Itís bizarre what a lightning strike can do to the human body. Typically when
someone is struck at the top of the head, they die immediately. It took James
We found him in the field behind his parentsí old farm house, lying beneath an
old oak tree. The tree was gone, though, reduced to glowing embers and a black
scar on a mostly green hill-side in the field in Jamesí backyard. Investigators
found that the fire had started with Jamesí hair, burnt down his clothes to his
shoes, across the grass, and eventually took the tree down to smoldering ashes
by the time we found him at 4pm.
The storm wasnít as bad as youíd think, just a lot of wind and a slight drizzle,
but the lightning was unusual. This gloomy Thursday has been reported as the
day with the most confirmed lightning strikes in the Midwest during tornado
season. If youíre familiar with tornado season in the Midwest, youíll
understand how incredible that fact really is.
Four people in my hometown of Descartes, Missouri were struck by lightning on
Thursday and a total of twenty-three trees were burnt to the ground. Two houses
were also destroyed in fires caused by the lightning. James was the only victim
to be found alive after being struck.
We knew James was out in the field. Sarah told him not to go outside after
hearing on the news of widespread lightning in the area, but James insisted on
taking his dog Charlie on a walk. Sarah, Jenny, and I were hanging out at
Jamesí house watching movies since we had nothing better to do when the weather
was bad. Descartes is a small town with a population of around 4000 in a pretty
remote part of the Ozarks, a large clearing surrounded by dense national forest
encompassing the town. We had just started watching Jennyís favorite movie,
Schindlerís List, when James decided to take Charlie outside.
Three hours later the movie was over and James had not returned. When Sarah
realized he hadnít come back into the house, she was very worried. I wasnít too
worried about it because James was always getting distracted by something and I
was sure was just sitting outside watching the storm.
When the three of us walked outside, the first thing we saw was the smoke
coming from the top of the small hill. Immediately, Sarah gasped with a weak
squeak in her voice and took off running across the field to where the tree
once stood. As we chased her up the hill I could see what looked like a lump of
black, white, and red coal. Upon reaching the crest of the hill in the crust of
the burning black oak and grass turned to ash we I realized the smoldering pile
was James. Sarah screamed a scream that makes my skin prickle even thinking
about it today. The girls were inconsolable immediately upon this realization
and I was in complete shock.
I had never seen human flesh burnt as severe as Jamesí entire body was that
day. If third degree burns are the worst possible, James had fourth or fifth
degree burns covering his entire body. From the top of his head to the bottom
of his feet James was a shell of a black and white crust cracking in crimson.
We all thought he was dead, but once Sarah stopped screaming James started