Blue People of Kentucky: Why the Fugate Family Had Blue Skin

Updated on August 11, 2018
The "Blue People of Kentucky" (The Fugate Family)
The "Blue People of Kentucky" (The Fugate Family) | Source

A (Healthy) Blue Baby

“Have you ever heard of the Fugates of Troublesome Creek?”

This simple question by a knowing grandmother solved a riddle for a little boy born blue.

When little Benjamin “Benjy” Stacy was born in a small hospital near Hazard, Kentucky, he was the picture of health. He was also very, very blue. So blue, in fact, that his skin was the deep purple color of a plum. His doctors were alarmed by the sight and immediately sent him by ambulance to a hospital in Lexington, Kentucky.

Little Benjamin was subjected to an exhaustive schedule of tests in an attempt to explain the startling blue color. While he did not appear to be in any distress, doctors began to set up a blood transfusion for the tiny baby. That was when his grandmother stepped in, asking the doctors if they've heard of the Fugates of Troublesome Creek. The boy's father, Alva Stacy, then explained that his paternal grandmother Luna was also blue—and apparently was quite healthy in life.

Benjy’s blue color started to fade a bit over the next few weeks, and as he grew, the only remaining traces of blue coloration were in his lips and nails (the color was particularly noticeable when he became cold). The doctors came to the conclusion that Benjy had inherited a rare gene found in the Appalachians—a gene that turned entire generations of one family blue.

Martin Fugate: The First Blue Man in Kentucky

In 1820, French orphan Martin Fugate and his wife Elizabeth Smith moved onto the banks of Troublesome Creek, a beautiful area in Appalachian Kentucky. There is no official record documenting that Martin was actually blue, but he and his wife both carried a recessive gene that gave their son Zachariah Fugate a startling blue color. Martin and Elizabeth had seven children—four of them were blue. Since the gene causing their blue coloration is recessive, the family had a 25% chance of having a blue child with each pregnancy if Martin and Elizabeth were carriers. If Martin was blue, the odds would have increased to 50% for each child as Martin would have carried two copies of the recessive gene.

Inbreeding was a common occurrence in the rural and isolated Appalachian region. Fugate descendants married other Fugate descendants, concentrating the “blue gene” over generations. The gene found in the Fugate family is from a line of French Huguenots, whose descendants settled in Kentucky, Ireland, and Finland.

Luna Fugate, little Benjy’s great-grandmother, was one of the bluest Fugates known to the Appalachian region. Luna was described as being blue all over, with lips the color of a dark bruise. Despite her alien-like color, she was entirely healthy and had 13 children in her 84-year span of life.

Blue skin could result from the accumulation of methemoglobin: hemoglobin with oxidized iron that cannot bind to oxygen.
Blue skin could result from the accumulation of methemoglobin: hemoglobin with oxidized iron that cannot bind to oxygen. | Source

What Caused the Blue Skin Color?

The Short Answer

The blue skin was caused by a diaphorase deficiency that led to methemoglobinemia, a rare condition that causes elevated levels of methemoglobin, the form of hemoglobin that cannot bind to oxygen.

The Scientific Explanation

Scientists were quite intrigued as to the cause of the blue skin (cyanosis) in the Fugate family. In the 1960s, a young hematologist named Madison Cawein traveled to the region with an aim to cure the blue people of their skin color. The doctor hiked through the Appalachian hills, on a mission to find the famous blue people of Kentucky. He finally found a couple—Patrick and Rachel Ritchie—who was willing to participate in his study.

Dr. Cawein started by ruling out any heart or lung condition that could cause the blue tint. He then suspected methemoglobinemia.

Normal Hemoglobin Function

Hemoglobin is the protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to other cells throughout the body. Each hemoglobin molecule is bound to four iron ions that, in turn, bind to four oxygen molecules. This process is called oxidation and converts the iron ions from their reduced form (Fe2+) to their oxidized form (Fe3+). This is also what gives blood their red color.

What Happens When Hemoglobin Is Damaged?

