The King isn't dead. At least, that's what some people think.
Elvis Presley died on August 16th, 1977, after a myriad of health problems culminating in cardiac arrest. Or...did he?
Some fans posit that the King of Rock 'n Roll actually faked his own...
The King isn't dead. At least, that's what some people think.
Elvis Presley died on August 16th, 1977, after a myriad of health problems culminating in cardiac arrest. Or...did he?
Some fans posit that the King of Rock 'n Roll actually faked his own death with funeral and all to get away from the fame, his debts, and maybe even Mafia threats.
But did Elvis Presley really hoax his death? If so, how? Why? And how did this legend get started in the first place? Did Elvis really leave the building?
Thanks to our Patrons over on Patreon for voting on this topic (join 'em at patreon.com/aintitscary!) and the fabulous STATIC ERA RECORDS for sponsoring this episode - find them at www.staticerarecords.com!
The King is dead - long live the King.
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Sean, we’re both big fans of Elvis Presley, I’d say, right? I even walked down the aisle to an instrumental of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” at our wedding. Elvis has been an icon, basically always known to me, since I was little. And, of course, the iconic look I always go to first is the white jumpsuit, big black hair, gold sunglasses, and karate kicks. Elvis was the king of rock and roll, and his death on August 16, 1977 shocked the world. But what if he didn’t really die that day? What if, depending on how things have shaken out over the years, Elvis is actually still alive?
Our patrons voted for me to tackle the Elvis Presley death hoax conspiracy for this episode, which is perfect, because this episode is also sponsored by one of our favorite local record stores: Static Era Records. Static Era is an independent record label with a brick and mortar shop just steps from the Metro North platform in Milford, Connecticut that features new releases and used vinyl in all different genres of music and even purchases or trades for the vinyl YOU might have sitting around! Check ‘em out at staticerarecords.com and let them know Ain’t it Scary sent you.
I’m going to discuss the hoax conspiracy theory in 3 stages for the easiest digestion: part 1, I’ll give a very little history on Elvis and the official account of his death. Part 2, I’m going to go into WHY some people think his death is a hoax and the purported sightings of him over the years. Part 3, I’m going into what would have made The King decide to disappear into obscurity, and maybe refute some of the clues...or prove them.
So let’s get to it!
Elvis Aron Presley was born January 8th, 1935, and already his life was marred with some tragedy. He was actually a twin, but his brother Jesse Garon Presley was stillborn 35 minutes before him. Nevertheless, Elvis persisted. He rose to fame with Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, with his first hit “Heartbreak Hotel” reaching number 1 on the charts with the backing of record label RCA Victor. From there he never reached obscurity in his lifetime again, joining the military in 1958 and returning home to the US in 1960 to relaunch his career and spend the next decade starring in a series of musical comedy films. He had even more hits after “Heartbreak Hotel” like the classics “Suspicious Minds”, “Love Me Tender”, “Hound Dog”, and more, and married Priscilla Presley, having his daughter Lisa Marie in 1968. Him and Priscilla divorced a few years later. Also in 1968 he did his “comeback” concert special, Elvis, which led to an extended Las Vegas Residency. In 1973 he gave the first concert by a solo artist to be broadcast globally, Aloha from Hawaii, and continued touring until his untimely death in summer 1977.
Now over this frenzied lifetime Elvis developed some...problems. He became addicted to barbiturates, central nervous system depressants and sedatives. Basically, he developed a bad pill habit. He overdosed twice in 1973, sending him to the hospital both times - the first on sedatives, the second while using Demerol, rendering him semi-comatose. Even so, he didn’t quit his addictions, and simply kept spiraling while also maintaining a punishing touring schedule that would exhaust even the strongest, most sober entertainers. Along with the pills, which by the way were ALL prescription, he had a serious problem with binge eating. He was massively overweight at the time of his death, reportedly consuming upwards of 100,000 calories every single day and possibly even weighing somewhere between 250 and 350 pounds, internet sources varied. His favorite meals included fried peanut butter, banana, and bacon sandwiches, a “Fool’s Gold Loaf” - an entire jar of jelly, entire jar of peanut butter, and a pound of cooked bacon in a hollowed out sourdough loaf - cheeseburgers, coconut cake, and more.
