One of the strangest, pervasive myths in the world is that lightning never strikes the same place twice. I’ve tried to find out where this particular phrase came from, but I can’t find anything definitive. So, instead of giving you an interesting etymology of this myth, instead, I’ll just have to show you all the ways that it’s wrong.
And it is totally wrong. Lightning strikes the same spot all the time.
First of all, lightning isn’t magic. It doesn’t have a brain, and it certainly doesn’t avoid certain spots because it’s been there before. Lightning is just a big electrical charge in the sky that connects with the ground.
Even though lightning doesn’t have a particular aim when it flashes down from the sky, it is more likely to hit certain things instead of others. While it’s not exactly true that lightning always strikes the tallest point around, it does seem to prefer it most of the time. All you have to do is type in, “Lightning Rod Empire State Building,” and you’ll see all sorts of pictures of lightning striking the same spot on top of the famous building.
To borrow a phrase from one of my favorite shows in the world, Myth Busters, this myth is totally busted. If you still don’t believe me, just ask this guy. He was struck by lightning 7 (SEVEN!) times!
If the myth is just a myth, then what purpose does this particular platitude serve? Well, it’s actually a really nice metaphor to help people through tough times. If something really unbelievably unlucky happens, saying that it’s not likely to happen again can be a nice way to reassure them that everything’s going to be OK.
It’s also a great way to rib your buds if they seem to have gotten incredibly lucky in a friendly game of ping pong or something. There’s nothing better than talking a little bit of smack to get the competition heated up, and taunting your opponent with this phrase can be incredibly spicy.
Even though lighting definitely does strike the same place twice, or three, or seven times like poor Roy Sullivan, the phrase is still nice to pull out of your back pocket every once in a while. Whether you’re reassuring someone that they don’t have to worry about a stroke of bad luck lasting forever or telling your bud that he’ll never beat you in a game of wiffle ball ever again, this particular platitude is a good one to keep around.
But it’s still a complete myth.