When hemoglobin is damaged by oxidation, the iron ions remain in their oxidized state and are unable to bind to oxygen. Normally, people have no more than 2% methemoglobin in their blood, thanks to the enzyme diaphorase—more specifically, methemoglobin reductase—that converts methemoglobin back into hemoglobin. However, in certain cases (e.g. enzyme deficiencies, inherited disorders, or exposure to toxins), methemoglobin may continue to build up over time, leading to methemoglobinemia.

What Are the Symptoms of Methemoglobinemia?

Elevated levels aren't usually detrimental—even at 10-20% methemoglobin, when signs of slightly blue skin may be noticed. The blueness increases with increasing methemoglobin levels. At 30%, nausea, difficulty breathing, and an elevated heart rate start to appear. At 55%, people may feel extremely lethargic and go in and out of consciousness. Levels at or above 70% are considered life-threatening and are accompanied by erratic heartbeats and circulatory problems.

Absence of Diaphorase Leads to the Build Up of Methemoglobin

The Ritchies had none of the symptoms of methemoglobinemia—nothing but their discolored skin. Working off of Dr. E. M. Scott's study of similar cases in Alaskan Eskimos and Indians—in which he found decreased levels of the enzyme diaphorase, the enzyme responsible for converting methemoglobin back to hemoglobin—Dr. Cawein performed enzyme assays on additional blood samples from other blue family members. To his amazement, he also found decreased diaphorase. The riddle was solved. This meant that methemoglobin accumulated overtime, making the skin bluer and bluer.

Dr. Cawein published his research in Archives of Internal Medicine in 1964, documenting the study of this family and their congenital methemoglobinemia that was caused by a hereditary diaphorase deficiency.

Who Was Dr. Cawein?

Madison Cawein was a purposeful hematologist at the University of Kentucky's Lexington Medical Center. In addition to determining the cause of the Fugate family's medical mystery, he contributed to the early research that lay the foundation for the use of L-dopa in treating Parkinson's disease.

An Ironic Cure for Blue Skin

To convert the blue methemoglobin back into red hemoglobin, Dr. Cawein suggested the use of a dye called methylene blue. Ironically, this blue dye could change the blue color of the affected blood into a normal red color. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is another method of treating the condition.

Of course, it was a tad difficult to convince the blue people of Kentucky that a blue dye would cure the condition. Nevertheless, Patrick and Rachel volunteered to try the treatment.

A simple injection of the dye caused a stunning color change. Within minutes, Patrick changed from blue to pink. This, however, was a temporary fix. The dye couldn't fix their enzyme deficiency, so Dr. Cawein left the people with a supply of methylene blue pills to be taken on a continual basis.

How Does the Methylene Blue Treatment Work?

The dye, in its reduced form, is colorless and water-soluble. When added to the blood, it acts as an electron donor, reducing the iron in the blood from Fe3+ to Fe2+ and turning blue as a result. Since it is water-soluble, it is excreted through the urine, which is why some of the older mountain people thought the blue color of their skin was literally “pouring” out of them.

As coal trains and other modern highway connectors began connecting Troublesome Creek with the rest of the nation, people began leaving the area. The gene is no longer concentrated, and the chance of intermingling between two gene carriers is remote. Still, the possibility does exist—as the parents of little Benjy Stacy proved.

Did You Know?

Argyria, a condition caused by ingesting excess amounts of silver, can also cause the skin to appear blue to purple-gray.

What Became of Benjamin Stacy?

The little boy born blue has grown up. He attended Eastern Kentucky University, married, and lives a perfectly typical life in Fairbanks, Alaska. Other than an occasional worried comment from unknowing friends about the color of his lips or fingernails, there is little outward sign of the methemoglobinemia.

Types of Congenital Methemoglobinemia

There are several types of congenital methemoglobinemia varying in severity of symptoms. In this case, a deficiency in NADH cytochrome b5 reductase (methemoglobin reductase), a diaphorase caused members of the Fugate family to have blue skin.

Type I: This type is limited to the red blood cells and causes a blue color.

Type II: The enzyme is deficient in all tissues, and devastating systemic effects are seen—mental retardation, a small head size, and other central nervous system problems are severe. The child will also present with a blue color.

