The town of Lawson, Mo., sat under thunderclouds on July 26, 1969, when Harold Deal, then 31, worked in a house as an electrical contractor.
Deal’s son Larry, 10, shook at every thunderclap.
“My son begged me, ‘Daddy, let’s go home,’” Deal said. “I did.”
Rain pounded the windshield of Deal’s truck as he drove to his home nearby.
“When I was about a block and a half from the house, I happened to look at my watch,” Deal said. “It was 9:12 in the evening.”
Most of the next six hours were impossible to remember.
Deal pulled his truck into his driveway and parked. He sent Larry to the front door to make sure it was open before grabbing some important papers and stepping out of the truck. Then the night exploded in light.
“Between the third and fourth step I felt like I was (riding) something real fast,” he said. “It felt like my head was being sucked down between my shoulder blades.”
Lightning had struck Deal, knocking him out of his work boots and slamming him to the ground.
“I felt like a pincushion was inside of me,” he said. “And I could not see.”
When Deal’s sight and senses returned it was 4:20 a.m.
For the next month Deal couldn’t walk, and every movement sent stabs of pain throughout his body. To relieve the pain, he underwent back surgery at St. Mary’s Hospital in Kansas City.
“They ended up taking two vertebrae out of my back,” Deal said. “I was about five feet, eight and a quarter inches and I ended up after surgery two and a quarter inches shorter.”
After surgery, the pain was gone, but doctors told him he would never walk again. Deal did walk, but the lightning strike left Deal with a strange ability – he’s impervious to cold.
“The way this lightning has left me, I never get cold,” Deal said. “I’ve been out in seventy-two below zero temperature (in Hell, Michigan). I don’t wear a jacket. I don’t wear long sleeves, I don’t wear long pants.”
Dr. Mary Ann Cooper of the Lightning Injury Research Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said lightning strikes could affect the body this way, but it’s unpredictable.
“Most doctors tell me it’s impossible,” Deal said. “It’s medically impossible.”
But it’s still true.
News photographers have shot Deal sitting in a bathtub of ice and bathing in a snowdrift. He stood in only a pair of shorts for four hours at minus 70 degrees for a television news program in Hell, Michigan. Heat bothers him, but pain, taste and the sensation of cold are gone.
While recovering from lightning strike, Deal has also dealt with emotional trauma. His first wife divorced him a few years after the strike and his friends seemed to disappear. He contemplated suicide in 1991 – but something happened to stop him.
“I was tired of living,” he said. “I was just through with it.”
That’s when Deal said God spoke to him.
“He said, ‘Harold, you feel you have to explain you’re the way you are,’” Deal said. “He said, ‘remember, there’s two types of people out there. There’s gossipers and there’s sincere people. The sincere ones will ask you questions. The gossipers don’t want the truth; they’ve got their mind made up. I don’t know how to explain it. I just felt it.”
After that experience, Deal has not only accepted what happened to him after the lightning strike, he’s used his experience to help others.
“I feel my life today is so much richer so much fuller,” he said. “The Lord has shown me how to appreciate life. I don’t take it for granted anymore.”
This lead Deal to the group Lightning Strike and Electric Shock Survivors International, where he councils people who have also been struck by lightning.
“I call into seven or eight states a week when I hear someone has been struck by lightning or electricity,” he said. “I talk to them to give them psychologically what to expect.”
Deal’s life isn’t really about his life, or his inability to feel cold. It’s about how he can help others.
“It’s not what Harold Deal has done, it’s what the Lord has done through Harold Deal,” he said. “I can’t explain it. All I can do is share it.”
Copyright 2010 by Jason Offutt
Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo., 64468, or email@example.com. Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”
Jason’s newest book on the paranormal, “Paranormal Missouri: Show Me Your Monsters,” is available at Jason’s blog, from-the-shadows.blogspot.com.