Rhodri Marsden's Interesting Objects: The Sylacauga meteorite

 

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The Independent Online

* Mr Eugene Hodges arrived home from work on 30 November, 1954, 60 years ago this weekend, to find his front door besieged by strangers. When he finally got indoors, he discovered why people had been travelling from all over the town of Sylacauga: his wife had just become the first human being confirmed to have been hit by a meteorite.

* Thirty-four-year-old Ann Hodges had been taking a nap when the 3.8kg lump smashed through the roof, destroying a Philco radio and hitting her on her left thigh. As word quickly spread, so did the rumours; it was a part of an alien spacecraft, or maybe just a bit of an aeroplane, or perhaps the Soviets did it. The local mayor, Ed Howard, summoned a geologist working nearby, who established that it was indeed a meteorite. While one Dr Moody Jacobs tended to Mrs Hodges, Howard took possession of the intrepid rock and passed it to the US Air Force.

* Mr Hodges was furious that their meteorite had been snaffled, and over the next few days the media clamoured for the government to return it. While an Alabama congressman intervened on the Hodges' behalf, their landlady, Mrs Birdie Guy, hired a lawyer, figuring that if it landed on her property it probably belonged to her. Hodges hired his own lawyer, Huel Love (I'm not making these names up, honest) who eventually settled out of court with Guy for $500.

* Mrs Hodges became an unlikely local celebrity. When asked how she felt about being hit by a meteorite, she replied "bruised". After failing to sell the rock for big bucks, she donated it to the Alabama Museum of Natural History, where it remains today. An abstract granite memorial to the meteorite, Falling Star, now stands outside Sylacauga City Hall.

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