Type III: The entire blood cell system is affected, including platelets, white blood cells, and red blood cells. Fortunately, this variant does not cause any medical problems (other than a blue skin color).

Type IV: This type only affects the red blood cells and causes a chronic blue color. No other medical problems are associated with Type IV.

The majority of methemoglobinemia cases are caused by an acquired problem (e.g. the person was exposed to oxidizing drugs, toxins, or chemicals). In the case of acquired methemoglobinemia, the patient must be monitored for low blood oxygen levels and anemia since the amount of circulating normal hemoglobin may be reduced to extremely low levels.

Questions & Answers


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    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      5 weeks ago from Western New York

      It is definitely an interesting genetic condition, Katharine! I love finding historical vignettes about science. I'm glad you learned something new today!

    • Sparrowlet profile image

      Katharine L Sparrow 

      5 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Very cool article! Never heard of this phenomenon. You explained it very well. This falls under the "you learn something new every day" category! Thanks!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 weeks ago from Western New York

      Thank you, Shayla!

    • profile image


      6 weeks ago

      I love reading great articuls hope to see more in the future

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 weeks ago from Western New York

      Hypoxia caused by heart disease may also cause a blue coloration and is a more likely cause for your neighbor's coloration. The genetic condition of the Fugate family is an uncommon mutation and was more prominent when the community was genetically isolated. Methemoglobinemia does occur in different places and may definitely be the cause of tales about "blue people" in different cultures, Doris! It is fascinating to consider the various "blue people" legends around the world.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 

      7 weeks ago

      Wonderful article, Leah. Although I'm on HP, I've never seen it before. I googled "blue people" in connection with the so-called "blue people" of the early British Isles and this popped up. This is fascinating. There allegedly was a race of blue-skinned people in the Asian Pacific area back sometime in BC, but nobody seems to know where they went. I wonder if these people are descendants.

      When I was a child in the Ozark mountains, a neighbor of my father's generation started turning a blue purple. Twenty years later he was totally purple. His wife told me that it was his heart that was causing it. He did die of heart disease, so I never questioned her explanation.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      4 months ago from Western New York

      The blue skin is interesting in your region, Arthur. My guess is the use of colloidal silver in the pacific northwest region - it causes permanent skin color change, even after the colloidal silver is discontinued.

    • profile image


      4 months ago

      Thank You , probably no chance of seeing him again and if i did i wouldn't approach him with Questions Leah .

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      4 months ago from Western New York

      It is possible he is descended from the Fugate line, though unlikely. There are other causes for having blue skin, including the use of colloidal silver. Some people believe colloidal silver has healing properties and ingest the material, which tints their skin blue. It would be interesting to learn more about the young man you encountered, Arthur!

    • profile image


      4 months ago

      I saw and spoke very briefly to a Blue male person of about 40 years of age in the Pacific Northwest in a Grocery Store . I thought that they were concentrated in Appalachia but there he was in a small grocery store . It was interesting as i had heard about the FUGATES . He had his blonde , normal white skinned assumed son with him . Probably a FUGATE in the PNW i suppose .

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      5 months ago from Western New York

      JennO, I am not sure which articles you are referring to - this is my original article and was published many years ago. I hope you can find what you are looking for!

    • profile image


      5 months ago

      What happened to the longer articles/stories about the fugates? This is not the entire story... the original had many more details, and was much more interesting! No offense, but you rewrote that which was longer and more detailed.... =/

    • profile image

      no name 

      5 months ago

      very interesting ☺

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 months ago from Western New York

      That is a very interesting family history, Marti!

    • profile image


      6 months ago

      I am a descendent of the Fugates in Troublesome who originally came from Russell County Virginia. Frances Fugate B. 1789 married William McIntosh b. 1789 my great, great great great grandfather. They have a son named Absalom, b. 1812 and married a Mulatto woman by the name of Jemima had they a daughter named Eliza. Eliza ended up marrying a black man by the name of Goeins/Goeins from Clearspring Maryland. I have traced my family all the way back to James L. Fugate born 1650 in London and Thomas Pettis from England. H was the Mayor of Norwich, Eng. Many people in Clay Co. Ky. and the Fugates and Mcintosh families had what we would call blood mixed with Native Americans and blacks as well. Some of them are in denial and never wanted to talk about the relationships between the blacks the mulatto, slaves or whatever. But black families pass the information down.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      7 months ago from Western New York

      Methemoglobin can give a gray or blue cast to the skin - it is interesting you have run across a person in Tennessee with the condition, Vickie! "Blue skin" can also be caused by colloidal silver ingestion, so some people have an acquired condition rather than genetic.

