Interesting Facts

In 1954, an Extraterrestrial Bruiser Shocked This Alabama Woman.

In the year 1954, a grapefruit sized meteorite crashed through the roof of a farm house in Alabama, bounced off a large wooden console radio and hit Ann Hodges while she was napping on her couch. This was the first confirmed case of a person to be hit by a meteorite.

A rude awakening befell Ann Hodges on November 30, 1954. The 34-year-old was the only person known to have experienced harm following a meteorite strike when she woke up with a start as she was sleeping soundly beneath quilts on the couch in her Alabama home.

At 2:46 p.m., the roughly 8.5-pound, 4.5-billion-year-old extraterrestrial exploded through the roof of her Sylacauga home like a bullet. Her left side was severely bruised as it crashed into her large radio console and bounced off of her body.

“It’s more likely that you’ll be struck by lightning, a hurricane, and a tornado all at once,” astronomer Michael Reynolds of Florida State College told National Geographic. It appears that as the meteorite descended toward Earth, it broke in two. A fragment struck Hodges, while the other fell several miles distant. The National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian has the second meteorite in its holdings.

In 1954 an Extraterrestrial Bruiser Shocked This Alabama Woman 1
The Sylacauga meteorite is on view at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Photo credit: NMNH
In 1954 an Extraterrestrial Bruiser Shocked This Alabama Woman 2
The Sylacauga meteorite (above: a micrograph of the specimen) has been identified as a chondrite, says the Smithsonian’s Cari Corrigan. It contains more iron and nickel than other specimens and is estimated to be more than 4.5 billion years old. Photo credit: NMNH

Parts of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi saw the meteor light up the sky as it traveled at a speed of about 200 kilometers per hour. The entire meteorite is officially known as Sylacauga for the location where it landed, but is more commonly known as the Hodges Meteorite. Neighbors of Hodges saw “a bright reddish light” crossing the sky “like a roman candle trailing smoke,” while others saw “a fireball, like a gigantic wielding arc.”

Rare meteorites do occur. According to Cari Corrigan, a research geologist at the Natural History Museum at the Smithsonian, “they fall all over the Earth,” and have been falling on the planet since the beginning of time. On November 10, 2019, a bright meteorite, which NASA estimated was as big as a basketball, streaked through the sky near the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Reports of its bright flare lit up the internet.

The majority of meteorites that people have discovered on Earth are about the size of a golf ball to a fist. When they travel through the planet’s atmosphere, they lose roughly half of their volume. A significant portion of the alien material that hits Earth ends up in the ocean, and it is mostly very small. According to Corrigan, “We get hit by dust all the time.”

Authorities expected to find a crash site because, just before Ann Hodges awoke, many people saw the fireball overhead and thought they had seen an airplane plummeting to earth. Hodges and her mother, who was also in the house, attempted to ascertain what had occurred at the same time.

Because the house was filled with dust, they initially believed the chimney had collapsed or a space heater had ruptured. After spotting the rock on the floor and the bruise on her body, they called the police and fire departments. With the arrival of emergency vehicles, word began to spread that the Hodges house represented ground zero for whatever had happened.

They initially thought the chimney had collapsed or a space heater had burst because the house was covered in dust. They contacted the fire and police departments as soon as they noticed the rock on the floor and the bruise on her body. As emergency vehicles arrived, rumors circulated that the Hodges residence was the epicenter of the incident.

When Eugene Hodges returned home at the end of the workday to find his house surrounded by a crowd of people, he had no idea that his home had been invaded by extraterrestrials. According to Ann Hodges, there was some excitement today at the Associated Press. She was actually admitted to the hospital the next day as a result of her excitement. She told reporters, “I haven’t been able to sleep since I was hit.”

In 1954 an Extraterrestrial Bruiser Shocked This Alabama Woman 3
The Sylacauga, Alabama, rental home where Ann Elizabeth Hodges and her husband lived in 1954 when she was struck by a meteorite that fell through the ceiling. Jay Leviton/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images
In 1954 an Extraterrestrial Bruiser Shocked This Alabama Woman 4
The meteorite damaged the ceiling of the home where Ann Elizabeth Hodges and her husband lived. Jay Leviton/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

During that period, when Americans were wary of the possibility of nuclear war and suspicious of reports of flying saucers, the Air Force seized the object to confirm that it was, in fact, a meteorite. It was ironically across the street from a drive-in theater called Comet, and officials at Maxwell Air Force Base assured Hodges that it would be returned to his home. It had a neon picture of a comet traveling through space on it.

