MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME: FROM BLUE PEOPLE TO THE ANGEL OF DEATH

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THE BLUEGRASS STATE AND ITS CRYPTIC CODE

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“If these United States can be called a body, then Kentucky can be called its heart.”

-Jesse Stuart

 

 One is Jesse Stuart, the prolific writer and sensible patriot with polarizing personality, but his love for Kentucky inspired many people to be proud of their Kentucky roots. The State of Kentucky is located in the east south-central region of the United States, Upland South that touches the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. It is known to share the title of the Commonwealth, together with Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts but the burning heart of Kentucky inspired the whiskey bourbon, Kentucky Fried Chicken, greatest hiking trails, overnight ghost hunt and underground secrets. Nevertheless, if you find yourself stuck in the most hippie town in Kentucky, Louisville, enjoy in the best cup of coffee in America, in famous Sunergos Coffee.

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Beside the glorious tourist attractions, Kentucky keep offering the unique experiences of the historical moments. It is enough to imagine the underground tour that lead us to the town of Lynch, founded in 1917 by the U.S.Coal&Coke Company. At that time, it was the largest coal camp but now the mine is closed and used for empowering the state tourism possibilities. The mining industry has built the Kentucky, it is more than important to know that coal, and hard workers have turned Kentucky into the land of opportunities. The Appalachian princess is described as the most wonderful in the fall time, when the golden brown color kiss the dying green on the trees. As a hiking destination, Kentucky gives unlimited routes and maps of discovering the nature at its best.

Beneath the bridge at Natural Bridge State Resort Park.  October 2005.

Sometimes, the memories of past draw the line of our fascination for this state. The Mammoth Cave still intrigues the people that love urban legends and ghost tales. It is written that Dr. John Croghan had bought this massive cave system in 1839 with an idea to use it as a hospital for Tuberculosis patients. He believed that the cool air of this cave could recover the sick patients and stop the progress of disease. Many of them followed his vision and spent a rest of their lives underground, hoping to be cured. Unfortunately, the cave did not help and did not offer the desired health. Dr. Croghan himself ended his life in the darkness of the Mammoth Cave, seeking for a final hope.

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Somewhere between breathtaking falls and unforgettable tiny towns with delicious meals, there is a story about the Fugate Family with the blue skin. The blue people of Kentucky have been presented in many books and movies but that kind of tabloid exclusivism created the wrong picture of Kentucky. Instead of researching what caused the blue skin, the media and the public fabricated their own truth about the rare people of Kentucky. How is it possible that some human beings, situated in Appalachian region, develop the blue skin? Everything started with Martin Fugate and his wife Elisabeth back in 1820, the carriers of recessive genes of blue skin. Naturally, the four of their seven children have been also targeted with the blue skin and then the world has been aware of the Blue People from the banks of Troublesome Creek:” Scientists, of course, were quite intrigued as to the cause of the blue skin tone among the Fugate family. In the 1960’s, a young hematologist named Madison Cawein traveled to the region, with an aim to cure the blue people of their skin color. The doctor hiked through the Appalachian hills, on a mission to find the famous blue people of Kentucky. He finally found a family willing to participate in her study of the condition, and ruled out any heart or lung condition as the cause of the blue skin. Apart from being blue, the people were entirely healthy. Dr. Cawein began to suspect a rare condition which causes a blue form of hemoglobin to circulate in the blood. The condition is called methemoglobinemia, which is caused by large circulating amounts of methemoglobin – the methemoglobin is not harmful, but large amounts of the non-functional hemoglobin will tint any tissue containing a blood supply blue. The first family to volunteer for research, Patrick and Rachel Ritchie, did not want to be blue. Dr. Cawein did several tests to find the cause of the methemoglobinemia, and found the Fugate family was missing an enzyme called diaphorase, an enzyme that converts the methemoglobin back into functional hemoglobin. As the Fugate family’s methemoglobin could not be reconverted into the normal hemoglobin molecule, the blue methemoglobin began to build up and become very obvious in the pale skin of the affected family members.”

