Paying a Divine Debt: The Unfortunate Story of Walter Summerford

Walter Summerford

Walter SummerfordSometimes people just have bad days. In Walter Summerford’s case, he had four, one of which he was not even alive to be miffed by.

The first bad day forced Walter to retire. The second kept him from his hobby. The third killed him, and the fourth was just plain cruel. Lightning struck Walter so many times, it makes him a contender for the title of ‘Unluckiest Man to Ever Live and Die’.


Walter Summerford served as a British cavalry officer during the First World War. In 1918, the horse-mounted Major Summerford galloped into battle in Flanders, Belgium. Before the battle had even begun, Walter came flying off his horse. A singular smite from the heavens killed his mount and paralysed him from the waist down. The strike invalided Walter out of his post, so he decided to retire in Vancouver, Canada.

Vancouver in 1924 is a pristine place to behold. Walter, being a sportsman, spent his days peacefully fishing amid the Great North’s lush wildlife and trees. Trees are essential in any ecosystem because they provide shelter, clean air and food. They also attract lightning, which of course meant Walter was jolted once again. The hapless man sat beneath a flaming tree with a look of disbelief frozen on the right side of his face, which is now completely paralysed.

Again and Again

Walter made a full recovery from his divine debacles, fortunately. It only took two years for Walter to walk again, as he understandably began to spend most of his time in motion. In the summer of 1930, Walter was strolling in the park as he did every single day, but the skies would just not leave him alone. Lightning struck the old man, rendering his glorious handlebar moustache singed for the last time. Walter passed away after being fully paralysed for two years.

People mourned and buried Walter Summerford in 1932. Four years later, in what can only be described as an overdone joke, lightning smashed Walter’s gravestone. Professionals from Centenary Memorial Gardens say that this is possible, depending on the material used (limestone) and surrounding structures. They explain that Walter’s burial in his metal-laden soldier’s uniform may have also increased his already ridiculous odds.

Hopefully, Walter Summerford lived a full life despite the unfortunate hand fate had dealt him. The story of the man struck by lightning thrice alive and once dead may serve as a fascinating bit of trivia, but more than this, it should serve as a means for people to get some perspective on luck, and on life.