These problems contributed to the sort of sloppy, mumbling image people had of Elvis in his final years - he was barely able to get through his concerts, and in the audio from his last shows, he’s basically slurring, sounding tired and worn out. It’s really sad to hear, especially compared with his energetic performances full of song and dance even a short decade before. And not only that, he still had a beautiful voice - you can hear it if you listen to his live version of “Unchained Melody” from just 2 months before his death - but it’s bogged down by what would soon kill him. Elvis was a man plagued by demons, and these two problems especially - the pills and the eating - were outlets he used to cope with those demons. I can’t fault him for trying to find some comfort with the entire world’s eyes on him, even though it’s incredibly tragic how he did so.
These vices likely led to what is purported to be Elvis’ death. I’m going to go through an abbreviated account of his last day and discuss how he allegedly died, so we have a sense of what we’re going into when we get into the “he faked his own death” conspiracy theory that’s been a part of pop culture since...well, since 1977, probably.
On the night Elvis died he was acting fairly erratically, but maybe not super out of the ordinary for someone like Elvis at the time. To begin with, he woke up at the crack of 4pm, which apparently was pretty usual for him. The following day he’s set to start a grueling 12-day tour so this was kind of his last day off for a bit. He spent the evening watching TV, playing with his daughter Lisa Marie, and hanging out with his fiancee Ginger Alden. Around 8 the Memphis Mafia, which Elvis called his friends and employees, showed up to start preparing for the tour beginning the next day. Now, this is pretty weird - around 11pm he went to see his dentist, Lester Hoffman. I guess if you’re Elvis you can pay anyone to be on-call for you, and his 11pm was probably like the average person’s 1pm. He got his toothache taken care of, and was back at his home, Graceland, around 12:30 AM. At 2:15 AM he calls his personal physician, a Dr Feelgood named George Nickopolous or Dr Nick, and incoherently asks him for more painkillers. He got the prescription. This prescription contained a whopping 6 different kinds of drugs, 2 of which were amphetamines. It seems as if he took downers to go to sleep and uppers to wake up again - a dangerous habit that contributed to the death of icons like Judy Garland. He places another call to his stepbrother to ask him to pick up his prescription - because he was obtaining prescriptions from multiple sources. At 4am he wakes up his cousin Billy Smith and Billy’s wife to go play racketball with him and Ginger. Now of course it’s a great thing that he’s exercising, but his heart was enlarged and arteries were narrowed by about 50% - which means any fitness regime should’ve been carefully planned so as not to put stress on his heart.
After the game he went into the piano room and played for the trio, the two last songs he ever sang reportedly being “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” and “Unchained Melody”. Around 5am he finally heads up to bed, tucking Lisa Marie into bed and kissing her goodnight on the way. Elvis calls another friend demanding more sleeping pills, and when they’re delivered, he takes some to try and fall asleep. This apparently doesn’t work, because at 7am he calls for another packet of pills. Then he requests a 3rd pack an hour later. At 9am, he heads to the bathroom with severe abdominal pain. He’d been backed up, so to speak, for days, and this issue was complicated by the fact that codeine and other depressants slow down the digestive system, frequently leading to constipation. At some point after entering the bathroom, he collapses to the floor.
Ginger wakes up around 2pm and sees that Elvis never returned from the bathroom. She goes inside to find his body on the floor, not breathing and unresponsive. She calls downstairs for help and a security guard and Elvis’ road manager run upstairs to assist. Elvis’ body is already stiffening and turning blue, so much so that they can’t give CPR because his jaw won’t move. Rigor mortis generally starts 3-4 hours after death, so Elvis was likely deceased for around 5 hours at that point. Paramedics arrived at Graceland around 2:33 PM, attempted CPR, then rushed him to Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis where they tried repeatedly to revive him. He was pronounced dead at 3pm on August 16th, 1977.
The world reacted in shock and horror. My Mom even remembers when it happened, and she was in Portugal at the time - the mourning was global. His autopsy was performed almost immediately at 7pm but even before it was finished a statement was released, which was very unusual.
We’ll start talking conspiracy theories and the possible existence of an Elvis Presley Death Hoax...after the break.
So, on to part 2! Let’s talk some of the theories. I’m taking some of these from an episode of the Reelz show Case Closed with AJ Benza - funnily enough, AJ Benza is notable for many things, possibly the least of which is sharing a place on the LIU Notable Alumni list with...me. No, I have no idea why I’m on it, but it does make me laugh, so thanks LIU.
