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Pablo Escobear: The Cocaine Loving Bear

By now, you’ve probably heard of Cocaine Bear, AKA Pablo Escobear. With his own big-budget movie, this bear’s legend has traveled the world (with some minor embellishments). Thing is, what actually happened is definitely as exciting as the movie-fied version, so if you’re interested in the real story, buckle up. But even better? We’ve got the real Cocaine Bear…in the flesh. Well, fur. 

Here at the Kentucky Fun Mall in Lexington, KY, we took it upon ourselves to seek out and adopt Cocaine Bear. We wanted everyone to have the opportunity to meet Pablo Escobear — he’s a lot friendlier than one might expect, given that he’s a bear. (It might be because he’s stuffed now, but that’s neither here nor there.) Why not keep reading for some super-cool Cocaine Bear facts? We guarantee that if you don’t want to meet him now, you sure will when you’re done reading.

Is the Cocaine Bear movie a true story?

Well, yes and no. Obviously, Pablo Escobear’s tale is ripe for movie-making, so there are definitely some elements of truth in there. But yeah, the Cocaine Bear movie takes some pretty generous liberties when it comes to the actual story. For example, Cocaine Bear isn’t the giant, snarling apex predator the movie makes him out to be. In fact, he was less than half the size of the movie version. And the actual Cocaine Bear didn’t have a thirst for blood — he just wanted more cocaaaine. 

Cocaine Bear meme
The notorious Cocaine Bear meme

In real life, the bear found the cocaine that was dropped from a notorious smuggler’s plane (more about that below), ate it, and as far as we know, dropped dead without causing harm to anyone but himself. In the movie, the bear rampages through the forest, hunting down tourists and locals — way off base from what we know about Cocaine Bear. The real bear was found dead in the Chattahoochee National Forest. 

What’s Cocaine Bear’s backstory, anyway?

During the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, a man named Andrew Thornton II, a burgeoning drug smuggler and police officer (great combo, right?) was hard at work practicing law in Lexington, Kentucky. He used his legal knowledge to start dealing illegal weapons and smuggling drugs, and he did this successfully for a few years. Not bad work if you can get it.  

In 1985, Thornton was killed when he bailed out of his plane and became tangled in his parachute. He was found dead in some guy’s driveway, wearing night vision goggles and body armor and carrying just the essentials: a ton of cash, a bunch of weapons…and, of course, a duffel bag full of 75 pounds of cocaine. Never leave home without it, right?

Now, here’s where the strings come in: A few months later, a dead bear was found in Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s medical examiner performed a necropsy and found that the bear had overdosed on cocaine. How’d he find that cocaine? Well, Thornton had dropped it from his airplane. In fact, he had dropped so much cocaine that the bear’s stomach was described as “packed to the brim” with cocaine. 

Despite the bear’s unfortunate overdose, his corpse was in pretty good condition. The medical examiner contacted a friend who did taxidermy and had the bear’s body stuffed. He gave it as a gift to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, where Cocaine Bear stood proudly in the visitors’ center into the early 1990s. 

In the early ‘90s, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area and its facilities were evacuated ahead of an approaching wildfire. The employees took as many artifacts with them as possible and stashed them in temporary storage in a nearby town. And as you might guess…they went missing. 

And where did Pablo Escobear pop up next? You guessed it: Las Vegas. As legend has it, country star Waylon Jennings found him, bought him, and gifted him to a friend. When his friend died in the late 1990s, his estate went to auction and the bear was sold.

Where’s that bear?

Whether you know him by “Cocaine Bear” or “Pablo Escobear”, you’ve got to agree that he’s a must-see. So you can understand why, by the time we’d followed the legend to this point, we were so curious about the bear that we were dedicated to finding out where he ended up. On a whim, we contacted the auction house — just to see if we’d be able to figure something out. Lo and behold, we did! In fact, we were able to track down the bear, make a deal with his owner’s widow, and bring Cocaine Bear home for free (plus shipping and handling). But shipping was way too expensive, so we said, “Thanks but no thanks,” and headed home. 

Cocaine Bear Enjoying Several Pounds of Cocaine

Just kidding. We didn’t. Pablo Escobear now holds court at the Kentucky Fun Mall, a destination for things either fun- or Kentucky-related; preferably both. And boy, does Cocaine Bear fit the bill. He’s a cherished member of the family here. And once you’re done taking selfies with him (don’t worry, you won’t become a statistic — he doesn’t bite), you might as well do a little souvenir-hunting. 

Cocaine Bear merch! Get your Cocaine Bear merch! 

OK, so now you’ve got the pic splashed all over your socials (and your mom’s Facebook page). But telling the story in person requires a little more finesse. Nothing’s more awkward than making people wait as you scroll through your camera roll trying desperately to find the picture of you and Pablo.

No. Instead, pique their interest with a subtle, tasteful indicator that signals that you’ve been to party with Pablo. If you’re trying to figure out how to get the conversation started, we’ve got just the thing. In fact, we’ve got several. At the Kentucky Fun Mall, we’ve developed only the finest in merch. If you’re planning on coming in, you’ll have plenty of chances to browse through our merch. But we’ve also equipped our online store with a complete selection of goods:


Forget about a single t-shirt with “Cocaine Bear” lazily screen-printed across the chest. No, here at the Kentucky Fun Mall, we stand for quality. We go way beyond Cocaine Bear tshirts with a full range of products in all kinds of designs. Tank tops? We got ‘em. Long-sleeved shirts? Those, too. Hoodies? You bet. Pablo Escobear-themed hats? Heck yeah. In short, if you’re looking for attire that will make you new friends wherever you go, we have you covered. Literally. 


Now that you’re set, let’s think about others. Who in your life would really appreciate a present from Pablo Escobear? Not that kind of present — something you can fly on a plane with. Well, maybe that’s not the best example. Anyway. Since you’re obviously a person of taste, we’re making the assumption that your friends (and perhaps family) are, too. Why not share your enthusiasm with stickers, postcards, heck, even a snow globe

Meet the real Pablo Escobear! No prison visit required

Pablo Escobear with a hat and placard
If you want to see Pablo Escobear in person, make it your business to get down to the Kentucky Fun Mall, right here in Lexington, KY. Get your picture taken with Cocaine Bear and post it on all your socials. And just to make dang sure that everyone knows you love to party, pick up some awesome Cocaine Bear merch too. But if you can’t visit the Kentucky Fun Mall in person, no sweat. You can pick up your own Cocaine Bear earrings, Cocaine Bear shirt, and more in our Cocaine Bear merchandise collection.