Hard hitting Gary Enders dispels the myth that Elvis is "physically" alive

You've heard the claim that Elvis didn't die on August 16, 1977.  Far fetched? 

Metaphorically there is no doubt Elvis Presley survives today, but to most people the suggestion that Elvis didn't "physically" die in 1977 is at best, fanciful, at worst delusional.

Yet it is theme in the Elvis world that refuses to go away. 

In the 1980s, largely due to the work of Gail Brewer-Giorgio and her Orion inspired conspiracy, it was an overt theme in the mass media. 

Today it is a covert theme, bubbling away below the surface in the mysterious, secretive world of the "true believers", the Elvis underground.  An underground network that is full of intrigue, suspense, nastiness, paranoia and "out of this world" theories. A myriad of issues, some simplistic, some confusing, have been put forward in support of the theory that Elvis needed to escape, figuratively, not literally, from his oppressive existence in 1977. 

Do the arguments of the believers have credibility?  Do they withstand scrutiny?  In my opinion, the arguments and evidence put forward do not withstand "reasonable" scrutiny. 

To prove Elvis Aaron Presley did not physically pass away on August 16, 1977, a position needs to be "evidence based".  And simply put, no evidence has been presented that warrants serious consideration. EIN's interview earlier this year with Phil Aitcheson, Executive Liaison with the self-determined Presley Commission is a vivid example of unsubstantiated claims, rhetoric and blinkered belief that insidiously inhabits the collectively fanatical mind of the Elvis Is Alive underground movement. EIN's questions were direct. 

Aitcheson's answers were vague, indirect and without qualitative substance.  In a moment, examples to prove my point. 

It is important to firstly put Aitcheson's position in context.  The Presley Commission released a report in 1995, the outcome of a number of years of investigation into the issue.  It is therefore reasonable to expect substantive answers (ie. provision of "hard" evidence) from the Commission's Executive Liaison.

The Case: For and Against The Wax Dummy, Pug Nose & Sideburns: according to Aitcheson the Commission became aware that a wax figure "was purchased by a prominent member of the (Presley) family, and was to be used for some bizzare purpose".

Problem #1: Aitcheson makes this bold claim without any corroborating evidence (name, where dummy was bought from etc).  I could say “I was abducted by aliens”, but in the absence of hard evidence what would any rational minded person think of my claim?  As for the concern about the "pug nose" on the body, people need to remember that an autopsy had been performed and most of Elvis' internal organs, including his brain, had been removed, and were not replaced!  A cadaver rarely resembles its original state when sewn back up again.  This would also "reasonably" explain the sideburns that were allegedly (and quite possibly) "glued on".  Not surprisingly, the true believers never state or consider these facts.

Mary Smiley: Aitcheson states that: "Mrs. Smiley is a self-appointed spokesperson for viewpoints that are not in agreement with The Commission, as a general rule.  The Commission does not maintain contact with her, and has closed the file.  She had attempted contact with The Commission on a number of occasions".

Problem #2: Two issues here:  (1) Who appointed The Presley Commission?  Answer: it was as "self-appointed" as Mrs Smiley!  The Commission seemingly believes that its impressive title lends it credibility.

(2) Aitcheson claims it has closed the book on Mrs Smiley.  This is clearly untrue if one visits the various underground messageboards.

The Poolhouse Photo: EIN asked two fairly direct questions about the person in the the photo. 

Problem #3: Aitcheson's answers are indirect, and he leaves the reader hanging in the air with "More importantly there was a reason he was there..." In the context of what the interview was about this is an incredible statement for Aitcheson to make.  Rather than adding to our knowledge of the issues it further muddies our understanding, although of course this is a favorite tactic of conspiracy believers. 

There is another theory about the man in the photo: that it is either Elvis' cousin or Al Strada. 

David Darlock: EIN cites David Darlock's appearance on Geraldo, a nationwide TV program in the US, during which Darlock admitted being the voice behind Sivle Nora.  For the record, on the Geraldo show, Darlock stated that in 1981 he was paid $250.00 by the (Steve Chanzes/Steve Crown) organisation, Eternally Elvis.  Aitcheson attempts to nullify this incident by suggesting Darlock later denied his involvement, but again Aitcheson provides no specifics of date, time, where etc.

