Today in 1971 Joni Mitchell released her landmark album “Blue,” featuring an image of the singer on the cover in blue tones.
Joni Mitchell’s face was not actually blue, it was art, but there was a story from decades earlier in which an extended family really did have blue complexions, until a doctor made a big discovery to help.
The story of the so-called Blue People of Kentucky started in the early 1800s, when an orphan from France, Martin Fugate, came to what was then thought of as the western United States.
He met and married an American, Elizabeth Smith, and they set up a home and family in Hazard County, Kentucky.
Mr. Fugate may have had a light blue tinge to his skin color, while his wife was said to be very pale.
They had seven children, and four of them reportedly had bright blue skin.
Those blue complexions were passed down to their children, and their children, and so on.
This wasn’t because of anything the family did, they were the way they were, but it also wasn’t something they seemed to be able to shake off.
Because they lived in a remote area, and because people sometimes shun what they don’t understand, the family kept to themselves.
Often they would marry distant relatives, which meant more blue complexions.
But there was a turning point in the 1960s.
A doctor at the University of Kentucky, Madison Cawein III, had heard about the “blue Fugates,” as they were called, and he managed to make contact with family members, who he described as “bluer’n hell.”
It didn’t seem to affect their physical health, he said, but they were clearly uncomfortable with the stares and the comments people made about their bodies.
After doing some research, Cawein figured out they had a condition called methemoglobinemia, which makes blood that would normally be red look dark blue.
It’s an inherited condition, and it’s very rare.
But both Martin Fugate and Elizabeth Smith had it, and that led to blue complexions for over a century.
Cawein did a little more research and made it an extremely treatable condition.
A blue dye, of all things, was all it took to clear it up.
The Fugates weren’t blue anymore, in more ways than one.
June is Great Outdoors Month.
In Norway, there’s a great spot outdoors known as Kjeragbolten.
It’s a large boulder that got wedged in between two large rock masses – and above a large crevice.
Yes, you can hike to it and stand on it!
The True Story of the Blue People of Kentucky (How Stuff Works)
Kjeragbolten (Futility Closet)