Fact VS. Fiction: The Real ‘Cocaine Bear’ Case VS. The Movie

March 1, 2023

Written by Kelli Marchman McNeely

Kelli Marchman McNeely is the owner of HorrorFuel.com. She is an Executive Producer of "13 Slays Till Christmas" which is out on Digital and DVD and now streaming on Tubi. She has several other films in the works. Kelli is an animal lover and a true horror addict since the age of 9 when she saw Friday the 13th. Email: [email protected]

Director Elizabeth Banks’ (“The Boys”) new insane film, Cocaine Bear, is now in theaters, and the GBI agents involved with the real case have spoken out about the true events.


The movie finds an oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists, and teens converging in a Georgia forest where a 500-pound predator has ingested a staggering amount of cocaine and gone on a coke-fueled rampage for more blow … and blood.


What you might not know about the movie is that a true story inspired it. The event took place in Kentucky in 1985. A botched drug smuggling attempt left many one-pound packages of cocaine scattered about the Chattahoochee National Forest. A bear consumed some of those packages. The bear, named “Pablo Escobear” (named after the drug kingpin Pablo Escobar), died as a result.



“It’s kind of surprising to me that they’re going to make a movie about it,” former agent Paul Loggins said in a 2021 interview with the Herald-Leader soon after the movie was announced.


Opinions on whether to promote the story are split. Kentucky for Kentucky, the company that started selling Cocaine Bear merchandise for the  movie, told the Herald-Leader newspaper that Cocaine Bear is a city mascot, a heartwarming community builder, and a warning to all the dangers of drugs.” However, Agent Fran Wiley, the assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Office of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, when the bear’s remains were found. has expressed her disappointment and disgust regarding the movie and the merchandise sold in the area.


“Cocaine should never be promoted,” Agent Fran Wiley said. “There’s nothing good about cocaine. It destroys people’s lives and families. Everything connected to it has just hurt people.”



Who dropped the drugs from the sky? Reportedly, that would be Andrew Thornton, a now-deceased former Lexington police officer convicted of drug smuggling, who died while parachuting. He dumped the 800 lbs. load of cocaine because the load was too heavy, scattering it across the area.


The New York Times reported the news of the bear’s demise that December, writing that the deceased “175-pound black bear” had been found “among 40 opened plastic containers with traces of cocaine.”


Wiley said she sent two agents “up a remote forestry road” in the mountains to collect the bear’s remains and bring them back to Atlanta. Wiley stated that the pathologist conducted a necropsy on the bear and confirmed that it ” overdosed on four grams of Cocaine, which is enough to kill four adults. Meaning the bear died shortly after ingesting the drug. So there’s no way it could have gone on a rampage like in the movie.


Why would a bear want to eat cocaine? Loggins states, “Cocaine has a lovely sweet aroma. I’m sure that’s what attracted the bear.”


So what happened to the bear after the investigation? It was taxidermied and nicknamed “Pablo Escobear” and now is a mascot at the Kentucky Fun Mall.





While there are a lot of differences between the actual details of the real Cocaine Bear and the movie, it’s still a lot of fun. Cocaine Bear is out now.



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