Though meteorites and the damage they have caused have been reported throughout the ages, none have been proven to have killed humans and there has only been one documented to have struck somebody. There was a report in 1911 about an Egyptian dog being killed by a meteorite and a Ugandan boy who had been seriously injured in 1992. In even more recent news, more than 1000 Russians were injured as a result of an impact event that was much larger than any that had been reported in 20 years. That event lit up the sky as an approximated 7,700 ton meteorite disintegrated and rained onto the city of Chelyabinsk.
Slate reported that 60 years ago today, a woman from Sylacauga, Alabama named Ann Hodges had been struck with a grapefruit sized, eight pound hunk of meteorite. She was lying on her couch, taking a nap when it happened. It was an incident that brought much unwanted media attention.
According to Slate, the meteorite itself was pretty big and when it broke up in the atmosphere, it created quite the light show that was visible across three whole states. While most of the meteorite bits turned to vapor, at least one bit survived, speeding to the earth at hundreds of kilometers per hour. The speed was such that it crashed through the roof of Hodges’ home, bounced off of the radio furniture and then, hit her in the hip, leaving a doozy of welt that would make news headlines and magazine articles.
Not only did that incident make headlines but skirmishes over who actually owned the meteorite also hit. Ann Hodges and her husband Hewlett were renting their home at the time. The owner of the premises was the one who legally owned the space debris despite public opinion, which held that the meteorite belonged to the Hodges. There was a long dispute in the courts that followed that was all too public. In the end, Ann Hodges used the meteorite as a doorstop for a span of time, despite having received monetary offers from The Smithsonian and other venues. Hewlett thought that they could hold out for more money, and did. However, after bad press squelched any chances of larger offers coming through, Ann Hodges finally donated the meteorite to the Alabama Museum of Natural History, two years after the incident.
The story of the Hodges didn’t get much better. The husband and wife split as a result of the troubles that came after the bit of meteorite had crashed and the legal battles. The media attention and lawsuits caused a regretful emotional impact that the two of them were not able to overcome. Ann Hodges, suffered mental and physical ailments as a result. She never seemed to have recovered.
It’s a shame, too. The Hodges really could have made a small fortune if perhaps they’d known better how to haggle with the press and venues vying for the chunk of rock. Another meteorite had crashed not far from the Hodges and was found by a farmer named Julius K. McKinney. He was able to sell the piece he found to The Smithsonian for enough money with which to buy a small farm and a used car. His hunk of rock was smaller than the one that had busted through the Hodges’ home.
It’s a brush of fame that turned tragedy for the Hodges. That is perhaps why the University of Alabama has marked the event with a special exhibit which features the rock that utterly changed the Hodges’ lives.