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The Blue People of Troublesome Creek
July 10, 2006 10:59 PM   Subscribe

Martin and Elizabeth set up housekeeping on the banks of Troublesome and began a family. Of their seven children, four were reported to be blue.

For those unfamiliar with the story of Martin Fugate & his descendents, the 1982 article from Science magazine entitled "The Blue People of Troublesome Creek" is a fascinating read; a recessive gene & decades of inbreeding lead to a clan of Kentucky hill folk with deep blue skin from head to toe.
posted by jonson (57 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Picture?
posted by vacapinta at 11:23 PM on July 10, 2006


Straight Dope.

Fugates (Wikipedia)

The only methemoglobinemia photo I could find with a short Google search suggests that "blue" is not to be taken as a literal indicator of the color of these folks.
posted by Guy Smiley at 11:38 PM on July 10, 2006


"Are you bluish? You don't look bluish."
posted by pompomtom at 11:51 PM on July 10, 2006 [2 favorites]


That's funny. I was just reading Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers, and there's a whole colony of blue folks who had been cut off from the world and after such and such many generations...well...they were blue. And they were from Roanoke. It's pretty cool.

Remind me to remember that he doesn't just pull this stuff out of nowhere, and that of course there's a (possibly exaggerated) historical precedent for such things.
posted by redsparkler at 12:11 AM on July 11, 2006


What an interesting story. Also interesting is that it's in that book seven soldiers. Authors must collects the strangest bits of trivia as story-fodder.
posted by dabitch at 12:38 AM on July 11, 2006


Are they the inspiration behind great classics as X-Files episode 4X03, and Wrong Turn?
posted by ArunK at 12:41 AM on July 11, 2006


Am I blue
Am I blue
Aint these tears, in these eyes telling you
How can you ask me am I blue
Why, wouldnt you be too
If each plan
With your man
Ended in a child who carried each of our recessive genes.
posted by maryh at 12:55 AM on July 11, 2006


I was recently reading about argyria which turns people a bluish-silver.
posted by tellurian at 1:13 AM on July 11, 2006


That argyria link gets me thinking, tellurian...
Next time you run for office, have I got a gimmick for you, Gray Davis!
posted by maryh at 1:27 AM on July 11, 2006


Berton Roueche, former chief medical detective of
the New York City health department, wrote a book
of their interesting cases titled Eleven Blue Men; the title story is online here.
posted by spasm at 1:51 AM on July 11, 2006


What I don't get is the whole blue corvette thing.
posted by Alt F4 at 4:36 AM on July 11, 2006


Pepsi Blue?
posted by kika at 4:41 AM on July 11, 2006


Alt F4: Because a red one is too noticible.
posted by ?! at 4:43 AM on July 11, 2006


When my son was born, there were large blue patches on his butt. Really blue. My wife told me it is a fairly common thing among Asian kids, and it went away after a few weeks or months. I can imagine it'd look pretty shocking if all his skin was that color.
posted by bashos_frog at 4:48 AM on July 11, 2006


The males of that family should form some sort of mime troupe.
posted by staggernation at 4:51 AM on July 11, 2006


"Dark blue lips and fingernails are the only traces of Martin Fugate's legacy left in the boy..."

You got a real purty mouth. Squeal like a pigment.
posted by pracowity at 5:21 AM on July 11, 2006


Mongolian spot
posted by gimonca at 5:37 AM on July 11, 2006


Some of the "you forgot about..." follow-ups in the Straight Dope article Guy Smiley linked to are hilarious.
posted by mkultra at 6:50 AM on July 11, 2006


gimonca - that's it, although I guess it took longer to go away than I remembered.
posted by bashos_frog at 6:57 AM on July 11, 2006


That's a cool article.

Also, On Being Blue.
posted by OmieWise at 7:20 AM on July 11, 2006


We've discussed blue people before.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:43 AM on July 11, 2006


But are they three apples tall?
posted by sourwookie at 7:45 AM on July 11, 2006


jonson, You are amazing. You come up with really fascinating posts! Here is an image of the genetic lineage of the blue Fugates.

The story of Madison Cawein [scroll halfway down the page], the doctor who found the miracle medicine for the blue Fugates is also very interesting:
Madison Cawein began hearing rumors about the blue people when he went to work at
the University of Kentucky's Lexington medical clinic in 1960. "I'm a hematologist,
so something like that perks up my ears," Cawein says, sipping on whiskey sours and
letting his mind slip back to the summer he spent "tromping around the hills
looking for blue people."