    • profile image

      Vickie Turner 

      7 months ago

      In the summer month's my husband and I like to walk around flea markets.. One that we go to in Tenn. has a blue lady. First time I have ever seen a blue person and it's true about the color of them changing. Sometimes she's gray looking or a darker blue.

    • profile image


      7 months ago

      I think this is absolutely fascinating!! I wish I could meat a blue skinned person.

    • profile image


      7 months ago

      this is cool and a little bit sad at the same time

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      8 months ago from Western New York

      Since the Appalachians are not isolated as they once were, the trait has largely disappeared, Ronnie. It is a fascinating vignette from early American life. With modern medical therapy, the Methemoglobinemia can be treated. Methylene blue is an effective treatment for most cases.

    • profile image


      8 months ago

      I feel so sad for this family and any others that have to live with this genetic trait. To think that anyone, and in this case, an entire family had to live in isolation and feel that badly about their appearance breaks my heart. I am very interested in the reaction by some in society, and how they are able to cope. I dearly hope that they find people who will embrace them and find them as beautiful as they are blue or whatever color they are. Hopefully our society will learn to see the wonders of people, no matter how they look, or whatever problems they battle. Good luck to all of them.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      8 months ago from Western New York

      It is a genetic trait (methemoglobinemia) which tints the tissue blue. It is an interesting condition and caused a lot of curiosity when this family was first discovered!

    • profile image


      8 months ago

      This is soooooooooooo crazy how can this happen?

    • profile image

      Shelly C. 

      9 months ago

      This is one of the most fascinating things I have ever read in my entire life.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      10 months ago from Western New York

      Hello, Delilah - I am not sure I understand your question. Are you asking where the genetic basis for the first person with methemoglobinemia came from? Generally, a trait like this appears due to a spontaneous mutation. As it is a recessive trait, it may lie within a population and not be observed due to the rarity and the necessity for two people carrying the gene to have children for the phenotype to be demonstrated. In the case of rural Appalachia, the isolation from other communities allowed the gene to concentrate within the local population. As the area is no longer isolated, the trait is no longer observed with any frequency.

    • profile image


      10 months ago

      how was the first blue person

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      12 months ago from Western New York

      There is no record as to whether Martin was blue - the only "image" is the one available through public licensing and was colorized subsequent to the reports of the family. If Martin was blue, their children would have had a 50% chance of displaying the blue phenotype. If he was not blue (a carrier), the odds remain at 25%.

    • profile image

      Ellie Small 

      12 months ago

      "the family had a 25% chance of having a blue child with each pregnancy."

      Wrong. Since Martin was blue himself (see picture), the family would have had a 50% chance of having a blue child with each pregnancy.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      12 months ago from Philippines

      Very interesting article. The fact that you took a scientific approach to it made it most credible. Voted up.

    • profile image


      14 months ago

      Can i join the family, already got rid of my blue baby....

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      15 months ago from Texas

      Hello Leah, I am back to re-read this fascinating article about the Blue People of Kentucky.

      Blessings my friend

    • profile image

      Dakota Fugate 

      15 months ago

      im benjamins 4th cousin.

    • profile image

      Karen Collins 

      16 months ago

      I live right in the area of Kentucky that you all are speaking of that this blue family is from...actually just within 15 mile of troublesome creek and I have never seen the blue family..actually never even heard about them until my sister said a blue man came into her place of business the other day.At first I thought everybody was making a joke about it and the more I read I realized they weren't joking so I googled blue people in Ky and found this article..Im 55 yrs old and had never heard about blue people in my hometown in my life and have lived here all my life.Goes to show just because its a small town doesn't mean everybody knows everybody ..Also goes to show they arent talked about and made fun of for their condition.Which is a very good thing...

