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Something interesting has happened on (just about) every day of the year, and Daily TWiP provides the proof. An offshoot of my local events column The Week in Preview (affectionately known as TWiP), Daily TWiP was published April 2008-Aug. 2011 and is still giving readers reasons to celebrate.

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Daily TWiP – Nov. 30, 1954: Ann Hodges becomes the first person hit by a meteorite

On Nov. 30, 1954, Ann Hodges lay down for a nap on her living room couch in her house in Sylacauga, Ala., little imagining that she was about to make history. She was woken suddenly by an eight and a half pound fragment of what would be dubbed the Sylacauga Aerolite smashing through her ceiling, rebounding off of a console radio, and colliding with her hip.

Hodges was the first documented individual to be hit by a meteorite and the fragment that hit her was subsequently named the Hodges Meteorite.

Hodges first thought the room’s gas heater had exploded and that she had been hit by shrapnel. When she discovered the meteorite, however, she surmised it had been thrown by one of the neighborhood children.

The police were called to examine the object and Hodges herself was examined by a doctor. Both her hip and her hand were swollen, but nothing was broken and her injuries weren’t serious.

A geologist called in by police hazarded that the object might be a meteorite. The police turned it over to the military, who in turn sent it to the Smithsonian.

Hodges’ husband, Hewlett Hodges, was livid that the meteorite had been taken from their home without their permission. The ensuing media frenzy led him to believe the meteorite was their ticket to fame and fortune and he was determined to get it back.

Alabama Congressman Kenneth Roberts eventually convinced the Smithsonian to return the meteorite, but other complications soon arose.

Birdie Guy, the landlord from whom the Hodges rented their home, also laid claim to the meteorite. Since it had damaged her property, she wanted to sell the meteorite to pay for the repairs. Her attorney encouraged her that there was legal precedence to do so, and so she sued the Hodges for possession of the meteorite.

The Hodges threatened to lodge a counter-suit for the injuries Ann had sustained from the meteorite. Both parties managed to calm down before they were due in court, however, and Guy received a modest settlement in exchange for relinquishing her claim to the meteorite.

By this time, the excitement over the meteorite had died down. The Hodges had turned down a tidy sum from the Smithsonian, holding out for a better offer, but no one was interested enough in the meteorite to pay very much for it. The Hodges’ very public fight with Guy over the meteorite had also drastically reduced the number of offers they received.

Ann ultimately donated the meteorite to the Alabama Museum of Natural History. She never quite recovered from her collision with fame and she and Hewlett, both unable to pick up the pieces and move on, divorced ten years after the meteorite struck.

Ann has since passed away and our sources did not indicate if Hewlett was still living, but both of the Hodges have said they wished the whole meteorite incident had never happened.

– Teresa Santoski


Originally published Nov. 30, 2009.

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