By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Aug 02, 2014 at 5:17 AM Photography: shutterstock.com

When Marc Tasman was a very young child, he unscrewed the light bulb from his bedside lamp, put his thumb in the socket and flipped on the switch so he could, in his words, "feel the juice."

"I have been able to feel electric currents as a kind of velvety vibration in lots of ungrounded electronics and appliances that nobody else seems to be able to feel," says Tasman. "Perhaps I've always had an electric, magnetic personality?"

Tasman is joking, but the fact he was also struck by lightning while living in Louisville, Ky., further completes the fascinating-but-unsettling connection Tasman has with electricity.

In 1994, Tasman was gardening outside of his home which he shared with his girlfriend. She was inside sleeping and he was sticking tomato stakes into the ground.

"I now refer to those as lightning rods," he says.

It had been a moody summer day with periods of sunshine mixed in with bouts of thunderstorms and Tasman, while puttering in the dirt during one of the sunny patches, was lost in thought.

"I was trying to think of some witticism to describe erratic Louisville weather," he says.

All of a sudden, Tasman was surrounded by bright light and a bang. He let out a primal scream and dropped to the ground. "Like a marionette whose strings were cut," says Tasman.

Tasman told himself to squat down – something he’d read to do if struck by lightning — and then realized he was already squatting, suggesting that perhaps the jolt scrambled his thoughts.

"I felt shaky, clammy. I was shivering, quivering," he says. "I’m not sure how much time passed — maybe one minute, maybe five minutes — but I was afraid to stand up. I was terrified."

Tasman called out to his girlfriend, but because she was asleep, she did not hear him. Eventually, he ambled indoors and looked in the bathroom mirror. His face was porcelain white. Every hair on his body was standing up and prickly.

"For the first time in my life I could feel every hair on my forehead," he says.

He also discovered a red area on the back of his right shoulder.

Tasman’s upstairs neighbor later told him the house had been struck by lightning first — the bolt fried her answering machine — before electrocuting him.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, about 51 people die annually from lightning strikes, most of whom were directly struck by lightning. Last week, a man was killed while swimming after lightning struck the ocean at Venice Beach. Survivors, like Tasman, are usually struck indirectly.

Tasman says he was distressed after the incident, but, unfortunately, two other tragedies took place the same summer and pushed his electrocution out of the tumultuous emotional limelight.

A few weeks before he was struck, Tasman and his girlfriend were sleeping in bed in the middle of the night and Tasman awoke to find a stranger lying on top of his girlfriend, claiming to have a gun and threatening to rape her. The couple offered him money, which the man took and left.

The robbery left the couple traumatized, so much so that Tasman’s girlfriend couldn’t sleep at night –which is why she was sleeping during the day and did not hear him calling to her for help after he was struck.

And because bad luck might actually come in threes, the couple decided to move into a new place after the intrusion and the electrocution, but within a few weeks they were robbed again in the new place. They weren’t at home when it happened, but they became extremely distraught and, in the fall, they broke up.

"Too much crazy stuff had gone on and we couldn’t find comfort in each other because we were both so shaken up by what happened," Tasman says.

In the summer of 1968, Glenn Bartsch returned to Wisconsin after serving in the Vietnam War. To reconnect with his family, they rented a cabin up north. While fishing with his sons on the pier, Bartsch saw a storm rolling in.

He took the children inside, but was still struck by lightning while standing in the living room, next to an open window.

"The lightning struck the pine tree in the yard first, and the current traveled down the tree and then hit me through the window on the knee," he says.

Trees are often conductors of lightning but its sap is a poor conductor and often causes the bolt to explode into a scalding steam.

"After it happened, I closed the window and hopped into bed," he says.

Bartsch, who lives in Greendale, says his leg was very numb but not burned. However, the long-term emotional impact of the strike has been substantial.

"When I’m golfing and it looks like a storm, sometimes the guys will say it will pass, but I always quit and get out of there," he says. "Getting struck by lightning is no joke. It’s a dangerous thing."

People often say that being inside a car, because of the grounding rubber tires, is the safest place to be during a lightning storm. In fact it’s only partially true because the car has to be completely enclosed — no open windows — to be safe. Also, if a car is struck by lightning, metal parts inside the car can serve as conductors and electrocute a driver or passenger.

Hence, driving in a car that gets struck by lightning is extremely scary, and Milwaukee’s Paul Schmitz knows this terror first hand.

"My friend Ellen was driving a few friends home from high school in Glendale in 1986. After dropping our first friend off, we came to a stop sign. Then came the big boom. We were terrified and all screamed," says Schmitz.

After the boom, the car engine stopped and massive sparks bounced off the car.

"We screamed again," he says.

When the sparks stopped, the teens weren’t sure what to do.

"Of course, there were no cell phones and we were scared to get out of the car, stay in the car or start the car," says Schmitz.

One friend finally got out – after everyone screamed again – and then they all got out of the car to investigate the damage. The vehicle looked OK, so they got back in and started the car.

The next day, the friends went to a Physics teacher to share their experience. The teacher informed them that the sparks were excess electrons and that the most dangerous thing would have been to get out of the car during the strike or sparks.

"Five years later, I was near a pole hit by lightning while traveling and saw those sparks again," says Schmitz. "I’ve seen it up close twice and it's no joke, but I've also figured it can't strike near me three times."

(Or maybe it’s time for Schmitz to play the lottery?)

When John Parrish was training to be a fire fighter in southwestern Wisconsin, he was told "storm spotting" would be an occasional duty and that during an actual storm he should never get out of his vehicle.

"I found that funny," says Parrish, who was struck by lightning about 18 years ago in Sandwich, Ill. "They didn’t have to worry about me getting out of the truck during a storm."

Parrish received a secondary lightning strike after it hit a flag pole and then him. He was outdoors trying to bail water that was collecting outside his basement windows when it happened.

"I didn’t hear it or see it," he says. "I screamed bloody murder. My body was white, sweaty and had red blotches."

Parrish says his body ached for days, particularly his chest, and he felt really exhausted for about a month after it happened.

"Different parts of my body would hurt on and off," he says. "I didn’t even go to work the day after it happened."

The long-term effects of the zap have been great for Parrish. He says he’s unsettled by storms to this day – even if he’s indoors.

"I had a partner once who would say, ‘don’t worry Johnny, I’ll protect you in storms,’" he says.

Understandably, most people who are struck by lightning do not feel comfortable outdoors during a storm and will go to great lengths to avoid one.

"I’ll never be one of those people dancing in the rain," says Tasman.

Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.

As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.

She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that. 

Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.

Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.

In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!

When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.