The plot of the new comedy “Cocaine Bear” is so outrageous it must be true, right?
In the film, which Elizabeth Banks directs, a black bear ingests bricks of cocaine and goes on a drug-fueled killing spree in Georgia’s Chattahoochee Forest.
So where does fact end and fiction begin? We break it down for you.
Did a Bear Really Overdose on Coke?
Yes, a bear really ingested and overdosed on cocaine. Here’s what happened.
In September 1985, drug smuggler Andrew Thornton (played by Matthew Rhys in the film) was trafficking hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cocaine from Columbia into the U.S. aboard a Cessna plane.
The plane was carrying too heavy a load, so Thornton began throwing duffel bags full of cocaine out the hatch while above Georgia. Thornton, who had trained as a paratrooper, then jumped out of the plane. His parachute malfunctioned and Thornton died after slamming into the driveway of a Knoxville, Tennessee resident.
All of the above is depicted in the film.
Three months later, a black bear was found dead in Georgia’s Chattahoochee Forest, apparently having overdosed on Thornton’s drugs.
An Associated Press article from 1985 detailed the scene: The bear’s body was found near three duffel bags with 218 pounds of cocaine. An autopsy showed the bear had only absorbed 3-4 grams of cocaine into its bloodstream, though it could’ve ingested more. Eventually, 300 pounds of cocaine from Thornton’s stash were found in the surrounding areas.
The animal was later dubbed “Cocaine Bear.” It also had the nickname “Pablo Escobear” (a play on Pablo Escobar, the notorious cocaine kingpin).
Did “Cocaine Bear” Kill People?
No. What happened after it ingested the cocaine until its body was found is a mystery, but there’s no evidence the black bear killed anyone in real life.
In the film, however, the bear goes on a drug-fuel murderous rampage, clawing and mauling for its next fix.
Where is “Cocaine Bear” Now?
The story of the remains “Cocaine Bear” is almost as wild as the tale unfolding on-screen.
Dr. Kenneth Alonso, who conducted the autopsy, wanted to preserve the bear. So he had it taxidermied and donated to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, the site where it lived.
But in the 1990s the area had to be evacuated due to wildfires. The park employees took the bear and other artifacts to a nearby town where they went missing.
The bear somehow ended up in Las Vegas (of course) and was bought by country singer Waylon Jennings, who gifted it to friend Ron Thompson. After Thompson died in 2009, his estate went to auction and the bear was bought by a collector. The Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall, a souvenir store, tracked down the collector, who also had died. His widow sold the bear to the mall for zero dollars, plus shipping costs.
It eventually made its way to the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall where it is currently on display (along with tons of merch).
Check out this photo of the real “Cocaine Bear” from the Kentucky for Kentucky Instagram below:
“Cocaine Bear” opens in theaters Feb. 24.