Do you believe in strange coincidences?
March 23, 2015
“What’s the matter, Myrtle?” Alice was a bit worried. She had been watching her older sister for several minutes as she sat in her chair across the room working crossword puzzles under the light of a table lamp with a cocked shade. She observed Myrtle putting the puzzle book down several times and rubbing her face with her hands. She looked as if she were in considerable pain.
Myrtle removed her hands from her face and answered. “Oh, it’s nothing, I guess. Do I seem to have been acting funny, peculiar, lately?”
“No, you have been your regular old self, nothing odd about you at all. Why?”
“I am convinced I am going downhill, mentally. I feel as if I am getting ready to descend into some twilight area.”
“What on earth makes you think this, dear? You are just barely retirement-age.”
“Remember how we were just talking about Burns and Allen at breakfast—how funny they were? Remember how we re-watched that old movie, A Christmas Carol last night on TV? Remember how we were talking about our Aunt Matilda in Memphis and how she always made corn pone to go with her greens—real, old fashioned corn pone, with cracklings?”
“Yes, dear, I remember all of that. Why?” Alice asked.
“Well, I have worked three puzzles this morning. One of the clues was ‘half of a famous comedy team.’ The answer was ‘Gracie.’ Another clue was ‘player of Scrooge in early movie based on a work by Dickens.’ The answer was ‘Sims.’ Another clue in another puzzle was ‘type of southern bread.’ The answer was corn pone.”
“Well, that is odd, sister, but only coincidence, wouldn’t you think?”
“Yes I would think so, except for one thing.”
“These coincidences are happening with greater and greater frequency. The last two years they have been happening with almost unbearable regularity, several times a day. And, they happen no matter what puzzles I am working on. The clues or answers will be something recently discussed or viewed or even something that has popped into my mind the moment before. I work puzzles from The New York Times, from Dell, from Penny Power, from local newspapers. It doesn’t make any difference which brand of puzzles I am working on, the coincidences occur over and over again in the clues and answers. Or, I will be singing a song out loud and sing a word, exactly at the same time an announcer on TV says that very same word. It will not be a common word, either, something very unusual.”
“Yes, Myrtle, that is unnerving, but you are not losing your mind. There is a name for it—I can’t remember. I will go look it up in one of my unexplained mystery books. I don’t know why these incidences have happened more frequently, the older you got. That part is perplexing.”
“I mislay things.” Myrtle continued. “Last week I mislaid my spectacles. I hunted all over for them. I opened a drawer and there at the front of the drawer was an old pair of spectacles I had been searching for, for years—just right there at the front of the drawer in plain sight. The pair of spectacles I was really looking for was right on top of my head, naturally—such a nitwit! Mercy me! But how and why were the old lost spectacles staring me right in the face when I opened my nightstand drawer? It was like a poltergeist just plopped them in there, overnight……”
Alice could hear her sister droning on as she searched for the unexplained mystery book in her bedroom. When she spied it, she pulled it from its spot and carried it into the front room. “I have located the unusual mystery book Myrtle. This will prove to you that as pesky as this situation is, it is normal and there is a name for it. I hope it will allay your fears.”
“It happens so much and so often, that I am quite concerned, but tell me what you have, Alice, or read it to me please,” Myrtle requested.
“Aha! It is called ‘synchronicity.’”
“Yes, I do know that word, but not in this context. I thought it just meant things happening at the same time, as in ‘let us synchronize our watches.’ Do go on, Alice.”
“Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst and philosopher actually coined the word. He did not want people confusing this phenomenon with the word ‘coincidence.’ He felt they should have two separate connotations. He defined synchronicity as the meaningful coincidence of a psychic and physical event that have no causal relationship with each other.”
“Hmmmmm. So Jung wanted people to know it really existed and was not just some kind of paranormal gibberish.”
