People Are Sharing Their Eerie Real Life 'Butterfly Effect' Stories

Robin Zlotnick - Author

Mar. 30 2021, Updated 8:49 a.m. ET

Source: iStock Photo/Reddit

The Butterfly Effect is way more than a mediocre 2004 thriller starring Ashton Kutcher that spawned two sequels. According to Wikipedia, the butterfly effect is "the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state." In other words, one tiny action can have an outsized impact on what happens later. It's the idea that what you have for dinner one night can change the course of your life, that oversleeping one morning can ultimately mean the difference between life and death. Side note: What happened to Amy Smart? She deserved better. 

Every so often, people are able to recognize the butterfly effect in their real life. For example, maybe if I'd used the time I spent watching The Butterfly Effect to study French instead, I'd be a high-powered multilingual cultural critic living in Paris. But alas, here we are. The stories people shared in this Reddit thread are fascinating in their specificity. The butterfly effect is real.

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1. A Pair of Heels

Source: iStock Photo

Apparently, a pair of heels was responsible for the birth of this Reddit user's brother. Busytoothbrush explains that one day, their mother wore heels to work, slipped, and broke her leg. The antibiotics she was prescribed interfered with her birth control, and that's how she became pregnant with the poster's little brother.

2. The Volunteer Firefighter

Source: iStock Photo

Sometimes life leads you down unexpected paths that end up being more fulfilling than the path you had planned. Sh*tscrubber, who once wanted to be a teacher when they grew up, writes that they didn't get into the AP history class they wanted in high school and had to switch up their schedule as a result.

They also ended up in a different gym class than they'd intended, where they made a new friend who was a volunteer firefighter. They thought it sounded interesting, so they joined, too. Eventually, the VFD paid for their EMT certification, they fell in love with healthcare, and today, they're an ER nurse who teaches students and new nurses how to make it in the ER. They became a teacher after all, plus they discovered a field that they truly love! Can't beat that.

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3. An Unfinished Beer

Source: iStock Photo

I've heard spooky stories like this one before, where making a tiny decision, like the one to stay back and finish your beer, actually ends up saving your life. Mikevankempen was on vacation with his wife in Hawaii, and they were out for dinner one night. They were about to leave, but he saw that his wife hadn't finished her beer. He told her to finish it because it was really expensive.

That frugalness may have saved their lives. She took the extra 30 seconds to gulp down the rest of the beer, and then they walked the few blocks back to the hotel. While they walked, a car flew down the street about 50 feet in front of them, hopped the sidewalk, and smashed into the wall. If his wife hadn't paused to chug the last of her beer, they might have been hit by that car. "We always finish our beer now," he wrote. Yeah. Holy heck.

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4. Dinner at a Bar

Source: iStock Photo

Fate is a funny thing! One night, plateishot went out to grab a pizza and some beer for him and his roommate, but his roommate texted that he was sick. So our storyteller decided to go into a random restaurant and eat dinner at the bar. There, he met a woman. Now they're "married and have two kids because my roommate had diarrhea." So romantic.

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5. Whales

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At the end of sixth grade, x_TheGoldenLite_x's class went on a whale-watching field trip. That night, they saw a commercial for a TV documentary series about whales. That's when they knew they wanted to grow up to protect whales.

Now, they work in the military and specialize in marine preservation. One day in sixth grade affected the course of their whole life. What a whale of a tale, eh?

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6. A Hedgehog

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Who knew a hedgehog could be a life saver? EhhLeeBee was walking to school one day and got distracted by a hedgehog, as one would, because hedgehogs are the cutest. As they followed the hedgehog, a giant tree branch fell there they had been standing. It would have crushed them if they hadn't gotten distracted. 

How did they repay this hedgehog? "I gave him a dead cricket the next day. He took it and ran off. God speed, spiky mouse."

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7. Tragic Bus Accident

bus cliff
Source: iStock Photo

This one is crazy. ImaginaryxDoll's cousin usually took the 5:10 p.m. bus home after work. One day, she had to pee really badly, so she decided to go to the bathroom and catch the next bus. That day, the 5:10 p.m. bus fell off a cliff. She wasn't on it because she had to empty her bladder. It's official: peeing saves lives.

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8. St. Lucia

st lucia
Source: iStock Photo

This is a really crazy one. Speedy-tomato had been offered a great, high-paying job with a competing company. But she liked where she worked, so she decided to stay. She would get a raise, but she'd also have to take up another account and go on business trip to St. Lucia she wasn't planning to go on before. 

On that trip, she met her future husband. But that's not where this ends. 

A few years later, she went back to St. Lucia with her new husband on their honeymoon. She ran into someone she knew, and it turns out the team she nearly joined at that rival company made so much money that they booked a celebratory trip to St. Lucia at the same resort and at the same time as her honeymoon. Whether she stayed at her job or left for her competitor, she would have ended up in St. Lucia at that resort at that time. How crazy is that?

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9. Arrested

Source: iStock Photo

Sometimes, getting arrested isn't the worst thing in the world, apparently. Pakiranian was arrested for growing weed and had to move back home. After a year of working at IKEA, he randomly applied for a job at a new café. The café was owned by a popular beer garden in the area, so he was hired to work there as a host. He moved up the ladder, became a bar manager, and met his wife. 

Now, he has two kids and is the assistant director of operations with the company, overseeing three hugely successful restaurants. 

