Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Blues for Charlie No Face

Jeff Kay, proprietor of the West Virginia Surf Report, linked to a newspaper report of a bizarre kidnapping plot that involves one Robert Wayne "No Nose" Gardner. Gardner does, indeed, have no nose, having lost it in some sort of firearms mishap.

In the comments, a loyal Surf Reporter mentioned a legendary figure from western Pennsylvania known as Charlie No Face, and someone else provided a link to story about the real person behind the legend. (Warning: The accompanying illustration is pretty damn disturbing.)

Raymond Robinson was eight years old when he touched a high-voltage trolley wire and burned off most of his facial features. That's the kind of tragedy that makes you wonder whether there's any order at all in this pitiless cosmos. But according to this account at least, Robinson found some way to maintain his sanity and even his good humor. His life wasn't easy by any means, but it had its pleasures, including long noctural walks alone along the road.

Those walks along the higway made him a local phenomenom, one that would draw crowds of teenage gawkers to see "Charlie No Face." Some who encountered him were kind, though many were not. Gradually, Robinson morphed into an urban legend, the Green Man, a mysterious figure with skin tinted green from some kind of industrial accident.

Robinson died in 1985. People still talk about the Green Man. So Robinson lives on as folklore. He paid a mighty high price for it, though.

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