Welcome to Dread: The Unsolved. My dad was a massive Elvis fan. He passed away when I was 13, I inherited just two things from him. An old acoustic guitar, and an Elvis box set. My dad loved Elvis. He loved Elvis so much that he once made my brother stand in what he called “The Elvis Hater Room” which was actually just his entryway closet. It was a fun joke for us to tell him Elvis was terrible.
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So I took my Elvis box set, and I put it in the back window of my car when I moved out of my parent’s house. I got a new car a couple of years later. The Elvis box set also moved into the back window of that car. Now, 18 years after my dad died, if I were to go outside to my beat-up old Honda, I could grab an Elvis box set out of the back window. I don’t think I’ve ever opened it. For all I know, my dad’s love of Elvis was a front for stuffing money into Elvis box sets.
Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8th, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi. In his short 4 decades on Earth, he would release 24 studio albums, 17 soundtrack albums, star in 33 films, and is the best-selling solo artist of all time. On August 16th, 1977, they found Elvis Presley in the bathroom of his Graceland home, frozen in the seated position, face down in front of his toilet. Officials pronounced him dead the next day.
Memphis medical examiner Jerry Francisco prematurely announced that Presley had died from cardiac arrest, with drugs playing, “no role in Presley’s death”. Pathologists would later state that they believe Presley had died due to “polypharmacy”: death caused by multiple drug intoxication. The family held a funeral at Graceland on August 18th, 1977. Presley’s cousin Billy Mann secretly photographed Presley’s corpse for $18,000.
The question remains: Was that Presley’s corpse in the casket? Experts, amateur sleuths, Elvis historians, and the everyman have posited that Elvis never actually died. We’re going to sift through eyewitness accounts and 40 years’ worth of other supposed evidence, to discover if Elvis really died face down in front of his toilet.
I’m Jans Holstrom, and this, is Dread The Unsolved…
So to begin, we need to cut down the hundreds of theories into manageable sections. If we tried to list all the theories at once, we’d run out of storage space here on Dread Central. Let’s categorize the theories into four main categories:
- Elvis is actually dead;
- He faked his death;
- Elvis and the mob; and also
There is one category on that list that I won’t pay too terribly much attention to. “Elvis and the Aliens”. In researching, I found an email sent to one of the many “official” Elvis homepages that popped up in the early days of the internet. It has no name attached but states a strange theory that the man who photographed the dead alien bodies at Roswell is the same photographer who caught an alleged picture of Elvis at a Memphis airport in 1977 on the day he died.
Now, I can’t find the name of the guy who took the photos of the aliens at Roswell. Suspiciously enough, I can’t find the picture of the aliens at Roswell. Could the link between Elvis and aliens be there? Anything is possible. In the 1997 film Men in Black, Tommy Lee Jones’s character also reveals that Elvis didn’t die, he just went home. Could this be a clue that Elvis was in fact more intertwined with the extraterrestrial than we thought? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
- Elvis is actually dead;
- He faked his death; and also
- Elvis and the mob.
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The next theory I want to look at is Elvis and the mob. This theory has a bit more of a basis for research versus the alien theory. The FBI did keep a staggering 683 pages of files on Elvis Presley. Through Freedom of Information Act Requests, this whole collection is available to the public and is also a huge source of research for this article. After reading through all of these files, I could find no links between Elvis and the mob.
The government issued Elvis a federal narcotics badge. I assumed it was not issued because of the almost superhuman amount of narcotics Elvis was allegedly on at all times. In a very funny letter sent to Richard Nixon, an unnamed citizen states, “I’m interested whether there are any federal law enforcement departments that I may be able to be made an honorary or associate member, or something of that nature”. This letter shows that Elvis-mania eventually found its way to law enforcement around the country as well.
Elvis was known to travel with an entourage that was dubbed “The Memphis Mafia”, but I could find no links to organized crime. That’s the thing with organized crime though, you usually don’t hear about the illicit activities unless they get caught.
- Elvis is actually dead; and
- He faked his death.
Elvis and the mob Aliens
Now we move on from the pure comedy of the Elvis files (I suggest everyone give them a read) and onto the most substantive of the Elvis theories: Elvis faked his death. This is an interesting theory. Why would one of the most famous people on Earth at the time fake their death? The FBI’s Elvis files disprove the mob connection. And obviously aliens weren’t tracking him.
A lot of the speculation can be traced back to 1978, the year after Elvis died. Author Gail Brewer-Georgio released a novel called Orion. Orion told the story of a famous southern singer who faked his death to escape fame. Brewer-Georgio has stated that she didn’t even consider the parallels with Elvis’s life until her publisher started to pull the novel.
Through my research, I can’t find any evidence of an attempt to pull Orion from shelves. The only source for this information is Brewer-Georgio herself. Orion kicked off a spate of Elvis sightings in the late ’70s and early ’80s, with some famous examples. In 1977, on the day Elvis died, a man purportedly photographed Elvis a the Memphis airport, allegedly buying plane tickets to Buenos Aires.
Fans have often pointed to a misspelling on Elvis’ tombstone that they say may prove he never died. The name on the tombstone is Elvis Aaron Presley. Fans and sleuths state that Elvis’ middle name was actually spelled “Aron”, and that the addition of an extra “A” proves that Elvis added it as a sly little reference to him still being in the land of the living. The theory goes that Elvis always used the single “A” version of Aaron to honor his brother who died at birth, Jessie Garon Presley.
Pictures of Elvis out and about after he supposedly died are a small Elvis sub-genre all their own. Starting with the Memphis Airport photo, Elvis has been allegedly photographed hundreds of times since his death. I’ve also not mentioned the number of people who have reportedly seen Elvis in person. Talk to enough people and most of the them probably have an “I saw Elvis” story. The one thing I’ve noticed in these stories is that Elvis looks like, well, Elvis. In this, the year 2021, Elvis would be 82 years old. At his age, he’d be breaking hips instead of shaking hips.
- Elvis is actually dead.
He faked his death Elvis and the mob Elvis was involved with aliens
No one likes to imagine their idol dead on a bathroom floor, but Elvis lived wild and rough. He was never going to get old, and I think he knew that. My research has given me a better understanding of a complicated man reduced to quick throwaway jokes about dying on the toilet. Elvis may be dead, but with new photos appearing as recently as 2017, is he really gone? That’s up to you to decide.
*If you also have a mystery you’d like Jans to investigate, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with DREAD: THE UNSOLVED in the subject line!