Phil Aitcheson (The Presley Commission) Talks To EIN
"The Case For Elvis Being Alive"
Since August 1977 the Elvis world has been a fertile ground for the promotion of numerous stories and theories. Those that have captured the imagination or interest of fans and non-fans include Elvis's alleged illegitimate children, Elvis being murdered or having committed suicide and Elvis being abducted by aliens.
However, since the late 1970s there has been one area of interest and belief that has existed continually in the Elvis world and periodically assumed prominence in the media. It is an issue that refuses to go away the intriguing idea that perhaps Elvis Presley didn't die on August 16, 1977. The ongoing interest in this idea parallels the level of interest and fervour exhibited regarding the deaths of JFK and Marilyn Monroe.
The possibility of Elvis still being alive continues to fascinate and frustrate many Elvis fans. The subject is probably the most discussed 'special interest' topic on the numerous Elvis message boards with several boards devoted solely to it and a vibrant Elvis 'underground' continuing to thrive today. The postings on the message boards number in the hundreds with a similar number of threads, while the 'underground' network has produced several regular newsletters on the subject. There are also competing groups within the Is Elvis Alive? sub-culture with one group referring to its members as "Gatheringites".
Gail Brewer-Giorgio's book 'Is Elvis Alive?' reached the top ten of the best seller lists in the USA and sold more than 1 million copies, making it one of the biggest selling Elvis books of all time! In total, at least 10 books have so far been published on the subject since the publication of the novel, Orion, in 1979.
Is it the truth?, wishful thinking?, delusionary minds?, misguided fans? Whatever the truth, there is no doubting that the subject of the death of Elvis Presley is a fascinating one with many plot twists and turns, and one that clearly divides the Elvis world.
The following represents a prepared list of questions from EIN directed to Phil Aitcheson, the Executive Liaison, and retired Director of The Presley Commission. Certain matters regarding the work of the commission from 1992 through the current day, are of a confidential nature. As a result, answers to some questions are limited in nature to maintain the security of the group's ongoing activities, with regard to the life and times of Elvis Aron Presley.
The Presley Commission was formed in 1992 to undertake a serious examination of the death of Elvis Presley and based on inconsistencies surrounding reports of his death, consider the theory that perhaps Elvis didn't die on August 16, 1977. The Commission is composed of a network of individuals who had been interested in Elvis's death for some time. The Commission differentiates itself from other believers in that it has always adopted a professional, research based approach to its subject matter and does not engage in the ridiculous and vindictive personal attacks that typify many believers active on the Is Elvis Alive? message boards.
The Commission's research resulted in the publication of The Presley Commission Report in 1995 (now out of print). The Report received minimal publicity but independent journalists lauded it for its structured, bureaucratic style and inclusion of copies of actual documents to support its case. Since 1995 members of the Commission have continued to work on core issues in the report, in particular the controversial issue of DNA samples. In this detailed and challenging interview with EIN, Phil Aitcheson takes us into the world of the Is Elvis Alive? movement, particularly The Presley Commission, its findings and current work.
EIN: Phil, many thanks for taking the time to talk to EIN.
PA: I am pleased to be here today, and appreciate the opportunity to talk with you.
EIN: Can you tell us about the genesis of the Presley Commission and who its principal members are?
PA: While the Presley Commission members have requested that their identities be kept largely confidential, I can say that the beginning of their investigative research activities started in March 1992, and that I am the former Director, and now Executive Liaison. The commission is totally independent, and is not directly associated with Graceland Enterprises, other than being supportive of their continuing efforts to portray the memories of Elvis' brilliant entertainment career and life.
EIN: What are the credentials of those involved in The Presley Commission?
PA: The Presley Commission utilized the personal and professional talents and abilities of a large number of individuals, who were capable of providing information and assurances that the evidence, both the previously obtained, and the ongoing, were researchable and verifiable. This included a number of professional people, from the fields of law enforcement, paramedical, medical, and literary areas of expertise. Most of the people already were maintaining activities in their respective careers, and assisting the commission on a voluntary basis. Their mere interest and respect for Elvis Presley brought them together, to assist in this historical effort.
EIN: How did you, personally, become involved with The Commission?
PA: As a principal founder, it was my responsibility to enrol the assistance of these professionals in an effort to establish a team, that would ultimately explore, process, or classify the evidence exhibits, and results of numerous interviews. My office moved forward to establish a non-profit effort to determine the facts and further educate the public about Elvis' life, only after my professional colleagues approved the effort.
EIN: Is it a fair comment to say that the Commission was largely unknown to most fans and operated largely as an 'underground' organisation?
PA: While the Commission's efforts were not widely publicized at first, there were a number of members of the media who held interviews with my office to determine the logistics of our intentions and efforts. So in essence, it was publicized fairly much, from the standpoint of interviews, but the organisation mainly operated 'semi-covertly', maintaining great caution, and respect for the people who ultimately would come to be known as 'involved'.
EIN: Why did you choose to operate away from the public gaze (so to speak)?