While identifying the object as a meteorite was not too difficult, figuring out who owned it became more difficult. The landlady, Birdie Guy, believed the meteorite belonged to her because the Hodges rented their house. “I believe God intended it for me,” Ann Hodges remarked, “but the only way she’ll ever get it is by suing.” Ultimately, I felt it!”

In the end, the matter was resolved out-of-court when Guy gave Ann Hodges $500 in exchange for letting her keep the meteorite. The family kept it as a doorstop for a while before giving it to the Alabama Museum of Natural History after Eugene Hodges was unable to find a buyer.

A farmer named Julius Kempis McKinney, who also lived in the Sylacauga area, discovered a fragment of the same meteor a few miles distant. McKinney was operating a mule-drawn wagon in a scene far removed from the impending Space Age when the mules scampered over a black rock that got in the way. After moving the rock aside, he headed back home.

That night, after hearing about Ann Hodges’s experience, he retrieved the rock and took it home, where his children played with it. McKinney asked his postal carrier to connect him with a lawyer to help with the sale of the piece of the meteorite that he had found.

Subsequent reports claimed that he sold for enough money to purchase a house and a car. That meteorite was given to the National Museum of Natural History shortly after that.

Years later, in 2017, a second piece of the same meteor was sold by Christie’s auction house for $7,500, or $728 per gram, at a time when the price of 24 carat gold was only $39.05 per gram. A portion of the rock that McKinney had discovered was called a meteorite, and it was worth far more than its weight in gold. Ten years after a 26-pound meteorite struck a red Chevy Malibu in Peekskill, New York, in 1992, the car’s title and a broken taillight went for $5,000, while the meteorite’s fragments are currently selling for roughly $150 per gram.

Ann Hodges rose to a minor celebrity in the commotion following the meteorite strike. Her picture was featured on the cover of Life magazine on December 13, 1954, along with an article titled “A Big Bruiser From the Sky.” The national spotlight seemed to have caused her health issues, which ultimately led to her marriage dissolving in 1964. At the age of 52, she passed away from renal failure in a nearby assisted living facility.

A cow in Venezuela perished in 1972 after being struck by an extraterrestrial rock, but Hodges is the only person known to have suffered injuries from a meteorite impact. In February 2013, a second meteorite shattered windows and strewn debris, inflicting injuries on over a thousand people in Chelyabinsk, Russia. Another unsubstantiated report from 2016 stated that a bus driver in Natrampalli, India, died as a result of being struck by debris that was ejected when a meteorite struck the earth. Furthermore, none of the numerous claims on social media that someone was hit by a meteorite in the twenty-first century have been verified.

Nevertheless, meteorites are still a popular subject. The study of meteorites, according to Corrigan, who is involved in an effort to collect meteorites from Antarctica, “fits in at the very beginning of natural history.”

According to her, the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is where 99 percent of meteorites originate. About the Sylacauga meteorite, she says, “We think a lot of that material is really similar to the material that the Earth formed from.” This specific meteorite has been identified as a chondrite. This type is thought to be older than 4.5 billion years and has higher iron and nickel contents than other specimens. These rocks are some of the purest and most primitive relics of the early solar system because they have never melted.

Related Topic You Might Find Interesting:

The knowledge of meteorites dates back to ancient times, even though the Space Age started only 62 years ago. Scientists have discovered human remains at the 2,000-year-old Hopewell Mounds in Ohio that wore meteorite necklaces. According to Corrigan, those Native Americans “knew they were special” when they discovered the meteorites. A portion of the meteorites were transported to the Ohio location from as far away as Kansas.

The history of Earth has been marked by meteorites, and Ann Hodges’s experience is also etched in memory. The Hodges meteorite incident served as the basis for a chapter in author and humorist Fannie Flagg’s 1987 novel Fried Green Tomatoes and the Whistle Stop Café, which was set in Alabama.

The chapter, which was set in 1929, details the story of a meteorite crashing through the roof of a home, striking a radio, and barely missing a human being. The meteorite did not make an appearance in the 1991 film based on the novel.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x