The King of Rock and Roll Lives

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.

Works Cited

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,

2018, from elvis-is-still-alive/ar-AAq9W4M

Rodgers, Garry. (2017). Elvis Presley’s Death — What Really Killed the King? Retrieved

April 10, 2018, from what_1_b_9157820.html

11 thoughts on “The King of Rock and Roll Lives

  1. I have a few thoughts about this, the first of which: of course he was on a million pills. Most celebrities struggle with dependency in their careers, especially during the era in which he was famous. I think doctors gave them whatever they wanted becasue it kept them sane in a totally crazy world. I think it seems most likely he overdosed. I went and visited Graceland, his home in Tennessee and all the tour guides there even said it was likely an overdose. Second, about sightings, there are a ton of Elvis look alikes! There is a whole market for it. Imagine all the men with thick, black hair. People make a living off of being an elvis impersonator. I wouldn’t doubt some would take it far enough to really embody Elvis and claim to be him.

  2. It’s interesting how many theories there are about celebrities faking their deaths but then people are also obsessed with claiming celebrities that are alive to be dead. It seems as though people can’t let go of their favorite celebrities whether it’s from death or from changing their styles. I like your point about Elvis sightings that could be from other people dressed up like him, because that is totally possible. There are a ton of Elvis impersonators even now so no doubt there were many more back then when this theory was at its peak.

  3. I love the name Alivers. Celebrities faking their deaths causes confusion like this with people, especially die hard fans. I feel like some people were so dedicated to Elvis, that the only way to cope with the loss of their favorite star is to accept that he is still alive among us. By believing this, the do not have to accept that he is dead. Based off the amount of drugs alone, I feel it is pretty safe to say that Elvis is dead.

  4. I wrote a post like this involving the apparent “death” of living rock star Paul Mccartney. I am always fascinated by which living or dead celebrity will be revealed to actually respectively dead or living. I heard of this janitor in Memphis that works in one of Elvis’s hotspots. He gets approached all the time about if he is Elvis in disguise working in peace.

  5. I actually just saw some post on facebook a few months back talking about a man that had died recently that looked just like Elvis, and people were speculating that it was actually him. This was the first time I had heard of this conspiracy. In the post it had talked about similar ideas that the FBI was helping to hide him and that his death was faked. I think it is funny that people come up with conspiracy theories such as this one. Is it that people just can’t accept that he died?

  6. Julia,
    I thought this conspiracy was very interesting, I have heard similar ones before about other celebrities, but this one is definitely one of the more popular ones that I have seen. It is interesting how people are able to create so much out of a small discrepancy such as the autopsy report. But I do agree that a lot of times when people are extreme fans of a celebrity they can not deal with the consequences of knowing that they are no longer with us, and sometimes create alternative explanations .

  7. This post was so interesting to read! I like what you said about the Alivers having a hard time believing that was how he died because it wasn’t exciting enough for the Elvis Presley. I think because he was such a huge sensation during his time, it was so hard for his fans to accept the fact that he was really dead because it would be heartbreaking to face. I also think that the theory that he went into witness protection was a bit funny because it is such an elaborate theory that it just sounds so unbelievable yet some people think it’s true.

  8. I really liked this post because they’re are a lot of people that believe in this. I think one of the more funnier points is that some people don’t think he is dead because they have supposedly “seen” someone with slick back black hair. There are so many people in this world with black hair and almost every 40 yr man and up has gel in there bathroom! This just goes to show that eye witnesses are not accurate at all.

  9. HI, julia! It is a great post! I like how you use ”confirmation bias” to explain why alivers choose to believe that Elvis is still alive and ignore the evidence that proves Elvis is dead. Besides, you go deep into the specific reasons that people believe celebrities are alive when they are actually dead, which act as a psychological comfort for decreasing the sad sensations of the fans. They could even have witnesses of someone who looks like Elvis but actually may just be a memory distortion or because of ”conformation bias”.

  10. I have heard about this theory and I think it is really funny. A lot of people think alot of celebrities fake their own death and I have heard all about Elvis “sightings” i think this just stems from people not being to let go of the fact that sometimes celebrities unfortunately pass away. because they are in the public eye and do great things for the general public we think they are like immortal and this contributes to bizarre beliefs.

  11. This reminds me very much of when Michael Jackson died. I’m not sure if the idea that Michael Jackson is alive is a popular as the idea that Elvis is, but I remember reading some articles claiming that Jackson is alive and well. I think that people don’t want to believe that such beloved figures are really dead. On an opposite note, this makes me wonder about why people believe such hated figures are alive and well. For example, some people believe that Adolf Hitler didn’t kill himself and instead escaped to Argentina. It makes me wonder what could possess people to think that such an evil man is still alive.

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