    • profile image

      Wendy Grace 

      16 months ago

      I live in Ky and oddly enough I was in a local hospital for several

      Days got friendly with a nurse and this blue people topic came up he said without skipping a best its from incest. I don't believe that anymore. Hope he sees this article.

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      I wonder if that is where they get the song Blue Moon of Kentucky from or the saying once in a blue moon?

    • profile image

      caden chaffee 

      17 months ago


    • profile image

      Tori D 

      22 months ago

      Your page is very informative, but you don't have all of the information on this 'condition'. You are lacking the type that my family and I have. We have type M, and there is no cure for it. The blue dye that you keep on saying is a cure for it, really isn't. The people in my family who have this, have tried it before and it will confirm us "normal" looking for a few short minutes and then we return to our normal blue state. It is caused by a mutation in our red blood cells that cause us to only be able to 'carry' 50% of the oxygen as everyone else does. Many of my family have volunteered (including myself and my younger sister when we were kids) to let doctors study us and our blood disorder. My sister and I were seen by many doctors and specialists at U of M, and have quite a bit of knowledge about our blood disorder and how unique our type is to our family. I'm almost always surprised when I come across a doctor who has previous knowledge of it before they meet me, but almost all of them think that I don't know what I'm talking about and try to put me under one of the other types and ignore me on it.

    • Gaurav Oberoi profile image

      gaurav oberoi 

      2 years ago

      Wow what a fascinating hub. Thanks for sharing.....

    • darciefrench profile image

      Darcie French 

      2 years ago from BC Canada

      Krishna was blue too :)

    • LynetteBell profile image


      2 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      What an interesting article. Thanks.

    • cfin profile image


      2 years ago from The World we live in

      In the Irish language the term for black people is "Daoine Gorm", which translate directly as "blue people". It was a term of respect. I wish the world had more colours. Purple people would be nice!

    • m abdullah javed profile image

      muhammad abdullah javed 

      2 years ago

      It's amazing. First of its kind in the world, the details with regard to the change of color and there by its cure is a worth read. Thanks for sharing. leahlefler

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 

      2 years ago from Wisconsin

      I've heard of these for years as my father's family is from there. Just recently I knew they were Fugate's. I'm related to Fugates in Western Kentucky.

    • Ameraka profile image


      2 years ago from Wisconsin

      Awesome. I've never heard of this. It's cool that it's not a harmful condition. And I thought only aliens were blue! (haha)

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 

      2 years ago from Summerland

      This is super interesting...I'd never heard of this before in my life. Great article. So well explained too.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      2 years ago from England

      I know I have read this before, but its so interesting! lol! blue people, well whoever would have thought it?

    • Priya Barua profile image

      Priya Barua 

      2 years ago

      Very interesting. Concise and well written. Loved the article.

    • Kimberleyclarke profile image

      Kimberley Clarke 

      2 years ago from England

      What an amazing article! Reminds me of the colloidal silver stories, of people turning blue. Fascinating, thank you!

    • tony55 profile image


      2 years ago from Nigeria

      Fascinating stuff, i have heard of blue babies but not blue adults. Nice writing style very captivating.

    • Jasmeetk profile image

      Jasmeet Kaur 

      2 years ago from India

      interesting..Never saw anyone with blue skin.

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      2 years ago from Texas

      I think this popped up as a featured hub somewhere. It caught my attention because I know a blue lady. She uses oxygen and I have assumed whatever her health condition is, the blue is a result of that. I've never asked. But now I am curious.

    • profile image

      Nancy Coleman 

      2 years ago

      According to my Fugate family genealogy, Martin was not a French orphan but a 4th generation Fugate and was my great, great,great, great, grandfather. The Fugates in this area came here from Russell Co, VA. This article was written about 50 years ago and people should stop photoshopping the old photographs. It is an interesting story but old and not so sensational as it used to be yet people keep dredging it out of the internet and putting ridiculous photos with it. A while back I saw my great grandparents photo(and I have a copy) with them dyed all blue. We Fugate descendants are a little tired feeling like the rest of the world is making fun of us for a medical condition. Go ahead and discuss it if you wish but please quit putting up those doctored up pictures because there are people dumb enough to believe everything on the internet is true.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      3 years ago from Western New York

      The genetic trait has largely disappeared due to shifting demographics as the area became less isolated. It is an interesting phenomenon, though, Tim!

