Days Gone By - stories from the past

Meteorite hit woman November 30, 1954 and ruined the rest of her life

On November 30, 1954, a historic event occurred in Alabama when a meteor appeared in the Alabama sky in the morning and was seen by a Montgomery meteorologist and a radio announcer as it trailed across the pre-dawn hours with an eerie green glow.


The meteor exploded and at 2:56 p.m., a chunk went through the roof of the Hodges home and injured Elizabeth Ann Hodges as it smashed a hole in the roof above her living room, hit her radio and them bounced off her hip. Mrs. Hodges was reported to have been not feeling well and was lying on a couch in her living room when the meteor smashed through the roof and tumbled through the ceiling. She received a major grapefruit size bruise when the meteor struck her hip according to a hospital in Sylacauga but that was not the only suffering Mrs. Hodges endured from the event.

sylacauga-ann-hodges-bruise-university-of-alabama-museum-of-natural-history

Ann Hodges in hospital with bruise on hip (University of Alabama of Natural History)

Taken to Maxwell Air Force Base

So many people flocked to the Hodges house that when her husband, Eugene Hodges, returned home from work he had difficulty getting in his own home.

The meteorite was taken to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery where it was tested and identified. It measured about six inches in diameter and weighed approximately nine pounds. The inside consisted of a metallic, gray granular substance which responded to tests given for sulfide and the outside coating was a black satin appearing substance.

The next day, Mr. Hodges complained that the Air Force had no right to take the meteorite and it should be returned to him. His neighbors agreed with him. The Air Force reported that the stone would be shipped to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, for inspection and afterward returned to Mrs. Hodges.

Meteor seen across many states

The exploding meteor was reported to have been seen over the states of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Six Tuscaloosa, Alabama citizens also stated they got a good look at the meteor as it fell. The accounts below were recorded in The Tuscaloosa News, December 1, 1954.

  • “Ernest Yeatman of No. 1 Oakwood Court, a truck driver for a soft drink concern said he was driving his truck up a steep hill from Warrior Asphalt’s plant when he saw the object, which he said seemed to be coming straight down. He described it as a white ball with a long trail of fire. As it descended, he said, the fire trail turned to smoke and then the ball disappeared. There was still sky visible beneath it when it disappeared, he said and except for the smoke, he saw nothing to indicate an explosion. Mr. Yeatman said he would have guessed it to be about five miles away. The whole episode took ‘just a fraction of a second,’ he said, although the smoke trail lingered for a few moments.”
  • “Fred Nicol, deputy circuit solicitor, was driving home to lunch when he saw the flash while going east on Tenth Street near Druid City Hospital. ‘It looked at first like a ball of fire, which all of a sudden disintegrated and poured out smoke, said Mr. Nicol. Mr. Nicol called The News office to report what he’d seen but said ‘don’t quote me unless somebody else also witnessed it. Folks might think I was just seeing things.”
  • William M. (Billy) Cochrane, 2301 Glendale Gardens, reported that he saw ‘a bright light’ in the eastern sky, followed by a ‘big puff of smoke.’ and concluded that it was the meteor.
  • “Mr. and Mrs. Howard Meigs, 36 University Circle, reported seeing the meteor as they sat in their car in front of the the Baptist Student Center on University Avenue. Mr. Megis said he saw the meteor explode and that at first it appeared to him as though it were in the neighborhood of the Bryce Hospital property. At first, he thought some University students had been experimenting with a thermite rocket. The Meigses said the smoke trail looked like an inverted ice cream cone. Mrs. Meigs, who is taking the courses in astronomy at the University, told of what she saw in class but at that time no one could identify the strange object as a meteor.”
  • “Mrs. Florence Taylor, 1204 12th Ave., said she was standing on the corner near the courthouse when she glanced up to see a very startling sight – a blaze of fire up there in the sky.”

Another piece discovered in a field

According to the Avondale Sun of 1954 (October-December), James (Julius Kempis) McKinney found a missing mass of the meteorite that hit Mrs. Hodges of Sylacauga in a field on December 1st. He took his find to George Swindel, U. S. Geologist at Sylacauga who verified his find.

Previously, there had been 60 recorded ‘close calls’ of a meteorite falling close to people and in the 1860s, and a few instances of death to animals hit by meteorites but there was no other authenticated case before 1954 of a human actually being struck by a meteorite.

