was given two giant pandas by the Republic of China during a visit, because they didn't have time to buy him a box of chocolates and that was the first thing they found in the pantry. That was in 1972 -- Nixon Watergated his way out of the U.S. presidency two years later.
In retrospect, sending his clumsy pets to break into that office was kinda dumb.
Also in 1974, Edward Heath, the prime minister of Britain, quit his job following a series of miners' strikes in the same year. And what do you know, Heath had visited China months earlier and personally asked for two pandas.
"Making demands, eh? Give him some extra cursed ones."
But anything can happen twice, right?
Well, next came Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, who, besides being a freaking prince, was one of the founders of the World Wildlife Fund and the guy responsible for making pandas famous despite their biological incompetence. He was fired for getting involved in the Lockheed Corporation scandal -- the same scandal that caused the arrest of former Prime Minister Tanaka of Japan. Why "former"? Because he was given a pair of pandas in 1971 and resigned from office in -- you guessed it -- 1974.
Soon afterward, China threw her arms in the air, screamed "Fuck it!" and discontinued this trend of panda-trafficking, lest the whole world end up leaderless and embroiled in anarchy. Just as the pandas wanted.
The Little Rascals Curse Leaves Everyone Dead
Child stars tend to have rough lives, so it's not terribly surprising to find out that some stars of a classic kids' show died early deaths. But holy shit, nothing can prepare you for the parade of horror and brutality that was The Little Rascals curse.
This is different from the 1994 curse, which just left their careers dead.
The classic series of shorts (originally called "Our Gang") was about the misadventures of a group of neighborhood kids and began in the 1920s, because there was nothing more hilarious to pre-Great Depression America than watching poor children performing dangerous stunts. And speaking of depressing, the post-Little Rascals lives (or, more accurately, deaths) of these kids is enough to make anyone believe in curses.
It all started in the classic short "Our Gang Murders a Gypsy."
For starters, by the time The Little Rascals became a TV show in 1955, five of the original actors couldn't complain about the lack of residuals on account of already being dead. Billy "Froggy" Laughlin had been killed after getting hit by a truck at 16; Norman "Chubby" Chaney was nicknamed so due to a glandular ailment that caused him to pass away at the age of 21; and Clifton Young, who played Bonedust, became pretty much that when he fell asleep while smoking and died in a fire at 33. Another one, Donald Haines, was killed in action during World War II at 23, but at least he died a heroic death in combat -- unlike poor Bobby Hutchings ("Wheezer"), who died in a plane crash at 20 during routine army training.
"Yeah," you say, "but these were unhealthy people and military vets; maybe it's not so weird that they kept meeting unnatural ends."
Oh, we're not done. In 1959, Carl Switzer ("Alfalfa," the most popular one) was shot to death at 31 over $50. Even his brother died a tragic death, and that guy was only an extra. Scotty Beckett expired at 38 from a combination of drugs, alcohol, and getting the shit kicked out of him. Dorothy Dandridge found great success, got an Academy Award nomination ... and then still managed to fall on hard times and overdosed at 42. Jesus, did any of these people die of natural causes? Sure, Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas and Darla Hood did. Before reaching 50.
Plus the dog got rabies and Stymie's kickass derby was ruined by a dry cleaner.
Even those who thought they'd surely beaten the curse and lived to a ripe old age still couldn't avoid horrific ends: In May of 2002, 71-year-old Darwood Kaye was killed in a hit-and-run accident, and a few months after that, 87-year-old Jay R. Smith was stabbed to death by a homeless man.
This is some serious Final Destination shit here. But hey, at least Robert "Mickey" Blake seems to be doing all right.
We're not saying he sold the souls of 50 co-stars to the devil, but it sure would make a lot of sense.
The Hunt for an Unknown Thief Finds Him Just an Inch Away (on the Front Page)
On Christmas Day 2007, a local newspaper in Lewiston, Idaho, published the picture of a man who stole a woman's wallet from a store, hoping someone would help identify the asshole. The chances were slim, though: The security footage showed a heavyset white man with a goatee nabbing the wallet, which would be an original look in Nigeria or Vietnam, but not so much in Palesville, USA.
Unfortunately, Seth Rogen had an alibi.
However, by complete accident, the page where the thief's picture appeared in the newspaper offered a subtle clue to his identity. Below is the page exactly as it appeared that day. Can you solve this mystery?
Was it Santa?
Yes, it's the same guy in both pictures, wearing the same clothes, and no, the newspaper people didn't notice until the day's edition was ready to be printed -- a photographer for the paper just happened to snap a picture of some random store owner putting up Christmas decorations, because apparently there weren't any strange-looking squirrels going around that day, unaware that some editor had decided to put the thief story right under the "Let's fill some space with local bullshit" spot. That means that, the next morning, the cops concluded their investigation by simply sitting down and opening the paper, since it included not only two pictures of the suspect, but also his name and place of employment.
