When her husband passed away, Lavinia requested that he be cremated and his ashes be placed in an elegant but simple sealed ceramic container. She had kept the container on her mantelpiece for two years now. Occasionally she talked to it, but in the end she knew she didn’t need to keep his ashes forever. She thought and thought and decided she would scatter his ashes in a nearby forest. He loved hiking and would often walk through that very forest.
One fine sunny day she took the container. She would go for a leisurely and reflective stroll to the forest. She had just left the house and was walking along her concrete path to the gate when she accidentally dropped the ceramic container. It shattered.
Hershel was an undertaker, and he thought it strange that of the fifty bodies he’d dealt with that month twenty-seven of them were called John. Usually there were only a couple of deaths per month in his area, although it went up a little in the depths of winter. One month he once got six bodies, two of whom were Michael. But now in one month fifty bodies! And twenty-seven called John? Goodness me!
To make matters even weirder, of the fifty deaths twenty-two of them were female and therefore would probably never be called John. That meant that twenty-seven out of twenty-eight males were called John. The sole non-John was called Hector.
Further pondering produced other startling results. Of the twenty-seven Johns, twenty-six of them had the surname of Smith. Twenty-six John Smiths in one month! The only John who didn’t have the surname of Smith was John Gillespie-Fotheringham. That must surely be some sort of record.
The experts mulled over how such a thing could happen. It was a mystery. And then the reason was pointed out. Sometimes some things in life are so obvious. It was staring everyone in the face. John Gillespie-Fotheringham was a clerical error. There were twenty-seven John Smiths after all. What a relief!