Ann Hodges, history’s only meteorite victim

The only recorded case of a person being injured by a meteor happened on this day 64 years ago. What followed was a bizarre legal case about who owned the space rock.

American Dr Moody Jacobs shows a giant bruise on side and hip of his patient, Ann Elizabeth Hodges (1923 - 1972), who had been struck by a meteorite while inside her home, Sylacauga, Alabama, late 1954. (Photo by Jay Leviton/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

A doctor inspects the massive bruise inflicted on Ann Hodges by a meteorite that came through her roof. Image Credits: Getty Images

Advertisement

34-year-old Ann Elizabeth Fowler Hodges of Oak Grove, near Sylacauga in Alabama, US, becomes the first, and so far only, documented case of a human being injured by a rock from space when a nine-pound meteorite crashes through the ceiling of her house, bounces off a radio and hits her on the thigh.

It leaves her with a massive bruise and embroiled in a legal battle when her landlord – sensing that the space rock might be of value – claims to be the rightful owner.

While the law favours the landlord, the public gets behind Hodges, who exclaims, “God intended it to hit me. After all, it hit me!”

After a year of legal squabbling, Hodges and her husband Eugene agree to pay their landlady for rights to the rock.

However, after such a long time, interest in the meteorite has waned and they can’t find a buyer.

They eventually donate it to the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

A local farmer is more fortuitous.

Julius Kempis McKinney finds another, smaller chunk of what becomes known as the Hodges Meteorite.

McKinney quickly sells his find to the Smithsonian while Hodges and her landlord are still battling it out. He makes enough money to buy a car and a house.

Advertisement

A dime-sized chunk of this second portion of the space rock sold at auction house Christie’s in 2017 for $7,500.


This story is taken from “This Week In Space History” which is a regular part of the BBC Sky at Night Magazine weekly newsetter. You can subscribe to it here.