Monday, December 24, 2007

The Green Man of South Park


Green Man's Tunnel - Piney Forks Road
Green Man's Tunnel - Image from Bridges of Allegheny County

This is one of the most enduring legends in Pittsburgh – and it's true! Sorta.

I was raised in the South Hills and my high school babe was from Library, just past South Park, so I can speak with some authority on the Green Man, one of my favorite bits of local lore. The story goes that a guy who was an electrician got struck by lightning while working in the area (ironic, no?) He was horribly disfigured, and ended up with a greenish glow from the jolt.

The Green Man roamed around South Park and laid claim to his own tunnel on Piney Fork Road, today used to store salt. His lair has a long history. It was built in 1924 as the Piney Fork Tunnel to serve coal mines along the PRR's Peters Creek Branch. Abandoned in 1962, the locals have given it the name its gone by for decades - Green Man Tunnel.


If you've even driven on Piney Fork Road, you know it's a dark, two lane drive running parallel to Piney Fork Creek. At night, it's a perfect lovers lane – or lair for an ax murderer. It's easy to imagine anything at all happening there once the sun's set. The Green Man's also been sighted in Brookline, Hays River Road, McKees Rocks, North Hills, McKeesport, even Washington County and Youngstown, anywhere it's dark, isolated, and teen imaginations can run free & wild.

But enough of the Green Man myth – the real Green Man was Ray “Charlie No Face” Robinson, from Big Beaver in Beaver County. When he was 9, he was gruesomely disfigured when he tangled with a high voltage line. He was left half blind and his nose was burned off. He had to wear a prosthetic one and coke-bottle glasses for the rest of his life.

But Ray remained pretty chipper, considering everything. One of his favorite pastimes was to walk along the local highway at night so no one would notice his injuries. Soon the local teens spotted him and would stop to chat with him. Ray was a friendly soul, even posing for pictures. They brought him beer and cigarettes – once or twice his worried family found him sleeping in a roadside field. His legend grew by leaps and bounds across the region.

By the time he died at the age of 74 in 1985, the Green Man's tale had spread across the face of Western Pennsylvania. They're even in the process of making a movie about him.

16 comments:

WaywardBill said...

I grew in Youngstown, OH not which is 12 miles from the PA line and Beaver County. In the late 60s and early 70s we use to drive over to see the Greenman. He was real, his name was Ray. My friend Jim Baker had at one time a picture of him.

Ron Ieraci said...

Hey Bill - thanks for the confirmation. Ray Robinson, as noted in the post, was from Beaver County, and was the basis for the Green Man legend. And by all accounts, he was a pretty friendly dude, considering the circumstances.

Anonymous said...

This is all fake and its just a legend nothing more. The tunnel now is used as a salt storage facility. Stop making false accusations about my hometown of south park, please.

Ron Ieraci said...

Anon - it is presented as an urban legend. However, the tale of Ray Robinson is true, and can verified by many folk who had met him.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice of people who know little to nothing about "The Green Man" would let him rest in peace. As a family member who shared a home with him I can attest that not ONE person has ever asked me a single question about the TRUTH. People will make money off of anyone's story and eager readers buy into it and proclaim themselves experts. Truly distrurbing.

Bruce R said...

It is not true at all The Green man tunnel was a train and there was no power there until South Park Twp. Dept of works put light in it for the salt. And all the land in the whole valley was owned by a family that lived there since 1905 when they used to have a stone quare there and made stone for bridges in the area. In the 1960 the kids who lived in the valley used to play pranks on local people and I used to go and scare people that came there. We used to hide in the tunnel and scare young kids when they came there. The rail road was removed in the early fifties. In the other tunnel car wreck used to happen all the time but no one ever died in it. This Ray Robinson never had that happen to him in that tunnel. The family that lived in the valley sold there property in the 1990's and still live in South Park Pa.

It is just a story and not true at all.

Anonymous said...

