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Major R. Sumerford vs. Lightning
I love a good storm with crashing thunder and flashing lightning. I even enjoy being out in a storm, and feeling like I’m part of the excitement of it all! If Major R. Sumerford of Vancouver, Canada, was alive today, I’m sure he would consider that to be very foolish behavior indeed.
Sumerford was struck by lightning three times during his life in Canada.
He was an officer of the British Calvary on patrol in Flanders in 1918, when he was first struck. The major was instantly knocked off of his horse. The horse was killed, and Sumerford was paralyzed on the left side from the waist down.
Major Sumerford returned to his home in Vancouver to get well. He didn’t fully recover, but was able to walk again with the use of two canes.
Six years after being struck by lightning the first time, in 1924, poor Sumerford was again struck while on a fishing trip with some friends. He was sitting beneath a tree relaxing when attacked by the fiery bolt. This time he lost the use of his other side! Major Sumerford was forced to spend two years in a hospital to get well.
The third attack was in 1930. Sumerford was enjoying a summer day with friends in a park in Vancouver when a sudden storm hit. Before the major could get to the concession stand offering the closest shelter, his old nemesis struck him a final time. He lived for two more years, but was fully paralyzed and wheelchair bound.
Two years after his burial, in July of 1934, an electrical storm raged in the area where the major had been interred. One bolt of lightning hit the cemetery. Not surprisingly, the bolt destroyed one tombstone – the one belonging to Major R. Sumerford!
Lightning strikes and injures almost 2,000 people every year in our world. About 100 people die from lighting strikes in the United States alone. The odds of being struck by lightning in the United States are about one in 700,000.
The person holding the record for being struck the most by lighting is a park ranger. Over his 35 year career, he was struck seven times.
Interestingly, men are struck four times more often than women.
Living in Florida puts you at twice the risk of being struck over any other state. Especially if you are out golfing late in the afternoon, in July, on a Sunday afternoon.
I have to admit, after researching this story, I am now not so eager to be out in a storm, “enjoying the excitement of it all.” Hmmmmm. I’m going to have to think about this some more.
Colombo, John Robert. Ghost Stories of Canada. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2002.
Violini, Juanita Rose. Almanac of the Infamous, the Incredible, and the Ignored. SF: Weiser, 2009.
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