Could Elvis Presley Be Alive?

Young image of Elvis Presley
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Ever since the death of Elvis Presley on August 16, 1977, rumors have swirled that the King hadn't actually died and is still alive.

After the passing of a celebrity, it is not uncommon for rumors to circulate suggesting the person is still alive. This can happen for several reasons: The most common is that fans do not want to accept the death of the idolized star. Another explanation is that some people look for a conspiracy in every newsworthy event. 

It didn't take long for these kinds of rumors to get started about Elvis Presley. Let's take a look at some of the reasons people believe that the King of Rock and Roll remains around as well as the evidence that supports his death.

Cause of Death

On the night that Elvis died, an autopsy was performed. On the night that Elvis died, an autopsy was performed. The medical examiner listed the initial cause of death as "cardiac arrhythmia," meaning the heart stopped beating. While this was true, of course, the examiner 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. 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 error for many years. It was only when Elvis 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, many people have claimed to have seen Elvis Presley in person and photographs. One widely circulated photo supposedly depicts Elvis behind a screen door at Graceland after his death. In the 1980s and 1990s, 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 (the official term is Elvis Tribute Artist) walking the streets, as well as others who merely happen to resemble him.

New Conspiracy Theories

In 2016, due to the seemingly large number of celebrity deaths (Prince, David Bowie, George Michael, and others) a Facebook group called "Evidence Elvis Presley Is Alive" was created by an unknown source. The page focuses on alleged "evidence" that Elvis faked his death, including grainy photos of men in crowds that may look like Elvis or his brother, Jesse, and scanned images of documents such as supposed lab test results, tabloid newspaper clippings, and more.

This site's claims are particularly far-fetched, as they believe that Jesse Presley is alive and that there is another brother, Clayton Presley, who is also alive. There has been no confirmation that this group, mostly followed by passionate Elvis lovers and conspiracy theorists, has any reliable information.

Personal Claims

There are a handful of people who claim to be personal friends with Elvis today. Some have made their claims very public either through books, websites, or other outlets. These "friends" offer evidence that Elvis Presley did not die on August 16, 1977, but 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 and understand that none of the above theories can be substantiated, that it would have required the cooperation and secrecy of many to fake Elvis' death—and that it would be terribly difficult for such a high-profile celebrity to stay undercover for all these years, it seems very unlikely that Elvis is still alive.

Elvis' Memory Is Alive In Memphis

Even if theories of Elvis' undercover life are not reliable, hundreds of thousands of Elvis fans and music appreciators keep the King's memory alive by visiting Memphis, Tennessee. In Memphis, you can visit Elvis' home, Graceland (including his grave) as well as Sun Studios where he first recorded his music, among other landmarks and attractions relating to Elvis' life and legacy.

More Frequently Asked Questions About Elvis

This article was updated by Holly Whitfield.

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