History, as we have established earlier, is replete with mysteries, conflicts and grandeur. And now, we will prove that history does indeed repeat itself through perplexing scenarios, flummoxing incidents, and confusing variables. So, without further ado, let us take a gander at ten of the most baffling coincidences from the expansive ambit of past events.
1) Romulus and Romulus –
The twin brothers Romulus and Remus were considered the legendary founders of Rome, being sired by either the war god Mars or the demi-god Hercules, but nourished by a she-wolf (or lupa in Latin). According to the legend, the very name Rome came from Romulus, after he killed his twin, and successfully established a new settlement on the Palatine Hill in 753 BC. Romulus was also said to create Rome’s very first legions and the senate – which ultimately paved the way for the mighty Roman Republic of the ancient world.
Oddly enough, the very last Western Roman emperor was also named Romulus Augustus. Often nicknamed as “Romulus Augustulus” (Augustulus meaning ‘little Augustus’), he might have inherited the crown at a very young age of 12 years (after the previous emperor Julius Nepos was unceremoniously deposed) – thus effectively making his father Orestes the true power-holder. Anyhow, his paltry 10-month old rule came to an abrupt end, when Germanic warlord Odoacer forcefully took the crown for himself in 476 AD, thus signalling the end of the Western Roman Empire. And, in case you are wondering – Romulus Augustus took the Romulus title from his maternal grandfather; and so it was not directly related to the legendary founder who supposedly lived almost 1,200 years earlier to him.
2) The deaths of Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams –
July 4, better known as the American Independence Day, was also the day when two of United States’ eminent presidents breathed their last. Quite peculiarly, both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on not only the same day, but also in the very same year 1826 (James Monroe, the fifth president of US, also died on July 4, but in the year 1831) . And, if you are supporter of round figures – this date was exactly 50 years after the alleged signing of the Declaration of Independence, in July 4, 1776!
Now, we did use the term ‘alleged’, because according to some modern estimates, July 4 was probably not the day that the ceremonious signing took place. Instead the date might have actually been on August 2, 1776 – when a clean copy was finally acquired by Timothy Matlack, who was the assistant to the secretary of Congress. But that’s another story altogether, unrelated to the coincidence in question here.
And, since we brought that up – it is widely believed that John Adams uttered the poignant words “Jefferson survives,” before he died; but in truth, Thomas Jefferson breathed his last about 5 hours earlier than Adams. Then again, this entire episode might have been an embellishment, since no record survives of such a monologue.
3) Good ole friends: Halley’s Comet and Mark Twain –
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, or better known as Mark Twain, was arguably the greatest American humorist of the 19th century. But beyond novels and stories, Twain’s destiny was literally astronomical in every sense of the word. This is because the great writer was born on November 30, 1835 – a date which was just 2 weeks after Halley’s Comet’s closest approach to earth. Later in his life, Twain made a witty remark (among many) –
I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together’.
Quite aptly, his prediction turned out to be correct, with the writer breathing his last in April 21, 1910, which was just one day after the comet’s closest approach to Earth.
4) Wilmer McLean: A man ‘pursued’ by the American Civil War –
The curious case of Wilmer McLean started in July 21, 1861, at the Battle of Bull Run – which was the first major battle of the American Civil War. Much of this history-defining battle was fought on McLean’s property, with the prelude being fueled by Confederate general P.G.T. Beauregard’s decision to use the farmhouse as his headquarters. As such, the Union soldiers considered this civilian residence a legitimate target, which led to a Union fired shell landing and exploding on the house’s very kitchen table.
McLean, being a 47-year old Virginia-based merchant and farmer, had his occupations severely affected by the ongoing war. So, he decided to move to the safer part of the state with his family, and finally settled on a newly established homestead, in a community-town known as Appomattox Courthouse. Queerly enough, after almost four years, the American Civil War followed him to this new settlement, with General Ulysses S. Grant’s (of the Union Army) decision to use McLean’s house as a location for an impromptu parlay with his adversary General Robert E. Lee (of the Confederate Army). Some hours later, the Union commander received the formal surrender of Lee’s forces, with the agreement being sealed inside McLean’s very own living room.
But all didn’t end well for Wilmer McLean, with the soldiers stationed outside the house ransacking and looting the homestead (mostly for souvenirs), just after the surrender was formalized. It is even known that the famed George Armstrong Custer took away the desk upon which the surrender paper was officially drafted. Later on, McLean sardonically said that the American Civil War “started in his front yard and ended in his front parlor”.
5) October 8, 1871 – the day of ‘fires’ –
October 8, 1871, was certainly a foreboding day in US history, with firestorms damaging a whopping 6,100 sq km (2,300 sq mi) of land around the region of Peshtigo, Wisconsin. In fact, this is recorded as the most disastrous fire occurring on American soil, with estimated deaths of over 2,000 people. Some anecdotes from the calamitous event relate to how the sandy beaches turned to glass and rail-cars were tossed – due to the engulfing heat wave that reached over 160 kph (100 mph).
And while, Peshtigo was bombarded by such a firestorm, Chicago (which is 250 miles south of Peshtigo) was also pummeled by nature’s wrath on October 8, 1871 – which resulted in one of the great fires experienced by the city inhabitants. And, oddly enough, that was not all. Beyond Wisconsin and Illinois, even the state of Michigan was severely affected by raging fires, all starting on October 8, 1871.
Now, researchers have looked into this inexplicable historical coincidence of a mass scale; and a few among them have concluded that it might have been the handiwork of methane supplied by the Comet Biela that was spotted over the Midwestern region. Others have provided a hypothesis that the massive fire outbreak may have been caused by an airburst over an existing forest fire. To that end, there had been random reports from Wisconsin on how the state people had witnessed odd occurrences, like – blue flaming orbs, spontaneous ignition events, and even balls of fire.