People come in all colors – to an extent. You wouldn’t expect to see a human with naturally blue skin. But that’s the case for the Blue Fugates. Who are the Blue Fugates? The title refers to members of the Fugate family of eastern Kentucky, particularly those who lived in the early- to mid-20th century. And according to firsthand accounts, the title is no exaggeration.
Why did the Fugates turn blue? The short answer has to do with a genetic mutation arising from inbreeding. The longer answer has to do with recessive genes and bizarre happenstance. If the Fugates hadn’t lived in such a rural area, their condition might not have become as pronounced.
Blue skin is often seen as something not quite human: the Scottish Blue Men of the Minch, the Hindu god Krishna, even Smurfs all have it. But the Fugates are mortal, and however wild they may seem, these facts about the Blue Fugates of Kentucky are nothing but the total truth.
They Lived In Isolation
Due to the isolated nature of the community, the Fugate’s neighbors knew about the “blue people,” but few outsiders did.
They Had Unusual Blood
People with methemoglobinemia have higher levels of methemoglobin in their blood; they may have 10-20 percent, versus the average person’s one percent. The Fugates’ very blood was different from that of their neighbors.
Their Condition Partially Arose From Inbreeding
In the 1880s, inbreeding wasn’t quite the scandal it is today. The Fugates lived in an isolated area, which limited their options. Zachariah Fugate, one of the first known Blue Fugates, married his aunt; one of their sons married a close cousin. In turn, one of their children married another cousin.
It makes for a confusing family tree marked with plenty of blue individuals. As one of the family members quipped, “I’m kin to myself.”
Luna Fugate Was The Bluest Blue Fugate
The woman was Luna Fugate, and according to lore, she was bluest Blue Fugate of them all. According to a local nurse, “The bluest Fugates I ever saw was Luna and her kin. Luna was bluish all over. Her lips were as dark as a bruise. She was as blue a woman as I ever saw.”
Interestingly enough, Stacy himself refused to say whether or not his beloved wife was blue.
They Were Shunned
Their neighbors were not always kind to the Fugates, and in response, they had withdrawn even more from their tiny community. By the time Dr. Madison Cawein contacted the family in the 1960s, it was clear they were all too used to being outcasts: “They wouldn’t come into the waiting room. You could tell how much it bothered them to be blue.”
They Lived Long, Healthy Lives
They Were Treated With Blue Dye
After interviewing the Fugates, Cawein concluded that their blood must be missing a crucial enzyme. To trigger the blood’s natural processes, the doctor decided to inject the affected family members with methylene blue, a dye.
The cosmetic results were nearly instant. Talking about the experience years later, Cawein said that the treated family members were thrilled to see the blue fade from their skin: “For the first time in their lives, they were pink.”
The solution really was that easy. The effects of the dye were temporary, but Cawein supplied the Fugates with methylene blue tablets to take every day.
The Last Known Blue Fugate Was Born In 1975
The last known Blue Fugate was born in 1975. Benjy Stacy looked “almost purple” at birth, alarming his doctors. But his grandmother shared the story of her family’s unusual lineage, and the medical staff concluded that he had simply inherited the Fugates’ rare condition. The blue faded from Stacy’s skin over the next few weeks, though his lips and nails continued to turn purple when he got cold or angry.
Could more Blue Fugates be born in the future? Less inbreeding makes it less likely that the recessive gene causing the condition would crop up, though it’s still there. There’s a chance that future generations of the Fugates could have blue skin, but that chance is very small.
The Fugates Today Live Very Private Lives
The Blue Men Of Lurgan Also Had The Disease
In 2002, DNA was taken from one of the brothers who was still alive as well as two siblings. More than 30 mutations of the genes were found.
Although It Can Be Genetic, You Can Also Acquire Blue Skin Later In Life