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.