Alabama's Housewife-Whacking Meteorite
Ann Hodges lived in the village of Oak Grove, Alabama, when she was hit by a meteorite. You're probably thinking, "That was the end of Ann Hodges." It was not!
The meteorite, roughly the size of a cantaloupe, fell on November 30, 1954. It crashed through Ann's roof, snapped a couple of rafters, fell through a ceiling, bounced off a big console radio, and then landed on Ann, who was taking a nap under a couple of quilts. She was bruised, but otherwise intact.
Months of legal wrangling followed, to establish ownership of the meteorite (Ann and her supporters claimed that it was given to her by God). The court ruled that it belonged to Ann's landlady, so Ann and her husband paid the woman $500, then donated the space rock to the University of Alabama's Museum of Natural History, where it's been ever since.
Every few years someone will claim that they were hit by a meteorite -- usually a tiny one -- but Ann Hodges remains the "only authenticated instance" of such an event, which the museum states proudly in its display.
The meteorite occupies a corner of the museum's Grand Gallery exhibition hall. Suspended overhead is a giant prehistoric whale, Basilosaurus cetoides, the official state fossil of Alabama. Other local natural history exhibits include a slab-tribute to Alabama's marble quarries and the preserved office of Dr. Eugene Smith, Alabama's state geologist. Nearly everything in the museum was collected after 1865 because Yankees destroyed the previous museum during the Civil War (The University was at that time a military school).
Next to the meteorite stands the Hodges' radio, still sporting scars from its fateful encounter. We suggested to Allie Sorlie, the museum's Educational Outreach Coordinator, that the radio be rigged to play the jazz standard, "Stars Fell on Alabama," to convey that meteors are a familiar sight in the state (the song was written long before the meteorite hit Alabama). To our surprise, Allie thought that this was not entirely a bad idea.
Flanking the radio is a second falling star, a chunk of the Barringer Meteorite, which blasted out the enormous Meteor Crater in Arizona. It's certainly the better-known and more spectacular of the two meteorites, yet it's displayed in the open, while the Hodges Meteorite is encased within a plexiglass box securely bolted to its pedestal.
"It stays under lock and key," said Allie of the housewife-whacking space rock. "It's a prized relic of Alabama history."