On display at the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall in Lexington, is a stuffed 175-pound black bear who famously died of a massive cocaine overdose. HIs body was discovered on December 23, 1985 in Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest. Three months earlier, drug smuggler Andrew Thornton II was on a coke-smuggling run from Colombia when he dropped 40 plastic containers full of cocaine from an airplane over the forest, before parachuting after it. Unfortunately (or not, depending how you feel about drug dealers), Thornton got tangled in his parachute and fell to his death in someone’s yard, near Knoxville, Tennessee.
The police went searching for the cocaine. What they found instead was 40 open containers and a dead bear. The bear had found and eaten ALL the coke and died of an overdose.
“Its stomach was literally packed to the brim with cocaine. There isn’t a mammal on the planet that could survive that,” the now-retired medical examiner who performed the bear’s necropsy recalls. “Cerebral hemorrhaging, respiratory failure, hyperthermia, renal failure, heart failure, stroke. You name it, that bear had it.”
Ouch. Poor little guy. The medical examiner thought the bear’s death was so extraordinary, he decided to have it stuffed. The “Cocaine Bear” was then gifted to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, where it was displayed in the visitor center, behind a plaque, without any mention of his special origin.
Over the next three decades, the bear changed hands number of times.
During the early 90’s, the threat of an approaching wildfire prompted the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area to move its exhibit to a nearby warehouse in Dalton. From there, it was eventually purchased by country legend Waylon Jenning, who thought it would make the perfect gift for his good friend Andrew Thompson, a Kentucky native turned hustler in Las Vegas. So the Cocaine Bear “lived” in a Vegas mansion until 2009, when Thompson died. His possessions were then auctioned off and the legendary bear was purchased by Zhu T’ang, a Chinese gentleman living in Reno, for just $200.
When the Kentucky for Kentucky mall employees tried to get in touch with T’ang, his wife told them that he had passed away in 2012, but that the bear was still in his old office. She had never liked it and even after hearing its bizarre story, she was more than willing to part with it for free, as long as whoever was interested agreed to pay for the shipping. So they made arrangements, and it is now the main attraction at their Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall, in Lexington.
Now, people from all around the world are reportedly coming to Lexington for a chance to see the Pablo EskoBear, Cocaine Bear, many of them fans of the The Bluegrass Conspiracy book inspired by Andrew Thornton II’s exploits.
Watch the video news report below: