Who Forted? Magazine

The Green Man: A True Pennsylvania Legend

Piney Fork (a.k.a. Green Man) Tunnel

On the outskirts of Pittsburgh, near where Piney Fork empties into Peters Creek, there’s an old neglected railroad tunnel covered in graffiti and filled with road salt. It was built in 1924 as the Piney Fork Tunnel to service coal mines along the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Peters Creek Branch. Abandoned since 1962, the locals have given it another nickname. To many people in the Pittsburgh area, this is Green Man Tunnel. Teenagers used to drive into the tunnel, turn off their lights, and call out to the “Green Man” who would appear from the darkness, his skin tinged green from a tragic electrical accident. If he touched your car, his electrical charge would either stall the vehicle or make it difficult to start.

This might sound like just another urban legend, built up from fictional ghost stories centered on the decaying relics of past industry, but in this case, it’s a story established on truth. In order to find the real story behind the myth, you have to travel 70 miles north to a remote site near Youngstown, Ohio, known for generations as Zombie Land.

Zombie Land is a rural spot just north of Hillsville, Pennsylvania, where many urban legends were born. (Read more about it here.) Among the creepy things said to inhabit the area is the Green Man. Horribly disfigured in an electrical accident (or a lightning strike, according to some versions), this man with eerily-glowing green skin was said to wander the roads at night and chase anyone he came across. Teenagers looking for a good scare still head out to the area at night hoping to catch a glimpse of the Green Man, but they won’t find him. He passed away over 20 years ago. But he wasn’t a crazed lunatic or ghostly apparition. His name was Raymond Robinson.

The #114 streetcar on the Harmony Route

Ray was born in October 1910 and grew up as a normal child in Monaco, just south of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. His father passed away when he was only seven years old, but his mother remarried soon after to her late husband’s brother. Just two years later, Ray’s life changed forever. He was with some friends on the bridge near 4th street which carried the Harmony trolley over Wallace Creek when the kids spied a bird’s nest high in the girders carrying the overhead wires. Ray was dared to climb up to it and he did. When he reached the top, he made contact with the wire carrying 22,000 volts of electricity. The force of the jolt threw him down to the bridge with severe burns on his face and body. Doctors at Providence Hospital didn’t expect him to live, but by some miracle, he did.

Raymond Robinson

The incident left its permanent mark on Ray. His left arm was amputated at the elbow and his body riddled with scar damage. His face bore the brunt of the damage; Ray lost his nose (leaving just a hole) and his eyes, and his mouth was bloated and twisted. He became an unwilling recluse, fashioning floor mats and belts and wallets to earn some money. Eventually, he moved with his mother Lulu to a new home just west of Koppel where he lived in a house crowded with relatives. Restlessness overcame him, though, and Ray began taking walks during the day for exercise. His disturbing appearance alarmed locals. Some say neighborhood parents asked him to stay away because he scared the children; other reports indicate he disliked the attention. Either way, Ray chose to take his walks in the late hours of the night along State Route 351 between Koppel and New Galilee with one foot on the pavement, the other on the gravel. Though he was blind, he used a walking stick to help him feel his way through the darkness. Day and night looks all the same when you’re blind.

"Charlie No Face" poses with teenagers

After being discovered by accident on his nightly walks, the tale of the Green Man—or Charlie No Face, as he was also called—developed. There are conflicting stories about where the “green skin” idea came from. Some accounts say he always wore his favorite green plaid shirt or other green clothes that reflected the color onto his pale skin while others say his skin was a pale shade of green. Either way, it became a popular pastime to head out to Route 351 and look for Ray. Those who weren’t too terrified to stop would chat with Ray over a smoke. He even posed for pictures, often in exchange for beer or cigarettes.

Those who knew him or took the time to stop for conversation found Ray to be very kind and one of the nicest people you could ever meet. Unfortunately, his disfigurement turned many people away. Even the negative attention and taunting he would get on his walks didn’t stop him; deep down, Ray was a lonely person who craved interaction with people outside of his family. His popularity reached its peak in the 1960s when cars caused traffic jams along the road as people gathered, hoping to catch a glimpse of Charlie No Face.

Grave of Ray Robinson and his father

As old age slowly crept up on him, Ray ventured out for his walks less and less. By the 1980s, he moved into the Beaver County Geriatric Center (now called Friendship Ridge Nursing Nome) in Beaver, Pennsylvania. It was there where Ray passed away on June 11, 1985, at the age of 74. He was buried back in Beaver Falls at Grandview Cemetery, just a short distance from the location of the bridge where he met with his tragic fate as a child. You can read more about Ray’s story and the Green Man legend in the 1998 Post-Gazette article “Green Man’s Legend Continues to Grow.”

