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Joseph Patrick O'Malley is the name usually given for the man of Urban Legend who allegedly urinated on the high voltage third rail of a train track (or electric fence) and was electrocuted. The scientific plausibility of this danger was also the subject of a 2003 MythBusters episode on the Discovery Channel - they decided the myth was busted, noting a stream of urine breaks up into droplets and isn't continuous, therefore it can't conduct electricity.[1] [2] [3]

According to Snopes, the legend began with a photograph of a penis treated with short-wave diathermy accompanied by an erroneous description.[4]

In 2008 in London, a man was reported to have died from urinating on a live rail. [5]

Joseph Patrick O'Malley(1873-1961) is also the name of a former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad accounting executive. He started with the company in Cleveland, Ohio in 1895. He worked for the railroad for forty-six years retiring in 1941[6]. He retired holding the position of assistant comptroller of the railroad. In 1938, he worked with a budget deficit that was reported to be $13, 124,530[7]. O'Malley was also a resident of Baltimore, Maryland from 1902-1941 while employed at the railroad. In 1930, he lived at 326 University Parkway in the city[8].


  1. ^ [1] Citizen Arcane, "Just Zip It "
  2. ^ [2] The Straight Dope: "Has anybody gotten electrocuted peeing on the third rail?"
  3. ^ MythBusters, Discovery Channel, "Barrel of Bricks, Urinating on the Third Rail, Eel Skin Wallet", Season One, Episode 3 (October 10, 2003)
  4. ^ [3] Snopes, Don't Whizz on the Electric Fence
  5. ^ "Man died 'urinating on live rail'". Yahoo! News UK. 2008-07-22. Retrieved 2008-07-22.  , Yahoo! News
  6. ^ Associated Press: Baltimore Sun "B. & O. APPOINTS PAIR TO NEW POSTS" December 1, 1941
  7. ^ Associated Press: Baltimore Sun "B. & O. 1938 DEFICIT SET AT 13,124,530" June 19, 1939
  8. ^ Department of Commerce-Bureau of the Census: Fifteen Census of the United States: 1930


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