Roy Sullivan was born in Greene County, Va. on February 7, 1912. He started working as a ranger in Shenandoah National Park in 1936. Sullivan was hit by lightning on seven different occasions and survived all of them.
The former U.S. Park Ranger has a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for most hits by lightning and was nicknamed “human lightning conductor” and “Human Lightning Rod“. As a result of this, his friends stopped hanging out with him as they were afraid of the risk of being hit while near him.
Roy Sullivan’s job meant working in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and as these places are considered to be dangerous places to be in during a thunderstorm, which was one of the reasons he got his multiple times while on duty.
Roy Sullivan was hit seven times and for someone being hit 7 times and still alive to tell the story is simply a miracle. In case you’re wondering, the odds of getting struck by lightning are about one in 280,000,000. The odds of getting struck by lightning seven times are 4.15 in 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
The First Strike
The first documented lightning strike of Roy Sullivan occurred in April 1942, though he suffered burns but no brain damage. Roy was hiding from a thunderstorm in a tower. The tower was newly built and had no lightning rod installed at that time and it was hit seven or eight times which caused the fire in the tower trying to save his life, Roy went outside and just a few feet outside Roy received his worst among the 7 lightning strikes. The strike burned a half-inch strip all along his right leg, hit his toe and left a hole in his shoe.
The second strike happened 27 years later in July 1969. This time he was not outside trying to hide from a thunderstorm instead he was driving his truck on a mountain road. The lightning first hit nearby trees and was deflected into the open window of the truck which knocked Roy Sullivan unconscious and the strike took his hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes. The uncontrolled truck kept moving until it stopped near a cliff edge.
Roy was hit exactly one year after the lightning struck him in his truck. Only this time the lightning hit a nearby power transformer and from there jumped to his left shoulder, searing it.
The next strike happened in the spring of 1972, Sullivan was working inside a ranger station in Shenandoah National Park when another strike occurred. Though no casualties this time, the strike set his hair on fire, he tried to mother the flames with his jacket and set off the fire using a wet towel by rushing into the restroom.
By this time he stopped going out and started to believe that some force was trying to destroy him and he acquired a fear of death. He would pull over his truck and lie down until the storm passed. He also began to believe that he would somehow attract lightning even if he stood in a crowd of people and carried a can of water.
Within a year on August 7, 1973, while Roy was out on patrol in the park, he saw a storm cloud and drove quickly. He said later the could seem to be following him. When he finally thought he outran the cloud, he decided that it was safe for him to come out of his truck.
Moments later he was struck by a lightning bolt. This time he stated that he actually saw the bolt that hit him. That lightning moved down his left arm and knocked his shoe off, and then crossed over to his right leg below his knee. Roy crawled to his truck and poured the can of water over his head which was on fire.
This time Roy Sullivan was safe for three years and on June 5, 1976. The sixth strike injured his ankle. He claimed to have seen the cloud and tried to run away and was struck which led the strike to set his hair on fire.
On Saturday morning, June 25, 1977, Roy Sullivan fishing in a freshwater pool when he was struck with lightning. The lightning hit the top of his head – set his hair on fire, and burnt his chest and stomach.
This was an unlucky day for Sullivan as he came out of the water and saw a bear approaching the pond. Sullivan managed the strength and courage to strike the bear with a tree branch, however, this was not his first time hitting a bear with a tree branch, Sullivan claimed this to be his twenty-second time.
Sullivan’s wife was also struck by the lightning once when she was hanging clothes in the backyard and her husband Sullivan was helping her at the time, she also escaped unharmed.
All the seven strikes were documented by the superintendent of Shenandoah National Park, R. Taylor Hoskins. Taylor, however never present at any of the reported strikes.
When no lightning strike seems to end his tale he ended it by shooting himself in the head
The probability of a person hitting by lightning is much less than him winning a lottery and getting hit by light 7 times and being alive to tell the story is quite much and 1:10^28. The numbers do not quite apply to Sullivan but the nature of his work was more exposed to storms than the average person.