 

*UPDATE* The Green Man legend also appears on Ohio, according to the book Ohio’s Ghostly Greats by David Gerrick. This time, the setting is a remote section of Geauga County where, according to the legend, a town drunk crawled into a power substation one night and was electrocuted by a transformer. He survived, but his skin was tainted green. Embarrassed by his condition, he would only go out at night and occasionally peeked into the windows of cars parked along the roads nearby.

Ken Summers
Ken Summers is a historical researcher, author of the book Queer Hauntings, and contributor/resident ghost geek for Who Forted? who started poking around northeast Ohio for spooks just before GHI was born. After too much paradrama, he went solo with his website Moonspenders, leaving the super-serious "investigating" to the most staunch believers. Ken finds himself lost somewhere between "too smart to believe everything" and optimistic curiosity mixed with wishful thinking. He's had a handful of strange experiences that certainly fall under the category of "unexplained". Secretly, he wants to marry a werewolf and build a fully-functioning TARDIS.
Ken Summers
Ken Summers

31 Comments

  1. Greg Newkirk

    09/26/2011 at 10:37 PM

    I remember hearing stories about “The Green Man” while I was growing up in rural Pennsylvania, and it was always one of the legends that fascinated me the most. I never knew the real story behind it until about a year or two ago, and it left me feeling incredibly sad.

    I was so pumped when I saw you had posted this, especially because it touches on so much of the story I’d never heard before.

    I wonder how many kids still go looking for “The Green Man”, completely unaware of the real story?

    • Ken Summers

      09/27/2011 at 3:30 AM

      I’ve actually never heard of the Green Man before… here, we were too preoccupied with Hell Town/Butane Town. I started off looking for another paragraph about a different Zombie Road, and that led me down the path of Ray and the legend. There was talk of a documentary in the works in 2007, but I haven’t been able to find out anything else about it.

      As always, I try to dig to the bottom of everything and research it to the end! Glad I could fill in some storyline for you. :) I’m sure his legend will live on for many more decades; kids will be looking for him without even knowing his real name.

    • Ken Summers

      09/27/2011 at 11:59 AM

      I just added another version at the bottom that I ran across by accident today. It seems the story of the Green Man spread out quite a bit!

    • Craig Ennis

      10/19/2011 at 5:02 AM

      I was on way back to Virginia from Carlisle,Pennsylvania yesterday was checking out scenary along 81 South in a field there it was.

      I noticed the strange object I could make out a figure olive drab in color, the object was walking toward the road as it got closer I could see object had what seemed to be a skin of green almost plant like.

      As the green man crossed a ditch in the field it stopped hunched down and looked left to right in the weirdest way from what was able to be seen the creature had darkened eyes,I was then out of sight of the creature.

  2. Miss_Majic

    09/30/2011 at 3:15 PM

    This story is really sad. But slightly veering off subject have you guys heard of the fella in India who can conduct electricity and not be affected by a current more than 10times that which would kill anyone else? He climbed an electrical pole to commit suicide at age 7 after his mother died but instead of killing him it didnt hurt him at all or turn him green. He was on “Stan Lee’s Super Humans”.

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  4. Margaret

    06/07/2012 at 7:48 PM

    When I was a teenager, we would drive over to see “CHARLIE NO FACE”. He would always stop and talk with us. He was a very gentle person. In fact, he would have his dog with him when he walked the road. Whenever a car came down the road, he would turn his face away from the headlights. If he heard the same car more than once, he would turn his face toward the headlights, because he knew then that the car was there to see him. He knew that if car came down the road and not know about him; it might cause the car to go off the road. He was more considerate of the people than they were to him. He knew our car and he would always stop because he knew we were his friends. He loved cheeseburgers,fries and milkshakes and we would always take him some. I always prayed that no one would hurt him. He was my friend and he is sadly missed.

  5. edward ceyrolles

    10/13/2013 at 6:59 PM

    Do you know anything about a lady in the new castle area called Mary Black? As a kid we heard so many stories about her being a witch and how she had powers from the devil. We were all very scared of her around Lawrence and beaver county and new castle.If you can find anything it would be very interesting please let me know Thanks.

    • Ken Summers

      10/15/2013 at 2:41 AM

      Mary Black–or Mary Johnson Black–was indeed a real person. She was born in Ireland in 1801 and immigrated to Pennsylvania around 1832. She was laid to rest at Tindall Cemetery in 1888. Considering she was buried in the cemetery and was 87 years old at the time of her death, all evidence points toward a natural death and no accusations of witchcraft. (Those accused of witchcraft were not buried on hallowed ground.)