    • TimArends profile image

      Timothy Arends 

      3 years ago from Chicago Region

      Blue people in the bluegrass State… I guess it makes sense! I went to Berea College and it tries to cater to people of all ethnicities but I didn't see any blue people while I was there!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      4 years ago from Western New York

      Southern-Style, it is interesting, isn't it? I was fascinated when I heard about this condition.

      Melbel, I agree - I love learning about historical events that aren't typically covered in textbooks.

      Emmanuel, I suppose they should add "blue" to the saying.. though in this case the color is not due to ethnicity, but to a medical condition.

      Thanks for the comments, carlajbehr and Jenn-Anne. I found the condition to be interesting, too!

      Billyj, it is so fascinating that you are related (by marriage) to this family. The condition is inherited, so I am sure there will be sporadic cases here and there. Since the area is not geographically isolated anymore, I suspect that the incidence will decrease with time.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Crazy stuff, but I have an aunt by marriage who is related to this family. Some of her siblings have the blue tinge.

    • Jenn-Anne profile image


      4 years ago

      Very interesting and well-written story! I had heard of these people before but never heard what caused the problem. Thanks for sharing - voted up!

    • carlajbehr profile image

      Carla J Swick 

      4 years ago from NW PA

      Crazy interesting - well-written and well-researched! Voted up.

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 

      4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Very very enlightening! Never heard of blue people except green when people say 'black , white yellow or green' to metaphorically say all races included - shared!

    • melbel profile image

      Melanie Palen 

      4 years ago from Midwest USA

      Wow! What a strange condition! I've never heard of this. I love learning about rare/strange events in history. Awesome hub, thanks for sharing!

    • Southern-Style profile image


      4 years ago from Nashville, TN

      And here I just thought they were some dye hard Wildcats fans. Great hub keep up the good work!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      I love interesting snippets from history that never make it into the history books, Shyron - the blue people in the Appalachians have always struck my fancy. I am glad you enjoyed the article!

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      5 years ago from Texas

      My dear friend Au fait suggested that I read this hub, I was not disappointed. This is facinating. I had never heard of blue people before.

      Voting you up and will share!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      The people with the condition were so shy and embarrassed about their blue skin - I found it ironic that the cure for the condition was a blue dye. Ascorbic acid would work, too, but it isn't nearly as interesting as the blue dye. Thanks for the comment, Sharkye11!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      Thanks, Au fait. I can only imagine the doctor's surprise when little Benjy Stacy was born with blue skin! It is a fascinating genetic condition.

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma

      This was a fascinating read. I can't believe I have never heard of this in all my weird medical research. You did an excellent job with the layout--I even read it aloud to my husband (who hates hearing me read anything aloud) and he was really fascinated!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      Very interesting. I have never heard of this before. Voting you up and will share this hub with my followers.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      Thanks, Kris! I have always found the "blue people" fascinating - though the population has thinned out and there is a treatment for the disorder, it must have been a shock when the first researchers stumbled across entire families with blue skin!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 

      6 years ago from Indiana

      I first heard about this during my grad school studies - it's very fascinating in many ways. You did a nice job of presenting the medical history behind it as in interesting story - very nice!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      It is interesting, isn't it? When I first heard about the condition, I thought it had to be a myth. Once I learned about the blood disorder at the root of the blue skin color, it made a lot more sense. I can only imagine how shocked the people were that a little blue dye cured the condition!

    • jamterrell profile image


      6 years ago

      This hub really makes me read the entire story. Very interesting.I really never thought of blue people. I though they were only a myth. Great information. Really feels good to know about these unique creatures.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      The people are real - though it is caused by a blood disorder which is correctable. So there really isn't a "race" of blue people, but rather a group of people which inherited a condition which alters the hemoglobin in their blood - which turns them blue! Strange, yes, but true!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Are they real? I think blue people unbelievable.

