Elvis Presley is arguably the most famous entertainer in history. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know who Elvis is, who can’t immediately recognize his pompadour and sequined jumpsuit, and who can’t quote “Thank you, thank you very much,” in his trademark snarl. But there’s another aspect of the Elvis legend that’s become ingrained in our culture, and that’s the connection between the late singer and the paranormal.
UFOs, Bigfoot, and Elvis: The Holy Trinity of Weird
For some reason, Elvis has become part of a holy trinity of great paranormal mysteries in America alongside Bigfoot and UFOs, but why is that? How did a singer, who died of a heart attack at the age of 42 in 1977, go on to become associated with such strange bedfellows? For a start, there are a ton of people who believe that Elvis faked his death for one reason or another, with the most common explanation being that he no longer wanted to be famous.
People started reporting sightings of him not long after he died, and the phenomenon gained national attention in 1988 after a woman in Kalamazoo, Michigan named Louise Welling claimed she and her daughter saw The King at a local supermarket and Burger King, respectively, and her story was picked up by the supermarket tabloid Weekly World News. Famous for its “Bat Boy” and other absurd sightings, the paper would go on to frequently feature “reports” that Elvis was still alive on its cover over the next several years. This trend, combined with their other frequent cover stars of aliens and Bigfoot (sometimes together) is probably what led to the three becoming associated with one another as the subjects that would make for a newsworthy sighting that few would believe.
Credit: Bat Boy L.L.C.
But Elvis’s connection to aliens actually goes back further than the Weekly World News. The book Alien Rock, by Michael Ruckman, states that a mysterious blue light was seen in the sky over Elvis’s home the day he was born; and also details a claim that Elvis allegedly made about being telepathically contacted by aliens who showed him a vision of the future when he was 8 years old.
Later in life, Elvis continued his interest in aliens, amassing a large collection of books on paranormal subjects and documenting at least two UFO sightings as an adult with his friend Larry Geller. It’s possible that Elvis’s real-life fascination with UFOs may have led some to believe that he didn’t die in 1977, but that he was instead abducted by aliens — another common trope in the Elvis paranormal mythos.
Pop Culture’s Role
There are also the numerous pop culture depictions of Elvis in a supernatural element that have contributed to his legend. The film Men in Black implies that he was an alien who “is not dead, he just went home,” a 1986 episode of The Twilight Zone features a still-living Elvis, an episode of Animaniacs finds Elvis living on a spaceship, the film Elvis Took a Bullet is about a reincarnated Elvis, and so on.
Those are just a few of literally dozens of examples of Elvis showing up where he shouldn’t in movies and TV, but there’s one paranormal Elvis depiction that trumps them all: The film Bubba Ho-Tep. This 2002 film stars cult sci-fi legend Bruce Campbell as Elvis, now elderly and living in a nursing home, where he befriends a black man who claims to be President John F. Kennedy. The two of them then join forces to take on an evil mummy dressed as a cowboy that begins terrorizing the members of their nursing home and sucking out their souls. It is bizarre, and perhaps the best example out there of Elvis being depicted as some sort of supernatural folk hero.
The connection between Elvis and the paranormal is a strange one, but it’s an inescapable part of American culture. And while he’s probably not still alive, hanging out with aliens, and fighting mummies, it’s definitely more fun to pretend that he is.
Interested in Elvis and the paranormal? Check out Bubba Ho-Tep as the COMET Friday Night Feature on March 10 at 8pm/7C.