The far reaches of outer space still remain a mystery. We’ve barely scratched the surface despite the missions and satellites launched to the moon and planets.
Although we continually strive to better understand our galaxy and how we fit into the universe, humanity remains ignorant of our little blue planet. There are more questions than answers, with one rare encounter leaving us with more questions than ever.
Meteorites rarely find their way to the Earth’s surface, but when they do, the results are often potentially devastating. Past collisions suggest an asteroid killed off the dinosaurs when one struck, causing a calamitous chain event with the climate. In Alabama, November 30, 1954, an 8.5 pound meteor struck, and although it didn’t start an ice age, the chain of events changed the life of one woman forever.
During an autumn afternoon in Sylacauga, Alabama, residents noticed “a bright reddish light like a Roman candle trailing smoke” in the sky. At first residents fled, thinking the Soviets were heating up the Cold War; never suspecting the true nature of the fireball in the sky.
Surviving the trip through Earth’s atmosphere, the alien rock found its way into an Alabama farmhouse.
Ann Hodges, who had taken a nap on her sofa earlier, woke to the violent crash. The 32-year-old who just wanted a few hours’ rest couldn’t understand what happened. Ann’s entire lower side erupted in pain, and though otherwise unharmed, Ann’s living room was a chaotic mess.
A chunk of meteorite had plunged through the farmhouse roof, ricocheted off Ann’s radio, and hit Ann while she slept. Miraculously, Ann was the first person in recorded history to have ever been struck by a meteorite.
Valuing any meteorite is difficult, let alone when it hits a person, and then for the person to survive. According to Michael Reynolds, a Florida State College astronomer and author, he believes there’s a “better chance of getting hit by a tornado and a bolt of lightning and a hurricane all at the same time.”
Ann and her husband Eugene, a utility worker, decided their space rock would make them a fortune, but unfortunately for them, the meteorite crashed in a house they were renting. Legal complications soon challenged their hopes of financial independence when the Hodges’ landlord sued them for ownership of the meteorite.
Ann and Eugene settled rather than lose their rock. They agreed to pay the landlord a steep $500, equivalent to almost $5,000 US today. But the working-class couple didn’t worry. They were certain the meteorite would sell for more.
However, when the Smithsonian approached Ann and Eugene about acquiring the meteorite for their collection, the couple refused the small amount proposed, choosing instead to hold out for a millionaire’s offer.
But the offer never came. Rather, the Hodges received nonstop media attention with no financial gain. Eventually the lack of privacy wore Ann down, and the financial burdens that came with the rock led to Ann suffering a nervous breakdown.
Ann Hodges’ health was never quite the same after the meteorite strike. Her ill health eventually took its toll on her marriage and Eugene divorced her in 1964.
With no children to care for her, Ann spent the last 8 years of her life wasting away in a nursing home. She died young from kidney failure, never making it to her 53rd birthday, and though Ann’s passing was tragic, the rock that made her famous lived on.
Prior to Ann’s death, she donated the meteorite to the Alabama Museum of Natural History, where you can still see it today.