      But that picture shows that blue people do really exist. thanks for your hub, now I have a little bit of knowledge about them.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      Thank you, Alladream74 - it is interesting that the methylene blue dye treated the condition: the people being treated could hardly believe such an ironic "cure!"

    • Alladream74 profile image

      Victor Mavedzenge 

      6 years ago from Oakland, California

      A very interesting read. Fascinating to see how they treated the condition.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      A lot of people think the "Blue People of Kentucky" are a myth, but it is a real condition! I have a friend with a family member that worked in the silver mines and acquired a blue tint to his skin, but that is obviously quite different than the genetic condition. Apparently, the number of people showing the blue skin has dropped dramatically - it would be hard to find anyone today. For one thing, the genetic pool has been broadened, and for another... the treatment is very simple and effective!

      It must have been very interesting to teach in Appalachia - we live in Western NY, but I have never really been to the Appalachians. It would be an interesting place to live!

    • Stacie L profile image

      Stacie L 

      6 years ago

      yes I've heard of them and met some descendants of them,who are not blue.

      I was a teacher in the hills back in the 80's and saw things I never thought I would see;

      having grown up in suburban NY that is.;-)

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      7 years ago from Western New York

      I have a feeling that the word "methemoglobinemia" would simply send most nosey questioners packing! There aren't many people walking around with the (congenital) condition, since it is easily treated - but there are people with acquired forms (from silver mining, etc.) that live with a blue tint to their skin!

    • RTalloni profile image


      7 years ago from the short journey

      I've heard of some interesting replies to caring/nosey questions, but to be able to say, "I have methemoglobinemia" would be a mouth full! Very interesting read.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      7 years ago from Western New York

      I LOVE Margaret Atwood. The first work I read was "The Handmaid's Tale," and I loved it. I have read the Oryx and the Crake, and had forgotten about the perfect blue people in the novel (it has been a while - I think I read the book about 10 years ago). Thanks for the reminder - I need to read The Year of the Flood - haven't read that one yet.

      I have a thing for dystopian futures - I'm pretty sure there is something tweaked in my brain, lol!

    • Gary Shorthouse profile image

      Gary Shorthouse 

      7 years ago from Reading, UK

      I agree with all the comments - very fascinating indeed.

      Have you ever read any Margaret Atwood? I think she is one of the best authors of our time.

      In her pre and post apocalyptic books 'Oryx and Crake' (2003 - Booker Prize finalist) and 'The Year of the Flood' (2009), Crake, a genetic engineer, creates a race of (perfect) blue people with which he intends to repopulate the world after normal humans have been wiped out by a virus he also engineered.

      Put like that it sounds weird, but they are a great read.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      7 years ago from Western New York

      Good luck finding them! With the methylene blue treatment and the dispersion of the Fugate descendents into the general population, finding anyone with a blue skin tint would be difficult today - but you never know!

    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image


      7 years ago

      this is something interesting to read. I live in Kentucky and I will keep an eye out for "blue people". Take care..voted up..interesting! :)

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      7 years ago from Western New York

      It is really fascinating, isn't it? I guess Dr. Cawein had a difficult time finding the family at first - he would see a "blue person" on a hill, but if he approached, they would always run away. Most were embarrassed about the blue skin color (not knowing it really was a medical/genetic condition).

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      7 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Just when I think I have heard it all..........

      Well thanks for this very interesting Hub. I am just amazed.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      7 years ago from Western New York

      I remember hearing about this phenomenon back in my genetics class (ages and ages ago) - I thought it might make an interesting hub. Thanks for the compliments!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Extremely interesting hub! Amazing that the blue dye affects the skin tone reverting it back to a normal color. Thanks for this hub about the blue people in Kentucky. Up and interesting!

    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A Johnson 

      7 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      I agree with Scribenet. Very interesting.

    • Scribenet profile image


      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      It is interesting what you learn on Hubpages! Thank you for an interesting Hub!


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