Amazing Meteorite Stories That Changed People’s Lives
Willamette's huge Meteorite (Oregon, United States). 1920's. Source: (Photo by Boyer/Roger Viollet/Getty Images)
Meteorites fall from the sky sometimes landing in peculiar places with peculiar dimensions. Some are enormous and some of these just bring out unusual behavior with the people who come into contact with them. These events of nature can sometimes cause “freak” accidents to people and property. In some of these cases, this falling object from the sky has turned people’s lives upside down and wreaked havoc in their lives because of greed and notoriety.
One such case happened because of a meteorite that fell in Oregon.
The Willamette meteorite, which was found by Ellis Hughes in 1902, was one of the largest meteorites found in the United States. The problem was that the place that Hughes found it at was not on his own property but rather on his neighbor’s property. Realizing that this was not just an ordinary big rock, he came up with a scheme to somehow get it off his neighbor’s property and onto his own. This land it fell on was, ironically, the property of Oregon Iron and Steel Company.
After moving it less than a mile over a three month period, he enclosed it in a building and began to share the news that he had “found” it and started charging people a fee to view it. Eventually, he got caught and his fraud was discovered, most likely because he had previously tried to buy that part of the property. He ended up in a lawsuit and was forced to give it back.
It turns out this meteorite was made up of iron and nickel with a size of 84 square feet in length and 34,000 pounds in weight. In 1906, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City eventually took possession of it.
In addition to the 1905 lawsuit of Hughes, which ended up in the Oregon Supreme Court, another lawsuit ensued in 1990 with New York when the Native American tribes in Oregon wanted the meteorite returned to Oregon. They loved it and called it their “visitor from the moon.” Ten years later, they finally came to an agreement with the stipulation that if they ever took it off display that they would return it to Oregon.
The Hoba meteorite was an odd-shaped meteorite being mostly flat on top and bottom that was found on a farm in 1920 in Namibia, South Africa. It is considered to be the largest one found on earth. Weighing 60 tons, it was found by a plow running into it. Believed to have dropped from the sky approximately 80,000 years ago, it has a considerable amount of nickel content.
Normally the Hoba Meteorite would have been in a museum but, due to its enormous size, it was left there where it fell. Instead, a museum of sorts was built around it like an amphitheater for people to come and visit it. In 1955, the government declared it a national monument. Because vandalism had become a problem, the government included the land around the meteorite part of the national monument status and also provided funding to help protect the area. Now people come from everywhere to visit the monument.
What are the odds of getting hit directly from a meteorite?
It was the early 1950s when 34-year-old Ann Elizabeth Hodges was struck by a blazing meteorite fragment that crashed through her living room. She was enjoying a lazy afternoon nap in her Sylacauga, Alabama home where she and her husband resided when the fireball hit. This was one of the three fragments of the meteorite that struck her in her hip. Other than some bad bruising, she was okay physically. Coming through the roof first, the fragment hit her console radio and then hit her. Local area witnesses stated that they heard loud explosions and there were people that saw it blaze across the sky from three different states.
There was somewhat of a battle over the rock. Everybody wanted it. First, the local police confiscated it, who then gave it to the Air Force. The landlord claimed it because it was their land but Ann Hodges and her husband wanted it because, after all, she was the one hit by it. Bertie Guy, the landlord, and the Hodges finally settled out of court after the public took the side of Ann Hodges, but they still had to pay $500 for it. After all the dust settled, the Hodges, believing they could sell it and make a lot of money off of it, turned down an offer from the Smithsonian, which was a mistake on their part. By 1956, nobody else was interested in buying it, so they ended up donating it to the Alabama Museum of Natural History.
Ironically, another local farmer, Julius McKinney obtained one of the other two fragments of the same meteorite and was able to sell it for enough money to buy a house and car. He sold it to a lawyer who bought it for the Smithsonian. The third piece of the rock fell somewhere near Childersburg, Alabama.
Another twist to the story of Ann Elizabeth Hodges.
Because Hodges was usually a person who kept to herself, all the publicity and attention on her was too overwhelming and eventually, she had a nervous breakdown. Then later, in 1964, she and her husband separated. She eventually died from kidney failure in 1972 at the age of 52. Her husband stated that all of the publicity and attention had just taken its toll on her and she just never recovered.
When someone says the “sky is falling,” it might be best to run away as fast as possible.
Tags: Meteorites, 1900s
Like it? Share with your friends!