In 1954, on a calm afternoon in Sylacauga, Alabama, Ann Hodges was taking a nap on her couch. Suddenly, a hunk of black rock the size of a softball broke through her ceiling, hit the radio and bounced off onto her thigh. It left a pineapple shaped bruise.
Ann’s story is quite a rare phenomenon. According to Michael Reynolds, author (Falling Stars: A Guide to Meteors & Meteorites) and Florida State College astronomer, meteorites usually either strike one of the vast remote places on earth or fall into the ocean.
Before it slammed into Ann’s house, the meteorite had been cited by people across eastern Alabama and in Sylacauga. According to a web publication of a story produced in 2010 by the Alabama Museum of Natural History, “The Day the Meteorite Fell in Sylacauga”, people reported seeing “a bright reddish light like a Roman candle trailing smoke.” Others saw “a fireball, like a gigantic welding arc,” that was accompanied by a brown cloud and tremendous explosions.
A government geologist who was called to the scene confirmed the object was a meteorite but according to the museum publication, not everyone was convinced. Most of them suspected the soviets of foul play while others thought a plane had crashed.
The Sylacauga Police chief handed the rock to the Air Force who confirmed it was a meteorite but didn’t know what to do with it. The public however had a solution; they demanded it to be returned to Ann, who 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!”
Ann and her husband, Eugene Hodges were renters however and the landlady, Birdie Guy, demanded they hand over the meteorite. She sued them claiming the rock should be hers since it had slammed into her property. The law was on her side but the public wasn’t.
The case was settled out of court and Guy received $500 in exchange for the meteorite. Eugene was convinced the rock would bring them a fortune and when this didn’t happen, they donated it in 1956 to the Natural History Museum where it remains on display.
Ann suffered a nervous breakdown and she and Eugene separated in 1964. She died at 52, in 1972 of kidney failure at a nursing home in Sylacauga. Eugene suspected that Ann had been affected by the meteorite and all the frenzy. According to the museum, he claimed “she never did recover.”
The Hodges, according to Randy Mecredy the museum director, were simple country people who sought no limelight and all the attention the meteorite brought must have caused Ann’s downfall.