A coincidence is never seen as either natural or normal. Parapsychologists consider them to be “extraordinary” or “significant” facts. And some coincidences are more troubling than others. They are vertiginous and are said to be “exaggerated”… It then seems as if Destiny is giving us a friendly sign that we do not know how to interpret. Guy Breton gives here, a few examples:
Emile Deschamps, who was one of the authors of the slim book Huguenots, recounts a curious story. This story begins when he is in boarding-school in Orleans. One day, one of his fellow boarders says to him:
My uncle is organizing a little party for my birthday. Do you want to come? There will be games, food…”
Emile Deschamps, delighted, accepts and, the following Thursday, goes with a few fellow pupils to the home of Monsieur de Fontgibeau, an emigre who has recently returned from England. Around four o’clock, their host serves to his young guests a succulent plum pudding. This dish, almost unknown in France at this epoch, seems marvellous to the children and young Deschamps conserves a brilliant memory of it.
Ten years pass by. And one day when he is at a restaurant, in Paris, Boulevard Poissonniere, Emile Deschamps notices on the dessert table a magnificent plum pudding.
Images of the beautiful day spent at the home of Mr de Fontgibeau when he was a child come back to his mind and, “with a bit of sunshine in my heart”, he decides to order a serving of this dessert which he had never eaten since that day. But the server takes on an apologetic expression and informs him that this dessert has been reserved. Emile Deschamps asks him if the whole dessert has been reserved, and learns that it has.
The young man appears so disappointed that the cash-register lady decides to come to his aid. From where she is sitting, she addresses a client who is not far away from her:
“Monsieur de Fontgibeau, would you be kind enough to allow Monsieur to take a piece of your plum pudding?”
Emile Deschamps turns around, astounded, and looks toward a gentleman of respectable age who is dining with friends at a neighbouring table, and recognizes the lord of the manor at whose home he had once been in Orleans…
Mr de Fontgibeau addresses a smile to the lady at the cash-register and says:
“Of course! Serve a piece of plum pudding to this young man…”
Emile Deschamps, from his place, thanks the elderly man without daring however to make himself known to him…
Long years again pass by without a plum pudding or Mr de Fontgibeau crossing Emile Deschamps’ path.
And one day, the writer is invited to dinner by a charming lady who says to him:
“Dear Maitre, if you give me the pleasure of coming Friday evening, you will taste a real English plum pudding…”
Emile Deschamps bursts out laughing:
“Then, I warn you, dear Madame…, Mr de Fontgibeau will be there too!…”
A little intrigued, the lady of the house asks him who this Mr de Fontgibeau is.
“He’s an elderly gentleman who is always there when I eat plum pudding…”
And he laughingly recounts his two preceding meetings with him. Everyone laughs at the good joke. The hostess tells him that, unfortunately, this time, Mr de Fontgibeau will not be there to accompany him…
The day of the dinner arrives and, around nine o’clock in the evening, everyone is at the table around a magnificent plum pudding.
Suddenly, the door opens and a domestic announces:
“Monsieur de Fontgibeau…”
The ten guests, stunned, see entering an elderly man, walking with difficulty, who slowly moves around the table as if he were looking for someone.
Emile Deschamps firstly thinks that it is a joke played by one of his friends. But the elderly man having approached him, he recognizes him. It really is Mr de Fontgibeau himself. He writes in his Memoires:
“My hair stood on end. Don Juan was not more terrified before his stone guest.”
Then, the hostess asks the elderly man what he wants and he explains that he is invited to dinner by the Count de Clermont. The young woman says:
“Ah! It’s not here. The Count de Clermont lives on the floor above…”
And they all then understand that, by extraordinary luck, Mr de Fontgibeau, invited this same evening to the home of another lodger in the building, mistook the floor and entered there where, precisely, Emile Deschamps was about to eat plum pudding…
And the author of the Huguenots concludes in his Memoires:
“Three times plum pudding in my life, and three times Mr de Fontgibeau, that must mean something… But what?…”
Second example of exaggerated coincidence:
On 8 February 1970, Mrs Cantree, a farmer’s wife from Fort Worth, is returning from shopping in town. Entering her kitchen, she lets out a scream: on the tile floor, her younger son, Robert, aged eighteen, is lying in a pool of blood.
The police investigation establishes that, while cleaning his hunting gun, the young Robert Cantree unfortunately pulled the trigger. The bullet hit him in the head. In falling, the young man broke his watch which stopped at 11 : 30…
Mrs Cantree is naturally desperate.
A few weeks later, a telegramme emanating from the War Ministry informs her that her elder son, Adam, Corporal in the Marines, died in Viet-Nam, during an attack.
She collapses, thinking that, decidedly, fate is heaping particular cruelty on her.
Then time passes and one day, she receives the visit of one of her son’s fellow Marines. This young man explains to her that Adam died before his eyes:
“I can assure you, M’am, that he didn’t suffer. He received the bullet in the head. It was 8 February, at exactly 11 : 30. I wrote it down…”
So, twenty thousand kilometres apart, Mrs Cantree’s two sons had found the same tragic end, both killed by a bullet to the head, on exactly the same day, at the same time…
Third example of exaggerated coincidence:
In 1874, the sculptor Emmanuel Fremiet, wanting to make a statue of Jeanne d’Arc, took for model Mademoiselle Jeanne Laneau, not, of course, for her first name, but for her physique.
It is Jeanne Laneau who, Place des Pyramides, in Paris, today represents the Orleans Virgin.
However, in 1936, a fire having erupted in her bedroom, Mlle Jeanne Laneau was burned to death…
To be continued.