by Julia Raffa
Almost 41 years ago, a man named Elvis Presley died at the age of 42. Or did he? After the King of Rock and Roll passed, many theories have surfaced claiming that Presley faked his own death and is somehow still alive today. If he were still alive, he would be 83 years old so technically, it could be possible. Those who believe in the theory, called Alivers, are mostly fans of Elvis. Despite large popularity around the time of his death, Presley was believed by fans that he wanted a way to retire in peace, which is why he faked his own death and went incognito all these years. There are also theories that Elvis was part of the FBI and was assigned to bust a crime organization, but after testimony against the organization he had to go into hiding or he would’ve been killed. Nonetheless, they believe Presley is still alive today but is in the witness protection program. The information about this theory today can mostly be found on the internet. There are many blog posts, archives, and forums that are home to a large community of fans who believe he is still alive. Theories about the legitimacy of Presley’s death were mostly popular in the 1980s and 1990s following his death in 1977. Newspaper and magazine headlines were flooded with claims that Presley is still alive. As the years go on and the older the proposed alive Elvis gets, the less salient the theories have become. Newer generations are also less familiar with the rock and roll icon or are completely unaware of who Elvis even is, so the theories are less prominent or relevant. This is an extraordinary belief because if true, it would change entirely what we know about Elvis, his life, his legacy, and what we know about the abilities of people to go into hiding for so many years because it is seemingly impossible to truly be hidden for so long.
A big factor in the evidence behind the theory is the issue of Elvis’s cause of death. When Elvis died, an autopsy was performed that same day and within a few days following, he was pronounced dead due to a heart attack. A conflicting toxicology report later showed that Presley had ten different pharmaceutical drugs in his system, including extremely high levels of codeine, which lead people to believe that a drug overdose was the cause of death. An investigation took place around Elvis’s doctor, Dr. Nichopoulos, that looked into why he prescribed Presley so many different pharmaceuticals, especially prescription painkillers that Presley was addicted to. “Doctor Nick wrote prescriptions for Elvis for at least 8,805 pills, tablets, vials, and injectables. Going back to January 1975, the count was 19,012,” (Rodgers 2017). Dr. Nichopoulos was eventually exonerated, but there were still doubts over whether or not Presley’s drug addiction had caused his death. Presley was in extremely poor health prior to death and had trauma to his brain. His heart was also enlarged, and he was found to have genetic conditions relating to heart disease. Because of the ambiguity of his cause of death, Alivers site that as evidence that Presley is still alive. A more plausible explanation is that Presley had multiple injuries to the head and was prescribed (and arguably over-prescribed) many pain meds, became addicted, and suffered many horrid side effects that lead to the decline in his health. He also had genetic predispositions to things like heart problems and obesity, which were both health conditions he suffered. Overall, his poor health on top of abuse of multiple prescription drugs lead to his heart failing, which is how he died.
Another argument Alivers make is that some fans have seen Elvis in person after he “allegedly” died. The descriptions of the sightings were ambiguous, people claim to have seen a man with slicked back black hair who acted as if he didn’t want to be seen. Back in the 1980’s, Elvis’s look was extremely popular. It’s pretty easy to debunk these eyewitness accounts because they are in fact anecdotal and have no proof to back the claims. Another piece of evidence that Elvis is still alive is the claim that Elvis was a government agent assigned to investigate The Fraternity, a crime organization. Elvis’s life was in danger after he testified against The Fraternity, so he had to go into the witness protection program to avoid being killed. There has been no evidence, however, that Presley was in the FBI nor did he testify against any crime organizations.
Alivers pose the question to any skeptics: “Can you prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977?” (Lacey 2009). They have used the method of reversing the burden of proof onto disbelievers of the claim, which is a hallmark of pseudoscience. Instead of providing real evidence that Elvis is actually alive, they put the burden of proof on skeptics to prove he actually died. Another cognitive contribute in believing Elvis is still alive comes from confirmation bias. Alivers seek out evidence that only would prove that Presley is alive and ignore all the evidence that refutes it. They simply ignore evidence that refutes their claims and go through mental gymnastics to justify the fact that they think Presley is still alive. They completely ignore testimonies from doctors and medical examiners who autopsied his dead body as well as the large number of people who saw his body in the hospital and those who attended his funeral.
Alivers come from a community of mostly die-hard Presley fans. Presley died fairly young, only in his 40s, and was a rock and roll icon of his time. His music was incredibly popular in the 1950s and 60s. I think his fans were in denial that he died, they wanted his legendary status to last forever. Even though Presley was deteriorating the years before his death, citing a divorce from his wife and multiple health complications due to his drug addiction and some overdose scares, he juggled his issues with continuing to make music and tour. Fans wanted to continue his legacy by starting rumors he was still alive either in hopes of continuing to hear music from Presley or to keep the magic alive as well. Another reason people believe this theory is that Elvis was so big, deemed the King of Rock and Roll in his time, so the fact that he died of a heart attack simply was not to the caliber of the excitement of Elvis. Fans denied he died this way because it was not a satisfying way for the King to die.
Overall, the theory that Elvis is still alive but in hiding is only held by a minority of people. As time goes on, Elvis’s legacy is less salient, and people care less about proving whether or not the rock and roll legend is alive or not. Reasons why people believe Presley is still alive are based in confirmation bias as well as our tendency “to match up the sizes of cause and effect, so we think if something has a large effect, it must have a large cause… We can [make them balance] by hypothesizing a bigger cause or denying the effect,” (Lusher 2017). People want to believe Elvis’s death would be more grandiose than just his failing health, especially because he died so young and unexpectedly.
Lacey, Patrick (2009). There’s No Debate: Elvis Is Not Alive. Retrieved April 10, 2018, from
Lusher, Adam. (2017). Why Are People So Convinced Elvis Is Still Alive? Retrieved April 10,
Rodgers, Garry. (2017). Elvis Presley’s Death — What Really Killed the King? Retrieved