From Maui Space Laser To Elvis Alive In Michigan: Why Americans Believe Conspiracy Theories

Today marks the 46th year following the death of the King of Rock n’ Roll, who would have been 88 today.

Scant few today seem to believe the many specious hypotheses that surrounded his early death at age 42 — mainly because if Elvis Presley would have been hiding all this time surely we would know by now. Any hopes of a comeback at nearly 90 years of age have long been extinguished. Even after a critically acclaimed movie stoked the fandom fires. And after the passing of Lisa Marie Presley brought back memories of a young singer taken way too soon.

Perhaps that’s why the full autopsy report is set to be released in 2027, 50 years after his passing. That’s long enough to weed out most of those who hold that Elvis is still alive in Michigan and guilty of one of the largest tax evasion schemes in American history. Fans have mourned Elvis for more years than he lived.

Surely that’s enough time to bury any mistruths. But this is America. Like Elvis sightings, we flock to disinformation almost like a sport. If we’re to believe the media and academia, Russians elected Donald Trump in 2016, climate change is causing wars in Africa, and pro-life legislation is part of a coup to take away women’s suffrage.

Turn on the network news this evening and watch the tribal belief over each and every conveniently timed charge against Trump is taken as seriously as the Watergate break-in. The same talking heads piously refer to the 2021 election protests and capitol break-in as the “January 6th deadly insurrection,” still grasping for straws for any semblance of an organized plot behind it all.

Safe to say, conspiracy theories are a part of modern American life. Sometimes we want to believe them, as many do the myriad theories behind JFK‘s assassination to recently that a satellite-mounted space laser ignited the Maui fires. And need we remind our readers of the unfulfilled “prophesies” given to us by Q? It gives those who feel disenfranchised and the grieving a twisted sense of order amid chaos. Or maybe a false sense of superiority in that “nyah-nyah! I know a secret” kind of way. That’s human nature: as old as tall tales and campfire stories.

Still, the urban myths and conspiracy theories can frame us if we’re not careful. Case in point: election fraud. It exists. Was there enough fraud to overturn the 2020 presidential election results has been the subject of heated debate and many new laws designed to either protect voting or relax the rules. Conservative true-the-vote activists have been framed as promulgating falsehoods about the extent of election fraud in America. Republicans, earning their label as the “stupid party,” let it happen — one side of the GOP balking at the yahoos who claim the election was stolen from Trump and preferring a just-the-facts approach, and the other buying in to just about every scare-story there is (plus any number of well-meaning folks in-between the poles). The result: increasing numbers of conservative voters staying home and handing elections to the Left, who continue to mock us all. We have an opportunity to reframe the debate and communicate that we are interested in restoring American confidence in our elections.

Americans are very confident (34%) or somewhat confident (29%) in the accuracy of vote-counting according to the latest Gallup survey on the matter. The poll also shows fare more Democrats are confident in election accuracy than are Republicans (85%/40%) — then again Democrats have been more prone to cry about election advertising “interference” and crack down on advertising free speech. That’s some serious ground to make up, but we just let the lies fester, perhaps because we feel that ungrounded opinions don’t matter.

It’s up to the GOP, the Conservative movement, and MAGA activists alike to stand together, change the narrative, and restore confidence before we are all swept under the rug as the same kind of conspiracy nuts who claimed Elvis was working as a groundskeeper at Graceland through the 20-teens. But we’ll have to stop devouring one another to make this happen. Hopefully it won’t take 46 years.

* * *

Since we invoked the King, here are the top five Elvis conspiracy theories still floating about.

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1. Groundskeeper at Graceland. This one took root after a 2016 video went viral. Elvis would have been 81 years old and picking up twigs, staying healthy. Do you think it’s him?

2. Michigan sightings. Elvis played Kalamazoo four months before his death, but in 1988 a woman named Louise Welling claimed she saw Elvis at a supermarket. Welling said Elvis was wearing a white jumpsuit (of course) and purchased a small circuit breaker, and that her daughter said she saw a similar man eating at a local Burger King. This led to many other sightings in small towns across the continental USA.

3. Elvis at the pool house. On December 31, 1977, a photo was taken by a man who was visiting Graceland with his family. Upon reviewing the photos, he was shocked to see a man who looked like Elvis looking through a screen door in the estate’s pool house. Elvis pal Joe Esposito said the man in the photo was Al Strada, a bodyguard and personal aide to the King. What do you think?

4. Call to Elvis Fan Club President. Gail Brewer-Giorgio, author of the 1988 book “Is Elvis Alive?” claims to have had a phone call with Elvis Presley in the summer of 1988. The woman claims to have had voice experts determine that the recorded call matches Elvis’s earlier-recorded voice. Judge for yourself.

5. Elvis in Argentina. Elvis often went by his pseudonym Jon Burrows. In a claim furthered by supermarket stand tabloids, a man by that name and who resembled Elvis booked a one-way flight from Memphis to Buenos Aires. The problem is, there were no known direct flights from Memphis to Buenos Aires back then — or did Elvis have his connections? Many photos surfaces from the Argentinian capitol in the days to follow of what appeared to be an Elvis-like person acting camera-shy. Others claimed Jon Burrows’ name appeared posthumously on Graceland documents. Could it be him?

Honorable mentions: Elvis Presley’s middle name “misspelled” on his grave marker as a tax loophole, and the “wax candle theory” in which a well-crafted dummy was thought to be in his coffin, but melting in the heat.

Rest in peace.

 

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