Last week we talked about two examples of incredibly bad luck. This week, we’ll finish talking about the second one and go on to another example of barely believable occurrences, which really make a person think.

One Saturday in 1950 I read a report in the New London Day about 54-year-old Barney Doyle, who was killed while sitting in the Polo Grounds on the 4th of July waiting for a Giants-Dodgers game to start. A later report revealed that a 14-year-old boy living in a nearby apartment building was angry that he couldn’t watch the games from his roof anymore because a parapet had been erected to block the view. The boy took a pistol and fired one shot in the air. It hit poor Barney Doyle — one of 54,000 fans in the stadium! — in the head, penetrating his skull and killing him instantly.

What terrible luck!

However, reading this next story may make you ask yourself when luck is good, and when it’s bad.

On Sept. 13, 1848, 25-year-old Phineas P. Gage was foreman of a railway construction crew in Vermont that was blasting away an outcrop of rock. A deep hole had been bored into the rock, and a fuse and blasting powder had been added. Gage was using a four-foot-long, one-and-a-quarter-inch-thick iron rod to carefully tamp sand into the deep hole when the blasting powder suddenly ignited.

The iron rod rocketed upward, entering the left side of Gage’s face just under his left eye. Passing diagonally through his brain, the iron rod blasted its way skyward out of the top of his skull.

Anyone else would have died instantly, but — incredibly! — Gage, although thrown on his back by the blast, not only spoke to the other men within a few minutes, but actually stood up, walked with a little help, and sat upright during a three-quarter-mile oxcart ride into town.

Thirty minutes later, when Dr. Edward H. Williams arrived on the scene he was hardly able to believe his eyes. Before he even stepped down from his carriage he could see a large hole in Gage’s head. However, Gage, seated in a chair on a front porch quietly greeted him with, “Doctor, here is business enough for you.”

Dr. Williams describes the wound this way: “The top of the head appeared somewhat like an inverted funnel, as if some wedge-shaped body had passed from below upward.”

While the doctor inspected the wound, Gage spent his time casually telling bystanders how the accident had occurred; but when he suddenly got up and vomited, the doctor says, “[the vomiting] pressed out about half a teacupful of the brain, which fell upon the floor.”

Gage went through hell with infection and high fever for several weeks, but by November he was able to rise and take a few steps. About a year later, although he was still weak, Dr. John Harlow, Gage’s physician, said, “I am inclined to say he has recovered. He has no pain in his head, but says it has a queer feeling which he is not able to describe.”

Gage carried on for another 12 years, but unexpectedly fell victim to convulsions in 1860, leaving behind a legend — and a question for you.

There’s no question that Gage’s living through such an appalling head injury was incredible, but was it good luck or bad?

Will some extraordinary pictures help you make up your mind? Go here:

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