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Coincidence Magnet

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"Why does this keep happening to us?!"
Holly Gennaro-McClane, Die Hard 2

For most people, a unique once-in-a-lifetime occurrence is a rare event that may have long-lasting consequences. For others, it's almost routine. When extraordinary things happen to otherwise normal people with alarming frequency, they're Coincidence Magnets. Separate from Weirdness Magnet in that the unlikely things that keep happening aren't supernatural or paranormal in origin; they're perfectly reasonable things that could easily be coincidences, except for the fact that they're staggeringly unlikely and they just keep happening to otherwise normal people. If you discover your neighbor is actually a werewolf, at which point you're both abducted by aliens, and you escape only to stumble into the war against The Legions of Hell, you might be a Weirdness Magnet. If your girlfriend comes down with a disease afflicting only a handful of people on the planet, but you're able to afford the cure by winning the lottery, and then secret agents start trying to kill you because of the classified information hidden in the used car you just bought, which is eventually destroyed by a meteorite striking it with just enough force to reduce it to cinders while leaving everything around it completely untouched, you're probably a Coincidence Magnet.

If you would have said it was literally impossible until it happened to you (because it involves magic, aliens, time travel, demons, or something similar), you're a Weirdness Magnet. If the events in your life were always possible, but just had a trillion-to-one chance for any of them to happen (much less all of them), then you're a Coincidence Magnet. If you're encountering a lot of murders or other crimes by pure coincidence, but nothing else unlikely, you're a Mystery Magnet.

Related to Busman's Holiday; Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, and the like were unable to visit friends, go to a party, or take a holiday without someone being murdered nearby.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Recovery of an MMO Junkie, the characters have an amazing number of coincidental connections, in a country of 127 million people. Yuta Sakurai becomes best friends with Moriko Morioka in an MMO. It turns out he has a friend at work who used to talk to Moriko on the phone a lot for business reasons. Yuta was very impressed by a personnel manual Moriko wrote back then. He runs into her by accident in a convenience store, where they both want the last piece of chicken. Later, they collide by a street corner where he accidentally knocks her unconscious with his elbow. His friend from work also has a chance encounter with Moriko, recognizes her voice from back then and asks her out. And ... it just so happens that Yuta and Moriko used to be best friends in another MMO, many years back. And the student behind the counter in the convenience store? He's Yuta's and Moriko's guild leader in the game.
  • The main characters of Planetes, in the course of the series, rescue a handful of people from a fire on the Moon, capture a ship dumping illegal waste, foil an elaborate terrorist plot, locate and remove a Kill Sat disguised as debris, and foil another elaborate terrorist plot. This from people who are, in essence, garbagemen in space.
  • Mana Inuyama of GeGeGe no Kitarō has this as an inherent trait. When she and Kitaro meet, she ends up giving Kitaro an advantage in the fight with an enemy yokai after tripping on a stray bottle causes a Rube Goldberg effect that ends up blinding it momentarily. When Miage-Nyudo traps people inside of a stadium, Mana shows up offering blueprints for the building, because not only did her father design the place, but he left his password posted next to his computer so Mana could access them in the first place.

    Comic Books 
  • Hellblazer John Constantine himself invokes this purposely on occasion with what he calls a "synchronicity highway" when he needs to get something or somewhere special. He's also a natural Weirdness Magnet to cover all bases.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Naruto fanfic It's For a Good Cause, I Swear!, bizarre and unlikely situations frequently befall Kakashi and whomever he's with at the time. Obito and Sasuke hang a lampshade a few times.
  • Izuku in Unlimited has run into so many crimes on accident over the course of a year that he's the reason an AI's systems recognize bad luck as a variable in it's calculations. Though some of it is because the local police are fully aware he's a Lightning Bruiser on par with All-Might and deliberately let him wander into those situations rather than keep him behind the police line because it resolves said situations faster.
  • In Hope on a Distant Mountain, Danganronpa's Truth Bullet system is Deconstructed when Asahina suggests that all of the random pieces of evidence Naegi was able to remember may have been deliberately set up that way. Later, Kirigiri declares that his tendency to present so many pieces of coincidental evidence is actually 'evidence' that he's a constructed being like Kamukura, who possesses a similar ability to remember seemingly useless facts. She considers that far more likely than an Ordinary High-School Student being able to compete with her in her own field.

