Meteor Leaves Hole in Indiana Man’s Chest: Legends and Lore

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INDIANA – Delve into the annals of Indiana’s history, and you’ll uncover a tale that has intrigued and mystified our state for generations. 

It’s a story that revolves around a mythical man named Leonidas Grover and a meteor that supposedly left a gaping hole in his chest.

This enigmatic narrative unfolded in the late 1800s, initially appearing as a startling article in the Indianapolis Journal on January 16, 1879. 

The story introduced readers to the elderly Leonidas Grover, whose life came to a chilling end when a colossal, twenty-pound meteor allegedly crashed through his roof, piercing his body and bed before coming to a rest five feet below ground in his cellar. As astonishing as it may sound, the sensational account was nothing more than an elaborate hoax, submitted to a local newspaper by an anonymous prankster.

But the tale didn’t simply fade away. Instead, it took root in the imagination of Hoosiers, finding its way into official state records and scientific studies. How did this practical joke transform into a legendary tale that endures to this day?

Enter Edward T. Cox, the state geologist of Indiana at the time. Intrigued by the bizarre occurrence, Cox was determined to retrieve the purported meteor for scientific scrutiny. He convinced Army Major John J. Palmer to embark on a journey to Covington, the supposed location of the celestial projectile. 

Upon arrival in Covington, Major Palmer was in for a surprise. There was no Leonidas Grover, and no meteor. Faced with this bizarre twist, he chose to perpetuate the deception, transforming an ordinary rock into a meteor look-alike, using red ink to paint it and heating it until it assumed a convincing black hue. He then returned to Indianapolis, weaving an intricate narrative of the meteor incident, which quickly spread through newspapers and took home at a local drugstore for display.

The following year, John Collet, who had succeeded Cox as the state geologist, sought to display the infamous ‘meteor,’ as public interest remained fervent. Palmer, still unwilling to concede to his prank, relinquished the rock to the state of Indiana, which was proudly showcased at the state museum for years, only to mysteriously vanish after Collet’s departure from office.

Although the truth eventually emerged, by that point, the story had become an indelible part of Indiana’s folklore.

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