The Commettes who were hit by a meteor

Rob Hastings on the Paris family with the portentous name – and other unlikely coincidences

Older than our solar system, it had been flying through space for more than four billion years, all the while fated for an eventual collision with Earth – and, to be more specific, the house of a French family named Commette.

For 11-year-old Hugo Commette, the discovery that the loft of his house on the outskirts of Paris had become the final resting place for an egg-sized meteorite was fascinating enough – astronomers estimate that only about 50 such objects have fallen on France in the past 400 years, and the chances of a house strike are infinitesimal – but his family's celestial name only made it seem all the more extraordinary. The meteorite punched a hole in the roof of the house in the summer, but was discovered only this week when the family returned from holiday. Most meteoroids, as the falling objects are known, disintegrate in the atmosphere, and only five or six are recovered on the surface. Now revealed to the world, the story has captured the imagination of more than just young Hugo, as the case of the Commette comet has crashed into the archives as one of the world's greatest coincidences.

Strange but true: Six more freak occurrences

The two faces of Dennis the Menace

Speak to an American about Dennis and the Menace and they will not be thinking of the character familiar to us for his red-and-black-striped top and dog named Gnasher. Instead, they may recall a younger cartoon boy of the same name, with dungarees and a dog called Ruff. Strangely, they first appeared on opposite sides of the Atlantic in the same week of 1951, with no espionage or plagiarism in sight.

Don't go sailing if your name is Richard Parker

In 1838, Edgar Allan Poe published The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, a seafaring tale in which three shipwreck survivors decide their only chance of survival is to eat their fourth comrade, Richard Parker. The story is little known these days but for the grisly coincidence behind its storyline – particularly grisly for the men who boarded the yacht Mignonette in Southampton in 1884. The vessel was wrecked in the Atlantic, leaving only four survivors, three of whom were rescued. The fourth member of their party had not survived – because they had eaten him. His name? Richard Parker.

Catching the baby

Joseph Figlock was sweeping an alley in Detroit in 1937 when a baby, David Thomas, fell from a fourth-floor window. Figlock broke his fall and the baby survived. When Thomas plummeted towards the pavement again a year later, who saved the day? Figlock.

The 'Jim Twins'

In 1979 an American psychology professor came across twins who had been separated at birth but led startlingly similar lives. Both sets of adoptive parents had named them James, both boys had dogs named Toy, both married twice – first to wives named Linda, secondly to wives named Betty – one named his son James Alan while the other went for James Allan, both drove the same blue model of Chevrolet, smoked the same cigarettes and drank the same beer.

Dead Presidents

For two former US Presidents to die on the same day is remarkable, but all the more so when and Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both passed away on 4 July 1826, the 50th anniversary of their country's independence.

Anthony Hopkins' lucky book

After hearing that he may have scooped a part in the film of the novel The Girl from Petrovka, Hopkins scoured London for a copy with no luck. But, to his astonishment, he later found a copy on the London Underground. And not just any copy – one that had belonged to and been signed by the author, George Feifer.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before