  • The X-Wing Series novels are guilty of this multiple times:
    • In the Rogue Squadron arc, Corran Horn is the focus of this. Corran was a member of the Corellian Security Force (read: a cop on Corellia) prior to joining the Rebellion, and Rogue Squadron repeatedly ends up encountering people who know him (or his father, who was also in CorSec) from those days. The Dragon of the arc as a whole was the Imperial Liaison officer over Corran (and the two hate each other), one of the criminals that Rogue Squadron releases so they can help fight the Empire is someone that Corran caught and imprisoned in the first place (and the two hate each other), and his Love Interest's father was caught by his father (and the two hate each other).
    • The undercover mission to Coruscant turns into this as well. Corran and his group nearly have their cover blown after randomly running across the only Imperial on the planet who can identify Corran by sight (The Dragon mentioned above). Aftward, Corran decides to go for a walk to clear his head, and ends up in a random bar, where he spots another member of Rogue Squadron who wasn't supposed to be involved with the undercover mission because he's suspected of being a spy. Before Corran can investigate, he's accosted by an old enemy of his (the Boxed Crook mentioned above), who's also randomly at that particular bar at that particular time. He decides to kill Corran. The result is a Chase Scene where Corran inadvertently sends one of his pursuers through the window of a safe house where several members of Rogue Squadron are laying low, and then crashing into an industrial warehouse where the rest of the Rogues are about to be executed by the local anti-Imperial movement, just in time for an Imperial raid against the locals (the timing of which is unrelated to the Rogue Squadron activity in the area). All of this happens within the space of an hour or so, and each event is completely unrelated to the rest — meaning that Corran stumbles through all of it entirely by coincidence.
    • In the Wraith Squadron arc, the Wraiths have not one but two members who are the only example of their species in the New Republic militarynote  and have to pretend to have a thirdnote  later on. Other squadron members include The Molenote  and the Sole Survivor of a squadron that The Mole helped destroyed (who, not knowing her true identity, falls in love with her).
    • They also mastermind a half dozen counter-intelligence operations, ultimately leading to the defeat of the Big Bad, through a combination of being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and being so completely insane that no one can predict what they'll do next. They uncover a planned surprise attack on their base by accidentally intercepting some enemy communications, allowing the base to be evacuated. They then fall into a trap set for anyone who managed to escape the surprise attack. Falling into the trap allows them to 1) accidentally uncover an enemy project to map secret bases, and 2) impersonate the captain and crew of an enemy ship by ambushing and capturing it when it comes to investigate the trap they fell into. And the only reason that was possible is because 1) one of the squadron's pilots happens to be a master actor, and 2) the captain recorded both the ship's logs and his personal diaries as full holographs (rather than the standard text format), allowing them to both analyze him well enough to impersonate him and rig up an overlay in their communication system, so anyone who called would see the captain's image and voice projected over the actor's movements and words. Later on, the project that produced Piggy turns out to have been run by one of the Big Bad's shell companies, so his personal experience with them becomes instrumental in anticipating and countering their plans.
  • The protagonist of Robert A. Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy is a slave boy whose owner turns out to be an anti-slavery secret agent. He ends up escaping by being adopted into the notoriously clannish and hateful-of-outsiders society of spacefaring traders. Eventually, he leaves them and ends up as a fire-control officer on a military ship. When his enlistment papers go through, they identify him as the son-and-sole-heir of the late owner of a Mega-Corp on Earth. Upon returning to Earth, he must wrest control of his company back from the Corrupt Corporate Executive that's been running it in the meantime. Any one of these could have made an interesting and exciting story; the protagonist goes through all of them before he's turns 20.
  • Grant and Christina from Carole Marsh's mystery books. They're not even teenagers, but they've already visited almost every state in the Union and several foreign countries, met the President of the United States at least twice (Once after sneaking into the Oval Office and nearly spraying him with a fire extinguisher), run the Boston Marathon, and recovered the Statue of Liberty's torch, a functioning model of the Wright Flyer and a T-Rex skeleton after these things were stolen (By separate people!).
  • The concept of ta'veren in The Wheel of Time
  • This is the entire premise of a short story, in which a man tells a boy the story of his life and how it entirely is composed of events which were theoretically possible, but extremely unlikely (his bread always landing butter side up, his body briefly becoming magnetized, breaking a glass with the sound of a violin playing, etc). It gets so bad that a woman he was walking with actually flew away!
  • The Hardy Boys, in most of their novels, can't go anywhere without being involved in hijinks or mayhem. Occasionally they are dragged into it by their incompetent friend or their girlfriends.