The first facts relating to a possible conspiracy come the day after Elvis died. A man by the name of John Burroughs, who bore a striking resemblance to Elvis, was seen at the Memphis airport buying a ticket to Buenos Aires. John Burroughs is a known name that Elvis used when he traveled to book hotel rooms and the like. People started to report Elvis sightings pretty quickly, including in Kalamazoo Michigan, where a woman swore she saw Elvis in the supermarket. Then, someone saw him at the Kalamazoo Burger King. There were theories that he was living back at the poolhouse in Graceland or in California or at a ranch in Tennessee or in Europe. There were so many sightings in Ottawa Canada alone, they renamed a street there Elvis Lives Lane.
But let’s back up. Elvis’ funeral at Graceland was held on August 18th, 1977, which some found suspicious because it was only 48 hours after his death - almost like they were trying to cover up the body. The National Enquirer bribed one of Elvis’ cousins to take a photo of Presley while he laid in his coffin, which they printed on the front page of their highest selling issue ever. According to some, this photo doesn’t look quite right, with the hairline and chin being off. To me? Sure, it looks like Elvis, but okay.
Elvis’ father Vernon had also apparently called some of his fanclubs to ask that they not attend the funeral, leading some to wonder whether this was because they would recognize the man in the coffin was not the King. And some attendees of the funeral did think the body looked weird, almost waxy, with glued-on looking sideburns and hands and a nose that didn’t look correct. A couple people looked at the body and even saw...sweat on it.
The coffin required about 8 men to carry it, and people wondered why even 8 men strained under the weight. Elvis was admittedly obese, but 8 men? Speculation began that the body in the coffin was actually a wax dummy of Elvis, and that the weight came from an air conditioner set inside the coffin to keep it from melting in the Memphis heat. Where do you get a wax figure to bury? Theory is that Vernon Presley and others purchased an already existing dummy of Elvis from an Atlanta museum to sub out for Elvis himself.
A photo was taken at Graceland’s pool house in December 1977 that some people believe to be Elvis, peering out from behind a window. The photo hasn’t been doctored, according to Kodak, so it is really of SOMEONE, but was it the King?
My favorite absurd sighting of Elvis is in...the beloved children’s holiday comedy Home Alone??? Yes, in the scene where Catherine O’Hara demands a ticket to get home to her son in the airport, just before she meets John Candy’s character, apparently many feel that it’s Elvis Presley himself standing behind her in line, now with a beard, a bit more than 10 years older, and certainly slimmed down. Oddly, Home Alone director Chris Columbus had previously directed the movie Heartbreak Hotel about some kids who try to kidnap Elvis, but that’s likely where the coincidences end. The guy doesn’t look too much like Elvis to me, and even if he did, WHY would he show his face on film after faking his death? As a fun little clue for fans?
Well, some fans do believe he left clues before and after his “death” to the fact that his death was a fake. Elvis’ name on his own gravestone was, strangely, SPELLED wrong - with two a’s in Aaron, his middle name, rather than the unusual spelling he used, A-R-O-N. The argument is that since Elvis was into symbolism and very suspicious, he refused to put his actual correct name on the tombstone, so he wouldn’t be tempting fate. This tombstone engraving, which remains to this day, is almost always listed as a big touchpoint for conspiracy clues. Another supposed clue was that Elvis had no jumpsuits prepared for the tour he was about to go on, even though he had been literally about to leave. Did he even plan on going on the tour at all? Maybe not - some reports state that Elvis called his friend Ellen Foster shortly before his death and told her he would not be going on the tour. She inquired whether he was sick or if everything was alright, and he replied that everything would be just fine and to not ask any more questions. 2 days after this call Elvis was dead, and up to that point, the tour had still been a go.
Another clue: it seems Elvis withdrew a million dollars from his bank the day before he died, which the Autopsy episode told me was most of the money that he had available. Was this in preparation for starting a new life, off the grid?
Elvis made a quip at one of his last concerts that could’ve been an eerie foreshadowing of his own fate, if you think he really died, or a subtle hint to his future plans. He said, “I may not look good now, but wait until you see how good I look in my coffin.”
The medical examiner’s report has him listed at 170 pounds at death, even though he was easily closer to 250 pounds or more. This seems like a HUGE error. Was it a different body that was autopsied? Well, according to Joel Gilbert, director of the absurd mockumentary ELVIS FOUND ALIVE, which I can’t even go into right this moment, the handwriting on the death certificate was eerily similar to Elvis’ own. I saw the medical examiner on the Autopsy episode and he seemed a pretty normal, stand-up dude, but hey, anyone can get involved in a conspiracy, right? Apparently, Elvis filling out his own death certificate explains the huge disparity in death weight vs. actual weight, because he would’ve preferred to be listed as slimmer than he really was - aka, simple vanity.