PA: The Presley Commission operated in this manner so as to maximise the level of results in direct proportion to investigative efforts. It was critically important that our people did not compromise the safety and security of Elvis, or his family, during our interview efforts. As a result, more information became available to the Commission to analyse and process throughout the initial stages of their research.
EIN: For those not aware of the essential concerns or issues of The Presley Commission can you outline them?
PA: Some of the primary concerns of commission investigative researchers dealt with the events of 1970 to 1977 in the early stages, but later, their attention turned toward continuing events and incidents that occurred after Elvis' alleged death, i.e. "Fountain Pen" investigations, document studies, and sightings, as well as physical evidence such as handwriting exhibits, voice prints, and many other matters. The Commissions' intention was to be a clearing house for information, within legal and logistical parameters.
EIN: What process(es), research and activities did The Commission follow in developing its case and preparing its report?
PA: The Commission conducted a wide range of interviews, and collected documentation, with regard to items of evidence that had come to our attention. In addition, each person was assigned to research items and incidents that required official attention. In some cases, interviews were carried out 'in person' whenever possible. All investigative research efforts were managed by the Executive Co-ordinator's office, and verified by my office.
EIN: The Presley Commission Report was published in 1995. What did the Commission want to happen at that time?
PA: It was important in our view to educate the public about the findings, and to further explore the questions that were prevalent at the time concerning Elvis' disappearance, as the commission later ruled. Our main interest was to see the end of a great controversy that had mesmerised Elvis' public since his leaving in 1977. We felt that it was vital for Elvis' privacy to be protected and respected. The Commission opened up the field 'so to speak', for further debate, but serious consideration of the facts. All research was conducted for this purpose.
EIN: Did you promote the report, and if yes, how and to what target audience(s)?
PA: The report was primarily promoted to the news media and to fans who had maintained an interest in this case. It was not promoted however, as a profit making venture. It was not tied to the parties of Elvis' estate as some of my critics would have you believe. It was provided to the public, in the public interest. However, continuing events have called for further action in the case (discussed later). The media did make gestures of reporting internationally.
EIN: Was the report sent to President Clinton (as had been mooted in the lead up to its publication)?
PA: Yes, the White House was informed of the release. In addition, other governmental organisations were informed of the publication of the report.
EIN: Did The Presley Commission find that the "alleged" death of Elvis Presley on August 16, 1977 was in fact a conspiracy? If not, what were the principal findings of the report?
PA: While many would like to consider the "conspiracy factor" a major part of the case, it certainly is an aspect of our analysis effort. It's important to remember ultimately, the causes of events in August of 1977, that brought about the announcement of his reported demise. Elvis' activities outside of his entertainment career, were a large part of those causes and concerns.
EIN: If Elvis Presley is still alive who was in on the conspiracy from day one?
PA: While we never liked the word 'conspiracy', a plan was formulated to remove Mr. Presley from the property that day. It is the primary directive of this organisation to not jeopardise individuals who were knowledgeable. I can tell you however, that it was a relatively small group of people close to the entertainer who were aware of a distinct and deliberate plan. There is also great probability that key figures in the government and close family members were also entrusted.
EIN: Did members of his family and entourage know Priscilla, Lisa Marie, the Stanley brothers, Joe Esposito?
PA: In determining the involvement of certain family members in a plan to implement Elvis' exit, it is understood that anyone else closely associated with Elvis, would normally not be responsive to questions about their knowledge of matters. It is assumed, that certain members of the family closest to Elvis would know not to be alarmed at what would develop during the week of August 16th, if in fact they were involved or knowledgeable. Anyone close to the entertainer would automatically have the responsibility of keeping the secret, about the events of that time.
EIN: How active is the Commission in 2003?
PA: The Presley Commission is continuing to monitor matters pertaining to Elvis' disappearance in 1977, and is active in maintaining intelligence related to the entertainer's whereabouts, as well as his intentions for future public contact, if desired.
EIN: And in 2003 who are the Commission's principal members?
PA: The Presley Commission is a small nucleus of researchers who are credited with the progress being made to answer questions surrounding current circumstances. Their identities are withheld to protect their sources and works. The group has been reduced in size to accommodate a more concentrated effort.
EIN: Does The Commission still publish its newsletter 'Search'?
PA: No, the newsletter is not being published. Occasionally letters are written to answer inquiries about Commission materials, but that is all.
EIN: Phil, can we discuss a few of the major issues or indicators The Presley Commission believes point to Elvis not dieing on August 16, 1977. Firstly, the spelling of 'Aaron' (not 'Aron') on the gravestone. Why is this important?
PA: In the early days of previous investigations
surrounding the property of Elvis Presley Blvd., the fans first
noticed the middle name having been misspelled, as 'Aaron', instead
of 'Aron'. The Commission contacted the FBI and were informed
that the correct spelling of Elvis' middle name, that was on file
was correctly spelled as 'Aron'. Some thought that Vernon had
misspelled to show that his son was not really 'gone'. Others
are of the belief that the different spelling placed Elvis as
a man on a different spiritual plane, something that tied into
his interest in numerology at the time. The Commissions' official
position is that the statement made by the FBI about the spelling
of 'Aron' being correct.
