VEGAS MYTHS BUSTED: Elvis Presley Didn’t Die on Aug. 16, 1977

Posted on: August 21, 2023, 08:04h. 

Last updated on: October 28, 2023, 07:44h.

Elvis Presley died 46 years ago last week … or did he?

Elvis Presley, death, Las Vegas, final concert, 1977, Indianapolis, Market Square Arena, Fat Elvis, overweight, 350 lbs.
According to the myth of Elvis Presley’s faked death, this screen capture shows the King of Rock n’ Roll in good health. It was taken from a video of his final concert, on June 26, 1977, at Indianapolis’ Market Square Arena. (Image: YouTube)

We admit it. We put off busting this myth because it’s so out of date and ridiculously unbelievable, it seems like more of an historical curiosity than a thing that people still believe, not unlike the supposed faked deaths of Adolf Hitler, Jim Morrison, and Andy Kaufman.

Surely, no one, especially after how well the world got to know Elvis’ ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, in the decades since and especially after the recent tragic death of their only child, Lisa Marie Presley, still believes this nonsense, right?

Suspicious Minds

Despite certifications of Elvis’ demise by his doctors and a coroner — despite thousands of viewers of his open casket — millions of people once believed that the King of Rock n’ Roll faked his own death.

In the ’80s, Elvis was “everywhere,” as the hit Mojo Nixon song observed. Elvis sightings came from California amusement parks and a Kalamazoo, Mich., Burger King. Many believed they spotted him in the background of an airport scene in the 1990 movie Home Alone. 

But while a sizable portion of these believers have since died, hundreds of thousands are still apparently left. Seven active Facebook groups feature some variation of “Elvis is Alive” in their titles. The biggest, “Elvis is alive and that’s the truth,” has 10K members.

Judging from their posts, most members don’t necessarily believe that an 88-year-old Elvis Presley still walks among us. But whether the 42-year-old version expired on Aug. 16, 1977, on a Graceland toilet, is a matter of serious contention.

What Evidence Do They Have?

Though they’re rare these days, Elvis sightings still occur. In 2016, the video below was posted to YouTube. In it, a heavyset man in a white beard, glasses, and a ballcap goes about his duties as a Graceland groundskeeper. At one point, he appears to flash two fingers to the camera. Commenters claimed this is some sort of clue that he’s really Elvis.

Elvis sighting, Bill Barmer, Graceland groundskeeper
The YouTube video showing this alleged Elvis sighting has been viewed more than 2 million times. That’s six times the views earned by a subsequent YouTube interview with the man really shown in the video — Graceland groundskeeper Bill Barmer. (YouTube)

Also commonly cited as proof of Presley’s faked death are his inaccessible autopsy and toxicology reports. Elvis’ dad, Vernon, ordered them sealed for 50 years. We don’t know the reason for this, but conspiracy theorists claim to. They say it’s because the two reports conflict in some way. Those reports are scheduled to be unsealed in 2027, and when they are, their conclusions are guaranteed not to satisfy any true believers.

Elvis Aaron Presley, Aron, gravestone, Graceland, tombstone, Aug. 16, 1977
Elvis’ gravestone supposedly contains the biggest clue that he didn’t die when history says he did. (Image: Getty)

But the big clue is the misspelling of Elvis’ middle name, as Aaron instead of Aron, on his tombstone at Graceland. How can a mistake like that have possibly been made unless someone was trying to communicate that this is not the real Elvis?

Actually, Aaron was Presley’s given middle name. The alternate spelling was invented by his parents to more closely match the middle name of his stillborn twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley.

Later in his life, Elvis reverted to using Aaron.

Why Would Elvis Play Dead?

Elvis grew tired of fame and wanted to live a relaxed life away from the limelight and his abusive manager, Col. Tom Parker.

So goes one theory. According to another, he needed to escape a mob hit. In 2017, Gail Brewer-Giorgio, author of a 1988 book called “Is Elvis Alive,” told Time magazine that Presley had been spying since 1976 for the FBI, which needed his help to infiltrate a criminal enterprise called “the fraternity.”

Once the criminals discovered that Presley was a mole, he was whisked into witness protection and the world was spoon-fed the story of his unlikely death from heart failure at such a young age.

“Do I know if Elvis is alive today?” Brewer-Giorgio told Time. “No, I don’t know. But I know he didn’t die on August 16.”

Except That …

None of the more than 760 files released by the FBI on Presley between 1956 and 1980 mentions his ever working with the federal agency.

More significantly, when he died, Elvis  suffered from painfully obvious obesity — weighing about 350 lbs. — and severe drug addiction.

Both likely took a tremendous toll on his heart.

Dr. George Nichopoulous, Dr. Nick, Elvis Presley
Dr. George Nichopoulos with his most famous patient. “Dr. Nick” died in 2016. (Image: New York Times)

In the last seven months of his life alone, Dr. George Nichopoulos, Presley’s personal physician, reportedly wrote over 10,000 prescriptions for his most famous patient. They were for amphetamines, barbiturates, narcotics, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, laxatives, and hormones.

During his ongoing residency at the Las Vegas Hilton — which ended on Dec. 12, 1976, eight months before his death — Elvis would have the pharmacy at the Landmark Hotel walk his drugs across the street to his hotel penthouse. When he wasn’t in Vegas, the Landmark would mail them to Graceland or wherever Elvis was.

Elvis’ favorite drugs were Valium and a powerful pain reliever called Dilaudid, which was so dangerous that doctors usually reserved it for end-stage cancer patients. Elvis reportedly ordered it in liquid form and injected it with syringes provided by the Landmark.

In 1993, “Dr. Nick” had his medical license permanently revoked by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners for overprescribing medications — though he been acquitted of the same charge years earlier, in Elvis’ case.

Elvis Presley, casket, coffin, body, funeral
True believers claim the body on display inside Elvis’ casket was a wax replica. (Image: YouTube)

At Elvis’ autopsy, a four-month-old impacted stool was also found lodged in his large intestine. This led Dan Warlick, who attended the autopsy as the chief investigator for Tennessee’s chief medical examiner, to speculate that he died not from a drug overdose but from a form of “Valsalva’s maneuver,” a strain that intensely compresses the chest.

If someone has underlying heart disease, according Warlick, then simply straining to defecate can bring on a fatal heart arrhythmia or heart attack.

If Elvis Presley somehow — for whatever illogical reason that made sense only to him — managed to fake his own death on Aug. 16, 1977, then the sad fact is that he probably would have died on Aug. 17, 1977.

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