Roy Sullivan. His extraordinary life began in February 1912, born just one day after Eva Braun and just one week before Arizona was admitted as the 48th state of the United States. He started his career as a US park ranger in Virginia at 24. He was a big, rugged chap, the type of chap that seemed born to be a ranger; the type you would feel could save with if you fell into a ravine or came across a mountain lion in a clearing.
According to The Lakeland Ledger (a Florida newspaper), when interviewed in 1972, he had a:
“…soft voice full of the ancient middle English accents of people who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains.”
However, Sullivan’s curse was electricity based. Between 1942 and 1977 he was struck by lightning no less than seven times. That’s seven too many times in anyone’s book. Later in life he became increasingly depressed; people would avoid his company, especially if a storm was brewing.
“I was walking with the Chief Ranger one day when lightning struck way off. The Chief said, ‘I’ll see you later.'”
Poor old Roy. But you can understand why people might be a little nervous around him. It’s rare to get hit by lightning, I’ve never met a single person who has been stroked by electricity from the sky, but to get seven smashers is literally a Guinness World Record.
By working outdoors in a particularly stormy part of the world, Sullivan’s chances of being hit increased. But seven?
How poor Roy get hit? Well, the first strike, which he considered the worst, seared a 1 cm strip all along his right leg, hit his toe and blew it off (or his toe nail depending on where you read the story). This produced a hole in his shoe where the blood could run off.
The second strike got him through the open window of his truck while he was driving. He narrowly missed careering over a cliff edge.
The third was a shoulder shot while he was in his yard.
The fourth strike pretty much balded him and shook him mightily. Sullivan began to believe he was cursed, or some such voodoo. He would lie on the seats of his truck if he heard a storm approaching, and he always carried water with him wherever he went.
Number five: Sullivan spotted a storm creeping up behind him, so he tried to outrun it. When he thought he was safe, he got out of his car and was hit again, this time it blew off his shoe and set his hair on fire leaving him to crawl back to the truck to fetch the water to put himself out.
By strike six, he was fairly convinced a cloud was actively chasing him, steered by Thor himself no doubt, and he was struck on the ankle. I mean, you would think it was following you, wouldn’t you? That’s not delusional, that makes good sense when you look at his previous luck.
Any sane man would start getting some kind of paranoid fixation. It’s enough to turn a heathen to the Gods.
The seventh and final meeting with the powers above happened while he was fishing, the bolt hit his head and seared his trunk, he ran from the pool to get to his car where he was met by a bear who fancied a go on his fresh trout.
According to Sullivan that was the 22nd time he had beaten a bear off with a stick. What a legend.
How Does A Lightning Strike Feel?
All of Sullivan’s strikes were verified by his Super Intendant and by doctors. However, he also claimed he was first struck when he was a youngster, it laid into him via a scythe he was wielding at the time, but he didn’t get hurt. No one could corroborate that strike, so Sullivan never counted it.
Roy’s poor wife was sucked in by his curse one day, too. They were both hanging out the washing at the time, but, thankfully, she was unharmed. It’s as if the bolt knew it was off target and let her off.
Sullivan became acutely sensitive to the preconditions of a storm; first, he would notice an aroma of sulphur, then, his hair would bristle, and within three seconds, he would be hit. He described the sensation as:
“Like being cooked inside your skin.”
He also said:
“It’s awful. I don’t believe God is after me. If He was, the first bolt would have been enough.”
Yes, maybe so, but I certainly don’t hold it against him that he became just a touch paranoid. Sullivan is an inspirational character and has been the subject of a number of artistic ventures. I recommend giving this a listen; it’s a track by “I Hate Myself” called “Roy Sullivan, by Lightning Loved:”
Other Lightning Victims
On my infinite quest for knowledge, I found a website: www.struckbylightning.org, which is a kind of support group for the small group of individuals who have been hit by a 20,000 degree spark traveling at 220,000 km/h. This is a quote from someone called Danny that sets the scene:
“Hey, nice to meet ya. Im Danny Cole and was struck directly in the head by lightning back in May 25, 1985 while ridding my harley down the freeway, my heart stopped twice, i was in a coma and life support for two weeks, and was paralyzed for about a year my neuroendings were all burned away from being shorted out, i had a power lifting team in cleveland take me under there wing since the doctors had no clue how to help me, the team all helped by exercise, much like the way they trained for power lifting, my pain was horrifying for about ten years, and still have tingling and numbness in my feet and hands…..hey its great to see there is site now that we can share info and maybe help someone the may may questions aout loved ones or themselfs who may have been struck………Thanks again”
Another moving and tragic story comes from another Sullivan, this time John Sullivan, born in 1985:
“(He) hasn’t walked, talked, fed, bathed or clothed himself in 24 years — since the day he was struck by lightning during a high school golf tournament at the age of 17.”
His Father diligently looks after his son 24 hours a day and, as such, is bankrupt. Although they fought and won an appeal in the courts for financial help with the enormous burden of a life of caring for someone, the family is now, once again, fighting the government to prevent the money they receive being slashed by 75%. That doesn’t seem quite right to me.
What Happened To Roy Sullivan?
So, back to our hero, Roy. As we have seen, lightning is a ferocious beast, not to be mucked with, but yet, it still didn’t manage to electro-convulse him off this mortal coil; so what did?
This is where the story gets really sad. Sullivan retired at 65, in 1977, the year of his last meeting with Thor. Seven years later, he was dead, a self inflicted gun shot wound to the belly.
Some say he simply couldn’t handle the fear anymore, but other stories tell of a broken heart after being deserted by the woman he loved. Roy’s story of woe proves that it doesn’t matter what you’ve been through, what levels of suffering you have endured, unrequited love is the most painful affliction known to mankind.
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