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The Inbred Appalachian Family With Blue Skin

The Inbred Appalachian Family With Blue Skin

A real-life blue-blooded family exists, ironically, in the impoverished hills of Kentucky. As they have mingled with the broader population, the number of blue children has dwindled, sadly.

Dating back to the early 1800s, an isolated family in eastern Kentucky started producing children who were blue. As a result of a coincidental meeting of recessive genes, intermarriage and inbreeding, members of the Fugate family were born with a rare condition that made them visibly discoloured. Looking at the portrait, they appear to have been either Photoshopped, but science proves that the condition is in fact real.

It began when Martin Fugate, a French orphan, settled on the banks of eastern Kentucky’s Troublesome Creek to claim a land grant in the early 19th century. He married a red-haired American named Elizabeth Smith – who had a very pale complexion – and their union formed a genetic mutation that resulted in their descendants being born with blue skin.


Called methaemoglobinaemia (commonly known as met-H), the condition reduces the individual’s ability to carry oxygen in their blood. As a result, their blood is darker than the colour typically found running through people’s veins.

The family was first discovered in 1958 when one of the blue men, Luke Combs, who was a descendant of another branch of the Fugate family, took his white wife to the University of Kentucky Hospital and doctors paid more attention to him than his wife.

As eastern Kentucky has become vastly more populated than the early 19th century, and as more genes are married into the Fugate family tree, there were far fewer children born with the condition.

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