What Happened to the Real Cocaine Bear?

What Happened to the Real Cocaine Bear: This weekend Universal will release Cocaine Bear, a horrifying horror-comedy based on an incredible real-life incident. In 1985 a Georgia black bear died after consuming at least three to four grams of cocaine dropped by a smuggler who might also have been high. At the time, this bizarre story garnered national attention, and forty years later still intrigues those curious enough to go see movies – likely driving people who’d otherwise pass by theaters in droves!

Hollywood wasn’t the first group to create fantasy novels about a bear’s tragic end. In 2015, Kentucky natives Whit Hiler and Griffin VanMeter installed a taxidermy bear inside of their Kentucky Fun Mall – an unusual brick-and-mortar tourist attraction with the claim that it was an actual Cocaine Bear.

“Kentucky Fun Mall proudly displays the actual Cocaine Bear taxidermy on display for everyone to admire,” according to their website, which showcases various designs such as T-shirts, sweatshirts, tanks, tank tops, and crystal globes (listed in the catalog as “blow globes”), socks hats soap patches Valentine’s Day cards and postcards featuring, “Nothing says I’m having an enjoyable time in KY like an official Cocaine Bear postcard,” they promise.

“Before we searched for Cocaine Bear’s stuffed remains, he was an unremarked footnote in the story of the Bluegrass Conspiracy,” Kentucky stated in a statement sent to VF just prior to their planned release of Cocaine Bear. “In 2015, we successfully tracked down and brought back a long-lost taxidermied bear to KY for KY Fun Mall in Lexington, Kentucky to share his legend and what we had discovered about his post-overdose provenance.

Every month, Cocaine Bear brings joy to thousands of people around the world. Not just a roadside attraction and soon-to-be biopic antihero, he serves as city mascot, community builder, and warning against drug abuse. We trademarked his name and likeness as part of our guardianship process–popularizing him as an iconic character. You can visit Cocaine Bear free of charge during opening hours – we hope that you do!

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Fran Wiley and Gary Garner, two retired Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents with direct knowledge of the 1985 incident, believe there to be a discrepancy in what occurred.

Wiley, an assistant in charge of the GBI’s drug enforcement unit and responsible for this investigation, states that “our bear was female.” Furthermore, she notes, “it didn’t have many claws because we took some of its DNA so that we could determine its age.”

What’s most significant, she notes, is that “our bear could not have been taxidermy.” Our animal had lain on the ground for three months when we discovered it…so it had decomposed. In fact, people at the crime lab were so furious when we brought in this beast because it stung up their entire facility! They would’ve incinerated it after testing had been done – they wouldn’t have kept it.”

VanMeter confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that Kentucky for Kentucky’s Cocaine Bear is fiction. He told them the bear had actually been passed down from someone’s parents who wanted to sell their collection of taxidermy in their basement. With help from an acquaintance in advertising, VanMeter created a fictional narrative about how they acquired the bear which included at least one pop culture person with extensive knowledge of marijuana.

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