Sorry to interrupt...this will only take a moment.
This site is an independent reader-supported project.
Because you have viewed at least a few articles now...
Can you give a small donation to keep us online?
We can give you e-books and audiobooks and stuff.
This site is an independent reader-supported project.
The cost of keeping it running are considerable.
If you can spare a few dollars it would help us enormously.
We can give you e-books and audiobooks and stuff.
×
×
Experimental Feature

Select 'Atmospheric Audio' from the Audio menu to add subtle background audio to certain portions of the article.

The Conductor

Audio • Created by Alan Bellows

Roy Sullivan was a ranger in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, USA. He became famous for unwittingly shattering a rather unenviable world record. This newer, shorter, experimentaler podcast episode tells his story.


Subscribe to our podcast

Transcript:

This is Damn Interesting.

One of the most memorable moments in Roy Sullivan's life occurred in April of 1942. He was struck by lightning. He was a park ranger at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia in the United States. A nasty looking thunderstorm rolled in while Roy was out patrolling one day, so he took shelter in one of the park's brand new fire lookout towers. Unfortunately, this particular tower had not yet been outfitted with lightning rods, so it became a very attractive target for the lightning. With each lightning strike, Roy would later describe, sparks and fire flew around him. Roy quickly realized he had not selected the ideal shelter and he conducted himself accordingly. When he attempted to flee somewhere safer, however, he'd only taken a few steps outside of the tower when he heard a deafening clap and was blinded by a very bright light. When he regained consciousness, he found a long line of burns running all the way down down his right leg and a smoldering, smoking hole in his shoe with a little bit of blood drizzling out. The lightning had destroyed the big toe on his right foot. Roy Sullivan survived his brush with lightning and recovered, but it was not an experience he cared to repeat.

One of the most memorable moments in Roy Sullivan's life occurred in July of 1969. He was struck by lightning. He was driving his truck along a mountain road when a bolt of lightning struck a copse of nearby trees. It arced in through the open truck window and struck Roy. He awoke some minutes later still in his truck, but his eyebrows, eyelashes, and most of his hair had burned away. During the time that he was unconscious his truck had coasted to a stop not too far from a sheer drop off.

One of the most memorable moments in Roy Sullivan's life occurred in July of 1970. He was struck by lightning. He was at home, standing near the edge of his garden when a bolt of lightning hit a nearby power transformer, which arced across the yard to strike him in the shoulder. He was thrown several feet and his skin was singed, but he was not seriously injured.

One of the most memorable moments in Roy Sullivan's life occurred in April of 1972. He was struck by lightning. He was manning a registration center at a Shenandoah campground when a sudden massive clap of thunder momentarily deafened him. As the flying debris settled and the ringing in his ears subsided, he heard a strange crackling sound. It turned out to be his hair. It was burning. He ran to the men's room and doused the flames with wet paper towels, but by then most of his fine white hair had burned away.

"I have never been a fearful man," Roy once told a local reporter who was writing an article about his lightning experiences, "but I have to tell you the truth: when I hear it thunder now, I feel a little shakey." In the course of the interview, he rolled up his shirt sleeves and his trouser cuffs to reveal the long, wavy burn scars on his arms and legs. He'd been struck four times now, and though that was not a world record, it was close. Allegedly, some of his friends and family began to avoid him for fear of being struck by lightning themselves. But really, one has to ask, what would be the odds that he would be struck yet again?

One of the most memorable moments in Roy Sullivan's life occurred in August of 1973. He was struck by lightning. He was out patrolling Shenandoah National Park when a treacherous looking storm began to gather in the sky overhead. Reluctant to loiter around thunderstorms too long, Roy drove away, but as he would describe later, the storm seemed to be following him. When he felt he had finally driven far enough from the storm to be safe, he stepped out of his truck.

One of the most memorable moments in Roy Sullivan's life occurred in June of 1976. He was struck by lightning. Again he spotted a gathering storm, and again he tried to flee, but it was too fast. Again he was struck. For Roy, getting struck by lightning seemed to have grown almost routine because he had very little to say about this particular event. Apart from the typical superficial burns, the only thing he had to report was a slightly injured ankle.