EIN: The Death Certificate. Tell us about that.
PA: The actual death certificate for Elvis Presley was not even signed until approximately two months after the alleged occurrence. However, the Pre-Autopsy Report by the Medical Examiner in the case, Jerry Francisco, was considered shortened at best, and has been confirmed to contain consistent handwriting of the 'alleged deceased'. The Commission concurs with these findings.
EIN: Much has been made regarding the weight of the coffin with suggestions that a wax body was inside. What are your views?
PA: The Commission became aware of an incident involving a wax figure that was purchased by a prominent member of the family, and was to be used for some bizarre purpose. An interview was conducted with an eye witness who was on the premises when this sale took place. What the figure was intended for is unknown, but comments were made at the time of the sale that raised eyebrows. The contention is that the weight of the coffin was caused by the presence of the wax figure and potential cooling equipment, which would cause it to be heavier than an autopsied human cadaver in the same type of casket.
EIN: There were rumours of an underground escape tunnel at Graceland. What can you tell us about that?
PA: Several individuals informed the Commission about the 'alleged' tunnel. There was even some discussion about it being part of the 'Underground Railroad' during the Civil War, but no evidence has since surfaced confirming its actual existence. If it's really there, it's probably impassable, but the Commission has no official position to convey at this time.
EIN: Another interesting part of the Elvis is Alive argument centers around his Lloyds of London insurance policy. Was a claim ever made?
PA: The Commission is not aware of any such claim ever having been filed.
EIN: EIN understands that Elvis actually had three life insurance policies and that a claim was made against two of them. What were the amounts involved in these two and as they were claimed against why wasn't a claim made against the third policy?
PA: It is the Commissions' understanding that the two policies in question were paid up policies, and Elvis was the owner cashing them in. The third policy was never filed against to our knowledge. Elvis was entitled to the funds, since the policies were paid up.
EIN: Elvis, the Mob ('The Fraternity') and the Witness Protection Program the Operation Fountain Pen argument. What did The Presley Commission uncover?
PA: The Commission can only take partial credit for assembling some of the information concerning The Fountain Pen investigations. The original court documents were examined by questioned documents experts. The findings indicated handwriting consistent with the 'alleged deceased'. The Commission and others determined that the Witness Protection Program as stated by the U.S. Marshalls Service was not the program Elvis would have entered. As a Federal Agent at Large, another in house program would have been explored. There is no question that Operation Fountain Pen was an integral part of the reasons for what happened on August 16, 1977. The Commission again concurs with the findings and discussions that also seem to implicate government involvement.
EIN: Phil, many fans are highly dismissive, even critical, of the Is Elvis Alive? sub-culture. What reactions have you experienced when your participation in the subject becomes known?
PA: Aside from the usual ribbing, that accompanies bewilderment and normal questions, my experiences with the subject have brought about many fine relationships. Of course there are those who wish to 'kill the messenger', so to speak, and it is best said, "for those who don't believe, no explanation will suffice', 'and for those who do believe, no explanation is necessary", to paraphrase one author on the subject. The majority of my experiences have been positive and rewarding.
EIN: As a result of her books on the subject, Gail Brewer-Giorgio is the highest profile proponent of the Is Elvis Alive? issue. Rightly or wrongly, she is also regarded by many fans as 'only out for the money'. What would you say in response to this view and is Gail still involved with the Commission in 2003?
PA: Gail Giorgio is both a friend and colleague. Her works are based on honest and verifiable research. Her books were a critical beginning point in the quest for knowledge about the events of August 16, 1977. She is a kind and talented writer with an outstanding grasp of the hard work and endurance it takes to be in her business, and The Commission is thankful for her past participation. The Commission takes no responsibility for processing the opinions of others. We consider them, and they get classified. The continued attacks on Gail Giorgio's character or that of anyone else involved in this story, are every bit unnecessary.
EIN: In Ms Giorgio's last book, Elvis Undercover, there was mention of a follow-up release focusing on Operation Fountain Pen. What is the latest on this book?
PA: The book 'Elvis Undercover' was recognised as having a great deal of information about Operation Fountain Pen, and the case is so extremely complicated, because it involved many more people than Elvis and his family, volumes could be written about it. Gail's primary concern, we believe was to portray more important details that would enable her readers to follow the case more easily, and understanding its overall importance in Elvis History. More will be told in later publications.
EIN: Another prominent member of The Presley Commission was Monte Nicholson, author of the now very rare and highly sought after novel, The Presley Arrangement. Is he still involved with The Commission?
PA: Mr. Nicholson is currently retired. I have no knowledge of his current whereabouts. His works were very creative, and well written. His previous private work in this case was exemplary.
EIN: Other proponents of the subject include Steven Chanzes, aka Al Jefferies (author of Elvis, 1935? Where Are You?) and the late Major Bill Smith (author of The Memphis Mystery). Were either of these authors involved with The Presley Commission. If not, do you have a view or position on their stories?
PA: The Commission is aware of the works of the authors, and is familiar with their writings. These publications were reviewed and discussed briefly in The Presley Report, published in the nineties. There is an acknowledgement of their works in the Commission files.
