Spooky Science: Lightning can come into your house after all

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Lightning can do a lot more than ruin your electronics. It can climb through the plumbing into your house and zap you to death.

For some time, the idea that lightning could slip through plumbing and shock people in the bathroom and the kitchen was taken as truth. Kids were dragged out showers and dinners were postponed and thousands were happy that they had an excuse to not do the dishes.

But eventually, the idea that lightning would worm its way into a human body via piping came to be considered an old wives' tale. Sure, it was more plausible than your face "staying that way" because you pulled a face when the wind changed, but not much.


Now, it turns out, that the scary stories were true all along. It takes the right set of circumstances and the wrong luck — but what lightning strike doesn't? Metal pipes make good conductors, as does bath or shower water, especially if it has bath salts in it. Even phone lines can give you a shock. A man in Boston was taken to the hospital after being struck by lightning coming through the phone cord. A Tennessee teen got zapped via her doorknob. A woman in a Texas house got hit from lightning coming through a ceiling fixture.

One of the more lurid stories is that of a woman in Croatia, who was struck by lightning from the sink when she was brushing her teeth. As she rinsed her mouth, the linking struck it, and exited – well, the normal way that things that enter the mouth exit the body. It sounds horrible, but she was lucky — but a bolt exiting through her foot might have killed her. Lucky for her she was wearing rubber-soled shoes at the time. The woman survived. Everyone else's sense of safety did not.


I never liked my teeth, anyway. Let them rot.

Via NSSL, Lightning Safety, FOX, ABC, and a special thank you to the book Never Shower in a Thunderstorm.