Elvis Presley 'captured alive' in 1978 poolside photo
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Elvis died on August 16, 1977, at home at Graceland. His body was discovered by his girlfriend Ginger Alden, who called down to members of the Memphis Mafia who were always in the house day and night. The star’s daughter Lisa Marie ran in from her bedroom next door while his father Vernon cried out in shock. Elvis’ cousin, Billy Smith, lived next door with his own family, and received a phone call with the news as the star was taken to Memphis Memorial Hospital in an ambulance.
That is a lot of people, a lot of eyewitnesses, a lot of stories to line up if someone who was also one of the most famous people on the planet wanted to somehow fake their own death.
There were more at the hospital, from the doctors to Marian Cocke, a nurse who had also looked after Elvis at home during the last two years of his life.
And yet, numerous people have claimed to have sighted Elvis over the years, or spotted him in photographs and even in films.
It’s easy to dismiss it all as a bit of harmless fun, but that’s not what it is like for his family.
The very first sighting was alleged to have taken place on that same terrible day, August 16.
A man supposedly checked in to a flight to Buenos Aires, using the name John Burrows – the alias Elvis often used when travelling.
It should be noted that there were no international flights out from Memphis at that time.
Elvis was also famously spotted in another airport, this time in the background of a scene from the 1990 movie Home Alone.
Across the decades there have been endless sightings and conspiracy theories, endlessly recycling the idea that Elvis had not, in fact, left the building.
Billy Smith grew up alongside Elvis and spent almost every day with him at home and on tour until August 16, 1997.
His family described their memories of that day, and the way conspiracy theories make them feel all the way to today.
Billy’s son Danny runs the Memphis Mafia Kid Youtube channel and gathered his father, Mother Jo and brother Joey to discuss Elvis’ final day.
Billy said: “The phone rang and if I remember right Joey answered the phone, it was my cousin Patsy, she said, ‘they’ve taken Elvis to the hospital. Elvis is gone.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? He’s gone to the hospital?’ She said, ‘No, he’s gone.” I hung up the phone, I ran out and jumped on my motorcycle, David Stanley (Elvis’ step-brother) was coming in in his car. I parked and said ‘David take me to the hospital. Elvis, they’ve taken him there.’
“I kept thinking, ‘maybe not, maybe it’s all just a mistake. They thought he was and he’s not.’”
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Of course, Elvis had died and was buried just two days later on August 18.
Jo Smith described the devastating effect of those days: “He was the centre of our life, you know. That was the only thing we ever knew…
“Our lives are like night and day. It’s like a light switch turned off. Not that we aren’t happy with our family, we are. Like I said we had to go to a whole new area. That was our life. We travelled with him, lived with him…”
She also had harsh words for ‘Elvis is alive’ claims.
Jo said: “When I hear somebody get on those kicks and say about him being alive here and there…
“You don’t realise how bad that hurts people that was with him and saw him and lost him. That’s not funny to us.
“That’s like with the birthday celebration – we don’t mean to be ugly or rude about it, we hardly every go because that’s like a bittersweet time to us, it’s not happy to us.”
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