One of the most memorable moments in Roy Sullivan's life occurred in June 1977. He was struck by lightning. He was out fishing alone, standing in a shallow pool. This bolt of lightning hit Roy directly on the top of his head. It singed his hair badly and left burns across his torso. He assessed the extent of his injuries, he gathered up his catch, and began to slosh toward the shore. He was ready to call it a day. As he approached his car, a massive American black bear emerged from the woods, sniffing the air. Ordinarily, these bears don't bother people, but Roy Sullivan happened to have a basket of fresh, delicious trout hanging from his shoulder. The bear approached. Roy, still slightly smoldering from the lightning which had struck him just minutes earlier, spotted a tree branch on the ground, and he picked it up. The bear advanced. Roy was evidently fed up with nature for the day because he didn't relent. Fortunately, a moderate bludgeoning was all that was necessary to convince the bear that it wasn't worth the fight and it retreated into the woods.

By this time, Roy Sullivan had survived seven verifiable lightning strikes, enough that he was finally officially recognized by The Guiness Book of World Records as the person struck by lightning more times than any other human being. Currently, the record still stands. It's worth pointing out that these seven official strikes did not include the time when Roy was allegedly struck by lightning as a child, for which he could not provide any material evidence. Nor does it count the time his wife was struck by lightning while hanging the wash on a clothesline mere feet away from Roy. He was not personally electrified on that occasion.

The final moment in Roy Sullivan's life occurred in September of 1983. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 71 years old.

This was Damn Interesting. I'm Alan Bellows.

Article written by Alan Bellows, published on 12 July 2013. Alan is the founder/designer/head writer/managing editor of Damn Interesting.

Podcast sound design by Alan Bellows. Podcast narration by Alan Bellows.

For more science, history, and psychology, follow us:
SHARE

More Information
Related Articles


25 Comments
clarkbhm
Posted 12 July 2013 at 07:58 am

Obligatory FIRST comment

I really enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing.


Criggie
Posted 12 July 2013 at 05:06 pm

Nice format - I found it quiet and a bit slow-paced is all. Thank you Alan.


ambrlns
Posted 12 July 2013 at 11:04 pm

Interesting. It would be nice to have both the written story and the recording. The volume was a little too low though.


deedee
Posted 15 July 2013 at 05:13 am

I prefer the written story. Both because it doesn't require everyone around me to listen in (no, I can't seem to find my headphones right now) and also because (no offence intended) I don't quite like the way you articulate -- sounds too guttural to me...

But thanks for a great story, though :)


SlipperyPete
Posted 15 July 2013 at 01:56 pm

Although I appreciate your attempting to branch out with podcasts, I'd have to agree with 'ambrlns' in that I would also appreciate a written version. I am new to DI, but I have come to respect what you do very much. Please keep up the good work, and thank you!


Alan Bellows
Posted 15 July 2013 at 02:01 pm

The reason there's no written version is because this piece wasn't pre-written exactly. It was the product of doing research, making a quick outline, and retelling the story right into the microphone. We have a lot of little stories like this one that work better as audio than as written text, and this is the best way we've found so far to share them.

Basically, in order for there to be a written version we'd need someone to transcribe it after the fact. If anybody cares to volunteer that time and effort, I'll happily append the resulting transcript. :)


stinger
Posted 15 July 2013 at 02:30 pm

Maybe try voice to text recognition software like Dragon or something. I think Windows 7 has a free one included if you are running that.


stinger
Posted 15 July 2013 at 02:31 pm

Maybe try voice to text recognition software like Dragon or something like that. I think Windows 7 has a free one embedded if you are running that.


tinman
Posted 16 July 2013 at 08:48 pm

Alan, I have enjoyed your work for years. I think the podcast is great! Love the sound effects also. in the first minute, ...he conducted himself accordingly...", very funny!
I definitely think there is a place for the podcasts, keep up the good work!


Huey6915609
Posted 18 July 2013 at 04:10 pm

Although it was a bit too quiet (my volume was all the way up and we still had to strain) I loved it! Well done!

You had my wife and I snickering like delinquent teens every time you started the "One of the most memorable days in Roy Sullivan's life was..."

I never wanted a "podcast" anything before, but you need to do this again sometime, especially if you inject some more of the "unintended" humor into it. Your "slow paced and guttural" was part of the charm. Thanks for being Damn interesting!


