Very few people in recorded history have the distinction of being on the receiving end of a meteorite. In fact, there’s only one person with proof: Anne Hodges, an Alabama woman struck by a football-sized rock from outer space.. and lived to tell the tale. You’d think only someone awfully fortunate could survive an ordeal like that, but after the meteorite hit its mark, Ann Hodges became anything but lucky. You might even say she was cursed.
|Hewlett Hodges, Ann Hodges’ husband at the time she was hit by the meteorite, “studying” the infamous rock.|
In late November of 1954, Ann Hodges was in the middle of an afternoon nap in her home in Sylacauga, Alabama, when a large rock came crashing through her ceiling, bounced off her radio, and struck her in the side, leaving a massive bruise. It had come from outer space, and the 8.5 pound meteorite was still warm to the touch.
Before the meteorite slammed into Ann’s living room, people in tiny Sylacauga and across eastern Alabama had reported seeing “a bright reddish light like a Roman candle trailing smoke.” Others saw “a fireball, like a gigantic welding arc,” accompanied by tremendous explosions and a brown cloud.
|Moody Jacobs shows a giant bruise on the side and hip of his patient, Ann Hodges, in 1954, after she was struck by a meteorite. (Photograph by Jay Leviton, Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)|
A government geologist working in a nearby quarry was called to the scene and determined the object was a meteorite, but not everyone in town was so sure, according to the museum publication. Many thought a plane had crashed—others suspected the Soviets.
So many people flocked to Hodges’ house that when her husband, Eugene Hodges, a utility worker, returned home from work, he had to push gawkers off the porch to get inside.
Ann was so overwhelmed by the crowd that she was transferred to a hospital. With Cold War paranoia running high, the Sylacauga police chief confiscated the black rock and turned it over to the Air Force.
|Hodges standing under the spot where the meteorite crashed through her ceiling.|
After the Air Force confirmed it was a meteorite, the question then was what to do with it. The public demanded the space rock be returned to Ann, and she agreed.
“I feel like the meteorite is mine,” she said, according to the museum. “I think God intended it for me. After all, it hit me!”
But there was a hitch. Ann and Eugene were renters, and their landlady, a recently widowed woman named Birdie Guy, wanted the meteorite for herself.
|The Hodges (via the University of Alabama Museum of Natural History)|
Guy obtained a lawyer and sued, claiming the rock was hers since it had fallen on her property. The law was actually on her side, but public opinion wasn’t.
Guy settled out of court, giving up her claim to the meteorite in exchange for $500. Eugene was convinced the couple could make big money off the rock and turned down a modest offer from the Smithsonian.
But no one bit, and so the Hodges donated the meteorite to the natural history museum in 1956, where it’s still on display.
|The Hodges Meteorite on display at the University of Alabama’s Natural History Museum.|
Ann later suffered a nervous breakdown, and in 1964 she and Eugene separated. She died in 1972 at 52 of kidney failure at a Sylacaugan nursing home.
Eugene suspects the meteorite and frenzy that followed had taken its toll on Ann. He said “she never did recover,” according to the museum.
Ann “wasn’t a person who sought out the limelight,” added museum director Randy Mecredy. “The Hodges were just simple country people, and I really think that all the attention was her downfall.”
(via National Geographic)