No one can say with any certainty when or how inspiration will strike. The inspiration for this particular Songs From The Stacks came from a researcher who contacted Antiochiana about a visitor from space that came to campus in 1901, but not that kind of visitor from space. This one was a meteorite that, according to multiple news outlets (including The New York Times), struck South Hall, the men’s dormitory at the time, awakening everyone in the building and damaging the porch. The question came in on the same day that NASA’s experimental planetary defense initiative known as DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) successfully tested its ability to hit something nearly seven million miles away, and that odd coincidence made finding the answer all the more intriguing.
There was, however, nothing in the College records of the time about this otherwise notable incident. Accounts of the impact indicated that the meteorite itself ended up in the College Museum. There was something called the college museum and images of it appeared in the course catalogs of the 1890s, but we know little of it other than it is long gone.
The notice, printed in full, follows:
From The New York Times 6 Feb 1901
The students of Antioch College, who were peacefully slumbering in their dormitory the other night, were suddenly startled by a resounding crash which brought all of them to the windows. A few of the students had noticed a flaming ball of fire from out of the heavens immediately preceding the crash, and investigation showed that an immense meteor had caused the disturbance. It had fallen on a porch in front of the dormitory, had crashed through the roof and the floor and sunk several inches into the ground. It is an unusually fine specimen, as large as the largest cannon ball, and it is now on exhibition in the college museum.
Having found nothing in Antiochiana’s collections of publications, meeting minutes, or other similar records where such things should be discoverable, the last place to check was Olive Kettering’s microfilmed Yellow Springs News, where the following notice, reprinted in full, appeared:
From The Yellow Springs News, 15 Feb 1901
That Meteor Joke
A week or so ago some one jokingly sent an item to the Xenia Gazette to the effect that a meteor had fallen on Antioch College, describing it as being large, as large as a cannon ball and resembling one very much. The jokist joked at great length and shook hands with himself to think the college was so fortunate as to have a meteor be so accommodating as to drop so close to the great seat of learning, even if it did come down through a porch roof and spoil some shingles. The wit of this wag is “wemarkable,” and should such journals as the Gazette, the Cincinnati Enquirer and other papers who publish things for facts without authentication, lend him their space, he would undoubtedly climb rapidly down to fame. The incident which gave excuse for the joke occurred last fall when some of the boys prankishly turned an old cannon ball loose at a fourth floor window of the south dormitory and let it crash through the entry porch roof below.
With that, The Yellow Springs News of 1901 solved the mystery of Antiochiana having no record of a meteorite impact on campus. All that remains is to find out how the pranksters ever got their hands on a cannonball.