Most legends — even the most unrealistic — are usually born from a certain grain of truth. Urban legends, in particular, often have a thin veil of plausibility to them — just enough to send a chill down a person’s spine. “Charlie No-Face” is a prime example.
Also known as the “Green Man,” Charlie No-Face is one of the most popular legends in western Pennsylvania. He’s said to be a hideously deformed man, his skin a permanent shade of green — the results of a horrific electrical accident. Charlie emerges only at night, calmly walking the shadowy streets, careful to avoid the eyes of passing motorists. He leaves behind a trail of cigarette smoke as he hunts for his next unsuspecting victims.
According to one variant of the legend, Charlie suffered his accident at the now abandoned Piney Fork Tunnel on the rural edge of Pittsburgh — an appropriately spooky location where hormone-fueled teenagers gather to tempt fate and catch a glimpse of the Green Man. If he does appear, he may send an electrical charge into your car, frying its engine.
As odd as the story sounds, much of it is actually true — at least, as true as these types of stories are capable of being.
In 1919, Raymond Robinson was an adventurous eight-year-old boy. One day, he and his friends spotted a bird’s nest high atop the power lines over the Harmony trolly. Dared to climb up and see if there were any eggs inside, Raymond accepted the challenge.
He never made it to the nest.
A massive jolt of electricity surged through him the moment he inadvertently made contact with a wire. He was not expected to survive, but somehow, he miraculously defied those grim expectations. His injuries, however, were nothing short of profound. You can see a picture of Raymond on his Wikipedia page, but be warned — he lost his eyes, his nose, an arm, and much of his mouth was severely disfigured. I urge you to check, though — not out of morbid curiosity, but to see that there is a human being behind this story.
For the remainder of his life, Raymond almost never ventured outside during the day. Instead, he spent time with his family, selling rubber doormats and leather wallets which he made himself.
Night provided Raymond the cover of darkness, allowing him to leave his house and walk the streets mostly unnoticed. He used his walking stick to navigate the roads, often stopping to talk with curious folks in exchange for some beer and cigarettes. Raymond’s family hated his nightly excursions and for good reason — he’d been hit by a car on more than occasion, while other times he would have a little too much to drink and fail to return home.
Despite Raymond’s attempts to conceal his appearance, a few motorists still managed to catch a glimpse of this strange, startling figure. Perhaps invariably, the imagination took over and spawned the Green Man myth. Why the color “green” became associated with the legend is unclear: some believe his burnt skin literally exhibited a shade of green, while others speculate that Raymond’s green shirts may have reflected off his pale features.
Needles to say, the mythologizing served to attract a great deal of unwanted attention. Cars packed with insensitive gawkers came far and wide to see Charlie No-face. But those who actually bothered to talk to Raymond discovered a kind and gentle man, far from his fictional, demonic counterpart.
Raymond passed away peacefully on June 11th, 1985. Although he was long overshadowed by the “Green Man” legend, his story has become better known these last few years.
Raymond’s case is a powerful example of how humanity shapes its myths from seeds of fact — and how a “monster” can actually be the furthest thing from monstrous, if only we’re willing to look a little deeper.
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