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struck by lightning seven times and survived them all

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Roy Cleveland Sullivan (February 7, 1912 – September 28, 1983) was a U.S. park ranger in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Sullivan was hit by lightning on seven different occasions and survived all of them. In his lifetime he gained "Human Lightning Rod" as a nickname. On September 28, 1983, Sullivan died at age 71, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, reportedly distraught over an unrequited love. Two of his ranger hats are on display at two Guinness World Exhibit Halls in New York City and South Carolina. There is a road side plaque on Tanner's Ridge in Page County, Virginia that talks about Sullivan.

The seven lightning strikes:

  1. 1942: Sullivan was hit for the first time when he was in a fire lookout tower.[3] The lightning bolt struck him in the leg and he lost a nail on his big toe.[4]
  2. 1969: The second bolt hit him in his truck when he was driving on a mountain road.[3] It knocked him unconscious and burned his eyebrows.[4]
  3. 1970: The third strike burned his left shoulder[4] while in his front yard.[3]
  4. 1972: The next hit happened in a ranger station.[3] The strike set his hair on fire. After that, he began to carry a pitcher of water with him.[4]
  5. August 7, 1973: A lightning bolt hit Sullivan on the head, blasted him out of his car, and again set his hair on fire.[4]
  6. June 5, 1974: Sullivan was struck by the sixth bolt in a campground,[3] injuring his ankle.[1] It was reported that he saw a cloud, thought that it was following him, tried to run away, but was still struck.[3]
  7. June 25, 1977: The seventh and final lightning bolt hit him when he was fishing.[3] Sullivan was hospitalized for burns on his chest and stomach.[4]

According to National Geographic's Flash Facts About Lightning, the odds of being struck in a lifetime is three-thousand to one. If the different events of "being struck by lightning" were statistically independent, the chances of being struck seven times in a lifetime are about sixteen-septillion to one (sixteen followed by 24 zeros). However, this number heavily relies on the assumption that the odds of being struck are valid uniformly across the United States, which does not take into account the local weather or Sullivan's possible predisposition to thunderstorm sites due to his work as a park ranger.


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