Some folks are lightning rods for success. Others are just lightning rods.
1. The Civil War’s Charlie Brown
Wilmer McLean just wanted everyone to get off his lawn. In 1861, the Battle of Bull Run—the Civil War’s first major skirmish—started near his farm. (McLean’s house was used as a Confederate headquarters.) One year later, soldiers traipsed back onto McLean’s property, sparking the Second Battle of Bull Run. Combined, the battles resulted in more than 20,000 casualties. By 1863, McLean was tired of having strangers die in his yard and moved to southern Virginia. But the war followed him. In 1865, the armies sparred one last time—near McLean’s new property. General Lee would sign the truce, of all places, in McLean’s parlor. McLean recalled: “The war began in my front yard and ended up in my front parlor.” At least he had a front-row seat to history.
2. Mr. Electricity
Seven is a lucky number to some, but Roy Sullivan would disagree—he’s been struck by lightning seven times. A Virginia park ranger, he had such bad luck that, on one occasion, a bolt struck him inside a ranger station, setting his hair on fire. After that, he carried a can of water wherever he went. But Sullivan’s seventh strike was possibly his strangest. Sullivan was trout fishing, and after Mother Nature lit him up, a bear stole a fish hooked on his line. When Sullivan recovered, he hit the bear with a stick, got into his car, and drove off in a daze—perhaps feeling lucky that the bear didn’t see him as a main course.
3. Alabama’s Biggest Rock Star
Ann Hodges made history simply by taking a nap. In 1954, she was resting on her couch in Alabama when a hunk of rock burst through the ceiling, bounced off her radio, and smacked into her hip. It was a meteorite. This being the height of the Cold War, Americans were paranoid about junk falling from the sky, so the police confiscated it. A public uproar ensued, with folks insisting that the rock rightfully belonged to Hodges. (She was, after all, the first person in recorded history ever to be struck by a meteorite.) Instead, the court handed the hunk of iron to Hodges’s landlord, who returned it to her in exchange for $500.
4. Tough Ship
Violet Jessop and Davy Jones were not on good terms. In 1911, Jessop was working aboard the RMS Olympic when the liner collided with a British warship. One year later, she was aboard the Olympic’s sister ship, the Titanic, when it became a little too intimate with an iceberg. (Again, she survived.) Later, during World War I, Jessop worked aboard the fleet’s third sister ship—the Britannic—when it, too, struck either a torpedo or mine and sank. Oral hygiene being high on her list of priorities, Jessop refused to abandon ship until she saved her toothbrush. Today, she remains a hero to shipwreck enthusiasts and dentists everywhere.
5. Maine Attraction
Jeanne “Pixie” Rogers must have stepped under too many ladders when she was little. At 18, she fell off a cruise ship and down an open manhole. As reported by the Bangor Daily News, the Maine consignment shop owner has been strangled, mugged, and struck by lightning—twice. Years later, a bat got caught in her hair, and she had to drive to the vet to have it removed. Worst of all, she once pantsed Mr. Rogers (no relation). Seems that while hoisting herself out of a public swimming pool, Pixie Rogers inadvertently yanked on the beloved TV personality’s swim trunks, giving everybody a grand view of Mr. Rogers’s neighborhood.
The above article by Lucas Reilly is reprinted with permission from the June 2014 issue of mental_floss magazine.