Cawein is no stranger to eccentricities of the body. He helped isolate an antidote
for cholera, and he did some of the early work on L-dopa, the drug for Parkinson's
disease. But his first love, which he developed as an Army medical technician in
World War II, was hematology. "Blood cells always looked so beautiful to me," he says
.

Looking up Madison Cawein on Wikipedia I came up with an odd tangent. It looks like the hematologist Cawein, must have been the son of the poet, Madison Cawein, whose poem, The Waste Land, written before 1914, before Eliot made his name, bore a striking resemblance to some of TS Eliot's poetry, like J. Alfred Prufrock and his Waste Land.

Blue baby syndrome, due to a cyanotic condition.

Now that I know the use of orally taken silver products causing argyria, I can see how important it is to tell people NOT to take colloidal silver products, which are sold all over the place. It doesn't seem like it's worth the risk.
posted by nickyskye at 8:37 AM on July 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


nickyskye, great links, thanks. When clicking on links in this thread, I was prepared for disturbing images, but the most disturbing was actually the silly way they "anonymized" the subjects on the dermatology.cdlib.org page. For a second I was like, "Oh, my god, what did colloidal silver do to their eyes?"
posted by staggernation at 8:48 AM on July 11, 2006


We investigated The Blue People of Troublesome Creek in the Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society on July 7.
posted by kircher at 8:53 AM on July 11, 2006


kircher - you didn't appear to investigate very deeply; your summary of the article and link to it is not too much more than my own summary at the top of this page...
posted by jonson at 9:01 AM on July 11, 2006


Dear Jonson,
Without discounting the possibility of coincidence, we assumed that this posting had its origins in our Proceedings two days earlier, in which case we request only that we receive some credit or acknowledgement for having called your attention to the Blue Fugates. If the timing was mere coincidence and you discovered the Fugates independently, then our apologies for raising the issue.
posted by kircher at 9:09 AM on July 11, 2006


jonson, I read the straight dope article about this crew a few years ago myself, and mentioned it to a few friends at the time. I'd like a little credit as well, myself.
posted by yhbc at 9:16 AM on July 11, 2006


Huh, the Kircher society has an account here. That's pretty fabulous.
posted by painquale at 9:22 AM on July 11, 2006


Actually, kircher, indirectly yes. Jason Kottke linked to your site - and while I didn't follow that link (until now, when you re-linked it), seeing the link reminded me of the Science mag article from when I was 10, so I googled it and from there we ended up here.
posted by jonson at 10:00 AM on July 11, 2006


I just looked at the Kircher site, and I'd like some credit too. Paypal will be fine, thanks.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:02 AM on July 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


and commish, if I had to waste my precious time listing out the number of ways you have inspired be (both on and off metafilter) I'd never get anything done. Frankly, I didn't even wear pants until I heard you were doing it.
posted by jonson at 10:04 AM on July 11, 2006


Oh hey, I wrote a paper on the Fugates in college. Actually, I wrote a paer on all the reasons people can turn colors including methemoglobinemia, carotinosis and I don't remember what the third one was. It's how I learned to use Index Medicus. Berton Roueche has written some excellent medical detective type books, for people who find these sorts of stories fascinating.
posted by jessamyn at 10:04 AM on July 11, 2006


My mother-in-law is a Fugate from Kentucky, though not Blue.
posted by poppo at 10:05 AM on July 11, 2006


oh, and


Membership

The Athanasius Kircher Society is not currently accepting membership applications.

posted by poppo at 10:08 AM on July 11, 2006


Zaz had red hair, he didn't care
He always laughed loud, he wasn't proud
Just a real easy guy who wouldn't tell a lie
But then one day Zaz turned blue

Zaz turned blue, what were we supposed to do
Zaz turned blue, what were we supposed to do
When Zaz turned blue
posted by Floydd at 10:10 AM on July 11, 2006


Wow, I love the fantastic Kircher site, but I would also like to defend jonson's post, since he has not only made a large number of exceptional front page posts in MetaFilter over the years but seems to be a person of integrity from what I've read of him here and I think he'd give credit where credit was due.

In fact the blue Fugates were mentioned by TedW [http://www.people.virginia.edu/~rjh9u/fugate.html] in a thread in MetaFilter as far back as 2002.

