Urban legends can be born from anything–a story passed down from generation to generation, a misunderstood occurrence that gets distorted each time the tale is told. Or, more rarely, something real.
The legend of the Green Man, or Charlie No Face, falls into the last category. He was a phantom that was supposed to haunt a Pennsylvania road late at night. But the story of the Green Man is less frightening and more tragic than you might imagine.
A strange, visually frightening figure really did wander a highway in Beaver County for decades, and this figure truly did lack a face. But the Green Man wasn’t a monster. He was just a man who survived a terrible tragedy as a boy and lived to tell the tale.
Raymond Theodore Robinson: The Green Man’s Early Life
Before he became a local legend, the Green Man was a young boy named Raymond Theodore Robinson. Like most kids his age, Raymond spent a lot of his time outside exploring the town in which he lived.
He had lost his father at the young age of 7, just a year before his own accident. This loss didn’t stop him from living life to the fullest, though. He spent many of his formative years swimming in the nearby river, playing in the woods, and hanging out with his friends.
It was during one of these hang-out sessions on June 18, 1919, that he and some of his friends were heading to a local swimming hole when they came upon the Wallace Run bridge. The bridge was used for a daily trolley service running between local cities, and as such, was electrified.
The trolleys were powered by 1200 volts DC, but despite this deadly charge, the wooden bridge was a regular haunt for youths. Raymond and his friends weren’t ignorant of the dangers of the electrified bridge. Only a year before, another young boy named Robert Littell had died from electrical burns received on the bridge.
Despite the clear danger, the group of boys were undeterred. Once they reached the Wallace Run bridge, the boys spotted a large bird nest on top of the wooden structure. One boy dared the others to climb up and see how many birds were inside the nest, and while the others declined, Raymond took up the challenge.
He climbed a girder on the side of the bridge but before he could reach the nest, Raymond was electrocuted and burned by the high voltage running through the structure.
Raymond Robinson was rushed to the hospital, but the horrible state of the boy’s body left little room for hope. The local newspaper, The Beaver Falls, reported the condition of Raymond and seemed to have a poor outlook on Raymond’s chances.
The first headline read, “Morado Lad, 8, Shocked By Live Wire, Will Die,”
The headline, while cruel-sounding, was the same expectation that almost everyone had at the time. Raymond Robinson was horribly injured, with extensive burns on both his face and body.
The doctors and nurses at the Providence Hospital cared for him day and night without ceasing. Incredibly, the boy slowly started to improve.
It took about a month for the outlook for Raymond to begin to change. After so many weeks of bleakness, Raymond’s condition starting to look up was deemed a miracle. But now that doctors were more optimistic about Raymond’s survival, they had to consider what his life would look like once he was healed.
Raymond’s burns had left him crippled. His face was described as looking like it had been melted off. There was little left of the boy’s features. He had lost his eyes and nose, and his ears and lips were nearly gone as well.
It wasn’t just his face, either. Raymond had lost his left arm at the elbow, and suffered severe burns on his chest.
But despite all of that, Raymond was going to survive. Amazingly, he was in good spirits throughout his entire recovery.
No Face Charlie: The Man and the Legend
Raymond healed, slowly but surely, but he was blind and disfigured for the rest of his days. His family never had a second thought about Raymond’s appearance, and he had a full life.
Despite this acceptance, Raymond wanted more freedom, and that’s when his infamous walks began.
Raymond would wait until nighttime when there were fewer people out to see him. He would grab his walking stick and make his way down the highway running between Koppel and New Galilee.
Known as Route 351, there wasn’t much traffic on the road at night, which was what Raymond wanted. He feared that his disfigurement would scare others, and he wasn’t looking for attention.
Despite the late hours of his excursions, Raymond began to garner legendary status from the few people who would see him on his travels. His admirers were mostly local teenagers.
It became somewhat of a right of passage to find the figure they dubbed Charlie No Face, or the Green Man. These teens would give Raymond beer and cigarettes to get him to talk to them, but he was hard to understand.
While some of the attention he garnered was cruel, others began to view Raymond as more than a legend–he was a friend. Raymond would stop and chat with his visitors, and as the years went by, his legend grew.
The story of the Green Man spread further with each passing year. Raymond became folklore.
The stories would change from the truth of his electrocution to more dramatic tellings, like those of a man burned by acid. Those who would come to see him weren’t just coming from the local towns anymore but from as far as states away.
Everyone was fascinated with the faceless man who would walk the highways at night. Thanks to the fact that Raymond’s story was based in reality, he became one of the most well-known figures in all of Pennsylvania.
The Green Man, Ray Robinson, died on June 11, 1985, but his story lives on through folktales and stories told by locals. He was buried in Grandview Cemetery, overlooking the bridge where he was so terribly burned all those years before.
“Charlie No Face: The life and the legend”
“The Legend of the Green Man: Raymond Robinson” https://museumfacts.co.uk/green-man-raymond-robinson/