The “Blue Men” of Kentucky and Other Dermatological Oddities

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Aliens are often described as little grey-skinned humanoids from space. But what would you think if you saw a blue-skinned man here on earth? Would you think he was an alien? Or would you think there was just something really 'wrong' with him? For your consideration, I introduce to you The “Blue Men” of Kentucky and Other Dermatological Oddities.

The “Blue Men of Kentucky”, also known as the Blue Fugates, are a family that lived in the hills of Kentucky and are most notable for having been carriers of a genetic trait that led to the disease methemoglobinemia, which gives sufferers blue-tinged skin. Martin Fugate first settled near Hazard, Kentucky, around 1820. Because of the remoteness of the rural area there was a high level of intermarriage between families. Both Martin and his wife, Elizabeth Smith, were carriers of the recessive methemoglobinemia (met-H) gene (as was a nearby clan with whom the Fugates intermarried). As a result, many of the Fugate descendants were born with the met-H gene.

Methemoglobinemia is a disorder characterised by the presence of higher than normal levels of methemoglobin (rather than haemoglobin) in the blood. It is a form of ferric, rather than ferrous hemoglobin that contains ferric iron that has a lessened ability to bind oxygen. This leads to an overall reduced ability of the red blood cell to release oxygen into the tissues. Some of the signs of methomoglobinemia are shortness of breath, cyanosis, mental status changes, headaches, fatigue, dizziness and loss of consciousness. Patients with severe cases may exhibit seizures, coma and even death. If only one parent carries the recessive gene offspring will have normal-hued skin whereas if both parents are carriers, there is a good chance offspring will have blue-hued skin, such as the Blue Fugates.

Although this condition had been prevalent in the Fugate family for generations, Luke Combs' visit to the University of Kentucky with his wife in 1958 was the first time the condition was officially documented and studied. Most recently, Ben Stacy, a descendent of the Fugates born in 1975, possessed this unusual alien-like bluish appearance at the time of birth but gradually, with age, his skin took on a more normal appearance.

But the Fugate family members aren't the only ones with blue skin. Paul Karason made headlines after an appearance on the “Today” show where he discussed having used colloidal silver to self-treat a health condition, which resulted in his skin turning blue. Karason died of a heart-attack shortly thereafter with many media outlets suggesting a link between use of colloidal silver and Karason's untimely death (he was only 62). In 1999 the FDA banned the use of colloidal silver in medications.

Are these blue men actually a result of genetic inbreeding or the unfortunate effects of the use of now-banned medicinal products? Or is it possible that these explanations are cover-ups for something much larger and more sinister? Is it possible that these blue men are actually aliens, or a result of alien-human breeding? The blue discoloration is very strange indeed, though its cause appears to be well-understood (or well-conspired). I'll let you decide...

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