      Yes, Mary is believed to be one of the possible origins of the “Bloody Mary” legend. But the original legend (likely started in the 1950s) did not involve a mirror. Supposedly, if you said the name “Mary Black” three times before bed, she would rise from the grave during the night and claw your face with her bony fingers.

      Source: http://news.ellwoodcity.org/2012/10/31/mary-black-fact-fiction-or-both/

  6. Jodi Schmidt

    10/14/2013 at 4:46 PM

    My father, Andy Schmidt, and his 7 brothers and sisters used to tell us tales about Cnarlie No Face. They all grew up on a farm in Youngstown, Ohio. My Grandfather, Paul C. Schmidt, was the Postmaster of Youngstown. They would all visit him and shared cigarettes and food and beers with him. I wish my Dad were alive today to read this story. Thanks for posting it.

  7. Will Tucker

    10/14/2013 at 6:14 PM

    True story. Charlie used to leave his home at 10:00pm when the New Galilee fire whistle would blow. I was 16 or 17 at the time and would drive by his home when he came out. Sorry to here he passed away. Charlie used to carry a 38 pistol with him account some assholes would beat him up on occasion . He did like to drink beer and would talk with you. A tragic but true story. I am now 63 and had forgotten about Charlie Noface as we called him then. He came out at night because he had no eyelids and the sun hurt his eyes, at least that is what I was told.

  8. CHERYL D. VECCHIO { KENT,}

    10/15/2013 at 9:27 AM

    went to find green man when i was in high school with jim jones from new middletown, ohio 1960. everyone always talked about the green man.

  9. jerry v

    10/15/2013 at 11:42 AM

    I live in Struthers OH a suburb of Youngstown and used to go to Zombieland near Hillsville PA all the time and drink with friends when we were in high school there a lot of stories about zombieland I’m glad I know the history behind one of them now

  10. Nick

    10/15/2013 at 1:08 PM

    My friends and I use to go visit Ray in high school. He actually was in Wampum, Pa. if I remember correctly. Took him beer and smokes. He was really a nice guy and would always stop and talk to us.

    • cheryl

      10/17/2013 at 2:49 PM

      We just had a class reunion, the guys were discussing old legends and one that everyone stopped to listen too// was the green man stories. The guys said the same thing “he was really nice and asked if you came back, to bring a beer and smokes and he’d be glad to talk awhile.

  11. S

    10/15/2013 at 6:56 PM

    If you researched Zombie Land, you know about “the torch”, right? Girls loved being taken down thee, hiking through the woods, and seeing it lit. They’d jump straight into your arms. Thanks for the flashback :-)

  12. ErinPatricia

    10/16/2013 at 8:54 PM

    The Green Man was a story told to me as a child too! My Dad grew up in Level Green, Pa and the Green Man lived in The Shades Of Death, along the creek near my Grandparents house. I don’t remember his story, but the Shades got their name because mobsters would take people down there, tie them to trees and excecute them, or at least shoot them in the woods by the water. My Dad sadly recently passed away or I would have shared this with him and gotten a clearer version of the Urban Legend he told me as a child.

  13. cliff householder

    10/17/2013 at 4:39 PM

    First off let me say that I was born not a mile from where”Zombieland is supposedly located and what you are hearing is nothing more than hype promoted by a hungry reporter trying to make his mark!!At one time back in the”70′s”there was a girl from Struthers who was raped and I believe murdered but her attackers were caught!!!
    Then too when I was a teenager back in 1953,54,55 etc.for no reason other than boredom we would all pile into someones car and drive down to Koppel to see the “green man”and it wasn’t hard to get him to stop and talk to you!!The best way was to take him either beer or cigarettes!!He was just an ordinary guy who was disfigured but mentally stable but couldn’t tolerate sunlight.The myth that he was green is not true and as I remember he lived in his sisters basement and didn’t venture out during the day!!

  14. Harold Boles

    10/19/2013 at 1:17 PM

    My best friend and I use to go and talk to Ray a lot in the 60′s. And we would take beer with us and talk to Ray for a couple of hours at a time. Hadn’t heard whatever happened to him for years, until now. So sorry to hear of his passing, but he is in a better place now. R.I.P. Ray.

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  20. Devvie

    11/24/2014 at 7:13 AM

    You say his left arm was amputated at the elbow but in the picture of him posing with the teenagers you can clearly see his left arm…

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