Don’t Call Him Lucky Sullivan

When Roy Sullivan turned 24 years old he landed a good job with the US Park Service as a Park Ranger. He was lucky because it was 1936, the middle of the Great Depression.
Yes—his hat does look funny.
He was assigned the Shenandoah National Park
in Virginia. Right after his 30th birthday in 1942 he was hiding from a thunderstorm in a fire lookout tower. It was a newly built tower and had no lightning rod. It was hit by lighting seven or eight times. Fire was jumping all over the place so Roy Sullivan climbed out and ran away. Lighting struck him in his right side and burnt a half-inch strip along his right leg, through his toe and left a large hole in his shoe. He lived to tell about it.

Twenty-seven years later, 1969, Roy was driving his Ranger truck down a mountain road. Lightning hit some nearby trees and was deflected through the open window of his truck. The lightning knocked Sullivan unconscious and burned off his eyebrows, eyelashes and most of his hair. His out-of-control truck somehow stopped right at the edge of a cliff.

Less than one year later in 1970, Roy Sullivan was struck by lightning standing in his front yard. A strike hit a near-by power transformer and jumped to his left shoulder and seared it badly.
lightning strike

In 1972, Roy was back inside a Ranger station in Shenandoah when he was struck again, the fourth time. This strike set his hair on fire. It also made him quite paranoid. He began to believe that some force was trying to destroy him and he was fearful of death. Any time a storm started brewing he would pull over and lie down in the front seat of his truck. He began carrying a pail of water with him everywhere he went, even in a crowd of people.

August 7, 1973 brought a big storm gathering and Sullivan drove away from it. He later said he watched the cloud following him. He thought he had outran it and left his truck. A lightning bolt hit him hard, moved down his left arm, left leg and knocked off his shoe. It set his hair on fire, jumped to his right leg below the knee and burnt him badly. He stayed conscious and crawled to his truck and poured the can of water over his head.

In June of 1976, Roy saw a storm forming and started running away. He twisted his ankle and fell. Lightning struck him and left bad burn marks on his back.

In June of 1977 Sullivan was fishing in a freshwater lake and lightning struck the top of his head, singed his hair, traveled down and severely burnt his chest and stomach.

Seven lightning strikes were all documented by the superintendent of Shenandoah National Park and verified by doctors who treated Sullivan.

In 1979, Sullivan was helping his wife hang the wash in his back yard. Lightning struck his wife, burning her severely, but missed Roy Sullivan.

He began having trouble going anywhere if there was a cloud in the sky.

In September, 1983, Roy Sullivan died at the age of 83 from a self-inflicted gunshot in the stomach.

About bakoheat

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4 Responses to Don’t Call Him Lucky Sullivan

  1. joanraymondwriting says:

    Oh my goodness. I’d be a bit paranoid after being struck by lightening that many times also. Interesting the way it hit his wife and missed him during laundry hanging – maybe she was his good luck. Too bad he took his own life, but with that many lightning strikes, it had to affect him in more ways than anyone would really know.

  2. fiddlrts says:

    Did he ever try playing the lottery?

  3. Jim Robinson says:

    I remember seeing Sullivan in a Life Magazine retrospective many, many moons ago. I did not know that he committed suicide. I believe he is still the Ripley’s record holder for number of times struck by lightning.
    I guess you could have called him “attractive”…….

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