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A Les Paul Struck by Lightning; Junk or Highly Priced Collectible?

Gabriel J. Hernandez

One year-and-a-half ago, an anonymous buyer forked over a whopping $82,750 for a mailbox that was hit by a falling meteorite in Claxton, Ga.

So, how much is a Gibson Les Paul struck by lightning worth? Charles Hoyt of Lumberton, Miss., is about to find out.

Hoyt is the proud owner of a 1985 Les Paul Reissue that was ground zero for a bizarre lightning strike back in 1992. He’s held onto the guitar for the last 17 years without thinking too much about it – until he read the story of the infamous Claxton mailbox. Hoyt has since decided to list the scorched Les Paul on eBay, hoping it garners as much curiosity – and interest – as the Claxton Mailbox.

“This is probably the only guitar in the world that’s ever been struck by lightning,” Hoyt said, in all likelihood speaking the obvious truth. “I just kept looking at it, and finally I decided to sell it because I think it’s unique. I saw where someone paid more than $80,000 for that mailbox hit by a meteorite, and I thought, ‘Heck, I’ve got a Gibson Les Paul that was hit by lightning. What’s that worth?’”

The Claxton mailbox achieved its notoriety on the evening of Dec. 10, 1984, when a falling meteorite transformed the ordinary roadside mail receptacle into a modern-day anomaly among the meteorite faithful. The mailbox belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Carutha Barnard, who finally decided to let New York’s Bonhams auction house sell it in October 2007.

As for the Les Paul, Hoyt’s story is just as extraordinary, if not more so. While running a few errands one rainy afternoon in 1992, Hoyt left his beloved guitar sitting in its case in the corner of a room in his house. He was gone only for about five hours, but he couldn’t believe his eyes when he returned.

“When I got back I went into the room and it was lying on the floor … and it was smoking.” He said. “I was speechless. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I couldn’t believe what I was looking at.”

During Hoyt’s absence, a strong line of thunderstorms rolled through Lumberton, and during one of the downpours a bolt of lightning struck an old pine tree standing just outside the house, near the corner of the room where the guitar was kept. The lightning traveled through tree – splitting it in two – and then jumped over to the nails holding the trim around Hoyt’s home. From the nails, the lightning continued to travel through the drywall and inside the room, eventually going through the Les Paul’s case and hitting the metal tuning pegs on its headstock. The lightning proceeded to travel through the guitar, melting everything in its path, and even blowing three of the bridge saddles cleanly through the case.

“The three holes in the case came from those three bridge saddles,” Hoyt said. “It also vaporized the strings completely. There are six very clear lines where the strings used to be, and you can still see the soot from the burned strings on the fretboard. It melted the pickups and everything else too. You could smell it as soon as you walked into the room.”

Hoyt listed the guitar on eBay just two days, but it’s already garnering lots of attention. Many of the curious auction watchers have also emailed him suggestions on what to do with the guitar.

“Most of them say, ‘Don’t sell it,’ because it now supposedly has all this ‘mojo’,” Hoyt said. “Others want me to call Gibson Custom and see if they want it to do a model after it, or the Hard Rock CafĂ© to see if they want it for their collection. I’ve often thought about getting it repaired, but time passed and it’s just sat there. It’s time to let it go.”

Click here to check out Hoyt’s listing on eBay.

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