If you’ve heard about the upcoming horror-comedy film Cocaine Bear, you may have already lumped it together with such classics as Sharknado and Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus. (We wouldn’t blame you.) But the new film does have one redeeming quality: unlike Sharknado, it’s actually based on a true story.
In the film, a black bear finds a load of abandoned cocaine in the woods and goes on a killing spree, terrorizing a small town in northern Georgia. The locals then must work together to prevent the bear attacks.
The first part of the story is true: back in the 1980s, a drug runner accidentally dropped a duffel bag full of cocaine in the North Georgia woods while parachuting in from a small aircraft. Desperate to get his product into the country, the smuggler had set his Cessna to autopilot, apparently expecting it to run out of fuel and crash into the Atlantic Ocean. Meanwhile, he parachuted out of it with nearly 80 pounds of cocaine strapped to his body.
The drug runner ultimately didn’t make it; he was found, heavily armed and very dead, in a driveway in Tennessee one morning in 1985. Newspaper clippings from the time suggest that the cause of death was “carrying too heavy a load while parachuting”.
The rest of the smuggler’s cocaine was found shortly after—by a black bear, who consumed several pounds of the stuff when he stumbled across the ejected duffel. (This is where the movie takes some artistic liberties; in real life, “Cocaine Bear” overdosed before he could terrorize anyone.)
The dead bear was ultimately found by a local hunter, who turned him in to the authorities. An autopsy revealed that the bear’s stomach was packed wall-to-wall with cocaine.
The bear was ultimately taxidermied and turned up in a pawn shop. Today, Cocaine Bear, sometimes known by his other moniker “Pablo Escobear”—has a permanent home in the “Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall,” a collection of Kentucky-related merchandise and local oddities located in Lexington.
This isn’t the first time a huge load of drugs has been dropped onto U.S. public lands by accident. In 1977, a plane crashed in Yosemite National Park with 6,000 pounds of marijuana on board. Local climbers managed to nab much of the cargo before the feds did. (The parties following were reputedly legendary.)
If you want to hear more about the Yosemite crash, check out the film Valley Uprising. And if you want to hear more about Cocaine Bear? Well, you know what to do. Cocaine Bear, produced by Elizabeth Banks, is due to be released in theaters on February 24.