Very few people in recorded history have the distinction of being on the receiving end of a meteorite. In fact, there’s only one person with proof: Anne Hodges, an Alabama woman struck by a football-sized rock from outer space.. and lived to tell the tale. You’d think only someone awfully fortunate could survive an ordeal like that, but after the meteorite hit its mark, Ann Hodges became anything but lucky. You might even say she was cursed.
In late November of 1954, Ann Hodges was in the middle of an afternoon nap in her home in Sylacauga, Alabama, when a large rock came crashing through her ceiling, bounced off her radio, and struck her in the side, leaving a massive bruise. It had come from outer space, and the 8.5 pound meteorite was still warm to the touch.
Via University of Alabama Museum of Natural History / LIFE Archives
At the same time, locals had reported seeing “a bright reddish light like a Roman candle trailing smoke,” with incredible explosions that stemmed from “a fireball, like a gigantic welding arc.”
It didn’t take long for word to get out about woman who’d been hit with one of the space rocks, and within days, her front lawn became ground zero for curious locals who wanted to catch a glimpse of her “pineapple-shaped” bruise and the meteorite that caused it. News networks from all over the world were clamoring with an interview with Ann Hodges, but it was the government who had a particularly keen interest in her experience.
It was the height of the Cold War, and the military, fearing that the meteorite was a chunk of a secret Soviet satellite – or worse, a weapon – confiscated the rock, much to Anne’s dismay.
“I feel like the meteorite is mine,” she said. “I think God intended it for me. After all, it hit me!
Being as rare and filled with precious metals as they are, meteorites can be big money, and Anne was missing out. Just a day after she was struck, a local farmer, Julius Kempis McKinney, was driving his mule-drawn wagon a few miles away when a strange rock in the road caused his mules to balk. When he heard the news about Anne’s meteorite, he went back to collect the rock, and almost immediately sold it with the help of a lawyer. With his money, he was able to purchase a car and a house.
A few months later, the military had finished their analysis on the meteorite, and were prepared to return it, but there was only one problem. Knowing its value, Anne’s landlord, Birdie Guy, was now claiming ownership of the rock, telling the military that it landed on his property to begin with. Guy found himself a lawyer and sued Anne. They settled out of court, with Hodges paying Guy $500 (nearly $4k by today’s standards) for the meteorite.
It wasn’t long before Anne and her husband Eugene received a call from the Smithsonian, who were interested in purchasing the meteorite. Knowing what luck the local farmer had when selling his much smaller chunk of space rock, the couple turned down the museum’s modest offer hoping to instigate a bidding war. It was the first and only offer they would receive.
With all the time that Anne Hodges had spent battling the military and her landlord for ownership of the rock, more than a year had passed and the meteorite-frenzy had waned, leaving her with a tender hip, a hole in her roof, and a $4,000 meteorite that no one wanted to buy.
Just two years after the meteorite crashed through her ceiling, Anne ended up donating the piece to the Alabama Museum of Natural History, having not made a single cent from the discovery.
Anne suffered a long nervous breakdown after all of the commotion had passed, and had to be hospitalized. The breakdown took a tole on her relationship with Eugene, and the couple were divorced in 1964. Just eight years later, Anne Hodges died in a Sylacaugan nursing home. She was only 52.
Anne has the distinction of being the only person in the world to be struck by a rock that had traveled countless miles through the dark void of space, only to find its way to her and ruin her life. Maybe the meteorite wasn’t cursed at all. Maybe she was.
Today, the “cursed” meteor, with a patch of tar from Anne Hodges’ roof still visible, still sits in the possession of the University of Alabama’s Museum of Natural History. Fortunately, the rock is safely contained under glass, so none of the bad luck will rub off on visitors.