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Wild, True Historical Stories That Made Us Wonder If Time Travel Is Actually Possible

List Rules
Vote up the stories that seem like a time traveler definitely intervened.

Life is full of mysteries. Often, these can be chalked up to random coincidence, or more often than not to the simple laws of physics. But sometimes, stories just sound too weird to be true, like how two different, otherwise perfectly good guns both misfire on the same day - for the same person. Or how a novel written years before seemingly predicted a tale of cannibalism. 

This list delves into stories that sound made up, but aren't. They are 100% true. Here you'll find tales of individual humans actually saving the world, as well as everyday humans seemingly predicting destruction. There are some screw-ups, as well as some heroes who save the day. Whether for better or for worse, these weird coincidences changed history. 

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  • A Novel Predicted The Sinking Of The 'Titanic' 14 Years Ahead Of Time
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    The Titanic was never supposed to sink. Even more unlikely is the fact that a novel written 14 years earlier featured the sinking of the world's largest, supposedly unsinkable passenger ship.

    American author Morgan Robertson first published Futility, or The Wreck of the Titan in 1898, a tale about the Titan, the world's largest passenger ship ever to cruise the seas. However, on its maiden voyage, it hits an iceberg and sinks in the North Atlantic. Many of the passengers perish due to a shortage of lifeboats. 

    Fourteen years later, the Titanic passenger ship was ready to set sail on its maiden voyage, from Southampton, England, to New York City. Just like the similarly named boat in Robertson's novel, the Titanic met its fate with an iceberg in the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean. As is well known, a majority of the passengers lost their lives because lifeboats were in short supply.

  • Dmitri Mendeleev is credited with organizing the periodic table of elements in the 19th century. At the time, there was no agreed-upon language for the elements already discovered, nor any clear organization of their properties. That's where the Russian chemist stepped in. He arranged the elements into an organized ingredient list per se - what we now call the periodic table.

    However, not all elements were discovered at the time Mendeleev was alive, and he knew that. So he intentionally left blank spaces for elements he knew must exist, but just hadn't been discovered yet. He even correctly predicted their properties and atomic masses.

    Mendeleev's table organization was inspired in part by the game of solitaire. He wrote down all known elements on a set of cards, and for three days straight, without sleep, he worked at rearranging the cards in a seamless, sensible manner. Exhausted, he fell asleep while trying to solve the puzzle before him. While dozing, he had a dream that showed him exactly how the elements should be organized, and where spaces of missing elements should be. Upon awaking, he immediately transcribed what he saw in his dream, solving a mystery in chemistry and leaving us with the periodic table used (and expanded upon) worldwide ever since.

  • Edgar Allan Poe's Only Completed Novel Predicted A Shipwreck More Than 40 Years In The Future
    Photo: Dodd, Mead and Co / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
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    Edgar Allan Poe's Only Completed Novel Predicted A Shipwreck More Than 40 Years In The Future

    In 1838, Edgar Allan Poe published his first and only full-length novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, which follows a young boy named Arthur Pym. Along with his friend Augustus, Pym stows away on a whaling ship. While hidden, the boys witness a mutiny. When most everyone else is dead, they then team up with a few of the mutineers to commandeer the ship. 

    Soon, however, the four sailors realize they are out of provisions and become quite hungry. Water is scarce and all they have to eat for some time is sea turtle meat. They draw straws to decide who should be sacrificed so the others may have something to eat. A man named Richard Parker draws the short straw. 

    Fast-forward 46 years and an eerie real-life coincidence happened at sea. Four men sailing from England to Australia had their yacht destroyed by a wave, and they were struggling to survive on their life raft. They captured a sea turtle for food and drank their own urine to stay alive. One of the men opted for sea water instead of urine and fell into a coma. The other three got increasingly hungry, and drew straws to see who should be sacrificed so the others could meet their caloric needs. 

    Unfortunately for the unconscious cabin boy, his straw ended up being the shortest, so the others killed and ate him. The cabin boy's name? Richard Parker.

  • In the very early hours of a September morning in 1983, Stanislav Petrov was working the night shift. He was an IT specialist serving as a duty officer, tasked with informing his superiors of any incoming missile attacks. It was the height of the Cold War, and the Soviet Union was prepared to fire back if - or when - enemy missiles were ever detected. 

    On the night Petrov was on duty, the computers in from of him started blaring, alerting him to an incoming missile. The computers stated this was not a drill - the US had fired a missile, and his duty was to report it to his superiors immediately. The alarm went off again and again. Five missiles were headed toward the Soviet Union. 

    Yet Petrov didn't act. He had his doubts. The alert was coming in too strong, and too suddenly. No one below him reported any such missiles. Instead, he waited a few minutes, then finally picked up the phone to call his superior. But instead of reporting an American attack, he reported a system malfunction. 

    Thinking back on that night, Petrov reflected on his intuitive decision: "Twenty-three minutes later I realised that nothing had happened. If there had been a real strike, then I would already know about it. It was such a relief."

  • A Freak Tornado Saved Washington, DC, In The War of 1812
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    In the War of 1812, British troops marched into Washington, DC, and set the Capitol on fire. In the 100 degree-plus heat, they marched through town lighting fire after fire. What is less well-known, however, is that the damage could have been far worse had Mother Nature not intervened. 

    On August 25, 1814, the clouds in the blue sky became dark. Thunder and lightning rolled in. Seemingly out of nowhere, an uncharacteristic tornado touched down in the middle of the city. According to the National Weather Service

    The tornado did major structural damage to the residential section of the city. More British soldiers were killed by the tornado's flying debris than by the guns of the American resistance.

    Torrential rain blasted the city for two hours, and winds ripped roofs off houses, sending them flying into the air. While the storm did allow the British troops to sneak away amidst the chaos, it also limited the damage the troops caused and quickly extinguished the flames the British had lit. 

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    A Cleaning Lady Accidentally Activated A Deadly Gas Fire But Subway Workers Stopped It Before It Hurt Anyone

    In 1995, Tokyo witnessed a series of deadly attacks inside its subway system. Sarin nerve gas was the agent in 11 separate locations that injured more than 5,000 people and killed 12. In May of that year, an even deadlier attack was planned, but fast-acting workers were able to prevent catastrophic damage

    The morning of May 5, amid the bustling subway station, a cleaning lady noticed two bags inside the men's restroom. She moved them outside, intending to take them out with the rest of the trash. What she didn't realize was that by moving the bags, she had started the beginning of a chemical reaction. One of the bags began to smoke and eventually burst into flames. Subway workers were quickly alerted and extinguished the flames.

    The fire, it turned out, was more than an accident. The bags were not simply trash, but bags of chemicals - sodium cyanide and diluted sulfuric acid - intentionally left there to ignite. Had the fire spread to the second bag it would have created a chemical reaction resulting in a deadly cyanide explosion, likely killing upwards of 20,000 people.