[meteorite-list] murderous meteorite, part 3

From: Dave <Dave_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 09:52:18 2004
Message-ID: <002701c247d3$10a33c40$e1d67cce_at_dave>

Here is the last installment of the story of the meteorite allegedly killing
Mr. Leonidas Grover near Indianaplois, Indiana, in 1879. This comes to us
from "History of Greater Indianapolis," by Jacob Dunn (former editor of the
Indianapolis Sentinel, the newspaper that broke the story in 1879),
published in 1908, pages 401 - 403.

George C. Harding was the most picturesque character that ever appeared in
Indianapolis journalism....Perhaps the most attractive quality of Harding's
writing was its originality. He was always doing something novel....there
was very general satisfaction....when Harding himself was taken in by "the
meteor hoax," which was the most successful thing of the kind ever worked in
Indianapolis. On January 16, 1879, the Journal published what purported to
be a special from Crawfordsville giving an account of the remarkable death
of Leonidas Grover, a Fountain County farmer, who, while asleep in his bed,
was killed by a twenty pound aerolite that came through the roof, passed
through his body, and on to the cellar where it buried itself five feet in
the ground. There was no one else in the house at the time, and the family,
who returned later, did not discover the casualty until morning.

    The story was as complete a hoax on the Journal as on outsiders. It was
found on the telegraph operator's desk with other matter, in the usual form,
but it did not come over the wires. The author was never discovered. I
(Jacob Dunn) was charged with it at the time, and numerous deluded people
still hold me guilty, but I never saw it until I read it in the News that
afternoon. Nearly everyone believed the story, although it was absurd on
its face. Meteors do not fall straight down; and they become intensely
heated in passing through the atmosphere, many being completely consumed.
That one should pass through an inflammable building without setting fire to
anything: bury itself in the cellar, without giving off fumes that would
attract the attention of a family entering the house later; and, most of
all, retain the "stains of blood," as the story stated, was simply
preposterous. But the learned were caught also. Professor Cox, the State
Geologist, hastily sent Major Palmer to the scene to get scientific details
and secure the aerolite. He soon discovered the lack of facts, but decided
"to keep up the joke." He secured a cobble-stone of appropriate size and
colored it with black and red ink; also a rustic photograph which served as
a portrait of the mythical Grover; and prepared plans for a non-existent
house showing the course of the imaginary aerolite; all of which he put on
exhibition in Joe Perry's drug store, then at the northwest corner of
Pennsylvania and Washington Streets, where they were viewed by wondering
hundreds. Perhaps the most notable result was that the story was reproduced
by Alexander Winchell, the noted geologist, in one of his scientific works.

    The story appealed to Harding and he wrote a feeling article on the
strange way in which death had come to this man, sleeping in supposed
security. It was published on the 18th, after the hoax had been exposed,
but it had been put on the "inside," and the inside was printed, so it had
to go. The next morning the Herald resumed the subject as follows: "We take
it back in its totality. The death was not a phenomenal one. The aerolite
did not come hurtling from the depths of space. It did not tear a ragged
opening through the roof of Mr. Grover's house, nor did it crash through his
breast and then pass through the bed, the floor, and so on into the earth,
five feet. Mr. Grover's daughter and her husband were not away from home at
the time of the accident, and they didn't fail to discover his death until
the next morning. He didn't die. He didn't get hurt. He didn't even get
frightened. He wasn't there; he isn't anywhere now. Durn him. If Mr.
Leonidas Grover should ever come into existence, and get killed by an
aerolite, he will have to get someone else to write his obituary. It is a
nice thing to moralize over, and it furnished great scope for the play of
sentimental fancy, but we despise the subject, and we have precious little
faith in thunderstones anyhow. The audacious villain who invented the
canard is an unmeasured fraud and an infinite liar. Hell gapes for him.
The devil beckons to him with his hands, and horns and tail. Eternal
cremation, witha brimstone accompaniment, is his doom."

(As long as this was, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.)

Received on Mon 19 Aug 2002 06:52:14 PM PDT

Help support this free mailing list:

Yahoo MyWeb