Paul Karason, famously known as “Papa Smurf,” caused global astonishment with his blue-tinted skin. Yet, even more perplexing was his steadfast refusal to discontinue the practices responsible for his distinct and unusual complexion.
For the initial forty years of his life, Paul Karason exhibited a fair complexion and strawberry-blonde hair. Over time, his hair progressively lightened, eventually transitioning to white. However, the truly peculiar development was the shifting shades of his once-pale skin.
Remarkably, Karason was oblivious to his own transformation into a blue hue until a friend paid him a visit. It was this friend who drew his attention to the unfamiliar bluish-grey color of his skin. Recalling the incident, Karason recounted that his friend initially suspected something had been applied to his face, perhaps camouflage makeup. The friend inquired about the change, questioning what Karason had done to bring about such an alteration.
Why and How Did Paul Karason Turn Blue?
Karason’s skin underwent a transformation due to his utilization of a self-researched “remedy” or alternative treatment aimed at addressing his flaky skin condition. This decision came about after medical professionals conveyed to him that no viable solutions were available for his skin issue. In his pursuit of relief, he initially ingested the “remedy,” but over time, he transitioned to applying it directly onto his skin.
The concept of using colloidal silver water, a purported countermeasure, caught Karason’s attention through an advertisement in an alternative magazine. The advertisement suggested that it could contribute to improving one’s health.
Initially, the blue hue appeared only on Karason’s face, yet before long, the discolouration extended to encompass his entire body. Reflecting on his reaction upon observing this transformation, Karason recalled:
“I kind of hoped it would fade off!”
Nevertheless, this did not dissuade him, and he persisted in his use of colloidal silver. In due course, he earned the moniker “Papa Smurf.”
Karason held firm to the belief that the homemade concoction of colloidal silver and distilled water had the potential to remedy his health problems. Reflecting on the period immediately after he began using this mixture, he recounted:
“The acid reflux problem I’d been having just went away completely…I had arthritis in my shoulders so bad I couldn’t pull a T-shirt off. And the next thing I knew, it was just gone.”
At that time, Karason had no inkling that the significant quantity of silver he was introducing into his system was inducing silver poisoning, a condition known scientifically as Argyria. Tragically, this condition was irreversible.
Beyond that, esteemed medical professionals asserted that the perceived health advantages of the mixture lacked credible scientific support. Dr. Vincent DeLeo, the head of dermatology at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt and Beth Israel Hospitals, emphasized:
“Paul turned blue because he ingested and applied elemental silver. It got into his bloodstream and then was deposited in his skin as brown particles. And when you see those particles through the skin, they appear to be gray or blue/gray.”
Dr. DeLeo strongly advised against the utilization of colloidal silver. He further highlighted that the FDA had officially debunked any medical benefits associated with the purported remedy. Additionally, medical experts speculated that Karason’s internal organs might have also experienced discoloration.
How Did Paul Karason Find Love Twice, and What Was His Life Like?
Karason’s romantic journey commenced with Jackie Northrup, who eventually became his fiancée before their engagement was dissolved. Their initial interactions took place over the phone. Throughout this period, Northrup was already acquainted with the fact that her prospective partner had, indeed, turned blue.
Northrup, who also opted to consume colloidal silver water, though she refrained from applying it to her skin, recounted her initial in-person encounter with Karason. She recollected that despite her affection for Karason, she couldn’t help but feel taken aback, expressing:
“I had to really look at it and keep looking at it and remember who I had talked to and who I had fallen in love with.”
Karason harbored discomfort regarding the attention he garnered due to his blue skin tone. Regarding his renowned moniker, “Papa Smurf,” he admitted to his aversion to certain individuals employing it, particularly adults. However, he made an exception when it came to children, finding their use of the nickname endearing and capable of eliciting a smile from him.
Despite the adverse reactions he encountered, Karason admitted to grappling with uncertainty about whether he would opt not to use colloidal silver for his skin, given the chance to revisit the past.
In addition to the health problems Karason believed colloidal silver could address, he also discussed its alleged advantages, including safeguarding the skin against sunburn. On the whole, he expressed no remorse regarding his use of this remedy.
As time went on, Karason’s circumstances took a downturn. His relationship with Northrup came to an end, and he faced unemployment and homelessness. In 2012, he found himself at the Lighthouse Mission Shelter in his hometown of Bellingham, Washington. This move followed his time in Madeira, California.
In addition to these challenges, Karason was grappling with severe health problems, including heart issues and prostate cancer. When discussing his difficulties in securing employment and its correlation with his blue skin, he candidly revealed:
“People are rather reluctant to hire blue people.”
Karason’s fortunes took a positive turn when he reconnected with Jo Anna Elkins, a friend from his junior high days. Elkins extended her support to him, assisting him in transitioning out of the shelter. Their connection deepened over time, leading to them moving in together and eventually getting married. However, their relationship faced challenges, and Elkins eventually became estranged from Karason as well.
At the age of 62, in September 2013, Karason sadly passed away. His demise came as a result of a heart attack and a stroke while undergoing treatment at Washington Hospital.