Elvis’ million-dollar Lloyd’s of London life insurance policy was also never cashed out, which is believably really strange. It’s not a piddling amount of money, and Elvis had many financial issues later in his life that forced him into his grueling tour schedule due to keeping able to make his lavish purchases and supporting the people who lived with and worked for him. If these people were saddled with his debts and financial commitments after his death, why didn’t the policy get cashed out? Well, if he was really still alive, that would’ve been insurance fraud, and apparently Elvis was playing by the rules.
Also, unless Lisa Marie decides to release the autopsy report - possibly in 2027, 50 years after Elvis’ death - the report remains sealed, which makes people suspicious.
So maybe the King had the resources to pull something like this off. Would he actually have walked away from his family, friends, and stardom?
Some of his family and friends, including his cousin Billy Smith that saw him on his last day alive, told a story of Elvis confiding to them that he wanted to escape his celebrity and the pressure that came with being Elvis Presley. The only way he’d be able to get away from his fans, his record contract, and his financial entanglements with his manager Colonel Tom Parker would be...to die. Or at least, appear to.
According to Patrick Lacy, author of Elvis Decoded: A Fan's Guide To Deciphering The Myths And Misinformation, there is a story out there that Elvis and co. found a man named Scott who was dying of cancer and willing to put his body in place of Elvis’ near the end of his life, so that when he eventually died, his body would be mistaken for Elvis’ and people would believe that Presley had really died. Scott got plastic surgery to look like Elvis, stepped into his shoes, and when he died in the King’s place, Elvis would secretly take care of Scott’s family financially for the rest of their lives.
Now, who’s the source of this outlandish tale? Well, along with Memphis Mafia member Marty Lacker, Billy Smith himself - Presley’s own flesh and blood. This admission is recounted in the book Elvis’ DNA Proves He Is Alive by Bill Beeny, who really likes to-the-point titles. However, when questioned by elvisinfonet.com, Marty Lacker said “Bill Beeny is a nutcase and I told him that to his face years ago. The story Billy and I wrote was FICTION and it was presented to the London newspaper it appeared in as FICTION. Fools like Beeny like to use that for their own ludicrous agenda. He's really not worth the effort talking about. Elvis died on August 16, 1977. It was witnessed and documented and an autopsy was performed on his body by reputable doctors in Memphis. The lead Dr., Dr. Muirhead is beyond reproach and enjoys a great reputation in the medical field. The people who foster the idiocy that Elvis faked his death are idiots or con men.” Now, writing a story about your friend faking his death for a newspaper is definitely weird behavior, but Lacker seems pretty emphatic here. But maybe...he’s trying to cover up his own slip! Billy Smith for his part has had a couple of responses. Speaking on his son Danny Smith’s YouTube channel, Memphis Mafia Kid, Billy said: “This question, ‘Is Elvis still alive?’ Well, let me say this. How this got started was we actually talked one night of Elvis changing places. He was showing me a picture of himself and he said, ‘Does this look like me?’ And I said, ‘Yeah’, and he said, ‘Well it’s not. This guy’s had a facelift to look like me.’”
“I said Elvis, ‘Now you can fool a lot of people…but no. That’s you, that’s not somebody else.’ So he said, ‘I could swap places with this person and nobody would ever know the difference.’ And I said, ‘Again, I know the difference. I know this picture is of you and not of somebody else.’” So he’s still kind of teasing fans with the carrot of the possible body swap...but he also told the UK newspaper EXPRESS as recently as January of this year that he’s sensed his cousin’s spiritual presence in Graceland...which trends toward the idea that he probably thinks the King is truly dead.
Aside from being tired of the fame machine, Elvis may have wanted to fake his own death to...save his life.
The Mafia - not the Memphis variety - apparently wanted Elvis gone. A longtime theory surrounding Elvis’ death is that Elvis was an undercover agent for the FBI. When he met President Richard Nixon in 1970, he requested a badge and to be made a special agent at large. Now, this is true. But this theory also claims that after this, Elvis really did take this position as an honorary Drug Enforcement Agent seriously. Over the next 5 years, he was rumored to have set up various stings at his concerts and hotels to entrap Mafia drug dealers that had been expecting to sell some nose candy and the like to the King. Apparently, Elvis was the instigator of the War on Drugs and the Mafia in those years. The Mafia apparently caught on to the scheme, and wanted him taken care of. So Elvis went into witness protection.