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The medicine solved the biggest mystery of Kentucky, the unique blood disorder that comes from French Huguenots that settled in Kentucky long time ago and transferred their own recessive genes further. This phenomenon has been for a long time abused as a label for inbreeding in Appalachian Kentucky, in spite of rational medical explanations. The inbreeding itself has been practice in Eastern Kentucky since 1750 but it had dropped 18% from 1870 to 1930 and the trend is still in decline. The legal limitations helped the control of inbreeding but there are still four known communities in this poorest part of the USA that have inbred children. One of them reached the rate of 95% and stimulated the horror tales, which portrayed Eastern Kentucky as “no go zone” and wrapped into the style of wrong turn. Everyone who is waiting to see disfigured people that hunt the lost campers will be disappointed to know that those people have no killing attributes and cannibalistic intensions. They only pay the price of isolated towns and their destinies.

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Nevertheless, the other town in Kentucky, London has dealt with a real monster, the serial killer Donald Harvey. He called himself the “Angel of Death” and he claimed he killed 87 people in the 70s and 80s, while he worked in Marymount Hospital. His appetite for killing innocent people has been seen through the steps he took to end someone’s life: feeding with poisons or shutting down the ventilators. When he was finally processed, he was sentenced to 28 life sentences but he was killed in 2017, in the Toledo Correctional Institute, Ohio. London has never forgotten the murders and the Angel of Death that has raped the victims with no mercy.

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The Kentucky is a world full of wonders. The underground rivers, cozy treehouses, crystal lakes and exotic restaurants have brought the Kentucky into the global map of tourism. If not now, when we will visit it and live it through the Appalachian book of mystery?

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2 thoughts on “MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME: FROM BLUE PEOPLE TO THE ANGEL OF DEATH

  1. Sarah’s brilliant article reveals to the reader various and contrasting elements and aspects of the US-state of Kentucky. This induced me to ponder specific periods in the human history of the area: most likely, the appellation of ‘Kentucky’ derives from the indigenous Mohawk word ‘kenhtake’ (i.e. at/by the meadow).

    While it is assumed that humans were living in the area that would become Kentucky prior to 10,000 BCE, archaeological evidence of their occupation has yet to be documented. At the end of the last Ice Age, between 8000–7000 BCE Kentucky’s climate stabilised; leading to a rise in population and technology advances, resulting in more sedentary lifestyle. This warming trend killed The Pleistocene Age big game megafauna (e.g. the mammoth, mastodon, giant beavers, tapirs, short faced bear, giant ground sloths, saber-toothed tiger, prehistoric horse and bison; all of which were native to Kentucky during The Ice Age and became extinct or moved north as the glacial ice retreated).

    Kentucky has played a major role in North American Literature; producing works that celebrate The Working Class, rural life and Nature, and explore issues of social class, extractive economy and family. Major works from the state include ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ (1852), by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896); which added fuel to the flames leading to the outbreak of The American Civil War (1861-65).

    Harriet Beecher Stowe exclaimed that she based the novel upon a number of interviews with people who had escaped slavery during the time when she was living in Cincinnati, Ohio, across The Ohio River from Kentucky, a slave state. In Cincinnati, The Underground Railroad (i.e. organization helping to protect runaway slaves) had local Abolitionist sympathizers and was active in efforts to help runaway slaves on their escape route from The South.

    The novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin outraged most people in The South, and was criticized by slavery supporters in The North. Southern novelist William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870) declared the work utterly false, while others called the novel criminal and slanderous. Reactions ranged from a bookseller in Mobile, Alabama, being forced to leave town for selling the novel to threatening letters sent to Harriet Beecher Stowe (including a package containing a slave’s severed ear). Many Southern writers soon wrote their own books in opposition to her novel. Uncle Tom’s Cabin became the first widely read political novel in The United States of America.

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  2. Another thrilling article, Sarah !

    I addition to all the enticing points you have made, Kentucky is also home to Abraham Lincoln who was born on February 12,1809 in Sinking Spring Farm, near Hodgenville, Kentucky !

    I drove through Kentucky three times in my life. It is a very interesting state in terms of the open fields and the cities along the way.

    Thank you, Sarah, for this beautiful article !
    As always, your writing is riveting and your illustrations are mesmerizing !

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About Sarahowlgirl1982

I am a master of Political Sciences, with special focus on Security Studies, Islamic Counter Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction. I enjoy discovering and commenting things which are " in the air" but still not spoken.I also do like science writing and planing to move myself into the pure science journalism !