In the film Men In Black, a humorous exchange while listening to Elvis Presley. “Elvis is dead,” declares Will Smith. “No, Elvis is not dead. He just went home.” Tommy Lee Jones states. It’s an absurd notion, to be sure—but Elvis had once been referred to as “a prince from another planet.” What makes this statement even more interesting is a bizarre but true incident that happened. The day before he died, a SETI organization at Ohio State University picked up a signal from outer space; the scientist who read the results circled the abnormality on the printout and wrote “Wow!” on it. This information was filed a day before the morning of August 16th, which would soon become a rather infamous day in cultural history.
But did Elvis Presley actually die? It’s been the subject of speculation since day one, all of which is documented in Elvis Is Alive: The Complete Conspiracy. I’ve always been skeptical of the conspiracy theory aspect of Presley’s life, and when I sought this book out, i was not aware that it was the work of a writer and a publisher of conspiracy theory and paranormal activity. No matter; curiosity is curiosity, even though I was prepared to read a book full of hokum and absurdity. Instead, what author Xaviant Haze has offered the world is a book that rather objectively documents the conspiracies that have posthumously graced the legacy of Graceland’s fallen monarch.
Conspiracy theories are not borne in a vacuum, though. To be sure, Presley’s life had plenty of bizarre moments, and when examined, it’s easy to understand how conspiracies would develop. The most well known theory—that Elvis faked his death in order to live a life out of the spotlight and in private—is actually not the implausible notion one might think. By the time of his passing, Presley’s life had grown into a pathetic and sad rut; unable to enjoy privacy and normal day-to-day living, Elvis’ world had devolved into chronic prescription drug use, poor health, and no close companionship. Happiness came in the form of acts of expensive generosity, often with little emotional reward and a growing sense of entitlement from those around him.
His was a cautionary tale—a poor boy made good yet seemingly cursed the ability to have anything he wanted, a real-life King Midas meets Charles Foster Kane, destroyed by the success that defined them, left, in the end, wanting the simple pleasures of life before wealth damned them to a living hell. In his last years, he talked often of a desire to escape from his prison of wealth, seeking to live a quiet, modest life out of the spotlight, where he could enjoy his friends, his family, his success, and his faith like the simple Christian boy he used to be. If he wanted to fake his death, he certainly had the means to do so, as well as the motive and the opportunity. Knowing what we know now about Presley’s hell, the “Elvis is Alive” theory isn’t as implausible as one might think.
The problem with conspiracy theories, though, is that they take the plausible and turn it into something beyond the grasp of logic and rationality, and Presley’s life is no exception. Elvis’ spiritual emptiness would lead him to seek out and develop a hybrid Christianity, one that embraced the tenants of the faith yet would delve into the occult, mysticism, and numerology. It’s when the conspiracy theories start to go into these shadier, more bizarre theories that one starts to finally feel the bounds of reality start to slip. Tales of ancient predictions, allegations of him being a supernatural being, and rumors of being murdered by the Illuminati—it’s here where things start to get a bit…peculiar. Throw in notions that Lisa Marie is in fact a double, that Presley was a Federal informant who fell victim of a mob hit, and that there’s a lengthy connection between Presley and Michael Jackson, and one’s head will start to swim.
Thankfully, Haze never allows the reader to drown in the absurdity that goes along with conspiracy theory literature. He has a bit of skepticism, and is willing to call out obvious hoaxes and things that are obviously bogus, but he’s rather respectful towards what the theorists believe. He might hint at what he believes to be the case, but he never attempts to convince the reader that the things he says are true, either. The “just the facts, ma’am” approach is refreshing, making Elvis Is Alive a rather objective, unbiased, and rather enjoyable presentation of some truly odd things that some Elvis people believe.