(Submitted by friend of the blog, Dave R)

This story doesn’t involve me as a participant, however I witnessed the critical moment firsthand.

About one weekend a month the city of Huntington Beach, CA has a craft fair kind of thing at the Huntington Beach pier. People set up tents and sell artwork, candles, beads and jewelry, incense, etc.  Among the artwork, one technology that’s become popular recently is to take a photograph, blow it up and print it on canvas as if it was a painting. This is sometimes called a Giclée. Anyway, this past weekend I went to lunch with two friends that frequently surf at the HB pier, a popular local surfing spot. We decided to have lunch at a place we rarely go. To get to the place we had to make our way through this maze of crafts tents. Almost through the sea of tents, we came across a tent showing some of these photographic prints transferred onto canvas. One of the people I was with, Bryan suddenly did a double-take on one of the canvasses, and said it was him captured on the piece! Then the other guy with us, Eric also did a double take and said the canvas print right next to it was a photo of him!

By looking at the photos, both guys decided they must have been taken about 2 years prior. By this time the owner of the business noticed we were talking about these two pieces and came over to see what was going on. At first she was a little dubious that the guys standing there were the subjects in the photo, but finally was convinced. She said the photos had been taken by her husband. A few minutes later the photographer-husband showed up. Apparently he takes lots of pictures at the beach and doesn’t pay particular attention to who is in them or other details. Anyway our little group marveled at the amazing coincidence. It ended with the proprietor offering a free print of each surfer’s piece.

With regard to the statistics… very difficult to calculate for this. These two guys hang out together fairly often, but rarely go to eat at the particular place we were headed to that took us through the craft area — in fact I think this was a first. In working through the maze, we could have taken one of 3 different aisles through them — we likely never would have stumbled across the pieces if we took one of the other two routes. Also those pieces could have been hanging on the inside of the tent and we wouldn’t have seen them either. We only saw them because they were hanging on the outside of the tent, on the side facing where we were going. Out of only about a dozen pieces they had on display, those were the only two pieces that depicted surfers as subjects… the others were just of waves and other still lifes. The proprietor said she rarely displays those pieces, and just happened to choose to put up those two on that day.

Below are the extended notes provided by Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 208. Take a look and leave your comments below.

The odds are impossible to calculate, but a lot more likely than one might think. It’s interesting that the author focused on the odds that they would even see the prints, ignoring the incalculable odds that the two men would have been the subjects of someone’s photographs (I wonder if he reads the site a lot?). That must have been a highly unlikely event itself, except that these men probably spent quite as much time on that beach as the photographer did.

I don’t find the fact that the prints were chosen that day particularly interesting; it’s possible that the men passed by that tent many times in the past when the prints were not on display. And once they saw the prints, recognizing one’s self or close friend is very likely. Given that everyone in question lives in the area and frequents that beach, this just doesn’t seem like a “crazy odds” case.

What would make this story amazing is if the men were visiting from another part of the country and if the photos were taken on their last visit, 2 years prior. Then it would certainly be a crazy coincidence that the prints were on display that day!