Sometimes stories comes along that seem too far-fetched or remarkable to be real. The entire Ripley’s Believe it or Not? franchise is built on such stories, the ones that defy logic and reason and yet have been proven to be true.
One of those stories has recently resurfaced and it has us all scrunching our brows and questioning how it could possibly be: The tale of two twins named Jim.
According to People, Jim Lewis and Jim Springer were identical twins born in 1940 to a 15-year-old mother, but they were separated and put up for adoption a few weeks later. The fact that their respective adoptive parents named them both James (and called them Jim for short) would be a weird enough coincidence by itself, but that’s only the beginning of the uncanny parallels in their lives.
As kids, both Jims were good at math and woodworking, but struggled with spelling. Both initially went into similar careers, one as a security guard and one as a deputy sheriff. Such similarities could be explained by the men sharing the same DNA, but there are far more specific parallels that are simply unexplainable.
They both had a beloved childhood dog named Toy and a brother named Larry. They both married women named Linda, got divorced, then got remarried to women named Betty. It’s hard to see how these coincidences even fit into the nature vs. nurture question at all. It’s just too strange.
But there’s more.
Both men had identical smoking and drinking habits, both were habitual nail biters, and both started getting a distinct kind of tension headache at age 18. They both drove a Chevrolet and vacationed at the same beach in Florida, despite living in Ohio.
They even both named their sons the same name with just one letter difference—James Alan and James Allan.
The Jims first met in 1979 when they were 39 years old, after one of them decided to pursue finding the other through the court system. Their unique story caught the attention of researchers at the University of Minnesota, who were studying genetic influence on humans by analyzing twins who had been reared apart.
One of those researchers, Dr. Thomas Bouchard Jr., found the twins’ similarities as jaw-dropping as the rest of us.
“If someone else brought this material to me and said: ‘This is what I’ve got,’ I’d say I didn’t believe it,” he said, according to the New York Times. “The probability of two people independently being given the same name is not that rare. But when you start to compound the coincidences, they become highly unlikely very quickly. In fact, I’m flabbergasted by some of the similarities.”
The Jim twins were even invited to The Johnny Carson Show, which you can see here:
Having identical twins raised separately was an ideal case study, considering the ever popular nature vs. nurture question, but the bizarre similarities between the two Jims even baffled the experts. Personality traits, shared interests and the like can be chocked up to genetics to some degree. But marrying women with the same name, not once, but twice? Where’s the genetic explanation for that?
Of course, there were some differences between the two men as well. They styled their hair differently, one was more of a talker while the other was more of a writer, and one of them got married a third time to a woman named Sandy. Still, those differences hardly make up for the similarities. (Seriously, a dog named Toy?)
The Jim twins helped contribute to modern genetic research in a unique way in that they lived during a fairly narrow window of time in which genetics was being studied in earnest and in which adoption agencies would break up sets of identical twins for adoption (which is no longer the case). But they also remind us that there are mysteries in this world that science can’t even begin to try to solve.
Hopefully, people will keep trying, though, because we definitely need an explanation for the Linda-then-Betty marriage thing.