Home History & Facts The Park Ranger Who Survived Seven Lightning Strikes

The Park Ranger Who Survived Seven Lightning Strikes

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The National Lightning Safety Institute in the USA puts the average person’s odds of being struck by lightning in the US at somewhere around 1 out of 280,000.

Despite this, Roy Cleveland Sullivan (1912 – 1983), a US park ranger in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, was struck by lightning seven times in his life, surviving all of them before his death at 71 in 1983, from a self-inflicted gunshot!

Sullivan holding one of his damaged hats

The strikes were recorded by the Superintendent of Shenandoah National Park.

The seven strikes occurred in 1942, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1976 and 1977, and Sullivan survived all the resulting injuries.

To be fair, Virginia experiences a lot of thunderstorms during the year, and Roy Sullivan had greater exposure to them as a park ranger who was often outdoors, raising his chances of getting struck a bit. All the same, this makes his case no less intriguing.

Even more baffling, Sullivan sometimes tried but was not successful in escaping from the thunderstorms which were taking on the semblance of a malicious entity following him intentionally.

After the fourth lightning strike, Roy Sullivan’s growing fear made him develop the habit of carrying some water with him because the lightning strikes often set his hair on fire. The water proved useful on a few more occasions.

Roy Sullivan was lucky once. He escaped unhurt while his wife was struck as they were both hanging out clothes on a line in their backyard.

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