EIN: More recently, Dr Donald Hinton Md. has entered the debate with his book' The Truth About Elvis Aron Presley: In His Own Words'. Is there a link or relationship between The Presley Commission and Dr Hinton and what is your view on his claims?
PA: The Commission is also aware of Dr. Hinton's book, and the claims about the individual he feels is Elvis Presley. The Commission has recently learned that DNA testing on the individual did not match known DNA tissue of Elvis. The Commission's position on this matter is not yet determined.
EIN: For people familiar with the various Is Elvis Alive? message boards on the Internet, the whole story and its permutations is bizarre, reminiscent of the machinations and skulduggery of a television soap opera bloodletting, cover-ups, countless accusations and counter accusations, vicious personal attacks, allegations of fraud, involvement of the DEA, claims Jesse Garon Presley did not die at birth but was institutionalised due to mental retardation and so on. The Presley Commission has always projected a professional stance regarding its subject while much of the antics on these message boards is vindictive, malicious and unprofessional. What strategy do Commission members adopt to operate in such a negative environment?
PA: The Presley Commission is not in this to judge people who have their own views and opinions. They only ask that people keep an open mind, and understand the facts. Those that wish to be in on the "dark side" to this story, will relate their experiences, as much as those in the "light:". The Commission associates their success by working with credible people. The message boards do not represent evidence. They are only a sounding board for opinions, right or wrong.
EIN: How active has The Presley Commission been in participating in the online message board debate?
PA: The Commission monitors all activities of discussion and debate when and wherever possible, but is not directly involved in online forums. Our job is to analze, process, and deliberate on factual and verifiable evidence as brought about by 'Operative' reports and other sources.
EIN: While we know the term "Gatheringite" does not apply to members of The Presley Commission can you enlighten us on its genesis and meaning?
PA: The term represents a casual organisation of fans who believe Elvis Is Alive for the most part, and continue discussions in that theatre. They are not part of any official structure of The Presley Commission, but they are people who generally agree with our findings, as I understand it.
EIN: Mary Smiley is a larger-than-life figure on the Internet discussions. What is the relationship, if any, between Ms Smiley and The Presley Commission?
PA: Mrs. Smiley is a self-appointed spokesperson for viewpoints that are not in agreement with The Commission, as a general rule. The Commission does not maintain contact with her, and has closed the file. She had attempted contact with The Commission on a number of occasions.
EIN: Phil, the role/involvement of Ginger Alden on August 16, 1977. Does the Commission have a position on this?
PA: As stated in a number of previously written books, Ms. Alden was Elvis' girlfriend at the time of his "alleged" passing. In whatever the relationship entailed at the time, Ms. Alden is currently married. Her presence in the home at the time of the finding of the body, raises many questions, i.e. what did she do? How did she feel? What was her initial reaction? Was she ever there for any other reason?, and so on.
EIN: It has been reported that one of the Graceland cooks saw Elvis in the mansion, alive, at around 4pm on August 16, 1977. What hard' evidence exists for this claim - what is the cooks name and is there a sworn testimony?
PA:The Commission has no comment at this time.
EIN: it was reported that shortly after Elvis's death was announced, a man looking like him, using the name Jo(h)n Burrows, bought an airline ticket to Buenos Aeries. What 'hard' evidence exists to establish the credibility of this claim?
PA: It is my understanding that the report of this incident was mentioned in Gail's book, 'The Elvis Files', and represents a possible sighting. The Commission is aware of the matter, and currently has some literary reference to it on file in the Commission archives.
EIN: In her book, Elvis Undercover, Gail Brewer-Giorgio published a photo of a person who looked very much like Elvis taken at the Graceland pool house in early 1978. Has the photo been independently examined and if yes, what were the findings?
PA: It is the contention of The Commission to acknowledge the existence of the photo, and that it has been re-examined a number of times. The photo first appeared in The Elvis Files, by Gail Giorgio. It was taken, as I understand it, by Michael Joseph upon visiting Graceland in late 1977. Based on the review of photo enhancements, and other means, The Commission considers the photo to be authentic.
EIN: There are thousands of Elvis impersonators and numerous Elvis look-a-likes. How can anyone be sure the person in the photo is really Elvis Presley?
PA: The best way to ascertain who the individual is in the photo in question, is to realise the importance of Elvis' appearance at that time. The reports of a look-a-like being on the grounds of Graceland at various times was discussed. The Commission could not rule that out. Some interviews conducted with Memphis locals indicated that the man in the picture was Elvis Presley. Some say it was a look-a-like. More importantly, there was a reason he was there
EIN: Our understanding is that The Presley Commission holds the view that Elvis was not affected by drugs and in fact faked his 'strung-out' appearance. What evidence supports this view?
PA: In the matter of Elvis' supposed decaying health, the blame is too often placed on bad habits. There is no physical evidence relating to an addiction to drugs. The medications that were being administered at the time were a combination of pharmaceutical items that were purchased for the two known conditions that Elvis was legitimately being treated for. Glaucoma, and an impacted colon problem had developed. Medications for the Glaucoma condition, are said to have been ordered as well as Testosterone shots as suggested treatment for the impacted colon problem. Contrary to popular belief, Elvis did not have a colostomy. The medications that were ordered to accompany the entourage on tour was for varied legitimate problems that various members of Elvis' entourage required. It is the Commissions' view that polypharmacy did not figure into the equation.
