Has anybody gotten electrocuted peeing on the third rail?

I did a search for the name Joseph Patrick O’Malley and came up with this reference, which doesn’t sound like a drunk who wanders the subways:


So either there is a lot of Joseph Patrick O’Malley’s or this article is incorrect.

That said, it also seems to be an old article, as there were some references to it in other sites.
Link to the thread:


Not sure what you’re saying Svt4Him As noted at the top of the column you linked, it’s from 1977. And I’m sure that there have been lots of Joseph Patrick O’Malleys – if you look up “stereotypical Irish names” in the dictionary, you’ll find it listed.

Ah ha, didn’t see the date on the column, so I didn’t know it was that old. Fair enough.

Cecil writes: The combination of water and electricity is notoriously volatile–

I suppose this is nitpicky. But if this is about fighting ignorance…Isn’t pure H2O a fair insulator and only is conductive in the presence of dissolved solids? Obviously piss would be a good conductor. I just thought perhaps Cecil’s comment when taken literally, is incorrect. Although to be fair, when we speak of water, we generally mean the garden variety rather than distilled. Begs the question, do you really fry if a boom box or toaster lands in the bath tub with you?

Yes, but water in nature is very rarely pure. And even perfectly pure water isn’t a perfect insulator (though it is admittedly a fairly decent one with a resistivity of about 18.2 MÙcm
at 25 °C). Among insulators, however, this is positively coinductive, given that the king of insulators, PTFE Teflon has a resistivity of about 10[sup]18[/sup]Ùcm–or over half a trillion times better than the purest water.

Ugh…that Ù symbol is the one for Ohms.

Pure water tends to have water dissolved in it.

I once urinated on an electric fence.

Yes, i was drunk.

Yes, it hurt…and yes, i fell down, quite quickly. The pain lingers…

I am so very proud that this should be my very first post on the forum. :o

In Montreal a few years ago a teenaged girl relieved herself on the third rail. She went to the emergency department where she received a clean bill of health, but died at home a few hours later. Best source to validate this if you wish would be to search for the story in the Montreal Gazette (http://www.canada.com/Montreal and follow the links).

Give it a try, and let us know how it works out. :dubious:

Didn’t anyone else notice that this question/answer about the third rail is old? I’ve read this exact question and answer in the Straight Dope archives while browsing, if not more recently in the daily online column. What gives? Has Cecil started recycling? That just doesn’t seem right.

ardoriel, there’s just one new column per week. The rest are re-issued ones for your reading pleasure. It’s been that way for as long as I’ve been here.

Oh, and the second post to this thread pointed out that it was from 1977, so yes, we noticed.

Its strange that the column first ran in March 1977 and then just 7 months later, someone in Chicago died in that manner. You can read about the facts and the subsequent legal wranglings at:


Of course, I’m not certain that it was ever proven that Mr. Lee’s piss actually hit the third rail as opposed to him just coming in contact with it while peeing.

From the UK newspaper The Guardian, 10 March 2000, in the National Roundup colomn:

Man dies urinating on live rail line

A man was electrocuted after urinating on a live railway line, an inquest heard yesterday.

Six hundred volts of electricity formed an arc into the tip of Saliamin Akrami’s penis, causing him to convulse and collapse on top of the live rail, Hornsey coroners court was told.

Afghan asylum seeker Mr Akrami, 32, of Willesden, north-west London, was discovered by a group of workmen repairing the track at deserted Kensal Green station in the early hours of October 23 last year.

Pathologist Rufus Crompton said the cause of death was electrocution. The only injuries were burns but the most telling was a tiny, precise burn mark to the urinary opening of the penis.

Mr Crompton told the court that, in his opinion, a stream of urine hitting electricity was the only way this type of injury could be caused.

The alcohol level present was 198mg - more than twice the drink-drive limit - and it was likely Mr Akrami was drunk.

The jury returned a verdict of misadventure.

The case was reconvened yesterday after an adjournment on Tuesday to allow relatives to examine CCTV footage of Mr Akrami on the station platform.

Cheers –
– Quothz

“The jury returned a verdict of misadventure.”

I just love the word ‘misadventure’ when it’s used in this sense. I think we (Americans) should use it in preference to the often misused ‘accident’.

Accidents are those unforseeable occurences that could only be prevented by extreme measures of coddling and “idiot-proofing” our world.
Misadventures, on the other hand, are totally preventable, prodvided a little discretion, attention or “common sense” be displayed on the part of the victim.


Brakes failed, hit bridge embankment = accident.

Got angry at bumper-sticker of slow car ahead and attempted to pass at unsafe speed, hitting bridge embankment = misadventure


ps “Stupid should hurt.” (And often does :D)

For what it’s worth, I saw the woman who writes the “Darwin Awards” on TV, and she asserted that such accidents are very common. I was dubious, myself.

From that reliable news source, Private Eye:

“We will not press charges against the electricity company because we consider this to have been his destiny,” relatives of the late Pallop Thachao told reporters in Bangkok, “but it is all very sad and sudden. We were driving past a tollbooth last night when Pallop said he needed to relieve himself, so we pulled over at the side of the highway, and let him out. He stood beneath an electricity pole and began to urinate, when all at once there was a flash of light, and we instantly feared the worst. We searched for him in the darkness, but all we found were ashes.

Mysteriously, his artificial leg was still standing upright, all by itself, with the foot welded to the ground and smoke coming out of the top. We were all sick on the spot.”

Later, Police Captain Narongchat Sajjathai explained how Pallop Thachao had met his death. “There was a heavy rainstorm last night, and ground water had collected around the pole. An exposed cable was in contact with the water, and the stream of urine must have completed an electrical circuit. He might have survived, but his prosthetic leg was a strong conductor of electricity, and that proved fatal. Tragic though this incident is, it highlights the folly of urinating near electrical equipment, especially during the rainy season.” (Taipei Times, 5/7/03.)

My father works for the Boston Transit system, the MBTA, and reports to me after being asked for clarification, that this is fairly common…

The Yard maintenance workers often find Bumcicles with their pants around the ankles, next to the 3rd rail, fairly frequently in the repair/storage yards.

by fairly frequently, I’m talking months/years apart, but it does happen.

Pardon my skepticism, butler1850, but that sounds like classic UL material. Has your father ever personally seen one?

I’ll bet the yard workers are having fun with him, or just passing on stories they themselves have been told. It’s very common to retell stories as being closer in origin to the teller than they really are, for more dramatic impact.