Spark Ranger: The Man Lightning Couldn’t Kill


The sound humans often associate with thunder is actually lightning. The booming claps are the result of air rapidly expanding as lightning heats it to nearly 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. 90 percent of lightning actually occurs above our heads in the clouds, we only see the remaining 10 percent on their fraction-of-a-second journey to Earth. 

These are what meteorologists refer to as “cloud-to-ground strikes” and they generally measure up to five miles long and a couple of inches in diameter. A single bolt of lightning can produce one billion volts of electricity. Humans have died from a 42-volt shock to their system, which is part of the reason that Roy Sullivan’s story is so incredible. It’s not just that it happened, it’s also the fact that he survived. 

Most individuals struck by lightning experience some kind of indirect strike. Roy Sullivan, apparently experienced them all. Born February 7, 1912, Roy grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Greene County, Virginia. As a boy, he roamed its many ridges and hollows hunting for rabbits. An avid outdoorsman, he spent his twenties building Shenandoah National Park until it spanned 311 square-miles of protected land. 

Roy was by most accounts, ordinary, he just so happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, seven times. In 1942, 30-year-old Park Ranger, Roy Sullivan watched a thunderstorm barrel through Shenandoah Valley from the panoramic views of Miller’s Head Fire Tower. 

He was enjoying himself until seven or eight bolts of lightning hit the wooden shelter and the tower erupted into flames, Roy fled for his life, but his efforts were in vain. Just as he escaped from the firelit tower, another bolt of lightning struck him directly in his right leg. The impact of the strike seared the skin all down Sullivan’s leg.

According to the Washington Post, blood spurted from his foot, draining through a hole ripped in his boot sole. Roy would recover and for the next 27 years, he was a guy that had been struck by lightning. But that changed when in July 1969, 57-year-old Roy was driving his truck down Virginia’s Skyline Drive through a thunderstorm, when lightning suddenly hit a tree on one side of the road and jumped, a side flash passed through Roy’s window and knocked him unconscious at the wheel. He lived, but the flash seared off his eyebrows, eyelashes, and most of the hair on his arms. 

One year later, in 1970, lightning struck a transformer in Roy’s backyard and jumped again, this time is blasted his left shoulder and knocked him several feet into the air. In 1972, Sullivan was working at the park’s registration booth when he heard a loud thunder clap. 

In an instant, the 60-year-old man found himself engulfed in a painful white light. Roy’s scalp apparently caught fire with six-inch high flames. The next time he was struck by lightning, Roy was on patrol when he saw storm clouds form in the sky naturally at this point, he was terrified of storms so he hopped in his patrol car and drove, but according to Roy the clouds followed him. 

When Roy finally felt that it was safe enough to exit his car, lightning blasted him into the air again, this time knocking the shoes off his feet with the shoelaces still tied. On June 5, 1976, lighting struck the now-64-year-old Roy as he routinely checked on a campsite in the park. Supposedly, the sixth strike hit him just one mile from where he had been struck by the second bolt. Five months later, Roy retired from his service at the park. 

He packed up his things and took outdoors out of the equation. He and his wife Patricia moved to a small mobile home in Virginia. Naturally they littered their property with lightning rods, one on every corner of their home, one on the television antenna outside and several on numerous trees that were nearby the home. 

Despite the rods, lightning still found its way to Roy. On June 25, 1977, Roy started to smell Sulphur while he fished for trout in a pond near his house. Just as the hair on his arms eerily stood on end, lightning hit him again. This time sending Sullivan into the pond where he had been fishing. 

The blast also singed his hair, burnt holes in his clothes, and left his stomach and chest covered in burns. Afterwards, he lost hearing in one ear. This is said to be the last time that Roy Sullivan was struck by lightning, but it is said that he didn’t count the time that he was struck while helping his father cut wheat in a thunderstorm. When lightning struck the tool that young Roy was holding, then jumped from the tool onto the ground, and started a small fire.

On September 28, 1983, after 41 years of being the victim of chance and circumstance, 71-year-old, Roy Cleveland Sullivan took his own life in Augusta County, Virginia. Today, Mr. Sullivan’s disturbingly mysterious and incredible life is remembered by many in the Guinness Book of World Records

Roy was either the luckiest or the unluckiest man in the world, depending on how you look at it, but he definitely lived a life unlike any other.