Problem #4: The Geraldo incident is verifiable (and in fact well documented), Aitcheson's statement is not! DNA (the "Silver Bullet"):  DNA could be the one factor that scientifically and legally proves the conspiracy case.  In response to EIN's question about "hard DNA evidence", all Aitcheson can respond with is the importance of conducting verifiable and sound research.  I totally agree, but Mr. Aitcheson, what and where is the Commission's verifiable and sound research? 

Problem #5: The Commission has talked about alleged DNA evidence since the late 1990s but continually fails to put anything resembling "hard evidence" on the public record.  As of 2003, and after two decades of research, the Silver Bullet continues to elude everyone. Jon Burrows: it is claimed within hours of Elvis' alleged death someone by the name of "Jon Burrows" bought a ticket to Buenos Aires. Aitcheson's comments are a splendid example of his flimsy rhetoric: "It is my understanding that the report of this incident was mentioned in Gail’s book, ‘The Elvis Files’, and represents a possible sighting.  The Commission is aware of the matter, and currently has some literary reference to it on file in the Commission archives."

Problem #6: despite The Presley Commission having "some literary reference to it on file", the alleged flight by the alleged Jon Burrows has never been substantiated.  But it makes a neat "reinforcing" text in the conspirator's storyline. Spelling of Aaron: this "red herring" has been explained adequately many times and I won't go into the specifics except to say consider Elvis' great interest in the Bible and how that may have influenced things.  Interested fans can read a detailed explanation about the Aaron/Aron spelling on the official Elvis site at: www.elvis.com

One other issue: in his interview, Aitcheson also said that Elvis Presley's alleged death in 1977 is largely flawed in its explanation by the media and others. 

Problem # 7: By now I must sound like a worn out record.....Mr. Aitcheson please cease the generic rhetoric and give specifics!

So if Elvis is dead, what is really going on? The essential problem with the claims of The Presley Commission, Mary Smiley, Steve Chanzes, Major Bill Smith et al is that they are broadly based assertions devoid of "fact".  They serve an important psychological driver in that the "real" evidence is known only to those in the inner sanctum. 

It is a clear case of people subconsciously feeling a lack of power or influence in their lives, and satisfying that emptiness through what is effectively a mission in self-delusion.  The Elvis underground is secretive, self-appointed and self-serving.  It is a culture in which most of its discussions are devoid of substantive analytical debate. 

The fact that in many of the discourses the believers assume the important role of protecting the interests of an allegedly still alive "Elvis" is instructive from a psychological perspective. Professors Denisoff and Plasketes wrote the book 'True Disbelievers: The Elvis Contagion' in the mid 1990s.  Based substantially on information supplied by the infamous Mary Smiley it is a potently revealing, if skewed, look at the physical and psychological workings of the Elvis underground movement.

In True Disbelievers, the authors note the operation of the psychological condition, 'cognitive dissonance'.  While the term is not well understood, cognitive dissonance is a powerful psychological factor that explains the behavior of conspiracy believers.  Simply stated it says that when faced with information contrary to a strongly held belief, the person reacts through a combination of denial, devaluation of the opposing information, revision of the belief and the development of explanations, often new, that seem reasonable.

Read Phil Aitcheson's answers carefully.  Throughout the interview his answers clearly reinforce the theory that cognitive dissonance is a powerful factor at work. Organisations such as The Presley Commission have no legal or official standing and will never be taken seriously as they always fail to articulate and table the "missing elements" that are the bedrock of their belief system.  That is, hard, verifiable, irrefutable evidence that would have credence in a court of law. 

Unfortunately, on the basis of the psychological needs of believers and a propensity not to challenge (analyze) rhetorical and colorful claims, The Presley Commission and Gatheringite movement will continue to function in its own little world. 

Which leads me to the personality driven universe known as the "Elvis Underground", a narrative world of soap opera proportions. A colleague recently described the machinations found on Elvis underground messageboards as a "conspiratorial soap opera". 