Michael Millhouse of Millhouse Signs was immediately arrested for stealing, which he protested by saying that he intended to turn over the wallet to the police, but forgot to do so. He also forgot to not spend $600 of the woman's money. Of course, this didn't stop the torrent of calls to the paper from people sure they were the first ones to crack open the case.
Two Photos of Abraham Lincoln Predict Future Events
Abraham Lincoln lived in an era when getting a photograph was about as common as having an artist paint a portrait of you. It was something for important and fancy folk, and in fact we only know of about 50 photos that were ever taken of Lincoln, the great majority of which show him by himself, because the man loved his selfies.
His arms were so long, you can't tell that he was holding the camera.
That's why it's so bizarre that, out of the relatively few photos of Honest Abe that were taken during his modeling career/presidency, two of the most unusual ones happen to contain glimpses into the next hundred years of U.S. history. For instance, these pictures from the Second Inaugural Address mark the only occasion someone was lucky enough to snag photos of Lincoln giving a speech:
"My fellow vampire hunt- wait, uh, wrong speech. Forget that."
Today it's common for celebrities like Beyonce or Bono to attend the presidential inauguration, and a pretty major one does show up in these photos: renowned actor John Wilkes Booth, who admittedly is best known for other reasons. According to the asshole assassin himself: "What an excellent chance I had to kill the president, if I had wished, on Inauguration Day!" Also in the shot are as many as five other players in the Booth conspiracy playing Where's Waldo?
You'd wuss out too if your target turned out to be a giant.
After Lincoln was assassinated a little more than a month later, his body was put on a train for a tour back to Illinois, which provided one hell of a depressing moment for one future president. Which one? Here, in a picture that went unnoticed until nearly a century after it was taken, is Lincoln's funeral procession moving up Broadway in New York City ... while a 6-year-old Theodore Roosevelt watches, alongside his younger brother Elliott.
It's either Roosevelt's brother or a small bear he had just tamed.
So one picture of Lincoln shows his future assassin, and another shows the guy he would sit next to on Mount Rushmore. It's a small world, but not that small.
Baseball Player Hits the Same Audience Member Twice, Even Though She Had Moved
Richie Ashburn was a Major League Baseball Hall of Famer with a record-breaking 1,875 hits in the 1950s alone and over 2,500 throughout his 15-year career -- the man was nature's response to the invention of the pitching machine.
To be fair, this was before hitting with three bats at the same time was made illegal.
And yet that's not what he's best remembered for. Nope, any achievement this man worked to accomplish in his life is dwarfed by the time he managed to hit a woman in the face, twice, while standing hundreds of feet away from her, even though she was no longer in her seat the second time.
On August 17, 1957, during a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Giants, Ashburn went to bat for the Phillies and hit a foul ball, which lingered in the air long enough to find a worthy target: a woman sitting in the audience who only had time to think: "Hey, I think that's coming this w-" before the ball kissed her square in the nose. The injury was so severe, in fact, that the game had to be stopped so the paramedics could come take her away. The game resumed once the woman lay safely on a stretcher in the aisle -- or not so safely, because a different goddamn foul ball somehow made its way in and hit her again.
The batter? The same goddamn Richie Ashburn.
"Just trying to knock your nose back into place."
Now, the story would have been weird enough if Ashburn had hit some random lady he'd never see again in his life, but that wasn't the case. The woman with the doubly broken nose was Alice Roth, the wife of Earl Roth, the sports editor of the Philadelphia Bulletin ... the same Philadelphia Bulletin that Ashburn would end up writing sports columns for after retiring from smashing balls, records, and the laws of probability. The Roths actually became friends with Ashburn, presumably because they realized that keeping him less than 100 feet away would decrease the chances of getting hit again.
A World War II Seaman Is Saved by a Life Belt His Mother Made (in a Factory on the Other Side of the World)
We love heartwarming war stories as much as anyone, but some of them get so unrealistically cute that, like an episode of VeggieTales, they end up circling back to "slightly creepy." A prime example is the case of the U.S. serviceman in the South Pacific who was saved not once but twice by his mother ... while she was all the way back home in Ohio.
During World War II, Elgin Staples was a crewman on the USS Astoria. While off the coast of Guadalcanal during the summer of 1942, Staples finished his shift and took a nap, only to be awakened by the sound of his cruiser being killed. But, before the ship under his feet ceased to exist and he fell into the water, Staples had time to strap on a handy life belt, which allowed him to stay afloat long enough to be rescued by another U.S. ship.
