Episode 268:

All-Stars Of 7th Grade

The Poet of Wichita


The True Story of the ‘Cocaine Bear’


Episode 268: All-Stars Of 7th Grade

On this week’s episode, Karen and Georgia cover The Poet of Wichita and the true story of the ‘Cocaine Bear.’

Listen on Apple Podcasts. Listen on Spotify

The Poet of Wichita

The Poet of Wichita Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by David Klein on Unsplash 

Other Images:

Ruth Finley (via Oprah)

Andrew C. Thornton II (via Find a Grave)


"Wichita, Kans., in the late 1970s was a troubled city. A serial killer was on the loose. Called the BTK Strangler because he would bind, torture and kill his victims, the man had already murdered seven women in gruesome fashion and might strike again at any moment. So the police were preoccupied when Ed and Ruth Finley appeared at headquarters on Nov. 6, 1978, to report a problem of their own: Someone was taunting Ruth with threatening phone calls and letters containing malevolent rhymes. A sober, middle-class couple married since 1950, the Finleys lived in a quiet neighborhood and seemed unlikely targets for such harassment. But their visit to the police was the beginning of one of the more bizarre cases in Wichita history. It took the police three years and $370,000 to determine the identity of Ruth’s persecutor—who was dubbed the Poet. And it was 6½ years before the citizens of Wichita were given a full explanation of Ruth Finley’s strange ordeal.

The police registered the initial complaint, but the case went no further, though the cops did run a routine background check on the Finleys. Ed, then 50, was a thin, bald man with a quiet sense of humor. An accountant, he painted detailed landscapes in his spare time. Ruth, a modest, soft-spoken 48-year-old woman, worked in the security department at the phone company and dabbled in ceramics. The Finleys had raised two sons who had moved to other cities.

Then, on Nov. 21, Ruth’s husband reported her missing to police. Later the same day, Ruth told police that she had been abducted from downtown Wichita by two men whom she was unable to describe and driven around for four hours before she was able to escape. Meanwhile, the Poet’s missives had continued, becoming more frequent and more scabrous. (The river is searched for the perished/Whores will hate me but by men I will be cherished/Viper thoughts coil round my mind/Torture and agony are unkind.)

After the alleged kidnapping, police immediately placed Ruth under heavy surveillance. When nothing had happened for five weeks, the watch was suspended. Though the letters continued, there were no dramatic developments in the case until August 1979, when Ruth was admitted to St. Joseph Medical Center with three knife wounds, one of which had nearly punctured her kidney, an injury which could have been fatal. Ruth, who was in the hospital for nine days, told police a man had attacked her in the parking lot of a local mall.

Amid pressure from the media, the police investigation accelerated. A $3,000 reward was offered by Ed Finley’s employer. Police sent copies of the Poet’s work to Dr. Murray S. Miron—a psycholinguistics consultant who gained prominence during the Son of Sam case. He identified the writer as “severely psychotic, schizophrenic, wily, pathological, paranoid, and a loner with a deep feeling of persecution.”

Over the next year, the harassment became frenzied. The Finleys’ telephone wires were cut. A knife, wrapped in a newspaper addressed to Ruth, was found near her office. The Health Department was notified that Ruth was spreading venereal disease. A mortuary was informed that Ruth wished to learn more about its services. Urine was left on the Finleys’ front porch, an unignited Molotov cocktail at the rear. The Christmas wreath on the Finleys’ house was set on fire. The Poet’s trademark, a piece of red bandanna, was discovered outside the house. Hair and firecrackers were found in the mail box. Eggs, and later feces, were thrown at the Finleys’ home.

Still, the police had few leads. Sketches were made, based on Ruth’s description of her assailant; suspects were interviewed and released. At one point, speculation arose that the Poet and the BTK Strangler might be one and the same because some of the Poet’s verses referred to a BTK victim. The theory was eventually discarded. (The BTK Strangler has never been caught.) The police even placed a camera in a birdhouse in the Finleys’ backyard. The couple spent several evenings watching their back door on television, but they saw nothing..."

— Source: People article by Gene Stone

The True Story of the ‘Cocaine Bear’

The True Story of the ‘Cocaine Bear’ Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash 

Other Images:

Cocaine Bear today (via Kentucky for Kentucky)

Nick Terry’s Cocaine Bear (via YouTube)


"On September 11, 1985, an old man in Kentucky woke up and went outside, where he found the corpse of a man in his driveway – which would have been an unusual start to a Wednesday even if the corpse wasn't wearing a bulletproof vest and strapped to a parachute, which he was.

This was just a small part of his ensemble, which included night vision goggles, several handguns, and around $14 million worth of cocaine. The elderly gentleman phoned the police – as you well might in this situation – who identified the body as one Andrew C. Thornton II, a former paratrooper, narcotics officer, and lawyer who combined these unique skillsets when he became a parachuting drug smuggler for a ring known as "The Company".

Thornton – who had received a Purple Heart after being injured while deployed to the Dominican Republic during a revolution – had set his plane on autopilot before jumping from it, and was to hand on the cocaine once landing safely in Kentucky. While the plane crashed 96.5 kilometers (60 miles) away, he fell to the ground.

It's not known whether his parachute failed to deploy, or he had merely left it too late. His friends said that he liked to play a game of waiting as long as he possibly could before opening it up. Hell, you don't get into drug smuggling parachuting under the cover of night because you're averse to risk.

"But what of the cocaine bear?" I hear you ask. "The bear who liked to eat cocaine?"

Well, some three months later in the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia – near where the plane was found – a 79.4-kilogram (175-pound) black bear was discovered, surrounded by 40 opened plastic packages that contained traces of cocaine. Despite the hefty weight of the bear, it was no match for around 31.8 kilograms (70 pounds) of cocaine that the packages used to house, and it had died of the overdose.

"Its stomach was literally packed to the brim with cocaine," the medical examiner who looked inside the animal's stomach told Kentucky For Kentucky. "There isn't a mammal on the planet that could survive that. Cerebral hemorrhaging, respiratory failure, hyperthermia, renal failure, heart failure, stroke. You name it, that bear had it."

Despite the state of the bear's insides, the outside looked pretty great. This is where Pablo EskoBear's tale took a weird epilogue. The examiner sent the body to be stuffed. After this, it went to live in the visitor center at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area..."