Ann Hodges, history’s only meteorite victim

The only recorded case of a person being injured by a meteor happened in 1954.

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)

34-year-old Ann Elizabeth Fowler Hodges became the first, and so far only, documented case of a human being injured by a rock from space when a nine-pound meteorite crashed through the ceiling of her house, bounced off a radio and hit her on the thigh in late 1954.

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The meteorite left Hodges, of Oak Grove, near Sylacauga in Alabama, US, with a massive bruise and embroiled in a legal battle when her landlord – sensing that the space rock might be of value – claimed to be the rightful owner.

While the law favoured the landlord, the public got behind Hodges, who exclaimed: “God intended it to hit me. After all, it hit me!”

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

However, after such a long time, interest in the meteorite had waned and they couldn’t find a buyer, so they donated it to the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

A local farmer was more fortuitous, however. Julius Kempis McKinney found another, smaller chunk of what became known as the Hodges Meteorite.

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

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

Dave Golder is a science journalist.