Lightning is one of the most dangerous weather phenomena in the world. It’s responsible for an average of 58 deaths in the United States each year, and many more injuries. Most lightning victims are struck while outdoors in the summer months.
Roy C. Sullivan was one of the luckiest – or unlucky – men in the world. A former U.S. Park Ranger in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, Sullivan was struck by lightning on seven different occasions between 1942 and 1977, and survived each time.
Sullivan’s first brush with death came in 1942 when a lightning bolt struck him on the head, knocking him unconscious. He was hospitalized for three days but made a full recovery.
In 1969, Sullivan was again struck by lightning, this time on the left leg. The bolt hit with such force that it knocked his shoe and sock off. Once again, Sullivan was hospitalized but made a full recovery.
In 1972, while driving in his truck, Sullivan was again struck by lightning. This time, the bolt hit his right hand, causing burns and shattering the bones. Sullivan underwent surgery and had a metal pin inserted in his hand.
In 1973, Sullivan was hit by lightning yet again, this time while walking on a trail. The bolt hit him on the right shoulder, causing third-degree burns. Sullivan was hospitalized for two weeks.
In 1976, Sullivan was sitting in his truck when he was struck by lightning for the fifth time. The bolt hit the truck’s antenna, traveled down the metal frame, and hit Sullivan in the left elbow. He was once again hospitalized for two weeks.
Just one year later, in 1977, Sullivan was hit by lightning for the sixth time. He was walking across a field when the bolt struck him in the stomach. Sullivan was hospitalized for a week.
Incredibly, in June of 1977, Sullivan was struck by lightning for the seventh and final time. He was outside his home when the bolt hit him in the head, knocking him to the ground. Sullivan was hospitalized for eight days.
After being hit by lightning seven times, Sullivan held the Guinness World Record for “most survived lightning strikes.” He died in 1983 at the age of 71 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.