  • One of the recurring themes of the Liaden Universe series by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller is that There Are No Coincidences. The Korval clan comes in for special attention from fate (or "the Luck" as the characters themselves have it), perhaps due in part to Cantra's role in leading humanity to that universe. It is demonstrated repeatedly that members of Korval's families are magnets (or "nexuses" as the characters have it) for strangely unlikely chance. This tends to result in members of the family ending up in impossibly coincidental situations that can leave other characters shaking their heads (and often, quite reasonably from their perspective, seeing conspiracies where only coincidence exists).
    • It is actually hard to decide whether Coincidence Magnet or Weirdness Magnet is more apt, since from the point of view of Clan Korval there is nothing supernatural about the Lost Technology, aliens, or psychic powers they keep encountering. But the mundanes who frequently get caught up in events and swept along in Korval's wake would have different opinions…
  • Bink's Talent in the Xanth series manifests itself this way. His Talent protects him from any form of magical harm and has an extremely broad definition of what this includes. In particular, if people knew about his Talent, they would attack him through mundane means which means his Talent (which is magical) would be causing him harm. As a result the Talent protects him via coincidences that prevent magic from harming him will still keeping the Talent secret.
  • The Lucky Duck in Callahan's Crosstime Saloon is explicitly this, and not a Weirdness Magnet. The iron laws of probability tend to turn into extremely silly putty around him, but he doesn't do miracles. For instance, getting a working username and password by randomly mashing keys is a normal day for him, but he denies all responsibility for the computer running when not plugged in.
  • Lonesome Dove (both novel and mini-series) starts out with Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call on their ranch on the Rio Grande and follows them on a cattle drive to central Montana, about 1600 miles away. A subplot involves July Johnson, a lawman from Fort Smith, Arkansas — about 800 miles from the starting point — who goes in search of Jake Spoon, a former associate of McCrae and Call. Another involves a renegade named Blue Duck, who was believed to be in New Mexico. So, considering there is literally more than a million square miles between these three points on the map, and that everybody is either on horseback or on foot, it's amazing how often people from these three camps just happen to cross paths with each other.
  • The Infinite Improbability Drive from The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy does this as a side effect of its highly unorthodox faster-than-light travel method. The first time Zaphod and Trillian use it, they accidentally pick up Ford and Arthur, who were dumped out of an airlock in a random location in deep space and would have suffocated if the unintentional rescue had occurred a few seconds later or a minute earlier. Then it turns out that they all know each other. Another example is a character who has been reincarnated countless times into countless forms and beings, and is always mistakenly killed by Arthur. One of his doomed incarnations was a bowl of petunias.
    Zaphod: Is this kind of thing going to happen every time we use the Infinite Improbability Drive?
    Trillian: Very probably, I'm afraid.
  • Most Pulp Magazine heroes were this to one extent or another, but Lord Greystoke took it up a notch. By the third act of the second book, for example, Tarzan, his lifelong love (and her family), his rival for her affections (and holder of Tarzan's rightful peerage), his first recurring enemy, and his first and best human friend are all reunited. In Africa within a mile of the cabin where Tarzan grew up. Despite having embarked on three different ships from three different continents, with no intention of coming anywhere near the place. And it goes from there...
  • Job, from The Bible, fits into this trope in a different way. From the point of view of God, Satan, and whoever is narrating the Book of Job, this is a case of one Contrived Coincidence after another; from the point of view of Job and the Israelites, Job is a Coincidence Magnet, and a jinxed one at that.
  • Ciaphas Cain's (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) entire career is based on this. Every single time he has a choice between heading out into open battle or staying in the base/going on some backwater assignment with little chance of danger, it means he's going to escape an assassination plot/find the traitor/stumble into a summoning ritual/uncover an ambush/etc. And all this despite a reputation as a borderline Leeroy Jenkins, so his underlings are always surprised he's not raring to go into battle, right up until all hell breaks loose and he appears as the legendary hero to them.
  • This is brought up in Chrono Hustle #8 in regards to how Jack seems to be visiting just the right time periods in the right order in order to avoid being caught. Melinda figures there must be something bigger going on than coincidences.
  • Kurt Vonnegut's concept of the "Karass" group can be defined via this trope: if you are connected by synchronicities, you form a meaningful group, all other groups (via religion, sex, nation, etc.) are pointless "granfaloons".
  • Played with in a chapter of Erma Bombeck's If Life is a Bowl of Cherries -- What Am I Doing in the Pits?. Used to having incredibly bad luck, Erma is unnerved when everything goes right for a whole week: all her children are well behaved, the car has no mechanical problems, no financial disasters strike, she gets a shopping cart with all four wheels that go in the same direction, etc. By the end of the chapter she nearly has a nervous breakdown, but breathes a sigh of relief when her teenager rams the car into the side of the house.
  • The protagonist's family in Holes appears to be this, but it's actually because they're under a curse.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Monk, it's considered this that murders and dead bodies appear wherever Monk goes, even when he's not looking for them. Examples:
