Lightning strikes again – and again

If lightning never struck more than once in the same spot, the makers of lightning rods would have a tough time of it Since that day in June 1752 when Benjamin Franklin (inventor of the lightning rod) tapped into storm electricity with a kite and a key, we've known why tall objects tend to attract cloud-to-ground strikes. The Empire State Building in New York is hit about two dozen times a year on average. A lightning rod takes advantage of lightning's nature by urging it to the ground along a safe channel.

Church steeples often attract lightning but fail to dispel it safely, which must have puzzled those who gathered there for safety during storms. Europeans once rang church bells to “scatter the thunderstorms” and inhibit strikes. Some church towers bore the inscription Fulgura frango ('I break up lightning'). Hundreds of bellringers were apparently struck and killed prior to 1800. A few lucky (or unlucky?) souls have been hit more than once and survived. One US park ranger was reportedly struck seven times in 35 years. He lost his hair, eyebrows and one big toenail, but lightning never managed to take his life.