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The day stars fell on Alabama—literally

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You might think “Stars Fell on Alabama” is nothing more than an old jazz standard, but ask residents of Sylacauga, Ala., in the ‘50s and they’ll tell you the truth is, in fact, stranger than fiction.

Yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of the only recorded incident of a human being struck by a meteorite, and it happened right here in Alabama. On Nov. 30, 1954, Alabama residents reported seeing “a bright reddish light like a Roman candle trailing smoke” streak through the sky. But it wasn’t extraterrestrial; it was a meteorite. An 8.5-pound chunk of the rock broke off, tore through a house’s roof, bounced around inside the home and struck 34-year-old Ann Elizabeth Hodges, who was asleep on her couch.

The odds of a meteorite crashing to earth and hitting a person are astronomical, as in, the Population Reference Bureau estimates that, as of 2011, 107 billion humans have walked the earth, and Hodges is the only recorded case of a person being struck. The meteorite left a massive bruise on Hodges’ left hip, along with “permanent emotional scars,” according to Decatur Daily.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JAY LEVITON, TIME & LIFE PICTURES/GETTY IMAGES
PHOTOGRAPH BY JAY LEVITON, TIME & LIFE PICTURES/GETTY IMAGES

The Hodgeses were renting the house the meteorite crashed into, and landlady Birdie Guy believed that since the rock landed on her property, it was rightfully hers. Hoping to cash in on a stellar stroke of luck, Guy took the issue to the courts, and eventually the Hodgeses paid Guy $500 for the the meteorite.

Ann Hodges used the meteorite as a doorstop before donating it to the Alabama Museum of Natural History in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where it is still displayed to this day.

“Ann Hodges never fully recovered from the incident,” according to the Decatur Daily. “She died of kidney failure in 1972 at a Sylacauga nursing home.”

However, the incident wasn’t bad news for everyone involved. A farmer named Julius Kempis McKinney found a smaller piece of the meteorite a few miles away from the Hodges’ home and sold it to a lawyer for the Smithsonian Institute. The exact amount is unknown, but McKinney was able to purchase a new house and a car.