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10. Pierced Ears

ears pierced
Source: iStock Photo

"Getting my ears pierced the day after I graduated high school got me where I am today," writes Comatose22. He worked at McDonald's at the time. Before his shift one night, his girlfriend convinced him to get his ears pierced. I guess his manager wasn't thrilled to have a male employee with pierced ears because they told him to either take out the studs or go home. "Being only 17 and not taking anything seriously," he went home.

On the way home, he called his girlfriend's dad and asked to go work for him at his company laying tile. He quit McDonald's and worked for his girlfriend's dad for a year, until he was laid off. Eventually, he got a job in a hospital emergency room, got his phlebotomy certification, and is now in nursing school. 

Because he got his ears pierced in high school, he left McDonald's and ended up on a totally different career path.

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11. Random YouTube Search

Source: iStock Photo

Procrastination isn't so bad all the time. Sometimes, it can lead you to realize what you want to really do. That's exactly what happened for ASzinhaz. They procrastinated one day by watching a foreign musical on YouTube. They became fascinated with the language and tried to learn it, which led them to discover linguistics and pursue that line of study in college. "I don't know what I'd be doing now had I actually started doing my homework that day instead," they write.

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12. One Tinder Swipe

Source: iStock Photo

Turkey Tron was having one of those quarter-life crises we all have after graduating from college. So, they had too many drinks one night, installed Tinder, and swiped once. They matched with the first person, and they started dating. They stayed in that state instead of moving home and got a job. In a few years, they were promoted and moved overseas to a cool, new country. 

The Tinder relationship ultimately didn't work out, but eventually they met the love of their life. And that one swipe was responsible for all of it.

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13. Middle School Music Class

music class
Source: iStock Photo

In middle school, seizer1975 had to choose between studying music or a foreign language. They chose music, which, they write, "led me to pilot training, to radio, to my ex-wife, my kids, Massachusetts (twice), my new partner and a career in IT." Wow. All that from a somewhat minor decision they made in fifth grade. Cool.

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14. New Zealand

new zealand
Source: iStock Photo

Merik813 ended her relationship with her fiancé because he wouldn't stop playing loud music in public. They broke up, and in the five hours before he came "crawling back," she applied for the school she'd decided not to go to because of him. She went, moved to New Zealand, pursued her dream, and met the love of her life, all because that dumb guy wouldn't stop playing music too loudly.

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15. Homesick

Source: iStock Photo

Sometimes, being so homesick you switch your flight can save your life. Architecturalneeds' mom was studying abroad in the '80s and was so homesick that she bought a ticket home early just a few days before she was supposed to leave.

The flight she was originally supposed to take was Pan Am flight 103, which was bombed, killing every passenger on board.

If she hadn't gotten homesick, architecturalneeds wouldn't even exist.

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16. Typing Class

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Typing was a valuable skill during World War II. Because EveRommel's grandfather took a typing class in high school in the 1930s, when he was drafted into the army, he was saved from having to fight in Okinawa because they needed clerks who could type. 

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17. Fate in Greece

Source: iStock Photo

PotatoPie90210 went on quite the journey to meet her husband. She was admitted to a psychiatric care unit after attempting suicide. There, she met a girl named Lucy, whose mother was from Greece. She and Lucy became best friends and planned a trip to Greece together. 

Two months before their trip, she was supposed to go pick up some travel books she'd ordered at the bookstore, but she was exhausted, so Lucy volunteered to do it. While leaving the shop, a car hopped the curb, hitting and killing Lucy.

It was extremely tragic. But she went on the trip anyway at Lucy's mother encouragement. She took some of her ashes to scatter in the ocean in Greece.

Emotional as she said goodbye to her friend, a man came up and asked her if she was OK. The man's name was Luca, just one letter off from Lucy. They fell in love. It turned out Lucy's mother knew Luca's mother from her days in Greece. 

Today, they've been together for 10 years, married for eight, and they have twin daughters.

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18. One Black Bear

Source: iStock Photo

LucasLeDoux knew he wanted to work with wildlife when a black bear ran across the road in front of his car when he was just a teenager. Now, he works with alligators, but he's worked with bears in the past. "All because me and some lost bear crossed paths on a rainy night," he writes. Man, bears are the best.

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19. A Poem

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GoGoGadgetDick95, believe it from his username or not, won a poetry contest when he was 17. A couple of months after the poem was published, a girl Facebook messaged him asking to know more about the poem because it would be part of an upcoming test. Since they were around the same age, they met up to talk about the poem.

That was four years ago. They're getting married next month. Poetry is powerful, y'all.

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20. Early Bus

school bus
Source: iStock Photo

This one really is spooky. Randomly, captainstormy's school bus was 15 minutes early. It usually arrived at their house at 7:45 on the dot, but the bus was there at 7:30 on this fateful morning. 

Typically, they didn't go out to the driveway until about 7:40, but on this day, the cable was out, so morning cartoons were out of the question, and they went outside earlier than normal. It's already weird that they went outside early and the bus came early. It seems like the world was conspiring to get that kid on the bus early.

And it's a good thing, because when they got home that afternoon, they learned that, at 7:42 that morning, a car lost control, went off the road, and smashed through the brick columns of their driveway, where they usually stood to wait for the bus. They would have been killed if they'd been out there at their normal time.  

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