On a clear afternoon in Sylacauga, Alabama in 1954, Ann Hodges was napping on her couch, covered by quilts, when a softball-size hunk of black rock broke through the ceiling, bounced off a radio, and hit her in the thigh, leaving a pineapple-shaped bruise. When she noticed a grapefruit-sized rock lying on the floor and a ragged hole in the roof, she assumed children were the culprits. Her mother rushed outside and saw only a black cloud in the sky. Alabamians in and around the area saw the event from a different perspective, with many reporting that they had seen a fireball in the sky and heard a tremendous explosion that produced a white or brownish cloud. Most assumed it involved an airplane accident.
Ann was examined by physician Moody Jacobs, who determined that although her hip and hand were swollen and painful, there was no serious damage. (He later checked her into the hospital for several days to spare her from all the excitement). A government geologist working in a nearby quarry was called to the scene and determined the object was a meteorite weighing 8.5 pounds and measuring seven inches in length. The incident put 34-year-old Ann Elizabeth Hodges in the history books as the first documented case of a human struck by a meteorite.
The meteorite was confiscated by the Sylacauga police chief who then turned it over to the United States Air Force. Both the Hodgeses and their landlord, Bertie Guy, claimed the rock, Guy’s claim being that it had fallen on her property. There were offers of up to $5,000 for the meteorite. The Hodgeses and Bertie Guy settled, with the Hodgeses paying $500 for the rock. However, by the time it was returned to the Hodgeses, over a year later, public attention had diminished, and they were unable to then find a buyer.
Probably the only major figure in the entire Sylacauga meteorite story to claim a satisfactory ending was Julius K. McKinney, a farmer who lived near the Hodges. On December 1, 1954, the day after Ann Hodges was struck, he discovered a second fragment of the meteorite in the middle of a dirt road. McKinney was able to sell his rock to the Smithsonian for enough to purchase a small farm and a used car.
Two years after the meteorite crashed through her ceiling, Ann ended up donating the piece to the Alabama Museum of Natural History, having not made a single cent from the discovery. Ann suffered a long nervous breakdown after all of the commotion had passed, and had to be hospitalized. The breakdown took a toll on her relationship with her husband, and the couple were divorced in 1964. Just eight years later, Anne Hodges died in a Sylacaugan nursing home. She was only 52.