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From the Files of the RJ's Surrealist Research Bureau

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From the Files of the RJ's Surrealist Research Bureau

Strange synchronicities I have known

Call it a case of great minds thinking alike or as a mere coincidence, but astute readers of the River Journal may have noticed last month’s issue carried not one, but two separate articles (by myself and by Sandy Compton) dealing with the “third man phenomena,” which deals with the perception of an unknown presence, usually felt by high altitude climbers or deep earth coal miners. That serendipity led to this month’s column on coincidences.


One of the earliest, most famous incidents occurred in France to the poet Emile Deschamps, who shared a table at a restaurant one evening with a stranger, a certain M. deFortgibu, who prevailed upon the poet to try a dessert of plum pudding, a treat then unknown in France. Another ten years passed and Deschamps passed by a restaurant window in another city and saw a plum pudding being prepared. Recalling his earlier, sole taste of plum pudding he entered the cafe and ordered a slice, only to be told by the owner the newly-baked dessert was reserved for a gentleman at the corner table—who turned out to be the same M. DeFortgibu, who was delighted at the meeting and was happy to share the same dish for the second time.


Another ten years passed and Deschamps was invited to a dinner party in Paris which featured the English treat of plum pudding. He regaled his hosts with his tale of meeting M. Fortigbu the only other times he’d had plum pudding when there was a knock at the door. It was a stranger, lost, who was asking for directions. It was the elusive Mr. Fortigbu,  of course, who was promptly asked to join them for dinner. “Three times in my life I have eaten plum pudding and three times have I seen M. Fortigbu,” said Deschamps. “My hair stood on my head.”


Literary synchronicities abound. In Edgar Poe’s 1838 story “The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym” three starving, shipwrecked sailors murder and eat their cabin boy, a youth named Richard Parker. Fifty years after the story was written, three real-life shipwrecked sailors were tried and found guilty of murdering and eating their cabin boy—a youth named Richard Parker.


In a previous issue of TRJ I wrote at length on the baffling coincidences surrounding the 1898 pulp novel “Futility,” in which a colossal ship, the Titan, strikes an iceberg on her maiden voyage in about the same place and time as the later, ill-fated Titanic.


In London’s Savoy Hotel in 1953 newspaper columnist Irv Kupcinek was surprised to find items belonging to his old promoter, Harry Hannin, but just two days later Kupcinek received a letter from Harry Hannin from a hotel in Paris. It read: “You’ll never believe this but I’ve just opened a drawer here and found some things with your name on them!”


French astronomer Camille Flammarion was going over proofs of his major work, “The Atmosphere,” when a sudden windstorm sucked out of the window the chapter he’d just completed. A freak wind deposited the pages just a few blocks away at the feet of a messenger boy employed by Flammarion’s publisher who, thinking he must have dropped them himself, brought them to his boss. Thus was published, without the need to rewrite, the chapter titled “The Vagaries of the Wind.”


On a personal note, while doing a crossword puzzle with a friend some years ago the clue was “bird of Boston fame” and as the television blared in the background that Larry Bird was giving a speech in town, a large bird crashed into the living room window and a Fed-Ex employee knocked and the door to deliver a package. His name? Mr. Bird.


‘til next time, All Homage to Xena!


“The tongues of air and earth are strange. And yet (who knows) one little word
Learned from the languages of the bird
Might make us lords of Fate and Change.”
-Clark Ashton Smith

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Author info

Jody Forest Jody Forest When he's not hidden behind the palatial gates of his Dover estate, Casa de Bozo, Jody is out using outdated and corny pickup lines on various gullible women.

Tagged as:

third man phenomenon, Titanic, Titan, Emile Deschamps, Edgar Allen Poe, Futility, wind

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