Several web-sites relate the unreferenced story of Major Summerford:

Daily Cognition:

A British officer, Major Summerford, while fighting in the fields of Flanders in February 1918 was knocked off his horse by a flash of lightning and paralyzed from the waist down.

Summerford retired and moved to Vancouver. One day in 1924, as he fished alongside a river, lightning hit the tree he was sitting under and paralyzed his right side.

Two years later Summerford was sufficiently recovered that he was able to take walks in a local park.

He was walking there one summer day in 1930 when a lightning bolt smashed into him, permanently paralyzing him. He died two years later. But lightning sought him out one last time.

Four years later, during a storm, lightning struck a cemetery and destroyed a tombstone.

Scientific American:

Sullivan was a park ranger, so he upped his odds by being outdoors a lot. The same went for a sportsman named Major Walter Summerford, struck three times, whose gravestone took a shot four years after his death.

Similar (plagiarised?) stories appear in MINA, Unsolved World Mysteries, Guy Sports, David Icke Forum, Macropolis.

Are there any well-referenced versions of this story? Is it an urban myth?

  • There is an image of the gravestone here, which is supposed to prove the story. But there's no information, where is it actually situated, in what country or city? tydknow.com/… Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 12:19
  • obviously fake gravestone picture, since stone says he died in 1912, while the stories having him dying in the 1930s
    – DavePhD
    Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 12:34
  • 1
    Another version with more truthfull date 1916 on the webpage above: "Back in the distant 1916 a lightning bolt struck the grave of Walter Summerford. Mr. Summerford died 4 years before his gravestone was struck and during his lifespan he himself was struck by a lightning a total of 3 whopping times! Official reports show that he was a sportsman, meaning his profession increased his chances of getting hit". Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 12:45
  • "The emotional interpretations of such anomalous events grant them significance regardless of their causal account. And if we are to take seriously the scientific credo to keep an open mind and remain agnostic when the evidence is indecisive or the riddle unsolved, we should not shut the doors of perception when they may be opened to us to marvel in the mysterious."-scientificamerican.com/article/… Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 12:49
  • @AmeliaSabrina: Have you any reason to say 1916 is a more accurate date?
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 23:31

1 Answer 1


It seems this is a legend that has evolved out of an older legend.

The story was substantially the same in 1937 in Der Zufall und das schicksal by Wilhelm von Scholz :

Ein andermal sucht sich der Zufall einen Mann heraus, um ihn ständig mit Blitzen zu verfolgen. Der ehemalige englische Major Summerford liegt in Vancouver begraben. Sein Grabmal wurde vom Blitz zerstört. Dabei erinnerte man sich an Ereignisse aus dem Leben des Majors, die mit Gewitter und Blitz zusammenhingen. 1918 traf den damaligen Hauptmann Summerford in Flandern ein Blitz, warf ihn vom Pferde und lähmte ihn für Jahre. Er ging in seine Heimat, das schon genannte Vancouver; dort traf den Genesenen wieder der Blitz, diesmal, ohne ihm Schaden zu tun. 1930 bei einem Spaziergange ereilte ihn dasselbe Schicksal nochmals; jetzt schwer, er wurde gelähmt, und die Lähmung führte wohl zu seinem 1932 erfolgten Tode. Aber damit nicht genug: noch auf sein Grabmal zuckt 1934 der Blitz nieder und zerstört es!

However, the 18 June 1932 Argus newspaper of Melbourne reports:

A flash of lightning killed C. J. Summerford of Columbia (U.S.A.). A
month later his gravestone was destroyed by lightning. Another one was erected
and lightning destroyed that also!

And the 20 March 1930 Eugene Register has the same story:

[Title] BELIEVE IT OR NOT (Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.)-BY RIPLEY

[Large illustration of lightning bolt splitting gravestone, with the following text inset]

KILLED C. J. SUMMERFORD of Columbia, AlA [meaning Alabama]

The 03 September 1892 Cincinnati Enquirer, at page 9, had an article "LIGHTNING played havoc in Alabama":

At Columbia, Charles Summerford was struck and instantly killed

This death was also reported in the New York Times, the Tennessean (but says Columbus instead of Columbia) and the Detroit Free Press

  • Could he be T.W. Summerford? )) and if both names are true)) Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 13:23
  • @AmeliaSabrina Some references say "R. Sommerford" books.google.com/…
    – DavePhD
    Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 13:41
  • three names - is more than I can stand)) Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 13:49
  • @AmeliaSabrina I mean, "R. Summerford"
    – DavePhD
    Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 13:52
  • 1
    @AmeliaSabrina There seems to be a connection to the person listed here rootsweb.ancestry.com/~fljackso/houston/columbia.html as "Summerford G.J. 02-07-18-- 08-29-0000 Stone broken" in the Columbia, Alabama cemetery. In the OP story, the February 1918 probably came from that date (which is really his birth date in 1818). See discussion here: boards.ancestry.com/… (the part of Henry county containing Columbia became Houston county)
    – DavePhD
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 19:30

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