Now remember Bill Beeny, he of the Elvis DNA book and the former curator of the Missouri Elvis is Alive museum? He really does think he’s proven Elvis is alive using some of Presley’s DNA obtained. He compared it to DNA from Elvis’ coffin and it didn’t match. Beeny argued that the chain of possession is intact and he can document whose hands they came into contact with - but some give different stories to how those DNA samples were obtained. But, if you believe Beeny, that may be proof enough that Elvis is still alive. You’d have to take his word for it...as he hasn’t publicly released his proof.
The big question is though - has the king truly left the building?
Let’s refute some of these conspiracy clues. First, the Memphis airport wasn’t even doing international flights in 1977, so no one - not even the King in disguise - could come in and get a ticket to Argentina.
Also, the Lloyd’s of London insurance policy may not even exist. Elvis was intending to get it, but it’s not known if he did. However, Vernon Presley did receive Elvis’ social security death benefit and did deposit it into the estate’s account.
What about that misspelled tombstone though? That seems pretty egregious with family and friends all around. Well, Presley apparently switched over later in life to the more common A-A-R-O-N spelling of Aron, his middle name.
Let’s also discuss the medical examination - which may not be public knowledge, but was reviewed in the Elvis episode of the TV show Autopsy: the Last Hours Of. Was he really in as bad condition health-wise as has been reported?
According to examination Elvis’ liver was fatty, which was a marker that it wasn’t working correctly, and that fat was failing to be processed. It was extremely enlarged, twice the normal weight of a human liver, even though it wasn’t diseased. In the opinion of Dr. Richard Sheperd, on Autopsy, this is most commonly a signifier that the person is abusing alcohol, drinking upwards of a liter a day. However, Elvis wasn’t really a drinker - so excluding that, the next most likely cause would be his abuse of prescription drugs. Elvis had chronic insomnia, which contributed to his dependence on sedatives, and had 4 different sleeping pills in his system when he died. He had extremely high levels of codeine in his system as well, likely a result of pain from his toothache and a secret eye condition he had, glaucoma. Along with all that, he had meperidine in his system, an opioid with similar effects to heroin that directly affects the brain to control pain. Many of his organs were enlarged, including his colon, which was almost double its size and full of a kind of chalky clay. That means he likely hadn’t had a bowel movement in days at least, and this would’ve been very painful. According to Autopsy, it’s the opinion of forensic pathologist Dr. Richard Shepard that Elvis did indeed die from cardiac arrhythmia, as listed on his death certificate, due to complications from his enlarged and failing heart compounded by the strain of trying to clear his bowel blockage. As he attempted to use the bathroom, the pressure on his heart increased dramatically, and it was too much for him to withstand.
Shepherd stated that there were so many things wrong with Elvis, health wise, that he was on the verge of collapsing and dying at any moment.
So, what do you think Sean? Do you think Elvis Presley faked his death, or do you think he really did pass away on August 16th, 1977?
Let’s take a trip to our favorite place - the Bizarre Bazaar!
Oregon authorities are investigating another group of bizarre cattle mutilations in the series of strange occurrences that have been plaguing the state for the last few years.
The Crook County Sheriff's Office released a press release on Facebook March 6th that stated they were investigating multiple mysterious cattle deaths in Crook County within rural ranch land and public BLM land. The release states that “the cause of these cattle deaths were not natural” and asked stockgrowers to “be vigilant in checking on their animals and to report any suspicious activity”.
At least 5 cattle mutilation cases were reported last year, and there was an additional incident in 2019 where another five animals were killed in a similar violent fashion. In the 2019 incident, 5 bulls apparently dropped dead of their own accord, with no signs of struggle, poison, lightning strike, or shooting. They each had their tongues and genitals removed with surgical precision. No one has yet been found to be the culprit for any of these killings, but as we know, many people think that aliens are the ones to blame in cattle mutilation deaths.
We’ll keep you updated if Crook County releases any more information.
That’s it for this episode of Ain’t It Scary with Sean and Carrie! Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @aintitscary, and check out our website at aintitscary.com. You can support the show by supporting our sponsors, and becoming a patron at www.patreon.com/aintitscary. And please, subscribe to the show and throw us a 5-star review on Apple Podcasts...we’ll be forever grateful.
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