(Picture: Washington Post)

Missing Without a Trace: The Springfield Three


It’s been 28 years since the disappearance of the Springfield Three, two teenagers that had recently graduated high school and spent the evening partying following their high school graduation and one of the teenager’s mothers. More times than not, these cases are solved. But for these three things turned dark quickly. Sure, over the almost three-decade long investigation into the case, new leads have been developed, but nothing has been uncovered when it comes to the remains of the three missing women.

The date was June 7, 1992, in the city of Springfield, Missouri, not far from the bustling city of St. Louis, Missouri. After celebrating their high school graduation, 19-year-old, Suzie Streeter, and her 18-year-old friend, Stacy McCall decided to spend the night at Suzie’s house, alongside Suzie’s 47-year-old mother Sherrill Levitt. 

Later that morning, Suzie, Stacy, and Sherrill, also known as the Springfield Three are all discovered to be missing from the residence. The scene of the disappearance contained some interesting clues, including a broken globe from the porch light and an odd answering machine message, which was unintentionally erased, but no hard evidence of what might have happened to the women. 

Over the years, a number of leads have been brought to authorities such as a convicted criminal who claimed to know what happened to the victims. But no trace of the Springfield Three has ever been found. 

This case is considered to be one of the most unfathomable and haunting missing persons cases of the modern era, as there were no signs of any struggle or any evidence that an intruder had been inside the house, so if these three women were abducted, how did the perpetrator or perpetrators manage to pull it off?

On June 6, 1992, Suzie Streeter and Stacy McCall graduated from Kickapoo High School in Springfield, Missouri. They then went out for a night of celebration in honor of this huge accomplishment. The plan was to stop by several house parties and spend the night at their friend Janelle Kirby’s home. 

But when they arrived at Janelle’s house around 2:00 a.m., it was too overcrowded. And then, without knowing, they altered their fates permanently. They decided to go back to Suzie’s house and sleep there. This would be the last time anybody ever saw them alive, to this day, not a single person has seen them. 

On the following morning, June 7, Janelle Kirby and her boyfriend waited for Suzie and Stacy. They had all planned to go together to the local water park in the southern Missouri town of Branson, Missouri. They arrived at Suzie’s house at around 8:00 a.m. 

Three vehicles were parked outside: belonging to Suzie, Stacy, and Suzie’s mother, Sherrill. The glass lamp on the porch was broken and the door was unlocked. Janelle and her boyfriend proceeded inside the home. 

They noticed that the three women’s purses were lined up on the living room floor, at the foot of the stairs leading up to Suzie’s bedroom. The dog, a Yorkshire terrier named Cinnamon, was locked in the bathroom. But Sherrill, Suzie, and Stacy were nowhere to be seen. 

While inside the home, the phone rang and Janelle proceeded to answer. A strange male was on the other end, she hung up. Soon, the phone rang again. Her boyfriend, meanwhile, innocently cleaned up the broken glass on the porch. The couple then left the residence. 

Several hours later, Janis, who had been getting increasingly worried, stopped by the house herself. She hadn’t been able to reach Stacy by phone and knew she had decided to spend the night at Suzie’s. She went inside and also noticed all three purses on the living room floor. She also around the house, worriedly peeking in the other rooms. 

She recognized her daughter’s clothes, neatly folded on her sandals by Suzie’s waterbed. She also noticed that Sherrill and Suzie – both chain-smokers – had left their cigarettes in the house. Janis knew something wasn’t right, she knew this wasn’t like Stacy. Normally, Stacy was pretty good about letting her mother know of her whereabouts. 

She then called authorities in a panic. When she hung up, she noticed a light blinking on the answering machine. Someone had left a message. She played the message and later described it “strange.” She couldn’t remember more and the answering machine had automatically erased the message after it was played once.

Police were dumbfounded by what had taken place. What had happened to the three women in the wee hours of June 7, 1992? There was an untouched graduation cake left chilling in the fridge and nothing that gave any hint of forced entry.

