- On November 30, 1954, an Alabama woman, Ann Hodges, was struck by a meteorite while taking a nap.
- The meteorite crashed through the roof of her home in Sylacauga, Alabama, struck a radio, and then hit Hodges on her hip.
- Overnight, Hodges became a celebrity as word of her strange story travelled across the country.
- Today, the 8.5-pound meteorite is on display at the Alabama Museum of Natural History.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Ann Hodges, an Alabama woman, has the distinction of being the first documented case of a person being struck by a meteorite falling from the sky. Hodges never intended to be famous, but she found herself thrust into the national spotlight when her afternoon nap was interrupted by a rock from out of this world in 1954.
In the nearly 66 years since that day, Hodges and her strange tale remain a source of fascination. Mary Beth Prondzinski, the collections manager at the Alabama Museum of Natural History, where the meteorite is on exhibit, told Insider, “It’s one of those local legends that not too many people know about.”
Asteroid Day is held every June 30 to commemorate the largest asteroid impact on Earth in recent history, the Siberia Tunguska event. Ahead of this year’s Asteroid Day, Insider delved into the story of Ann Hodges.
Keep reading to find out what happened to Hodges and the meteorite.
The Sylacauga meteorite, which is also called the Hodges meteorite, probably broke off the asteroid 1685 Toro.
An asteroid is a rocky object in space that orbits the sun. When an asteroid or a piece of one enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it becomes a meteor. What remains after impact is a meteorite.
On the afternoon of November 30, 1954, locals in Sylacauga, Alabama, reported a bright streak in the sky.
At a time when both the threat of an atomic bomb and little green men in their flying saucers invaded public fear, it was perhaps unsurprising that residents in the small Alabama town started calling 911. According to the Decatur Daily, many thought they were witnessing a plane crash.
Ann Hodges, with her husband, rented a house in the Oak Grove community. Incredibly, across the street was the Comet Drive-In Theatre, which had a neon sign depicting a comet falling through the sky, the Decatur Daily reported.
A part of the meteor crashed through the roof of Ann Hodges’ home.
Hodges, who was 34 at the time, had been home with her mother on the afternoon of November 30. The meteorite crashed through the roof of Hodges’ home at 2:46 p.m., according to Slate Magazine.
“Ann Hodges was taking a nap on her living room couch and she was under a blanket, which probably saved her life somewhat,” Prondzinski said. “The meteorite came down through the roof in the living room and it ricocheted off a stand-up console radio that was in the room and landed on her hip.”
Her mother, who was in another room, ran to her daughter’s assistance when she heard her scream. In the aftermath, neither Hodges nor her mother knew what had happened to her.
“All she knew is that something had hit her,” Prondzinski said. “They found the meteorite, this big rock, and they couldn’t figure out how it had got there.”
It weighed around 8.5 pounds.
Prondzinski said the meteorite is a chondrite or stony meteorite and composed of iron and nickel. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the meteorite is an estimated 4.5 billion years old.
When the meteor entered the Earth’s atmosphere, it broke apart. One fragment hit Hodges while another was located a few miles away by a farmer. Julius Kempis McKinney discovered the fragment while driving a mule-drawn wagon and later sold it for enough money to buy both a house and car, according to the Decatur Daily.
“Before you knew it, everyone in town was surrounding the house wanting to see what had happened,” Prondzinski said.
“In those days they didn’t have Facebook, but word still travelled quickly,” Prondzinski said.
A doctor and the police were called to the home. Prondzinski said it was Mayor Ed Howard and the police chief who discovered the hole in the ceiling where the meteorite had crashed through.
According to the Decatur Daily, the impact of the meteorite left a large “grapefruit”-sized bruise on Hodges’ hip.
“She had this incredible bruise on her hip,” Prondzinski told Insider. “She was taken to the hospital, not because she was so severely injured that she needed to be hospitalized, but because she was very distraught by the whole incident. She was a very nervous person, and she didn’t like all the notoriety or all the people around.”
Hodges’ husband, Eugene, arrived home from work to find his house surrounded by a crowd of people.
Hodges’ radio may have saved her from being seriously injured.
“I think the fact that it came through the roof, that slowed its trajectory, and the fact that it did bounce off the radio – if she had been lying under the radio, it would have broken her leg or her back. It probably wouldn’t have killed her, but it would have done a lot more damage to her,” Prondzinski said.
The Air Force confiscated the meteorite so they could determine its origin.
“The Air Force looked at it because they thought it was a flying saucer and all this other wild and crazy stuff,” Prondzinski said.
After it was confirmed a meteorite, the Hodges faced a lengthy litigation process to acquire ownership of it. Their landlord, Birdie Guy, believe the meteorite belonged to her because she owned the house.
“Suing is the only way she’ll ever get it,” Hodges said, “I think God intended it for me. After all, it hit me!”
According to the Decatur Daily News, Guy wanted money to fix the house’s roof. Litigation went on for a year, and Prondzinski said Guy settled the case for $US500. The house eventually caught fire and was demolished to make way for a mobile home park.
Hodges became an overnight celebrity and was even featured on a game show.
“She became famous for 15 minutes. She had all these photo shoots. She was invited to go to New York City to be on Garry Moore’s show ‘[“I’ve Got a Secret”] where the panel had to guess what’s her profession or what happened to her, why she is a notable figure,” Prondzinski said.
Hodges would receive fan mail from churches, children, and educators asking about the meteorite, but she never answered any of them, leaving it to her lawyer.
“She was a very quiet person. She was a very private person,” Prondzinski said. “She did not like having all the notoriety.”
Hodges decided to donate the meteorite to the Alabama Museum of Natural History.
“By the time she had got the meteorite in her possession, she was so sick of the whole thing. She said, ‘You can have it,'” Prondzinski said. All Hodges asked in return was for the museum to reimburse her for her attorney fees.
Prondzinski said the meteorite created problems between Hodges and her husband, Eugene. Her husband wanted to make money off the meteorite but failed to secure a buyer. The two eventually divorced in 1964.
In 1972, aged 52, Hodges died of kidney failure in a nursing home.
Hodges is the first documented person to have been hit by a meteorite.
“She’s the only one who’s ever been hit by a meteorite and lived to tell about it. Because of that, the meteorite has been appraised at over a million dollars,” Prondzinski said.
In an interview with National Geographic, Florida State College astronomer Michael Reynolds said, “You have a better chance of getting hit by a tornado and a bolt of lightning and a hurricane all at the same time.”
In the years since, Prondzinski said Hodges and her story remains popular, and people have contacted the museum about using the story in movies, plays, and even a graphic novel.
Every day, Earth is hit with more than 100 tons of space dust and debris.
According to NASA, about once a year an automobile-sized asteroid hits Earth’s atmosphere but burns up before it reaches the surface. According to Cosmos Magazine, Earth is hit by 17 meteors everyday. Most go unnoticed, but sometimes, like with Hodges, they catch our attention.
For instance, in 1992 a 26-pound meteorite landed on a red Chevy Malibu in New York, and in 2013, one exploded over Russia. There has also been evidence of a meteorite killing a man and injuring another in 1888.Meteor Crater, which is almost a mile wide, in Arizona shows the impact a large meteorite can have.
Humans have long looked to the heavens and dreamed of standing among the stars, but sometimes, the “stars” decide to come down to us.
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