The True Story Behind ‘Cocaine Bear’ Is Just As Nuts As The Hit Movie

The True Story Behind ‘Cocaine Bear’ Is Just As Nuts As The Hit Movie Universal Pictures

It’s hard to believe that “Cocaine Bear,” the movie about a bear who goes nuts after eating 70 pounds of cocaine, is based on a true story. However, it actually is — and the real story is even more shocking in the hit film, which brought in more than $23 million in its opening weekend.

The official synopsis for “Cocaine Bear” teases: “An oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists, and teens converge in a Georgia forest where a 500-pound black bear goes on a murderous rampage after unintentionally ingesting cocaine.”

It sounds completely off the wall, and it is. However, it gets even more nuts when you realize that “Cocaine Bear,” directed by Elizabeth Banks, is actually a true story about a drug smuggling attempt gone very wrong.

The true story behind “Cocaine Bear” is something else

In real life, Andrew Thornton, a former narcotics officer and lawyer, decided to switch careers and head up a drug-smuggling ring known as “The Company” in his home state of Kentucky. Things were going pretty well until 1985, when things went off course.

Thornton headed to Columbia to pick up some drugs and decided to leave the packages full of cocaine in Georgia before skydiving from an auto-piloted plane to avoid getting caught. He ended up dying during the journey, with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations claiming he must have hit his head on the plane’s tail and then never opened his parachute. That means he hit the ground at full speed and was killed instantly.

His body was found in the driveway of a house in Knoxville. With him were a bunch of cash, knives, two guns, a duffel bag full of cocaine, and night vision goggles. However, lest we forget all the drugs stashed in the woods.

Three months later, police found a 175-pound black bear dead in the Chattahoochee National Forest. All around him were loads of empty bags that had been full of cocaine. In total, police believe the animal ate a whopping 70 pounds of the drugs. That was enough to kill him.

“Cerebral hemorrhaging, respiratory failure, hyperthermia, renal failure, heart failure, stroke. You name it, that bear had it,” the medical examiner said at the time. The bear was then stuffed and put up at Kentucky For Kentucky in Lexington if you want to go see it.

So there you have it, the true story behind “Cocaine Bear.” Kinda makes you want to go and see the movie, eh?

Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill