Steve Curry’s meteor-hunting hobby turned into a business, then an obsession, then a connection with the same “sovereignty” movement as Cliven Bundy, and eventually landed him in jail after an armed standoff with law enforcement. But before all of that he was a mentally ill man who was really excited by meteors. In The Verge, Brendan Borrell walks us through the entire strange and sad story.

“He was extremely knowledgeable,” says Robert Stollsteimer, who became what he calls “a groupie.” An elderly woman in Olathe, the next town over, became convinced her yard was jam-packed with meteorites, and she donated $15,000 to Curry so he could buy meteorite-testing gear. Channel 8 news in nearby Grand Junction ran a story about Curry discovering the first moon rocks in North America. It was startling, to say the least. “He’s found outlines of crustaceans, snails and sea worms inside his meteors,” the report said. “Proof of alien life.”

Though Curry had yet to make any considerable proceeds off of meteorite sales, he began to picture himself as a captain of industry, a railroad tycoon of yore who could give back to his frontier town. He established the Osirius Foundation with plans to funnel proceeds from his meteorites to charity. He handed out meteorites to people he met like they were party favors. He also donated five specimens to the Montrose County Historical Society, which, according to the receipt he scribbled out, were worth $58,994,500.

During a meeting of the Montrose City Council, Curry gave a presentation about his vision for the town’s future. “I would like to present to the Council, an economic stimulus proposal involving an abundance of natural resources found here,” he wrote in a handout he distributed that day. He spoke of building a meteorite museum in town and creating a fenced-in park atop Sunset Mesa, where visitors could observe meteorites in situ. “With your assistance, support, and cooperation,” he declared, “I would like to market Montrose, and Montrose County, as the new ‘Meteorite Capital of the World.’”

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