(Submitted by reader, Tamara Rousso)
Spring 2001 found us as members of a very liberal, free thinking, support-you-where-you’re-at kind of spiritual fellowship in Southern California. We were new to the area and had made friends with a local family that homeschooled just as we did and also attended the fellowship.
The dad, Patrick, was a stay-at-home dad, I was a stay-at-home mom, our kids were close in age, and we found ourselves getting together for play dates quite often. Barbara, the mom, along with my husband, Mo, were in the trenches supporting our life style choice of a stay-at-home parent, and when we got together for family functions we all very much enjoyed each others company.
One day at the fellowship Barbara wished me a happy birthday. I thanked her and she told me it was also Patrick’s birthday. I didn’t give that much thought as it is not so uncommon to share a birthday with another person. A couple of weeks later found us at their home, along with Patrick’s father (his mother was deceased), having dinner. Patrick mentioned us sharing the same birthday, and asked what year I was born. I had always assumed Patrick was a few years older than I because he was completely gray. But, no, it turned out that he had grayed prematurely and was born the same year I was.
Then Patrick asked where I was born, to which I replied “Denver, Colorado.” Patrick said “I was born in Denver, Colorado!” Now it was getting a little weird. I grew up in Wyoming, and Patrick grew up overseas with a traveling engineer father. We had both ended up settling in Southern California, and here we were at the same table finding out that not only did we share the same birth date and birth year, but also the same birth city far away.
“What hospital were you born in?” was Patrick’s next question. “I don’t know,” I replied, “but I was adopted out of St. Joseph’s Orphanage”. Patrick’s father piped up and said “I do remember an orphanage not far from the hospital”. Chances are that we were born at the same hospital.
“What time were you born?” asked Patrick. He continued, “I know I was born at 1:12pm because a friend did an astrology chart for me once and needed to know the time.” I replied that I really didn’t know, but I thought it was in the evening.
Not too long after that I had reason to get my birth certificate out, and decided to check the time of birth. (Insert the music from the Twilight Zone here.) Imagine my surprise to see that it stated 1:12pm!
That began the very long search to find some meaning to this bizarre series of coincidences. Maybe Patrick’s mother had brought us together from the grave because we were twins separated at birth? We were very similar in personality and, also shared certain physical characteristics. I decided to search for a birth mother, and if I didn’t find one we would do DNA testing.
A few months later a birth mother was identified, but she was deceased. Maybe it wasn’t true then. Maybe she was just a shill for the Catholic Church, a cover if you will, so they could carry out a maniacal social engineering plot. But a half-sister was found and while I look nothing like the birth family I do share many personality traits.
Okay, so if not a Catholic Church conspiracy maybe there is some truth to astrology the thinking went. Maybe that explains why we were so similar – not related but destined to be similar by virtue of our birth dates!
In the end we accepted the inevitable. Random coincidences that made for an interesting story. But it does make one wonder – what are the odds?!
Below are the extended notes provided by Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 188. Take a look and leave your comments below.
The “cosmic twin” kind of coincidences in this story are reminiscent of the classic Kennedy/Lincoln connection. When human beings notice two or more things occurring together which appear to be related, we use a cognitive short cut and assume that they are related (illusory correlation). When we look for relationships, we tend to notice more, remember more, and assign more weight to the “hits” than the “misses” (the confirmation bias).
Discovering common features is easy – just look for them. This is how “data mining” reveals meaningless anomalies which scientists mistake for real relationships.
The best way to determine if an apparent relationship is meaningful is to develop a specific hypothesis and test it. In this situation, if the author suspected that the friend was a long-lost twin, DNA testing could be done. Otherwise, this is a set of interesting coincidences, some with crazy, but not unheard of odds, which were noticed only when the participants when looking for them. Imagine how many of these kinds of coincidences could be found if we took detailed inventories of all of our friends?