The officers collected evidence and then began the interviewing process, they had begun the investigation too late– by that time, it had been nearly 16 hours since the three women vanished. Worried friends and family began stopping by the house to take in the scene and hopefully find clues that might lead to an arrest or closure of some type.

The last person to hear from Sherrill was a friend. Sherrill had called her at 11:15 p.m., and told her that she was painting a chest of drawers, but gave no indication that anything was wrong.

Even though many small tips and leads have been leaked in the nearly three decades since that fateful June night in 1992, nothing has surfaced that certainly may have belonged to the women, and the case is still cold.

Will the City of Springfield, the State of Missouri, or the United States ever get any sort of closure? Will we ever uncover a suspect? Is the suspect still at large or has the suspect passed on and gotten away with murder? What happened on June 7, 1992?

Where are the Springfield Three? Are their remains still waiting patiently to be discovered? We may never know.

(Picture: The Kansas City Star)

A Smoldering Christmas Mystery: Remembering the Sodder Family Tragedy 75 Years Later


For many of us, Christmas is a time of celebration, a time of laughter and love. It’s the greatest time of year, a time when people all over the world seem at peace and everyone seems content. For one Fayetteville, West Virginia family, all of that Christmas cheer escalated into a night of hopelessness andtorment.

It was late on Christmas Eve, 1945, that evening had been filled with merriment and cheer, now everyone in the house had retired to bed for the night awaiting the grand arrival of Santa. George and Jennie Sodder, and nine of their ten children. One of their older sons was away fighting in the Army. But for the rest of the Sodder family, everything was going just as you would expect any Christmas Eve to go, happy and quiet.

Suddenly in the middle of the night, Jennie awoke with a start, she smelled smoke. Slowly, she got out of bed, she didn’t wake George right away, perhaps because she hadn’t yet found the source of the smell, maybe one of the kids was making toast in the kitchen. 

But when Jennie discovered flames in another room, she realized that their lives were all in immediate danger. She woke George and the couple located what children they could. In a mad dash, they shouted upstairs for the kids who were on the second floor to come down. 

As the flames began to spread rapidly, the couple fled the house, trusting that the younger ones were right behind them. Once they emerged out of the house and into the front yard, George looked back to see the fiery tongues of the blaze licking the foundation of their home. He also saw their beautiful decorations and electric Christmas lights gleaming through the fire-lit windows, relics of joyous memories slowly becoming engulfed in flames and turned to ash. 

That’s when he realized there were only four of the nine children who lived at the home outside with he and Jennie, the other five were still inside the sweltering structure, but maybe, just maybe, he had time to rescue them from the raging fire. 

George broke a window on the bottom floor of the house in order to go back inside the smoke-filled house, he cut his arm but didn’t notice, he was too consumed in the hope that somehow, he could still extinguish the fire. But as he stood in the house and faced the rolling flames, he realized there was no way that he could fight the flames, they were too strong. 

They forced him back out of the house and onto the lawn, he’d have to find another way to rescue his children that were still in the house that was engulfed in the blaze. No matter how hard George tried, there was no hope, he had done all he could do to try to salvage his kids but it just wasn’t going to happen. 

When the sun broke the Fayetteville, West Virginia horizon on Christmas morning, 1945, the only thing that remained of the Sodder family home was a basement full of ashes and soot. Fire Marshalls searched the remnants of the house, but they never found any skeletons. All they recovered were a few small bones and pieces of internal organs. 

The Fire Chief ruled that the fire was caused by faulty wiring. Still, the fire should not have been hot enough to disintegrate entire human bodies. George and Jennie Sodder were told that nothing at all was found of their children, and that a more thorough search wouldn’t take place until after the holiday season. 

This tragedy has simmered in the minds of Americans for years since it took place, and nearly 75 years later, the location of the children’s bodies remains a raging mystery.

George and Jennie Sodder have since passed on, but their last surviving daughter, Sylvia, now 77, is convinced that her siblings didn’t die as a result of the fire. What does she think happened to her loved ones?

What could have happened to the bodies of the five Sodder children that vanished in the pitch black smoke? Will the peaceful little town of Fayetteville, West Virginia ever get closure?

(Picture: thetruecrimefiles.com)
(Picture: truecrimefiles.com)