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
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower