Ann Hodges (center) poses with her meteorite, underneath the point where it crashed through her house, with Sylacauga, Alabama mayor Ed Howard (left) and the town’s police chief W.D. Ashcraft. Hodges was struck by the meteorite while on her couch on Nov. 30, 1954. She donated it to the University of Alabama’s Museum of Natural History in 1956.
By Chelsea Gohd
Sixty-five years ago, a few days after Thanksgiving, Ann Hodges was snuggled up on the sofa in her Alabama home when a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite crashed through the ceiling and struck the left side of her body. Not the best interruption to the holiday season.
The cosmic event, which took place on Nov. 30, 1954, was the first known reported instance of a human being struck by a meteorite and suffering an injury. The softball-size space rock, weighing about 8.5 lbs. (3.8 kilograms), burst through the roof of Hodges’ house in Sylacauga at 2:46 p.m. local time, bouncing off a large radio console before striking her and leaving a large, dark bruise.
The meteorite that struck Hodges, who was 31 at the time, turned out to be one-half of a larger rock that split in two as it fell toward Earth. The piece that didn’t hit Hodges landed a few miles away and is now in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. In 2017, a 10.3-gram piece of the space rock that hit Hodges sold at auction for $7,500.
Before it ended up leaving a serious welt on Hodges’ side, people across eastern Alabama say they saw a bright light in the sky. Reports poured in of a reddish light, and some observers even described a fireball that trailed smoke and left an arc of light in the afternoon sky. After Hodges was struck and the meteorite landed, she and her mother, who was home at the time, tried to figure out what had happened.
Dust filled the house after the crash, but as it settled and they spotted the rock and the enormous bruise on Hodges, the two women called the police and fire department.
Now, as a local geologist was called to the scene to verify what the object was, word quickly spread about what happened. However, the event occurred in 1954, and not everyone was convinced that this strange rock was a meteorite. Some thought it could’ve been debris from a plane crash, and some thought it could have even come from what was then the Soviet Union.
Still, despite a few skeptics, people from all over flocked to Hodges’ home to see the woman hit by a space rock, a crowd that Hodges’ husband found as he returned from work that night. “We had a little excitement around here today,” Ann Hodges told the Associated Press. “I haven’t been able to sleep since I was hit,” she said. With all of this commotion around her, Hodges was soon hospitalized, though, despite the massive mark on her side, was not too seriously injured.
“Think of how many people have lived throughout human history,” Michael Reynolds, who wrote the book “Falling Stars: A Guide to Meteors and Meteorites,” said to National Geographic. “You have a better chance of getting hit by a tornado and a bolt of lightning and a hurricane all at the same time.”
Shockingly, Hodges is not the only person to have been hit by a meteorite, but it is still exceptionally rare.
In 2009, a 14-year-old German boy, Gerrit Blank, was hit in the hand by a pea-size meteorite. While he wasn’t seriously injured, the rock did leave a scar and gave the boy quite a fright. “When it hit me it knocked me flying and then was still going fast enough to bury itself into the road,” said Blank.