EIN: And why then did Elvis check in to hospital in 1973 and 1975 for alleged drug detoxification?
PA: The reports indicate that he was in for basic testing and rest. We do know there was a 1975 liver biopsy to check for Hepatitus, due to his mother's related condition, and they were generally concerned about it at that time. This tissue would prove to be important in later DNA determinations.
EIN: The element of music in the Elvis Is Alive conspiracy theory is an interesting and diverse one. For instance, the masked singer Orion (the late Jimmy Ellis) was an integral part of the early narrative. What is the Presley Commission's view on the suggestion that that there were, as some fans attending Orion concerts contend, actually two Orion's, one possibly being Elvis Presley?
PA: This matter was covered adequately in The Elvis Files, by Gail Giorgio, and The Presley Report. The Commission is aware of the reports by Orion fans, and currently acknowledges the stories. There is currently no physical evidence to suggest that Elvis and Jimmy were connected, although there are rumours to the effect that they were related, but no official ruling has been brought forth on this.
EIN: The whole Orion conspiracy thing appeared to get out of hand with theorists moving the goalposts beyond the singer Orion, and seeing Elvis connections in films released by the Orion Pictures organisation. To many disbelievers it seemed that all rational thinking had flown out the door and an 'anything goes, conspiracy driven' utopian mentality had taken over. What is your response to this perspective?
PA: The Commission was informed some years back about the "alleged" appearances in movies. Admittedly they do possess a certain air of mystery about such possibilities. More importantly, a recent appearance in another film, "Finding Graceland", was examined. The subject was also discussed extensively in Gail Giorgio's book, 'Elvis Undercover'. Consideration was given to all reports.
EIN: Phil, returning to the music element, Steven Chanzes produced the album 'Sivle Sings Again' by Sivle Nora and later Major Bill Smith's record label released the song 'Spelling On The Grave'. Both became, for a time, important parts of the Elvis Is Alive conspiracy. The singer on both the album and single sounded very much like Elvis but was later revealed on national television to be a sound-a-like by the name of David Darlock. Was the album/song ever part of the Commission's argument, and if so how damaging was the Darlock revelation to the overall Elvis Is Alive movement?
PA: The best I can tell you is that Mr. Darlock was interviewed later, and denied his involvement in the recording of the 'Sivle' album. The matter of Major Bill's single is considered to be Elvis Presley by a number of fans. The Commission concurs with these statements, although maintains a disclaimer on these matters to protect the innocent parties.
EIN: Ralph Thomas, author of 'How To Investigate By Computer 2000', is an investigator who decided to establish whether or not Elvis was alive by performing a Master Death Claims Index Search and Social Security Number (SSN) trace. On the first search Thomas found that Elvis Presley is officially listed as having died on August 16, 1977 and that a lump sum payment was made. Through his SSN trace Thomas found a number of people having Elvis's SSN (409-52-2002), including a Jon Burrows who listed his address as 3797 Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee! Thomas argues that if Elvis didn't die and was placed under the Witness Protection Program he would have a completely new identity, an identity that in no way that could be linked to his previous life. The use of Jon Burrows, an alias many fans know Elvis used during his performing career wouldn't make sense and therefore must be a hoax. Do you or The Commission have a view on this?
PA: Mr. Thomas' assessment is partially correct, in that it wouldn't be likely Elvis would use a name that he used in his previous life, however The Commission contends that there were a number of identities, possibly as many as 10 or 12, and at least three SSN's. No, I would not call the use of the Jon Burrows name a hoax. It was, in fact, a plausible use of identity outside of his entertainment career. Also, as discussed in a previous question, the Witness Protection Program, sponsored by the U.S. Marshalls, is not considered to be the correct program for Elvis' situation. More on this later.
EIN: In their book, 'True Disbelievers: The Presley Contagion', Professors Denisoff and Plasketes contend that believers in the idea Elvis is still alive have significant similarities with those who interact or engage with cult, sect and more mainstream religious movements. In particular they suggest that consistent with the psychological theory of 'cognitive dissonance', believers 'resist' or 'devalue' information that contradicts their internal beliefs. Similarly, a study of music fans published in the late 1970s found that compared to fans of The Beatles, Elvis fans "were more likely" to exhibit the following personality traits: low self esteem, greater need for control and greater use of both rationalisation in making decisions/undertaking daily activities and engaging in cognitive dissonance. What is your view on these suggestions as they could apply to the beliefs of The Presley Commission?
PA: It is not The Commission's position to agree or disagree with the writings of these two authors. Their book is their 'professional' opinions, and are largely based on that, not a consideration of real and factual evidence that pertains directly to Elvis Presley case subject. The fact remains, that the evidence exhibits pertaining to Elvis' situation are real, verifiable, and based on sound research. Any consideration otherwise does not cover the subject of validity, in the Commissions' view.
