People tend to say you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than winning the lottery. If that's the case, then Roy Sullivan must be full of luck. The park Ranger currently holds the Guinness World Record for being hit by lightning the most times. Not something you necessarily want to have a record for, but at least he survived!
Sullivan was born in Virginia in 1912 and in 1936 he began working as a ranger for Shenandoah National Park. He and his wife lived a peaceful life, if you don't count the 7 lightning strikes and 22 bear attacks.
The Unofficial First Strike
Sullivan doesn't remember what year he was first struck by lightning, but he remembers being a kid when it happened. He says he was helping his father cut wheat in a field when lightning struck the blade of his scythe. Sullivan was uninjured.
The First Documented Strike
In 1942, Sullivan was struck by lightning while trying to hide from a thunderstorm in a fire lookout tower. The tower itself was struck eight times which set it on fire (oddly enough.) "Fire was jumping all over the place" according to Sullivan, so he ran out of the tower. Just a few feet away, he was struck by what he considers to be his worst lightning strike. A half-inch strip was burned all the way down Sullivan's leg, blew his big toenail off, and left a hole in his shoe.
Continue reading to find out about the next 6 lightning strikes, and to see pictures of the damage lightning strikes left on Sullivan's body.
The Second Strike
In 1969, Sullivan was hit by lightning while driving his truck. Usually, a car is a safe place during a thunderstorm but the lightning had hit nearby trees and deflected into the open window of his truck. Sullivan was knocked unconscious and it burned off his eyebrows, eyelashes, and all of his hair. Sullivan's truck kept moving while he was unconscious, and managed to stop right before it would have rolled off a cliff. Talk about luck!
The Third Strike
In 1970, Sullivan was hit AGAIN, this time on his front lawn. The lightning hit a transformer and jumped into his left shoulder. The scars are pretty extreme.
The Fourth Strike
In 1972, Sullivan was at work when he was struck again. This one set his hair and jacket on fire. Sullivan began to think some bigger force wanted him gone, and started to fear death. He started lying down in the front seat of his car if he was driving in a storm and waited for it to pass.
The Fifth Strike
In 1973, Sullivan was struck while on patrol. He claims to have see a cloud following him and tried to drive away quickly. He thought he was safe, so he got out of the car and was almost immediately hit by lightning. Sullivan says he saw the bolt that hit him. It set him on fire once again. It became such a trend that Sullivan started carrying a bucket of water with him for this specific reason. The lighting moved down his left arm and leg, then crossed to his right leg just below the knee.
The Sixth Strike
In 1976, Sullivan was struck again, this time injuring his ankle. He once again noted a cloud that was following him from which he tried to runaway, but he was unsuccessful.
The Seventh Strike
In 1977, Sullivan was struck for the 7th time. He was fishing in a freshwater pool when the lightning hit the top of his head, setting his hair on fire and travelling down his body, burning his chest and stomach. As he was returning to his truck, a bear approached Sullivan trying to steal the trout from his fishing line. Sullivan managed to strike the bear with a tree branch. According to the park ranger, this was the 22nd time he had fought off a bear with a branch.
Roy Sullivan was about as lucky (or unlucky) as they come, but people around him began avoiding him. They were worried that being near Sullivan would somehow make them more prone to a lightning strike.
"For instance," Sullivan said. "I was walking with the Chief Ranger one day when lightning struck way off (in the distance). The Chief said, 'I'll see you later.'"
While doing laundry with his wife one day, lightning struck HER and not Sullivan. But it still made people think he was somehow inviting the lightning to him.
In 1983, Sullivan was found dead at age 71, not from lightning, but from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He allegedly shot himself over unrequited love from his wife, who was lying next to him at the time. She was 30 years younger, and claimed to not notice Sullivan's death until several hours later.
Have you ever heard of someone with such unlucky luck?