Ard Ri
Posted 19 July 2013 at 12:24 pm

I've heard of this guy before and knew how the story ended...still sad. Who knows, this guy could have lived to be over 100 with all that energy coursing through his body!


jpatricks1
Posted 26 July 2013 at 07:23 pm

I think the podcast is great! I'll be happy to transcribe and post in the comments next time


neqobs
Posted 29 July 2013 at 06:47 am

I find this very interesting. I love the way you tell the story along with the sound effects. I'd love to listen to more of your podcasts :)


DamnAwesome
Posted 31 July 2013 at 05:22 am

The probability of being struck by lightning 7 times in one lifetime is somewhere around: 1/372529029846191406250000000


clptewilliams
Posted 03 August 2013 at 12:27 pm

I loved every part of this podcast. So much more detail in a story can be expressed through cadence, pacing and word choice. I really liked how each section was started with the same phrase. I can't wait to hear the next one. Keep up the good work!


pari0477
Posted 04 August 2013 at 01:43 pm

Hi Alan,

I would like to volunteer to help you.
Please let me know what is required of me.

Thank you,

Pari


Keith Henson
Posted 06 August 2013 at 08:52 pm

I have an idea for an article but wouldn't write it for the life of me... I am a programmer for a bank and, as such, I am for more comfortable within the syntactical confines of computer code than those of the English language.

That said, Alan, if you'd like a suggestion let me humbly suggest the story of the 7 June, 1917 explosion that occurred during the Battle of Messines. The largest explainable (re: Tanguska, Siberia 1908), non-nuclear (since it won't happen until 1945) explosion ever created by mankind.

Detonated in Flanders, West Belgium it was heard as far away as London and Dublin.

Now that's a giddy-go boom right there... killed 10,000 enemy German soldiers in one fizz-pop...

The story of it's conception, planning, challenges, construction, implementation and ultimate detonation make for some seriously damn interesting content...

Your (and/or your affiliate writer)'s storytelling prowess would likely breathe appropriate life into this story...

Just sayin'...


felixjongleur
Posted 27 August 2013 at 11:42 am

Alan Bellows said: "The reason there's no written version is because this piece wasn't pre-written exactly. It was the product of doing research, making a quick outline, and retelling the story right into the microphone. We have a lot of little stories like this one that work better as audio than as written text, and this is the best way we've found so far to share them.

Basically, in order for there to be a written version we'd need someone to transcribe it after the fact. If anybody cares to volunteer that time and effort, I'll happily append the resulting transcript. :)"

Hey Alan,
I've been slowly making my way through the articles on your site and have to say I absolutely love them. They make great little breaks from work during the day.

Quick question, while reading one of the first few articles, you linked to an article that was listed as retired. Is there an easy way to see these articles like the "browse archives" area? I am very interested, damn interested in fact (=p) in reading all of them.

Thanks!


Alan Bellows
Posted 27 August 2013 at 03:19 pm

felixjongleur said: "Quick question, while reading one of the first few articles, you linked to an article that was listed as retired. Is there an easy way to see these articles like the "browse archives" area? I am very interested, damn interested in fact (=p) in reading all of them.
Thanks!"

We do retain those retired posts in the database for the sake of transparency and all that. Here's the link, which includes a brief explanation for why some posts are retired:

http://www.damninteresting.com/retired-posts/

Superthanks for saying nice things!


taofpaul
Posted 01 September 2013 at 05:11 am

I hope that the "verified" strikes weren't this. http://www.damninteresting.com/the-unburdened-mind/

If the self reports and wounds are true then it is a great story. :-)


Ardeth
Posted 12 September 2013 at 09:12 am

Just found this site and, after reading a few articles, I found this podcast to be an entertaining break from just reading. Very much liked the style of it.
Thanks!


mofromtn
Posted 01 October 2013 at 09:58 pm

Electrifying. was the gun shot on accident or on purpose?


azefri
Posted 19 October 2013 at 07:51 am

Roy Sullivan - the original Bad Luck Brian


Erelannon
Posted 25 November 2013 at 03:46 pm

I find it quite *sad* that after all, he killed himself. I wonder why ..........


Omega
Posted 06 August 2014 at 03:24 pm

I didn't listen to the Podcast but read the transcript. I LOVED THIS!!!. Except for the last part, what a waste he lived through so much to end it so poorly. Me to if you ever need assistance w/ transcript let me know!


END OF COMMENTS
Add Your Comment

Note: Your email address will not be published, shared, spammed, or otherwise mishandled. Anonymous comments are more likely to be held for moderation. You can optionally register or login.

You may use basic formatting HTML such as <i>, <b>, and <blockquote>.