EIN: Phil, putting it another way, is it possible the whole Elvis Is Alive conspiracy theory is simply a case of several circumstantial strands of evidence being embraced by people with, for whatever reason, a greater than normal need to believe in or hang-on to the memory of Elvis Presley?
PA: No hardlyI believe I have already answered the question.
EIN: Is it a fair comment to say of the theory(ies) of The Presley Commission that it/they are largely conjecture, where a number of the arguments could reasonably have more than one possible answer? For example, the spelling of 'Aaron' may simply be an error made by a member of Elvis's staff during a very emotional time rather than a deliberate mistake.
PA: It is not likely that this is the case, however there are many questions that have been asked that could take on the appearance of having more than one possible answer. That is what makes it a question. The Presley Commission continues to work on the prospect of Elvis being alive because there are many of the questions that have singular answers, that ultimately satisfy the curiosity of the public interest. Our mission has been to try and sort it all out.
EIN: Some parties have alleged that the Elvis Is Alive Museum you own with Bill Beeny in Missouri is funded by Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE) and that EPE has also been behind other parts of the Elvis Is Alive movement including funding the publication of at least one of Gail Brewer-Giorgio's books. The implication being that EPE is actually a major player in the Elvis Is Alive conspiracy, albeit for reasons tied to generating greater profits. What is your response to these suggestions?
PA: Firstly, let me correct your assumption that I am an owner of the Elvis Is Alive Museum in Missouri with Bill Beeny. I am not, nor ever have been an owner jointly or otherwise with Mr. Beeny in the museum. Bill Beeny is a respected friend and colleague. His own work and individual efforts to sort out the details of the Elvis matter were acknowledged by The Commission. EPE, to my knowledge is not a financier of the museum, nor The Commission's efforts. They are also not a financier of the works of Gail Giorgio or any of her constituents. Any public indications of this are fraudulent, and inaccurate.
EIN: As EIN understands it, presently the key element in the whole issue revolves around the issue of DNA. Our understanding is that in The Commission obtained a tissue sample from a biopsy Elvis had in the 1970s and that the DNA is different to DNA obtained from Elvis's 1977 autopsy. The issue is further complicated as a DNA sample from the person known as Jesse (aka Elvis) in Dr Hinton's story is different yet again. Can you provide us with the history and current status of this critical issue.
PA: Again let me clarify that The Commission was not responsible for obtaining the tissue samples from Elvis' archives file. The tissues were obtained at the direction of the attorney conducting a DNA check on a young lady claiming to be a sibling of Elvis'. The DNA for the young lady failed to match the known tissue samples from 1973 and 1975. The tissue sample from 1975 was taken to check for Hepatitus, a condition that Elvis was concerned about, due to heredity implications. The 1975 tissue, as I understand it failed to also match a sample taken from the Autopsy tissue from 1977. An independent back up test was conducted by a major news agency, and the results turned out the same. The autopsy tissue purportedly Elvis' did not match the known tissue from the 1975 sample. This summarily proves that the person autopsied was not Elvis Presley, since it is probable that the '75 tissue does in fact belong to him.
EIN: Phil, the Presley Commission has previously declined to say how it obtained the tissue samples facilitating the DNA test. Critics argue that this is consistent with other structural and operational flaws in the whole Is Elvis Alive? argument. No 'hard' evidence, that would stand up in a court of law, is provided, only conjecture and circumstantial, alleged, vague and/or unsubstantiated evidence. Are you able to tell us how you did obtain the tissue samples?
PA: Those who allegedly claim the descriptive terms used to explain flaws in the system, fail to understand fully the importance of conducting verifiable and sound research. The fact is, the majority of information that is publicly available about Elvis Presley's alleged death in 1977 is largely flawed in the explanation by the media and others. As far as the tissue samples, I believe I have already answered that part of your question.
EIN: Reports on the DNA findings received
media covered in the first half of 1997. That coverage indicated
that The Presley Commission received from an unnamed DNA laboratory
on the East Coast a "written 18 page report on two slides
of tissue". Are you able to now tell us the name of the DNA
PA: Again you have been misinformed. The Commission didn't order up the tissue samples, and is not commenting on having received a report. We were consulted, and were informed of the results. The name of the Lab is not information that we are entitled to release. Anyone who read the book by Bill Beeny, entitled "DNA Proves That Elvis Is Alive", knows the story about how the test was handled.
EIN: The DNA report. When will it be released?
PA: A narrative of logistical information, and pages from the results are explained in the book I just mentioned in my previous answer. Bill Beeny may be contacted to reference any materials pertinent to that issue.
EIN: Even if the DNA report indicates the sample is that of Elvis Presley, that doesn't prove he is still alive. Scientists continue to obtain DNA from mummy bones in Egypt. So how will the DNA report help your case?
PA: A multitude of medical personnel around the world all agree that DNA testing is one of the final steps in determining who is who. Its identification process is verifiable, and in fact marks the end of most arguments. It also represents a "smoking gun" in the Presley case where so many items cast doubt on the credibility of the death report as a whole. The Commission completely concurs with those DNA findings that are known to be true samples belonging to the subject. The Commission also concurs that the death did not occur as reported. The issue of Elvis being alive today is a whole other aspect of the scenario.
