eing struck by lightning isn’t as uncommon as it used to be, with over 300 million cases reported worldwide in 2019, however, there is only one person in history to been struck more than once. Walter Summerford is considered to be history’s unluckiest person as he was struck by lightning three times and once again after he passed away. Many at the time assumed that he had been cursed by someone or something.
If we look at the chances of being struck by lightning, there is a 1 in 13,000 chance, based on the National Storms Laboratory in the United States. We can consider that 100 years ago the possibility was even smaller as there weren’t so many external objects that would attract lightning. What is even more surprising is that the mortality rate of being struck by lightning is quite small as most people who are struck survive, however they end up developing neurologic and cardiovascular complications that may lead to death in a matter of years.
The first time Summerford was struck by lightning was in World War I. Walter Summerford was a British officer at the time who came from a good English family. He had survived many battles whilst leading his men into hell, with sky-high chances of death at every step. But something very unusual would take Summerford out, something that no soldier could have foreseen as it would be the least of your worries on a battlefield.
As Summerford was marching on his horse on the Belgium front, he was struck by lightning out of nowhere. The strike threw him off his horse, however, the lightning strike did not kill him. Although, he wished it would have as he became paralyzed from his hips down, making him incapacitated and confined to a wheelchair. This meant that Summerford could not fight anymore, he was upset that he wasn’t able to lead his men into battle.
Many years had passed since his first incident, and as a survivor, Summerford thought that God or faith would give him a break from dangerous things that could kill him or from a lightning strike, but as we all know, life works in mysterious ways, especially based on this story. After the war, Walter decided to start a new life in Canada. He tried to have a family of his own and became very passionate about outdoor activities such as fishing.
Walter spent many days fishing, he even won many fishing competitions. His paralysis caused by the first strike never stopped him from achieving what he wanted. Sadly, in 1924, when Walter went out fishing, he was once again struck by lightning. This time he wasn’t directly struck as the lightning struck a tree he was sitting under, but the current traveled through the tree, ending up being absorbed by Walter. What is even more interesting is that this second strike may have helped him with his paralysis, because two days after being struck again, he was able to use his legs once more.
The third and “final” time Walter would be struck by lightning was in 1930, six years after the second strike. Walter was a new man as he was able to use his legs, so he started walking a lot through forests and especially parks. As Walter was having one of his usual walks around the local park, the weather changed all of a sudden, from a sunny day to a sky filled with dark, angry clouds. A few moments after, Walter heard a sound that he was already too familiar with.
As he tried to run for cover, he was once again struck by lightning, but this time leaving him completely paralyzed from head to toe. Despite how unlucky Walter is considered to be, he was still quite lucky for being able to survive three lighting strikes in a lifetime.
No rest even after death
From 1930, after the third strike, Walter had to fight with a lot of medical complications, managing to survive just two more years and passing away in 1932. His family said that he was afraid to even be alive anymore, going senile thinking that someone had actually cursed him as he was even struck by lighting after his death.
In 1936, four years after his funeral where Walter was buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver, his tombstone was struck by lightning, assuring his family, as well as the other locals, that someone had cursed this man. With such low chances that an event like this would happen so many times to the same person, we can also consider Walter Summerford’s life as an achievement of the narrowest odds in the world.