“Blue Man” Paul Karason during an interview on September 10, 2009.
Born with the condition methemoglobinemia, the Fugates and their affected descendents suffered from a rare hereditary blood disorder where there is excessive methemoglobin in the blood. The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary states methemoglobin is “a brownish-red crystalline organic compound formed in the blood when hemoglobin is oxidated either by decomposition of the blood or by the action of various oxidizing drugs or toxic agents. It contains iron in the ferric state and cannot function as an oxygen carrier.” Because the circulating blood is less oxygenated those with the disorder appear various shades of blue, depending on how seriously they are affected.
Methemoglobinemia is a recessive gene, which means it can only be passed on if both parents carry the gene. So the chances of Martin Fugate meeting and marrying someone who carried the ‘blue’ gene were pretty slim, but that’s what happened. Martin Fugate and Elizabeth Smith went on to have seven children, four of them reported to be blue.