In the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, children are often told the tale of a monstrous creature, a faceless man that wanders the streets at night, stalking the roads, looking for prey. They call him the “Green Man” or “Charlie No Face”. “If you go out after dark, Charlie No Face may grab you.” “If you stay out too late, you may run across the Green Man who will steal your face to place over the gaping hole where his face once was.” “He roams the hollow late at night and chases the parkers and the loafers away.” It’s a right of passage in the area – young people frighten themselves and others with stories of the Green Man or Charlie No Face. The legend says that Charlie No Face was a utility worker who was killed by a downed power line that burnt off his face and tinged his skin green. In another version of the tale, Charlie No Face was struck by lightning, failed to die, and crept into an old abandoned house where he lived out the rest of his days venturing out only at night to terrorize residents of the area. The stories were grand – and true.
The Post Gazette, a local South Park newspaper, recently wrote a piece on Green Man that included interviews with residents of the area. In the article, the Post Gazette relays a story told by area historian, and resident, Joline Pelesky:
“To this day the nearby tunnel that Piney Fork Road and its namesake creek follow under the old B&O railroad is known as the “Green Man Tunnel.” Like others, she describes it as a spooky-looking spot, though she knows that’s not the only reason it gave adolescents gooseflesh. The guys used to take their girlfriends there, you know,” says Pelesky, who grew up in that area in the 1930s when it was all coal mines. She’s heard that one night back in the ’40s or so, one guy, perhaps in a costume, was out there peeking in the steamy windows of the cars, “and scared them half to death.” She’s even heard that it was a mentally deranged person who was later institutionalized. In her 72 years, Pelesky hasn’t seen the Green Man. However, enough people did that the Green Man of South Park tales earned a reputation, and a brief mention, in the 1994 book, “Ghost Stories of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.”
As it turns out, the legend of Charlie No Face is mostly true – it is based on a real man, Raymond Robinson, whose life changed dramatically after a gruesome accident on June 18, 1919.
The story of Raymond Robinson
Raymond Robinson was born on October 29, 1910 in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. On June 18, 1919, when he was eight years old, Raymond was heading to a local swimming hole with some friends when he stopped to climb up the Morado Bridge, which spans Wallace Run outside of Beaver Falls, to see if a bird’s nest located high on a girder contained any birds or eggs. It was understood that the bridge, which has since been torn down and replaced, supported an electric trolley cable carrying 22,000 volts of electricity (some say 1,200 volts – there were multiple trolley cables laid across the bridge). It was also known that another child, Robert Littell, had died after touching the dangerous cable a year earlier. Because of this, the other boys were afraid to climb the girders of the bridge. But not little Raymond. As Raymond climbed the bridge trestle, he slipped and fell, touching his face and upper body on the trolley cable as he tumbled to the ground. The electrical shock he sustained produced a powerful explosion and little Raymond was gravely injured.
Raymond was expected to die from his injures but somehow, Raymond survived. Unfortunately, his face looked “as if it had been melted with a blow torch”. His eyes were gone. His nose was gone. His lips and ears were terribly disfigured. His left arm was burned off at the elbow and his upper torso was badly scarred. As a result, Robinson spent considerable time in Pittsburgh hospitals after the accident but numerous surgeries, which basically amounted to sewing flaps of skin across the gaping holes where his eyes and nose had been located, did little to improve his appearance.
Raymond continued to live with his family in Koppel, Pennsylvania through adulthood. He spent his days indoors with relatives making doormats and hand-made leather items to sell for money. Because of his appearance, he rarely ventured out during the day (reports indicate that he would occasionally exchange short conversations with neighbors for a beer or cigarettes). However, at night, he went for long walks along a quiet stretch of State Route 351 between Koppel and New Galilee, feeling his way along the road with a walking stick and shuffling his feet, one on the pavement and the other on the gravel berm. Even at night, he tried to remain in the shadows and often hid when cars approached. Locals would drive slowly down the highway or gather along the side of the road, hiding in the bushes, in order to take pictures of “Charlie” as he made his way past. One local resident remembers:
“On Friday nights, especially after football games, it was a parade of cars going out there. There were times when there were policemen there because of the flow of traffic (they issued tickets to anyone who stopped on the road).”
It has been reported that Robinson’s family never understood what drew the crowds. They hated his nightly walks, which sometimes kept him away from home all night, resented the derogatory nicknames that the public had given Raymond, and particularly disliked the fact that people gave him booze as a reward for talking with them (alcohol was never consumed in the Robinson house). Raymond would occasionally get drunk and lose his way home. One time his family found him laying on the side of the road. He had spent the night in woods and crawled to the roadside following the sounds of the automobile traffic. Another time, they found him curled up in a farm field and on several occasions Raymond was struck by passing cars. The incidents only served to increase their worry. And the gawkers – they drove the family crazy. People would pull up to the house at all hours of the night and honk their horns, shouting, “We want to see Charlie!” One time, during a carnival in Koppel, one of the carnival owners came to see whether he could hire Robinson for the freak show. It is said that people came from as far away as Chicago to catch a glimpse of Charlie No Face. But none of the encounters deterred Robinson from taking his long, nightly walks.
Over the years, local residents passed on tales about him to their children and grandchildren and the story grew to mythic proportions. Robinson stopped his long walks during the last years of his life, and retired to the Beaver County Geriatric Center (now named Friendship Ridge), where he died on June 11, 1985 from natural causes – but the legend of the travels of “Charlie No Face” along Route 351 live on.
Raymond Robinson is buried in Grandview Cemetery, overlooking the site of the old Wallace Run trolley bridge near the spot where he was injured. Robert Littell, the Beaver Falls boy who was fatally burned on the bridge nine months before Robinson, is also buried there.