EIN: Are there other key issues The Presley Commission is still investigating?
PA: In as much as our preference to have this great historical controversy reach its end, there are a great many issues still unresolved. Some of these include the very detailed work involved with the constitutionality of Federal and State statutes with regard to Public Health Records, and awaiting a response from the Attorney General's office to re-open files. In addition, smaller issues are still being examined, too many to mention here.
EIN: Apart from the DNA issue, how else can The Presley Commission obtain widespread credibility?
PA: The Commission will maintain its credibility by continuing to address issues as they become known, and hopefully will be able to educate the public ongoing. The individuals who are largely critical of The Commission's work are those that have been left out of the loop, so to speak. Preserving the security and safety of our subject has always been a matter of policy, and other directives to continue a professional and positive outlook on the life and times of Elvis Presley. Whatever the answer, The Presley Commission will be there.
EIN: Phil, I understand you are currently working on a book regarding your work with The Presley Commission. When can we expect to see it published and what will be its primary objective(s)?
PA: It is my hope that the book will be out in the next year. The only delay might be caused by the circumstances overseas i.e. the war and so on. It will be a direct and different approach to anything published so far on this subject. In addition, I am writing two other books about other subjects, so you can imagine, my time is limited. I also work a full time job, and run two businesses.
EIN: How can people interested in the work of The Presley Commission contact you?
PA: The Commission Liaison office is in Virginia. Folks may write to me at the following address: The Presley Commission, Liaison Office, P.O. Box 752, Hardy, Virginia, 24101, USA.
EIN: On behalf of EIN and our readers thank you again for talking to us on an intriguing subject that some believe, some don't, and one that simply won't go away.
PA: Thanks for the opportunity to talk with you and your readers today. I sincerely hope that in whatever you folks believe, Elvis Presley was/is a bright star in the universe. He is a man with great love for his country and his fans. In whatever the truth, rest assured it will be told, and it is quite probable that we will be seeing him again
Hard hitting Gary Enders dispels the myth that Elvis is "physically" alive
You've heard the claim that Elvis didn't die on August 16, 1977. Far fetched?
Metaphorically there is no doubt Elvis Presley survives today, but to most people the suggestion that Elvis didn't "physically" die in 1977 is at best, fanciful, at worst delusional.
Yet it is theme in the Elvis world that refuses to go away.
In the 1980s, largely due to the work of
Gail Brewer-Giorgio and her Orion inspired conspiracy, it was
an overt theme in the mass media.
Today it is a covert theme, bubbling away below the surface in the mysterious, secretive world of the "true believers", the Elvis underground. An underground network that is full of intrigue, suspense, nastiness, paranoia and "out of this world" theories. A myriad of issues, some simplistic, some confusing, have been put forward in support of the theory that Elvis needed to escape, figuratively, not literally, from his oppressive existence in 1977.
Do the arguments of the believers have credibility? Do they withstand scrutiny? In my opinion, the arguments and evidence put forward do not withstand "reasonable" scrutiny.
To prove Elvis Aaron Presley did not physically pass away on August 16, 1977, a position needs to be "evidence based". And simply put, no evidence has been presented that warrants serious consideration. EIN's interview earlier this year with Phil Aitcheson, Executive Liaison with the self-determined Presley Commission is a vivid example of unsubstantiated claims, rhetoric and blinkered belief that insidiously inhabits the collectively fanatical mind of the Elvis Is Alive underground movement. EIN's questions were direct.
Aitcheson's answers were vague, indirect and without qualitative substance. In a moment, examples to prove my point.
It is important to firstly put Aitcheson's position in context. The Presley Commission released a report in 1995, the outcome of a number of years of investigation into the issue. It is therefore reasonable to expect substantive answers (ie. provision of "hard" evidence) from the Commission's Executive Liaison.
The Case: For and Against The Wax Dummy, Pug Nose & Sideburns: according to Aitcheson the Commission became aware that a wax figure "was purchased by a prominent member of the (Presley) family, and was to be used for some bizzare purpose".
Problem #1: Aitcheson makes this bold claim without any corroborating evidence (name, where dummy was bought from etc). I could say "I was abducted by aliens", but in the absence of hard evidence what would any rational minded person think of my claim? As for the concern about the "pug nose" on the body, people need to remember that an autopsy had been performed and most of Elvis' internal organs, including his brain, had been removed, and were not replaced! A cadaver rarely resembles its original state when sewn back up again. This would also "reasonably" explain the sideburns that were allegedly (and quite possibly) "glued on". Not surprisingly, the true believers never state or consider these facts.
Mary Smiley: Aitcheson states that: "Mrs. Smiley is a self-appointed spokesperson for viewpoints that are not in agreement with The Commission, as a general rule. The Commission does not maintain contact with her, and has closed the file. She had attempted contact with The Commission on a number of occasions".
