Uncovering the Real Story of the Cocaine Bear: Is it Just a Myth Based?

When the first trailer for the forthcoming dark comedy Cocaine Bear was released, some joked that Hollywood had finally run out of original concepts.

In the end, the premise felt so odd. And the notion of a village rallying together to repel the monster felt like a bizarre slasher film or maybe the tangent of a writer under the influence of some illicit substance.

Yet, the movie's plot is based on a 1985 real-world event. Obviously, the film is not totally faithful to the history of this modern folklore figure. But even with something as weird as a bear ingesting cocaine bricks, there are still things to say and learn, including how such a thing might truly occur.

Is Cocaine Bear Based on a Real Story?

Cocaine Bear is indeed based on a true story. In December 1985, a 175-pound black bear was discovered dead after swallowing at least three to four grams of cocaine that had been thrown from a plane by a convicted drug smuggler whose parachute failed and caused his death.

While the real-life bear did not engage in a violent rampage in its dying days, as depicted in the film, it was discovered dead next to an empty duffel bag that authorities think formerly contained cocaine. In addition, 40 packages containing $20 million worth of the medication were discovered torn apart and spread over the region.

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Uncovering the Real Story Behind the Cocaine Bear: Is it Just a Myth Based?

Yes, a bear was high on cocaine following what appeared to be a failed drug smuggling attempt. No, we do not know exactly what this high bear was doing while under the influence, especially considering that its body was not discovered until four weeks after it overdosed.

Is The Cocaine Bear Dead?

Strangely, it appears that the story of the cocaine bear does not end there. A Kentucky shopping mall claims to own the taxidermied remains of the cocaine bear, although this has not been officially verified.

Supposedly, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy observed that the bear's body was in good cosmetic condition despite having experienced every imaginable type of organ failure from having a cocaine-filled body, so he phoned a taxidermist acquaintance.

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The bear was donated to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, where it was displayed without, presumably, any reference to how it arrived there. The bear was apparently put into storage in the early 1990s, after which it vanished.

The proprietor of a pawn shop in the Nashville region claimed to have acquired the bear (he apparently had other stolen things from the CRRA storage facility at the time) and that he sold it to country artist Waylon Jennings, who gave it to a friend, who subsequently auctioned it off. Ultimately, the mall was able to locate the bear and take custody of it.

Uncovering the Real Story Behind the Cocaine Bear: Is it Just a Myth Based?

Cocaine Bear's Story Includes Smuggling and a Plane Accident

The true story of Cocaine Bear begins with a man named Andrew Thornton II, a former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent who switched careers and became a drug smuggler.

During a flight over Georgia, he was forced to bail out while carrying thousands of dollars in cash, various guns, and, most importantly, dozens of pounds of cocaine.

He died while attempting to land after becoming entangled in his parachute and was discovered in a local's driveway. A quarter of a year later, the titular bear was discovered dead, and officials eventually connected the links.

The medical examiner determined that the bear swallowed a total of seventy-five pounds (34 kilograms) of cocaine that Thornton had dropped, but only a little proportion had entered the animal's circulation by the time it died.

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According to the plot of the film, there were no additional fatalities. The tale quickly became a cause célèbre and was covered by newspapers ranging from local to The New York Times. Around a decade after the advent of the Internet, Cocaine Bear entered the annals of modern mythology.

The taxidermied remains of the bear are currently on display at the Kentucky Fun Mall in Lexington, Kentucky — the destination state for Thornton's cargo.