Apparently "blue blood", as in aristocrats, may have come from having eaten off of silver plates.
posted by nickyskye at 10:11 AM on July 11, 2006


kircher, please see the discussion here.
posted by interrobang at 10:33 AM on July 11, 2006


When I was a kid, I developed blue skin for a while. It was noticed in judo classes, when I'd be shirtless. I had to go through a bunch of tests and I was scared that I had some sort of horrible blood disease.
It turned out that it was because I had a new (blue) comforter and was sleeping without sheets, so I was picking up the dye on my skin.
posted by klangklangston at 10:59 AM on July 11, 2006


My favorite blue people.
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:59 AM on July 11, 2006


In fact the blue Fugates were mentioned by TedW [http://www.people.virginia.edu/~rjh9u/fugate.html] in a thread in MetaFilter as far back as 2002.

And earlier still!
posted by jack_mo at 1:27 PM on July 11, 2006


Berton Roueche has written some excellent medical detective type books

Absolutely, and for anyone who's curious, his name is pronounced roo-SHAY (just like artist Ed Ruscha).
posted by languagehat at 1:53 PM on July 11, 2006


If only those other posts had mentioned the word "Fugate" or "Troublesome Creek", they might have turned up on the search... rats!
posted by jonson at 1:54 PM on July 11, 2006


languagehat, I'm pretty sure that that artist's name is pronounced "Russia."
posted by jonson at 1:55 PM on July 11, 2006


I'm going by the Library of Congress pronunciation guide. It's certainly not infallible, and you may be right, but I'm afraid I'll have to see some backup.
*holds out gloved hand, glares sternly behind mirrored shades*
posted by languagehat at 2:32 PM on July 11, 2006


Gotcha! I was totally yanking your chain because I knew you'd have some reliable backup. I actually have no idea, but in an informal survey of the voice in my head when I see his name written, it LOOKS like it should be pronounced Russia.
posted by jonson at 2:59 PM on July 11, 2006


I'm going to have to support the -SHAY pronunciation. Just on general principle.
posted by staggernation at 3:29 PM on July 11, 2006


That was indeed a fascinating read - thanks for the post!
posted by FormlessOne at 4:19 PM on July 11, 2006


A very interesting read, thanks for the post.
posted by taosbat at 6:40 PM on July 11, 2006


"I'm going by the Library of Congress pronunciation guide."

I reluctantly go along with the standard "how the person pronounces his/her own name" (closely related to "how the residents pronounce their place name"), so a pronunciation guide isn't going to be definitive without some further qualification.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:37 PM on July 11, 2006


Just because no one else has said it:

Metafilter: "If you'll notice, I'm kin to myself."
posted by InnocentBystander at 11:00 PM on July 11, 2006


I reluctantly go along with the standard "how the person pronounces his/her own name" (closely related to "how the residents pronounce their place name"), so a pronunciation guide isn't going to be definitive without some further qualification.

I think the likelihood that the pron guide reflects how the person says their name is far higher than the likelihood that guessing wildly while looking at a mysterious string of letters will bring up that pronunciation. (You're a Johnnie, you must have come across the concept of lectio difficilior—there's no way anyone guessing would come up with roo-SHAY, so ipso facto it's likelier to be accurate.) I strongly suspect that the L of C researchers do their best to contact the people involved and find out how they say their name; if you look down the list, you'll probably agree with me. That's for the names of English-speakers—the foreign ones are less trustworthy.
posted by languagehat at 5:25 AM on July 12, 2006


Ed Ruscha definitely pronounces his surname 'roo-SHAY'. The first time I met him I mispronounced it 'Ru-sha' - he corrected me, and we had a little discussion about the origin of the name (which I have now completely forgotten) and how he gets annoyed with himself for getting annoyed when folk get it wrong. Next time I met him, the PR person at the gallery he wass showing at actually made a point of telling me the correct pronunciation beforehand.

He's a really nice bloke, FWIW, and talks very openly and eloquently about his work. Love the Boy Scout Utility Modern typeface he designed, too.

(You know, I really didn't expect this thread to have turned into an artist's surname pronunciation discussion!)
posted by jack_mo at 6:29 AM on July 12, 2006


Chalk one up for the Library of Congress!
posted by languagehat at 6:55 AM on July 12, 2006


I recall seeing something, at some point in grade school, about blue people. I seem to recall it said that Bedouin people had a bluish hue.

Otherwise, there is always Krishna. If I was blue, I'd go visit India, for sure. It would be very nice, I'd think, being a fertility god!
posted by Goofyy at 6:56 AM on July 12, 2006


I think it's the Tuareg people that have blue faces, due to the turbans thing dyed with indigo that they wear.
posted by electroboy at 10:30 AM on July 12, 2006


"turbans thing" = tagelmoust

Not always indigo, sometimes white or black
posted by Liosliath at 10:49 PM on July 17, 2006


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