    • Coincidence in "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing" for Monk to be at that firehouse when a killer stopped by to steal a coat? Probably not.
    • In "Mr. Monk Goes to a Rock Concert," this happens when Monk and Natalie are passing by a port-a-potty, at the moment that some maintenance workers break open the door and a body falls out.
    • In "Mr. Monk Bumps His Head", this happens when Monk wakes up with amnesia in a little Wyoming town.
    • This happens in "Mr. Monk on Wheels" where a thief, after stealing a bike, crashes on a pothole, a few feet away from Monk and Natalie. Natalie helps the thief to his feet, not knowing that his bike is stolen, and sends him on his way, then is embarrassed by the appearance of the bike's legitimate owner.
    • "Mr. Monk Makes the Playoffs", with a dead quarterback Hidden in Plain Sight by being dressed up as a passed-out fan (the giveaway being his championship ring) and an attempted murder involving an exploding charcoal grill rigged with gasoline.
    • Played straight in the Expanded Universe novels.
      • In Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii, this happens twice: Monk and Natalie stumble upon a police investigation. Later, they are at a luau when the men digging up a roasted pig inadvertantly dig up the hotel manager's dead body. The first part of his body to appear is his burned hand.
      • In Mr. Monk Is Miserable, Monk and Natalie go into the Parisian catacombs, and Monk finds a very freshly deceased person's skull that was dumped there a year ago. Later, when they are having dinner at a blind restaurant, a woman claiming to know the identity of the skull is stabbed and killed to keep her from telling them his name.
  • The Fox Network series called Strange Luck is entirely based around this. The protagonist, Chance Harper, has enhanced powers of luck, both good and bad, and kept alternately winning the lottery and getting struck by lightning. "If I go to a restaurant, somebody chokes. If I walk into a bank, it gets robbed."
  • Channel 4 had a Sitcom in the late 80s/early 90s called Chance in a Million in which Tom Chance had an equally improbable life. Perhaps it's something about the name
  • Similarly justified in My Name Is Earl - whereas in early episodes it's not clear how much "Karma" is just Earl's personal Hand Wave for his predicament, as the series progresses the idea that an Anthropomorphic Personification of Laser-Guided Karma has made him its personal bitch starts to become the most logical explanation.
  • Victor Meldrew from One Foot in the Grave was afflicted with a low-grade version of this. The writer, David Renwick, seemed to delight in putting him through bizarre situations at least once an episode (ranging from the next-door neighbour installing a door in his fence to facilitate a nice chat to having to deal with an old lady's suicide), so it's not surprising he was so disgruntled.
  • Kim Bauer's entire day in season two of 24 is a great example of this. Not only does she manage to get trapped by a mountain lion after escaping a car wreck after being falsely accused of murder after stealing a car that happened to have a body in it, but she is also held prisoner by an oddball recluse and a gas station robber, each on separate occasions in the same day.
  • Breaking Bad has Walt entering a bar he's never been to, running into the (unknown to him) father of his partner Jesse's junkie girlfriend Jane, who has turned Jesse on to heroin and blackmailed Walt for half a million dollars. Their conversation on family leads Walt to save Jesse from himself by letting Jane die when she chokes on her vomit. Unfortunately, Jane's father is an air traffic controlman, who in his grief over his daughter's death, accidentally guides two planes toward each other, where they collide right over Walt's house.
  • The Dead Zone sometimes uses Johnny's visions as a catalyst for chains of coincidence. Most notable is the episode "Precipitate" where six people who just happened to donate blood (that is used to make a cryoprecipitate infusion that saves Johnny's life) end up unknowingly interacting in a whole string of small ways that end in saving one of their lives.
  • The Brittas Empire: Anything can happen at Whitbury Newtown. Anything! From a gas leak, to an ostrich getting loose to a Roman Legion destroying the centre. Fittingly, it was created by the same writers as that of Chance in a Million, mentioned further up the page.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • While it happens to most characters on Phineas and Ferb on an ongoing basis, the Farmer and Farmer's Wife appear as side characters for no reason other than being coincidence magnets. They are usually seen starting a new business, but the farmer forgot to stock the business with the required merchandise. The wife starts nagging him for that and claims the needed item "isn't going to just fall out of the sky", only for the item to accidentally fall out of the sky due to something Phineas, Ferb or Doofenschmirtz did.

    Real Life 
  • For an example-oriented approach, look up Arthur Koestler. Science today usually states that coincidences are purely chance, with no sense or magic involved — in the probability formula we hopelessly underestimate the number of actual events. As an illustration take the classic birthday paradox.
  • Roy Sullivan got struck by lightning... seven times. Though his work as a park ranger increased the odds, he's an exception. He is recognized by Guinness World Records as the person struck by lightning more recorded times than any other human being. Having been struck so often, people started avoiding him because they were afraid of being struck themselves. This saddened him. He died at the age of 71 when he decided to take his own life due to an unrequited love.