Elvis Week 2020: Elvis Presley has been dead for decades, so why are some people convinced he's still alive?
Elvis suffered a heart attack and was found dead in his bathroom on August 16, but conspiracy theories claim that he never died that day
As Elvis Week draws to a close, let's take a look at how the beloved American music icon died and the various Elvis Is Alive stories and urban legends that sprung up in the aftermath of his passing. The facts surrounding the King of Rock and Roll's death are pretty straightforward and conclusive, but that hasn't stopped naysayers and conspiracy theorists from claiming that he faked his own death for a variety of different reasons. Some people even claim to have seen Elvis in the flesh after he died, and while the rash of Elvis impersonators might have something to do with these Elvis sightings, there's a sizeable chunk of Americans who still believe that he might be alive even today.
Elvis Aron Presley died at the age of 42 on August 16, 1977, at his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee. He was supposed to fly out that evening to start another music tour in front of his adoring fans, but the King had a heart attack that afternoon. His girlfriend, Ginger Alden, later found him unconscious on the bathroom floor and rigor mortis had already set in.
According to Alden's account, "Elvis looked as if his entire body had completely frozen in a seated position while using the commode and then had fallen forward, in that fixed position, directly in front of it. It was clear that, from the time whatever hit him to the moment he had landed on the floor, Elvis hadn't moved." He was quickly taken by ambulance to Baptist Memorial Hospital, where he was announced dead at 3.30 pm after numerous unsuccessful attempts to revive him. Reports later cropped up that Elvis's death had been allegedly drug-related, but a heart attack remains the official cause of death. Thousands of people showed up for his funeral at Graceland on August 18 and about 80,000 fans lined the processional route to Forest Hill Cemetery, where he was laid to rest with his mother. Both their remains were later shifted to Graceland's Meditation Garden on October 2, 1977, after some vandals attempted to steal their bodies.
So if Elvis's dead body and open casket were seen by thousands of eye-witnesses, why do so many people still claim Elvis is alive? Plenty of fans still claim that the dead body in Elvis's casket didn't look like him at all, with some saying the corpse's unrecognizable nose was a dead giveaway, and others claim it was merely a wax dummy. Some might put it down to blind denial from fans, but there's also a popular urban legend that claims a man who resembled Elvis bought a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires from Memphis International Airport on the day of his death. The lookalike even used the name Jon Burrows, a fake moniker that Elvis often used when checking into hotels. However, this claim was later debunked by Patrick Lacy, author of the book 'Elvis Decoded', who said that international flights weren't available at that airport in 1977.
Yet another fan theory points out that Elvis's tombstone misspelled his middle name 'Aron' as 'Aaron', which was supposedly a sign from the King himself that he was still alive and well. Apparently, he had grown weary of his celebrity status and hatched an elaborate plot in which he would fake his own death and continue to live out his later years in anonymity. However, his cousin Billy Smith confirmed that the singer had later shifted to the more conventional double-A spelling, and legal documents bearing Presley’s signature also prove this beyond doubt.
Another major sighting came in December 1977, when a man called Mike Joseph said he had unwittingly photographed a man who looked like Elvis peering out of a screen door at his Graceland mansion. However, this was later determined to be Al Strada, a known associate of Elvis. Nevertheless, plenty of Elvis sightings continued throughout the years, many of which were later found to be publicity stunts, mistaken identities or Elvis impersonators. But that didn't stop three Elvis enthusiasts from creating The Elvis Sighting Society in 1989, founded for the sole purpose of compiling these sightings.
There's even a hilarious theory that Elvis can be seen as a background extra in the 1990 movie 'Home Alone' during an airport scene, but that was rather easy to disprove. Another clip captured as recently as 2016 claimed to have caught Elvis on camera at Graceland, but the man was later named as Bill Barmer, who was merely an employee who worked on the premises.
But perhaps the most popular conspiracy theory of all comes from a woman named Gail Brewer-Giorgio, who wrote the bestselling book 'Is Elvis Alive?' in 1988. In her book, after poring through hundreds of FBI documents, Brewer-Giorgio claimed to have uncovered the fact that Elvis had actually faked his own death in order to escape the mafia. Why on earth would he do that? Apparently there was more to Elvis than met the eye, and he had allegedly been working with the FBI as an undercover agent in order to bring down a criminal organization called "The Fraternity", which consisted of dozens of racketeers wanted by federal authorities.
Elvis had reportedly dealt with a member of this organization when he had purchased a private plane, and so the FBI thereafter asked Elvis in 1976 to keep tabs on The Fraternity, and he had accepted their offer as a true-blue, patriotic American. However, it seems that Elvis was later discovered to be a mole and had to go into witness protection in order to keep himself out of harm's way. “Elvis faked his death because he was going to be killed and there was no doubt about it,” Brewer-Giorgio claimed, who was convinced that Elvis was actually an unsung American hero. She also declared, "Do I know if Elvis is alive today? No, I don’t know. But I know he didn’t die on August 16,” she added.
However, Patrick Lacy, the author of 'Elvis Decoded' wasn't convinced by her findings. “Those FBI files are available to the public. I have them. There’s nothing in there,” he said. He also stated, “All of the evidence points to a death — the medical evidence, the eyewitness report." He concluded, "To have him have faked his death would have required the silence and the services of literally hundreds if not thousands of people over the years.” So it turns out that every 'Elvis is alive' theory doesn't really hold any water when closely examined. But if fans want to keep the memory of their beloved superstar Elvis alive, they're welcome to do so as long they don't go too far down the rabbit hole. To borrow a well-known traditional proclamation, "The King is dead! Long live the King!"