BFP Volume 9
In 1954, a meteorite landed in Oak Grove, Alabama a few miles north of Sylacauga. It went through the roof of a house, bounced off a Philco radio, and hit 35-year-old Ann Elizabeth Hodges while she was napping on her sofa. It left a nasty bruise, but she was otherwise uninjured. It is the only documented object from space that is known to have struck a human being on earth. This was huge news in 1954. It was written up in a number of newspapers, and Mrs. Hodges was even on the popular TV show I've Got a Secret before she eventually shied away from the spotlight.
Billy Field is a filmmaker and screenwriter who teaches at the University of Alabama, and his students make films about Alabama history. One of those films is a mini-documentary called "Stars Fell on Alabama," and Billy himself is the subject. He was an eye witness to that fireball in the sky that later became known as the Hodges meteorite. Billy is an affable, jelly bean of a man with a trim white beard, and he has the kind of mellow southern voice one associates with lifelong story tellers. "I was five years old, but I'll never forget it. The sky was that deep blue that it gets in October or November, and I saw a rocket of smoke shoot across the sky. I thought at first it was an airplane. And then it exploded, and then there were two trails of smoke. My mother told me later that it had been a meteorite."
Billy lights up like a shooting star himself when he talks about the meteorite. Apparently, the Hodges were renting their house from a lady named Birdie Guy, and word started spreading that it was worth a lot of money, maybe $50,000. Birdie claimed the meteorite belonged to her, but Ann said it hit her, and that meant God had sent it to her. "By the time they resolved it," Billy says, "Ann's fifteen minutes of fame were over, and nobody was interested anymore, so the Hodges didn't get anything. They ended up donating it to the University of Alabama a couple of years later."
I say that's sad.
Billy is more than just an eye witness. He actually owns the story. He told me that he had bought the rights to the Hodges' story and written a screenplay. 20th Century Fox bought the screenplay several years ago, but the film has never been made. "This was a good while back," he says. "We had Sissy Spacek signed on to be the star. It was going to be called Stars Fell on Alabama. Sissy Spacek was perfect for the part. She was still a big enough star then to get a picture made. She'd done Coal Miner's Daughter and Crimes of the Heart. At that time, she was down here making a picture called The Long Walk Home. We were watching the dailies, and the producer suddenly say, 'we can't use Sissy Spacek for that role. She has a chicken neck.' So she was off the project. They never got another star for it, so the film never got made."
-M. David Hornbuckle
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