The Story Of The Only Confirmed Person To Be Hit By A Meteorite

Dr Moody Jacobs inspects Ann Hodges, who had been struck by a meteorite while inside her home in 1954. Jay Leviton/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

There have been hoaxes and strange tabloid tales, but there has only been one confirmed person to have ever been hit by a meteorite in human history: Ann Hodges.

Her story begins just after midday on November 30, 1954, when she was taking a nap on her couch in the one-horse town of Oak Grove near Sylacauga, Alabama. Without warning, a grapefruit-sized meteorite crashed through her ceiling, bounced off her larger wooden radio, and struck her on her upper hip. Remarkably, the only injury she sustained was a nasty-looking bruise.

Ann’s report of the meteorite neatly tied in to local sightings of a bright red light trailing through the sky that same day. Although, mid-Cold War paranoia, many people of the small town believed the light could have been from a missile or a plane.

Strange extraterrestrial occurrences going on in a small, dusty post-war US town seems like something you should take with a pinch of salt. But this strange story has actually been documented in NASA-funded scientific reports.

"You have a better chance of getting hit by a tornado and a bolt of lightning and a hurricane all at the same time," Michael Reynolds, a Florida State College astronomer, told National Geographic in a conversation about Ann Hodges in 2013.

But the story of the meteorite, since identified as the Sylacauga meteorite, didn’t end there, as the local newspaper Decatur Daily reported in 2006.

A lucky farmer, Julius Kempis McKinney, came across another fragment of the meteorite while collecting firewood a few miles away. He managed to sell his share to an attorney who bought it on behalf of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Ann Hodges was not so lucky with her half. A fierce legal battle surrounded the ownership of the space rock, which had become surrounded by curiosity and media-attention. The landlady of the house and government officers were also keen to get their hands on the now-famous and valuable meteorite.  

Eventually, after Hodges growing tired of gawking tourists hanging around outside her house and a brief stint in the hands of the US Air Force, it was donated to the Alabama Museum of Natural History in 1956, where it still happily resides today along with 2,000 other meteorites. 

This isn't the only meteorite-related injury that has been reported, though. Earlier this year, it was claimed that an Indian man was killed by a falling space rock, leaving a hole in the ground. NASA later challenged this claim, saying the size of the crater didn't add up.

And there's also the famous story of the Nakhla meteorite, which urban legends say vaporized a dog when it fell in 1911. That story has been disputed – but Hodges, it seems, has a legitimate tale.

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