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The Unluckiest People in History

It’s tough to be the black sheep, and you can quickly start beating yourself up for being unlucky or ill-fated. Whatever plagues you personally, remember that a cascade of bad luck doesn’t have to define your life. Just look at these profoundly unfortunate historical figures. They’ve been plagued by bad luck all their lives, yet all of them have had successful and memorable lives. These less fortunate individuals are the living manifestation of the “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” approach to life, and we applaud them for it!

Adolphe Sax (1814 – 1894)

Unfortunate People Adolphe Sax (1814 – 1894)
Portrait of Adolphe Sax Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Adolphe Sax is famous for inventing the saxophone and a few other, less well-known musical instruments like the saxtuba and the saxhorn. But this is not the only way history remembers the man. Sax is also the king of comical out-of-body experiences that, honestly, sound too bizarre to be true.

The string of mishaps that would follow Sax all his life began when he was still a young child. Sax rolled down three flights of stairs, landing on a rock directly on his head and falling into a coma. A bit later, young Sax landed on a stove and got severe burns all over his body, and then he also nearly drowned in a river but was miraculously saved by a passer-by.

Then, there’s also the time when Sax drank some poison confusing it for milk, and the time when he was blasted across the room by exploding gunpowder. Needless to say, this gave Sax a reputation of a klutz, although we must applaud his indestructible body and self-esteem, as the man not only survived all of the misfortune but also went on to invent an iconic musical instrument.

Roy Sullivan (1912 – 1983)

Unfortunate People lightning strike

Do you know what the chance of being struck by lightning is? The odds are very slim - only 1 in 500,000. Needless to say, the chance of being hit by lightning twice, thrice, or four times drops to one in dozens of millions. So how come there’s a real person who was struck by lightning seven times and survived all seven encounters?! Roy Sullivan, a park ranger by trade, even earned a Guinness World Record in 1977 for surviving the highest number of lightning strikes in all of history.

The human lightning magnet was first hit in 1942, and this first encounter left Roy without a nail on his big toe. But the real misfortune began in the late 60s and early 70s when Roy was struck by lightning six more times - once in 1969, and then in 1970, 1972, 1973, 1976, and 1977. These subsequent strikes injured Roy’s chest, shoulder, and ankle, and even made his hair catch aflame for two years in a row. Crazy, right?!

Ronald Wayne (1934 – date)

Unfortunate People Mac Laptop

Everyone is familiar with Apple; chances are, you’re reading this very sentence from an iPhone or any other Apple device right now. The success of this tech giant is unquestionable, and its market value rose to a mind-boggling $3 trillion at the beginning of 2022.

You may even know that the two principal founders of Apple are Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. But there’s a third major stakeholder you’re probably not aware of - Ronald Wayne. When the two Steves formed a company, they wanted a third party to have a 10% stake in the company to balance out administrative arguments and decisions. That person was Ronald Wayne, who had also designed the now-world-famous company logo.

However, Wayne didn’t stick with the company for long. After a short twelve days, he gave up his 10% share in the company for just $800. Moreover, a 2017 interview by Vice points out that Wayne doesn’t regret his decision, as computers are not his passion. In the same interview, Wayne also pointed out he has never owned an Apple device and doesn’t even have a cellphone.

Related article: 5 Lies That Changed the Course of History

Jeanne Rogers

Unfortunate People bat

You may get the impression that only men get at odds with Lady Luck from the first three mentions on this list. Alas, this is not the case, and a woman named Jeanne Rogers is living proof of that. Jeanne’s infamous misfortunes began at age 18 when she tripped over the railing and fell off a cruise ship while taking pictures. Her friend tried to help, but she was in such a rush that she slipped on the wet deck and lost consciousness. Meanwhile, Jeanne was floating in the water on a life-preserver ring. It was only when her friend regained consciousness that they fished poor Jeanne out of the water. 

Jeanne was also attacked by a bat in broad daylight while delivering cosmetics to clients. The bat got tangled in Jeanne’s hair, dug its claws deep into the woman’s scalp, and even urinated on her. Eventually, Jeanne made her way to a local vet, who covered her head with a bag and filled it with smoke to sedate the bat. The subsequent scalp injury forced Jeanne to wear a beret for 3 months.

According to Jeanne, she also once fell into a manhole, was struck by lightning two times, was mugged, and accidentally pulled down a man’s swimming trunks at a pool. Surely, Jeanne is one of the unluckiest people of our time!

Wilmer McLean (1814 – 1882)

Unfortunate People First Battle of Bull Run (1861)
 Bridge during the Retreat from Manassas, First Battle of Bull Run. Engraving by William Ridgway Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Let’s end this list with the misfortunes of the past that befell one Wilmer McLean, a Virginia wholesale grocer who owned a farm in Manassas. If this placename rings a bell, that’s because it was the location of the first major battle of the American Civil War - the First Battle of Bull Run (1861). The battle literally occurred on McLean’s land, and Confederate soldiers used his farm as their headquarters. A former member of Virginia’s militia, McLean didn’t protest much at first, even when a cannonball landed in his kitchen. 

But this was only the beginning. The very next year, McLean’s farm became the site of the Second Battle of Bull Run, with over 20,000 casualties. It was the last drop. McLean’s moved with his pregnant wife a hundred miles south to the Appomattox Court House - as far away from the war as possible. Alas, in 1865, the war came knocking on Wilmer’s doorstep again. His home became the site where General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant. Allegedly, this has led McLean to say, "The war began in my front yard and ended in my front parlor." What an unbelievable coincidence!

H/T: Mental Floss, Vice

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