Every now and then, I receive an email from a reader who wants to know if I think Elvis is still alive. I have even received a few emails from those who claim to have seen Elvis in the years and decades following 1977. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons people believe that Elvis Presley is alive as well as the evidence that supports his death.
Answer: After the death of a celebrity, it is not uncommon for rumors to circulate suggesting that the celebrity is, in fact, still alive. This most certainly occurs for several reasons, the most likely being that people do not want to accept the death of the idolized star and that there are people who simply look for conspiracy in every newsworthy event. In any case, it didn’t take long for these rumors to get started about Elvis Presley. Here is some of the most frequently cited "evidence" for suggesting that the King of Rock and Roll is still alive:
Cause of Death–On the night that Elvis died, an autopsy was performed. The medical examiner listed the initial cause of death as "cardiac arrhythmia," which simply means the heart stopped beating. This was true, of course, but he did not make mention of the possibility of drugs causing the cardiac arrhythmia. Meanwhile, pathologists from Baptist Memorial Hospital (where the autopsy was performed) suggested that drugs had played a role in Elvis’ death. The contradicting reports led some people to believe that there was a cover-up going on.
The most likely explanation, however, is that no one wanted to tarnish the reputation of such an adored celebrity. Furthermore, when Vernon Presley–Elvis’ father–saw the entire autopsy report including toxicology, he petitioned to have the report sealed for fifty years, reportedly to preserve his son’s reputation.
Grave Misspelling–Elvis’ gravestone reads, "Elvis Aaron Presley." The problem is, Elvis’ middle name was traditionally spelled with only one A. This led some fans to believe it was a deliberate misspelling, indicating that the King is still alive.
In truth, though, Elvis’ middle name was always legally spelled with two A’s. His parents intended to name him "Elvis Aron Presley" but a record clerk’s mistake resulted in the two-A spelling. Neither Elvis nor his parents realized the mistake for many years. It was only when Elvis, himself, was considering legally changing the spelling, that he discovered he already had the name he wanted. From then on, he used the traditional spelling of Aaron and that is why it appears that way on his gravestone.
Elvis Sightings–Over the years, a number of people have claimed to have seen Elvis Presley in person and in photographs. One widely circulated photo supposedly depicts Elvis behind a screen door at Graceland after his death. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, there were rashes of sightings in various places including Kalamazoo, Michigan and Ottawa, Canada.
While such photos and sightings can be great fodder for someone looking for a conspiracy, they can just as easily be explained away by skeptics. After all, photos can be manipulated and there are many, many Elvis impersonators walking the streets as well as others who simply happen to resemble him.
Personal Claims–There are a handful of people who claim to be personal friends with Elvis today. Some of these people have made their claims very public either through books, websites, or other outlets. Admittedly, some of these "friends" offer somewhat compelling evidence that Elvis Presley did not die on August 16, 1977.
Unfortunately, none of the evidence is conclusive. From a scientific standpoint, it would take comparing a known DNA sample from Elvis (or his daughter, Lisa Marie) with the DNA sample from someone claiming to be Elvis. As of this writing, no one willing to undergo such a test has come forward.
When you combine the facts that none of the above suspicions can be substantiated, that it would have required the cooperation and secrecy of many to fake Elvis’ death, and that it would have been terribly difficult for such a high-profile celebrity to stay undercover for all these years, it seems very unlikely that Elvis is still alive.