Unfortunately, his second ride wasn't in much better shape than the first, and it too ended up sinking -- once more, the young man's life was saved by his lucky life belt. Upon taking a closer look at the belt, Staples noticed that, like him, it hailed from Akron, Ohio, so he decided to keep it as a souvenir.
We're not sure if "never taking it off for the rest of his life, just in case" counts as keeping a souvenir.
After the war, Staples returned home to tell his family about his crazy adventures. When his mom (perhaps hoping to upstage him) mentioned that she too did her part for the war effort by working at a local Firestone plant, Staples told her the belt had been manufactured there. However, they went from "Aw, what are the odds?" to complete stunned silence when the mother looked over the belt to find her inspector's number on it. She had personally inspected, approved, and stamped the reliable device that saved her boy's life. Twice.
At least that explains why she dressed him in a sailor's suit until he was 20.
Four People from Michael J. Fox's First Sitcom Have a Rare Version of Parkinson's Disease
We're pretty sure that if Michael J. Fox had an actual time machine, he'd go back and stop himself from appearing in Leo and Me, a Canadian sitcom he starred in as a teenager. Not because it was terrible (it was), but because apparently there was something about that show that gave non-senior citizens Parkinson's disease. We're not sure what's creepier: if this is some unexplained medical phenomenon or "just" a staggering coincidence.
"Shit, I thought this was the sitcom for the kid that would star in Teen Wolf Too. My bad." -karma
Leo and Me lasted only 13 episodes, and even though it provided Fox with his first major television role, the show seemed destined to remain a five-second clip in the actor's Biography episode. That is, until someone discovered a disturbing thing about it in 2002: A total of four people who worked on Leo and Me, including Fox, have been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Oh, and they all got it before the age of 60 and were diagnosed around the same time. That's like the cast of The Golden Girls coming down with chicken pox.
"We all shared crabs. Does that count?"
Let's put this whole thing into perspective: One of the reasons everyone was so shocked about Fox announcing that he had Parkinson's was because the disease is usually reserved for geezers over 60, and he still looked like a 17-year-old at age 37. In general, the odds of being afflicted with Parkinson's are 1 in 300. Unless, that is, you happened to work on Leo and Me at some point -- then the odds go up 4 in 125, or just over 1 in 30.
Were the crew members exposed to some sort of mysterious viral infection inside the Vancouver studio where they shot the show? Did they piss off the same Gypsy and get hit with the same curse? Or were they bitten by someone with Parkinson's and then slowly turned into Parkinson's sufferers themselves during a basketball game? All explanations are just as feasible, because science has no freaking idea.
Finnish Twins Die on the Same Road ... Two Hours Apart
When we at Cracked told you about the time that two brothers were killed on the same road by the same cab carrying the same passenger a year apart from each other, even we had a tough time believing such a twist of fate was possible. Looking back, the most unusual thing about that story for us isn't that we had to go all the way to the Library of Congress to confirm it, or that it caused Reader's Digest to ask for permission to reprint a Cracked article -- nope, the freakiest part is that it happened again. And this time, it was with twins.
On March 6, 2002 in Raahe, Finland, a 70-year-old man was hit by a truck and killed while out for a bike ride.
He wanted to take advantage of the fact that there was unusually little snow that day for Finland.
It was a tragic bit of irony, since the old man's twin brother had suffered a similar fate, being hit by a truck while riding his bike ... only two hours earlier.
Less than a mile away.
While crossing the same goddamn street.
"Didn't we already pick this one up?"
It's not like they lived together and did the exact same bike ride every day to confuse toll booth operators -- according to Finnish reports from the time, one lived in Raahe, and the other in the neighboring municipality of Pattijoki. Seriously, we're almost pissed off to report that they weren't hit by the same truck, since in that case we'd be able to chalk this up as some sort of serial killer out for twins. In this case, we just have to live in a world where identical twins can suffer identical deaths in such close succession to each other that it's likely the second victim didn't even know of his brother's death.
In short, if you're a twin and you find yourself on a bike trip, stay the hell away from Finland.
Robin Warder is the co-owner of a pop culture website called The Back Row and helped make Jet Ranger of Another Tomorrow. For more shocking tales that only history could have make possible, pre-order Jacopo's THE GREAT ABRAHAM LINCOLN POCKET WATCH CONSPIRACY! Chan Teik Onn has a Facebook account.
For more shit we couldn't possibly make up, check out 29 Mind-Blowing Coincidences You Won't Believe Happened.
Related Reading: Not done with coincidences? Check out the terrifying explanation behind Operation Barbarossa. Oh, and then there's the hack writer who predicted the Titanic's sinking fourteen years early. And did you know the X-Men were a product of Stan Lee's laziness? We live in a world built by coincidence.