Of all the local legends in western Pennsylvania, the tale of Pittsburgh’s Green Man is the best known. This horribly deformed man, also called Charlie No-Face, could be seen at night, blowing cigarette smoke through the holes in his cheek, lurking by the roadside, trying to stay out of sight. It sounds like a classic boogie man story, except for one detail. It’s true.
As the story goes, the Green Man had an accident that ruined his face. Some say he was a West Mifflin man working for the power company, struck by lightning or shocked by a downed power line. Others suggest he was a factory worker splashed with acid. Whatever the cause, all agree that the accident turned his skin green and melted his facial features together. Depending on who’s telling the tale, the Green Man either died immediately (so all subsequent sightings were of his ghost) or survived and holed up in a boarded-up house.
A variant on the story gives late-night thrill-seekers a place to look for the green glow of their hero’s skin. The accident took place near one of the many abandoned railroad tunnels in greater Pittsburgh, and that’s where he ran to after his accident. Many different locations are touted as the site of Green Man’s Tunnel, but the most popular is in South Park Township, just off Snowden Road, a site used by the township for storing rock salt for snowy days.
So much for the stories. Here are the facts: For fifty years, right up till the 1980s, Raymond Robinson used to walk a lonely stretch of road between Koppel and New Galilee for exercise. He did this under cover of at night because of what happened to him way back in the summer of 1919. On a dare, the 8-year-old Raymond had climbed up the pylon that held the power lines for the Harmony Line trolley in Morado. A bird had built a nest there and his buddies wanted to know if there were any eggs in it. Ray never saw the nest…or anything else again.
He lost both eyes in the accident, so he never got to see the Beaver Falls newspaper headline about what happened up that pylon: “Morado Lad, 8, Shocked By Live Wire, Will Die.” But he did prove the headline writer wrong. Two months later, the Daily Times reported “In spite of all his affliction, the boy is in good humor.” After a lengthy recuperation, Ray Robinson was released, with a prosthetic nose connected to a pair of dark glasses that concealed his empty eye sockets. He passed his days listening to the radio, reading Braille, and making belts and wallets out of leather. He mowed the lawn with a manual mower. And at night, he went for walks along route 351.
Word soon spread about the disfigured night hiker. Local teenagers began calling him Charlie No-Face; people from further afield called him the Green Man. And folk began driving to the area just to meet him. Some nights, there was such a flow of traffic to the road that the police would be there to move things along. Generally, Ray would hide when he heard traffic approaching, because of a few disrespectful types. But some curiosity seekers befriended him and he came to appreciate their company. They’d give him cigarettes and beer, and sometimes snap pictures with him.
During the Vietnam War, draftees from the Pittsburgh area took these pictures with them, and so the legend of the Green Man spread across the theatre of war and back to the United States. And the stories became more exaggerated as they were retold. They are still told to this day, even though Ray Robinson died more than twenty years ago, on June 11, 1985. He is buried in Grandview Cemetery, near the site of his accident, but his legend walks on.
Ghost Train of the Green Man Tunnel
August 4, 1969, 9 PM, just another dog-day of summer in Pittsburgh. As usual, we were at hamburger row near the entrance of Allegheny County’s South Park. A new girl was there, and we decided that Green Man’s Tunnel was just the ticket to get her interested. In the 20-minute drive to the tunnel, we told her about the Green Man and how he had been electrocuted and turned a shade of green. The tunnel is about 25 foot wide and 30 feet high. The Montour Rail Road constructed it in 1934. You cannot see through the tunnel because of the bend. Next we heard a train noise coming from the tunnel. Not just a normal, diesel train, but a steam locomotive. I watched for the engine’s headlight, but saw nothing. The train noise was getting louder and changing pitch, as if coming through the tunnel. The train was getting closer and changing pitch again, coming out of the tunnel. Then all we could hear was the creaking and clickety-clack of the rail cars on the rails. Two days later, Jack and I talked with the South Park Township Police at their station. The police told us that back in the 30s, a man killed his wife and child in that tunnel with a hatchet. Then the man jumped in front of the train. Since then, people have reported seeing a hatchet flying at them and hearing strange crying sounds. They had quite a large file on the incidents.
Categorised in: Bizarre
This post was written by Nadia Vella