The ever changing discussion threads reflect rampant paranoia, related cover-ups and incredible tales.  A quick consideration of some of the 'over-the-top' themes highlights the soap opera element:

  • Elvis had a "split-personality": the "good" twin, Elvis Aron; the "evil" twin, Jesse Garon
  • Elvis couldn't sing ("doubles" performed for him on stage and in the studio for more than 20 years!)
  • Elvis murdered a woman as a teenager (he was sleepwalking at the time)
  • Elvis accidentally killed a man while driving a truck in his late teens
  • Elvis assassinated JFK
  • Elvis was murdered by the mob
  • Elvis continues to act for the Government as an undercover agent
  • Elvis was mentally insane
  • Elvis suffered from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
  • Elvis was held "prisoner" at Graceland
  • Elvis died in 1997, not 1977

Notice the recurring themes: strong motifs of "death" and "mental disorder".  Individually, any of the claims stretch credibility.  Collectively, they suggest a warped world devoid of conscious understanding or cognizance of known realities.

Surprisingly, given what the believers have made out of Elvis' death date (8/16/1977 = 2001) and his Christian name (elvis/lives), they are yet to recognize the significance of the term "Elvis is King".  (Hint: the USA's major post-war encounters.) 

Conspiracy or coincidence? I'll let you make up your own mind.

Analysis of Messageboard Postings

Earlier this year I was asked to undertake a content analysis of postings on several Elvis "underground" messageboards.  Content analysis is a quantitative research application that classifies textual material by reducing it to more relevant, manageable bits of data.  It can allow the researcher to identify postings that, in all likelihood, were made by one person using different aliases.  Some readers will be familiar with the use of content analysis in revealing the authors of infamous publications like "The Hitler Diaries".

My analysis specifically sought to identify similar patterns of spelling, grammar, punctuation, style and sentence/paragraph structure in messageboard postings. 

I concluded that at least two prominent members (who shall remain nameless) of the Elvis underground community were posting under different aliases.  There appeared to be a dual purpose to their strategy: support their own arguments (it always helps if others concur with your beliefs - the "safety in numbers" philosophy) and generate debate among believers (a good conspiracy needs to burn brightly). 

Conclusion: The theories of The Presley Commission and others are largely conjecture and/or open to several alternative answers.  Aitcheson states there are many issues: "that have singular answers, that ultimately satisfy the curiosity of the public interest.  Our mission has been to try and sort it out". 

After 20 years of the conspiracy, if Aitcheson and others were serious, they would substantiate their case with the "singular answers" and specific findings.  But they don't, instead all we get is unsupported, politically inspired rhetoric. 

Why don't the major protagonists simply "table" their evidence for fans and a court of law to evaluate?  There are two interrelated answers:

(1) there is no "hard evidence", and

(2) if they did, their "house of cards" would quickly crumble and the psychological satisfaction they derive from the game they are playing would dissolve, with the return of that dreaded, sinking feeling that must be avoided at all costs: personal impotence. 

Denial, rationalization, ignorance, the need for personal power - these are the operational constants of the Elvis underground.  It is a fertile ground where imaginations run rife, a conspiracy lover's heaven.  It should be treated as such.

Dr. Gary Enders (October 2003)

Click to read Phil Aitcheson's interview with EIN

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The late Dr. Enders is author of the publications/papers:

* 'Elvis: Cultural Influence, Intolerance and Political Correctness', 2003-04 Online Symposium on Elvis Aron Presley(www.geocities.com/elvissymposium.com)

* 'Press Media Reaction to the Death of Elvis Aaron Presley in August 1977 (A Content Analysis)', 2003-04 Online Symposium on Elvis Aron Presley

'Popular Music Collision - Talent vs. Marketing', 2001

* 'Elvis: Coming Back from the Dark Age', 2000

* 'The Impact of Elvis on the Australian Top 40 Charts' (co-author with Nigel Patterson), 1998.

EIN note: Dr. Enders passed away in late 2003 after a long battle with cancer.

© Dr. Gary Enders, EIN, November 2003