At 2:46 P.M. on November 30, 1954, 34-year-old Ann Hodges of Sylacauga, Alabama, was napping on her couch. Suddenly a nine-pound object bashed through the ceiling of her home, smashed into her radio, ricocheted off and hit her in the thigh, reports Kat Eschner at Smithsonian.com. The object was a meteorite and it left a nasty bruise in the only well-documented case of a person being struck by a rock from space. A piece of that meteorite sold last week at auction at Christie’s fetching more money per gram than gold.
As Daryl Pitt, a meteorite consultant for the auction house, tells Rae Paoletta at Gizmodo, the 10.3-gram specimen of meteorite sold for $7,500. “By way of example, the price of 24K gold today is $39.05/g,” Pitt says, “and so this specimen sold for 18.5 times its weight in gold.”
The rock sold at auction wasn't actually a fraction of the meteorite that bombarded into Hodges' home. Though Hodges herself recovered a section, a local farmer also found a chunk. The Smithsonian acquired the section of the space rock from the farmer soon after. The piece that sold at Christie’s comes from his chunk of the rock, but is a much smaller fraction than the one still remaining with museum collections. As Nina Godlewski of the International Business Times reports, the piece sold is only about the size of a dime.
Sadly, Hodges never profited from her meteorite, Eschner. Her landlord laid claim to it, setting off a protracted court battle. Though legally the space rock was owned by the landlord, Hodges insisted it was hers, saying “God intended it to hit me. After all, it hit me!”
After a year of battling, Hodges and her husband Eugene agreed to pay the landlord for rights to the rock. But at that point, they couldn't find a buyer and eventually donated it to the Alabama Museum of Natural History.
Hodges never fully recovered from her brush with the stars, and stress from the incident contributed to her mental and physical decline. She died of kidney failure in a nursing home at the age of 52, reports Eschner.
While the lifetime odds of being killed by a regional meteorite are 1:1,600,000, there is at least one confirmed case of a meteorite ending a life. In 1972 the Valera space rock killed a cow in Venezuela. At the time, the farmer and doctor who found the carcass didn’t think much of the incident and ate the cow, keeping some some pieces of the meteorite. Last April, 160 grams of that meteorite sold for $7,539.