“Exactly! Well, pretty much, exactly.” Alice agreed before she continued. “I am going to give you some examples, Myrtle. Jung once had a young patient that was often dreaming about golden scarab beetles. As she was describing one of these dreams while in psychoanalysis with Jung, a beetle flew in the window and made itself obvious. There are no scarab beetles in Switzerland, but it was the nearest facsimile to a scarab that Switzerland can claim, a rose chafer. Jung started compiling research on events of synchronicity.
There was a woman in Germany who shot a roll of film of her son in 1914. She took it to get developed. Because of some of the terrifying activities of WWI, she was not able to collect the developed film. Two years later, she took another roll of film of the same son. When she went to collect these pictures from the developer, located in a shop much distant from the first, she found that the current photos were superimposed on the photos she had taken two years earlier. How is this even possible? The answer had to be that her first roll of exposed film had somehow been repackaged as new film and sold to her.”
“Yes, this is getting warm on the type of events I am experiencing. It seems like these types of coincidences defy almost all odds.”
“Now, you will like this, Myrtle, as it also involves crossword puzzles. The Invasion of Normandy, D-Day, was going to be a top secret event, as you know. It had some code names involved, including ‘overlord,’ ‘Utah,’ and ‘Omaha.’ There was great alarm when these three words turned up in crosswords of The London Daily Telegraph, over and over again in the days preceding the invasion. The MPs raided the newspaper office, expecting to find a spy, or worse. Instead they found a bookworm-man who had been composing the puzzles there for over twenty years. He had no knowledge of D-Day or the invasion. It was all coincidence, and quite creepy at that.”
“Oh my goodness. That is hitting kind of close to home—a condition, or whatever you want to call it, similar to mine.”
“If you are still curious, I will try to locate one of Jung’s books on just this subject alone—or his original essay, ‘Synchronicity,’ translated, to see if we can find more examples. He may have started his thinking process on this subject by examining a stranger story, still. I am only guessing.”
“And what was that, Alice?”
“The story of a Frenchman named Deschamps. When Deschamps was a lad, he was given some plum pudding by a family friend. The family friend’s name was de Fortgibu. Later in life, Deschamps ordered a plum pudding in a Paris restaurant. The waiter was sad to have to explain that the last plum pudding had been snatched up a short time earlier by man named M. de Fortgibu.
Even later on in his life, this man Deschamps was invited to a party. There he was asked if he would like to share in some of the plum pudding being served. As he delighted in the flavor, he commented that the only thing absent from this plum pudding event was his old friend de Fortgibu—he said this rather in jest. But, at that very moment, a stumbling, senile old man entered the room of the party by mistake—he had taken a wrong turn on the street. The old man who entered by mistake was actually his old friend de Fortgibu.”
“Oh, these stories are uncanny in their coincidences!” Myrtle exclaimed. “I imagine there are hundreds of them documented by researchers.”
“Here is another one, Myrtle. In a November of 1911 issue of The New York Herald it was reported that Sir Edmundbury Godfrey was murdered by three characters. The place of the crime was Greenberry Hill. To make the account of interest to us, it would be important for me to mention that the three men eventually convicted of the crime were named, Green, Berry, and Hill.”
“No! You don’t say. That is very, very odd. This synchronicity thing does bother me, but it seems like it has been going on for years and no one is immune from it. That is a small relief to me, anyway.”
Alice carried her mystery book back to its home in the bookcase and stopped to get the mail that had come in through the chute. As she glanced at Myrtle she noticed she had been working another puzzle and had stopped to put her puzzle down and was rubbing her face again. Not a good sign at all. “Myrtle, here is a letter from our cousin.” Myrtle looked up as Alice started to read in hopes it would cheer her sister up.
“Hello Cousins. I don’t want to impose but I will be coming through your fair city and thought I would stop by on the twenty-fifth, if it is all right. I won’t be staying long. I just wanted to visit for a minute. I am on my way to a symposium at Washington U. in St. Louis. It is on the works of the great psychoanalyst and philosopher, Carl Jung. Have you ever heard of this interesting man? I have always…”
Neither sister, Alice or Myrtle seemed to hear the rest of the letter, even as Alice continued to read it aloud.
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