I drove through the Green Man's tunnel in South Park a few weeks ago--didn't see any salt storage facility, Anon. Still has the cement divider between the narrow road and the creek. Stopped there once in a green convertible, 6 of us wearing green, and was scard to death!! This legend will live forever!

danielx said...

Having grown up in South Park, I can verify that we had the legend. bruce R, I believe you have misunderstood the story behind the legend. Ray Robinson wasn't supposed to have been electrocuted IN the tunnel, so whether there was electricity there isn't relevant. The story is just that he would hang out in the vicinity.

www.dead-mans-hollow.com said...

If you want to read the story of Ray Robinson and how he became associated with the legend of The Green Man, check out the book titled Legends & Lore Of Western Pennsylvaina by Thomas White!

Anonymous said...

The salt was moved out of the old train tunnel due to a 48in water brake last month. South Park Township Public Works will be putting salt back in the tunnel once it gets paved. South Park Township Public Works lost almost 1500 tons of salt that day. The water company said that there was anywhere between 32-36 million gallons of water lost. The tunnel is used for the public works back up salt. I live in the Township and like the urban legend. Green Man will always live on.

Anonymous said...

I live less than a mile from "green man's tunnel"--and perhaps it is confusing to some--there are actually 2 tunnels there. The one you can drive through, and the one you can only look up to the right, to see the tunnel opening in the hillside---that is what is known as green man's tunnel---Sorry SP Public works--but I was in it, and it does store salt. While SP has laid claim to a "Green Man" Myth--It was not Mr Robinson---actually, I am in sympathy with him--and his family, that he suffered, and was treated like a circus sensation. But many times--those are the true, gentle souls who make the most of what life has given them. It's a lesson for all to learn--especially those so ungrateful for what they have been given. There is a silly legend---It's a shame that is so much more alluring to people, than giving their attention to the problems of today.

Anonymous said...

Anon....I live in South Park. It's just a fun legend. Chill!

Anonymous said...

From what I once heard. The "Green Man" was a criminal who was arrested and sentenced to death. He was in an electric chair and he was electrocuted and turned green. He didn't die though supposedly if I am remembering my dad's story correctly.

Anonymous said...

The tunnel is freaky ive also heard of a truck and a car wrecking into the creek and crushes the car landing on top of it . But that salt storage tunnel is freaky as hell if u drive by it at night it does have a glow .

Anonymous said...

I hung out in South Park as a teen. I have been thru Corvette Tunnel an awful lot especially traveling to work. I dated a guy who took me and another couple there the first time I was ever there. He told us the legend while he was stopped at one end. Almost as soon as he finished the story we heard screaching and seen lights coming thru the tunnel. It was a great releaf to see an actual car come out. lol Sure had us girls hearts racing. I told my husband the legend 30yrs ago and was excited to have found the story and pictures on here.
My sympathy to Ray Robinson's family. My brother told me about the Green Man. Only it was a man electricuted and lived in the junk yard outside the Liberty Tunnel. Atleast this is how I remember it was told.
As for the RR tunnel on the side of the hill at Corvette Tunnel, it did look creepy. If you see a glow eminating from it, it must be the lights in there. But Please, keep the legends going. It's fun for teens and keeps history alive because all legends come from some truth.

Michael Angelo said...

I lived in the neighborhood above that tunnel (sheplar dr) for 18 years. My childhood friend still lives as of oct. 2014 in the house about 300 yards from the tunnel on piney fork rd. My other friends wife lived in the house about a qtr mile down piney fork road from his house back in the 80's so needless to say nobody may be more qualified to speak of this tunnel but me.

The tunnel that you can drive thru is corvette tunnel. it is named that because a corvette crashed in that tunnel and someone died. The tunnel next to it above piney fork road slightly is Green Mans Tunnel. They do store salt in it. We used to hang out in that tunnel almost every weekend in the late 90's in the fall and make fires at the one end. Sometimes people would park their cars along the road and come up to the tunnel to check it out. We would show them the inside of the tunnel. Nothing unfortunately paranormal ever happened to us there. If you curious about the tunnel you can find me on twitter @djwmyers