Featured in Life Magazine

Mrs. Hodges was later featured in Life Magazine as being the first person ever reported being struck by a meteor. She reported that she had been napping on her couch, covered by quilts when the incident occurred.

The Hodges never fully recovered from the event and all the excitement it generated. The couple divorced in 1964. Ann Elizabeth Hodges died of kidney failure in 1972 at a Sylacauga nursing home at the age of fifty-two. The Hodges eventually donated the stone to the natural history museum in 1956.

Years later, their house caught fire and was later demolished. Today, a historical marker stands in Oak Grove near the spot of their house on the Old Birmingham Highway. (Turn east off US Hwy 231 at the Shell Station onto Highway 511. The historical marker is on the right,three-quarters of a mile)

SOURCES

  • Tuscaloosa News December 1, 1954
  • RoadsideAmerica.com
  • Film posted by VARBAGE

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me
All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
She has authored numerous genealogy books.
RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE)
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Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1)
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For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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36 comments

  1. Jerry Weeks

    I think this is the picture that appeared in Life magazine.

  2. Beamon Bryson

    I remember that. I was in 7th grade.

  3. Bill Grimwood

    She was buried near Hazel Green, AL. I have visited her grave and made a photo of the headstone for the University of Alabama.

  4. Somebody needs to tell the female narrator that Sylacauga is pronounced “SILLA-CAH-GAH,” not “SI-LUH-CAH-GAH.”

  5. Paul Hale

    I don’t understand from the article how it ruined her life

  6. Josephine Tomlinson Hall-Blackwell

    They mentioned this on Montgomery station yesterday morning. 62 years ago!

  7. Jerry Smith

    I remember when this happened, and have seen the meteorite itself.

  8. David Strickland

    I remember seeing the meteorite on display at the Field museum in Chicago in the 60’s.

  9. Lena Han

    Roy Moore has ruined more women’s lives then the meteor

    1. Mike Deason

      What warped stream of consciousness does it take to go directly from a story about a meteorite striking a woman in her house to Roy Moore’s alleged proclivity for teenage girls? Can’t we have some apolitical “safe spaces” on the internet these days?

    2. Darla Wheeler Edwards

      Lena whatever happened in your little mind to innocent until proven guilty ???

    3. Janice Stewart Rush

      This story had absolutely zero to do with Roy Moore…

    4. Jeanie Brown Russell

      I didn’t know about the meteor.

    5. Andrew Glass

      Mike Deason good Lord I almost died.

    6. Lena Han

      Mike Deason it has to do with ruining a woman’s life so there is a connection

    7. And how does that make you feel?

    8. Jim Nolan

      Lena Han does not live in Alabama. We are seeing George Soros paid bloggers all over Alabama at present. Go home Lena. Stop meddling in our election!

    9. Darla Wheeler Edwards

      Lena Han you didn’t answer my question. But that’s okay…I get it…

    10. Mike Deason

      “Mike Deason it has to do with ruining a woman’s life so there is a connection”

      Look, just take your opinions to an echo chamber like HuffPo and leave the politics out of here.

    11. Lena Han

      Ila Welsh 1 might be a lie. 4 no

    12. Lena Han

      Darla Wheeler Edwards I did, can’t u read?

  10. Miner Mike Finlay

    Today a sample of a meteorite from a known fall sells for 1000’s a gram .

  11. Cabot Barden

    strange coincidence. The day that the meteor hit Ann Hodges of Sylacauga is the same day that Sylacauga native Jim Nabors died 63 years later.

    1. Alabama Pioneers

      That is a strange coincidence!

    2. Donnie Roberson

      Cabot Barden wasn’t that house over by the ole drive in

    3. Cabot Barden

      Yup. it’s been gone for quite a few years now. There is a historical plaque out by the old Birmingham highway about the meteor.

    4. Donnie Roberson

      Yes. My granddads brother and family lived in that house. That place wanted haunted as hell.

  12. Mike Estes

    Yep. That happened just over the hill from where I sit now. There’s a nice marker in front of where the house was.

  13. Susan Hutto

    Kriston Hodge Phillips are you related to these people? They have the last name “Hodge”.

    1. Kriston Hodge Phillips

      Our last name is Hodge. Her last name is Hodges-with an s on the end.

  14. Joel Gilbreath

    Wanda Cantrell, our young brains were radiated !

  15. Eric Elliott

    They had the meteorite on display at the Museum of Natural History at UA when I was in college

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