In my research of strange and unsettling subjects, I have often encountered photographs of Raymond Robinson; almost always out of context and rarely associated with his identity. Admittedly, his image is striking, and it is easy to see how it might be co-opted into any number of dark narratives. Sometimes, urban legends are best preserved in their mystery, left to flourish in our collective imagination and passed on through the ages. However, in the case of Ray Robinson, maybe the truth is a more merciful approach to his story.
Throughout western Pennsylvania, there are many urban legends about the Green Man, or Charlie No-Face as he is sometimes called. Most tell of a mutated monstrosity of a man with glowing green skin and no eyes, who wanders the lonely stretches of State Route 351 praying on stranded motorists. His horrific visage is generally attributed to an industrial accident involving electricity, radiation, or sometimes chemicals. Often, shunned places such as abandoned houses or dilapidated buildings are attached to the legend and said to be his home.
Sadly, there is some merit to the myth, the truth of which is a much more tragic tale. In 1919, when Ray was nine years old, he suffered a life altering accident. While climbing a pole to get a better view of a bird’s nest on top of the Morado Bridge, near his home in Beaver Falls, he accidently touched the power lines for an electric trolly, sending 22,000 volts through his body. Defying all the doctor’s expectations, Ray survived, though the accident left him horribly disfigured. Among the more severe injuries, he lost both his eyes, an ear, his nose, and his right arm.
Most people found his appearance unsettling; thus, Ray grew up reclusive and increasingly self-conscious. Despite his social anxiety, he still felt the urge to be outside and craved normalcy and independence. He satisfied this need by taking long walks late at night along the quiet sections of State Route 351. For those traveling that deserted road in the small hours, Ray certainly presented a startling and enigmatic presence. However, as anyone who knew Ray would tell you, he was no monster, rather one of the kindest human beings they had ever known.
As his legend grew, people began their own nocturnal wanderings on 351, hoping for a glimpse of him. Of those who were fortunate enough to find him, most were friendly, exchanging beer and cigarettes for a picture or a handshake; while others were not so kind and treated him with cruelty. Ray refused to be influenced by such negativity and carried on with his walks undeterred.
It was only in the last years of his life, when he retired to an assisted living facility, that Raymond Robinson ended his late-night walks, and on June 11, 1985 he passed away at the age of seventy-four. His memory, for better or worse, lives on in the Green Man, Charlie No-Face, and the countless other iterations conceived and disseminated by purveyors of urban legends.