Problem #2: Two issues here: (1) Who appointed The Presley Commission? Answer: it was as "self-appointed" as Mrs Smiley! The Commission seemingly believes that its impressive title lends it credibility.
(2) Aitcheson claims it has closed the book on Mrs Smiley. This is clearly untrue if one visits the various underground messageboards.
The Poolhouse Photo: EIN asked two fairly direct questions about the person in the the photo.
Problem #3: Aitcheson's answers are indirect, and he leaves the reader hanging in the air with "More importantly there was a reason he was there..." In the context of what the interview was about this is an incredible statement for Aitcheson to make. Rather than adding to our knowledge of the issues it further muddies our understanding, although of course this is a favorite tactic of conspiracy believers.
There is another theory about the man in the photo: that it is either Elvis' cousin or Al Strada.
David Darlock: EIN cites David Darlock's appearance on Geraldo, a nationwide TV program in the US, during which Darlock admitted being the voice behind Sivle Nora. For the record, on the Geraldo show, Darlock stated that in 1981 he was paid $250.00 by the (Steve Chanzes/Steve Crown) organisation, Eternally Elvis. Aitcheson attempts to nullify this incident by suggesting Darlock later denied his involvement, but again Aitcheson provides no specifics of date, time, where etc.
Problem #4: The Geraldo incident is verifiable (and in fact well documented), Aitcheson's statement is not! DNA (the "Silver Bullet"): DNA could be the one factor that scientifically and legally proves the conspiracy case. In response to EIN's question about "hard DNA evidence", all Aitcheson can respond with is the importance of conducting verifiable and sound research. I totally agree, but Mr. Aitcheson, what and where is the Commission's verifiable and sound research?
Problem #5: The Commission has talked about alleged DNA evidence since the late 1990s but continually fails to put anything resembling "hard evidence" on the public record. As of 2003, and after two decades of research, the Silver Bullet continues to elude everyone. Jon Burrows: it is claimed within hours of Elvis' alleged death someone by the name of "Jon Burrows" bought a ticket to Buenos Aires. Aitcheson's comments are a splendid example of his flimsy rhetoric: "It is my understanding that the report of this incident was mentioned in Gail's book, 'The Elvis Files', and represents a possible sighting. The Commission is aware of the matter, and currently has some literary reference to it on file in the Commission archives."
Problem #6: despite The Presley Commission having "some literary reference to it on file", the alleged flight by the alleged Jon Burrows has never been substantiated. But it makes a neat "reinforcing" text in the conspirator's storyline. Spelling of Aaron: this "red herring" has been explained adequately many times and I won't go into the specifics except to say consider Elvis' great interest in the Bible and how that may have influenced things. Interested fans can read a detailed explanation about the Aaron/Aron spelling on the official Elvis site at: www.elvis.com
One other issue: in his interview, Aitcheson also said that Elvis Presley's alleged death in 1977 is largely flawed in its explanation by the media and others.
Problem # 7: By now I must sound like a worn out record.....Mr. Aitcheson please cease the generic rhetoric and give specifics!
So if Elvis is dead, what is really going on? The essential problem with the claims of The Presley Commission, Mary Smiley, Steve Chanzes, Major Bill Smith et al is that they are broadly based assertions devoid of "fact". They serve an important psychological driver in that the "real" evidence is known only to those in the inner sanctum.
It is a clear case of people subconsciously feeling a lack of power or influence in their lives, and satisfying that emptiness through what is effectively a mission in self-delusion. The Elvis underground is secretive, self-appointed and self-serving. It is a culture in which most of its discussions are devoid of substantive analytical debate.
The fact that in many of the discourses the believers assume the important role of protecting the interests of an allegedly still alive "Elvis" is instructive from a psychological perspective. Professors Denisoff and Plasketes wrote the book 'True Disbelievers: The Elvis Contagion' in the mid 1990s. Based substantially on information supplied by the infamous Mary Smiley it is a potently revealing, if skewed, look at the physical and psychological workings of the Elvis underground movement.
In True Disbelievers, the authors note the operation of the psychological condition, 'cognitive dissonance'. While the term is not well understood, cognitive dissonance is a powerful psychological factor that explains the behavior of conspiracy believers. Simply stated it says that when faced with information contrary to a strongly held belief, the person reacts through a combination of denial, devaluation of the opposing information, revision of the belief and the development of explanations, often new, that seem reasonable.
Read Phil Aitcheson's answers carefully. Throughout the interview his answers clearly reinforce the theory that cognitive dissonance is a powerful factor at work. Organisations such as The Presley Commission have no legal or official standing and will never be taken seriously as they always fail to articulate and table the "missing elements" that are the bedrock of their belief system. That is, hard, verifiable, irrefutable evidence that would have credence in a court of law.
Unfortunately, on the basis of the psychological needs of believers and a propensity not to challenge (analyze) rhetorical and colorful claims, The Presley Commission and Gatheringite movement will continue to function in its own little world.
Which leads me to the personality driven universe known as the "Elvis Underground", a narrative world of soap opera proportions. A colleague recently described the machinations found on Elvis underground messageboards as a "conspiratorial soap opera".
The ever changing discussion threads reflect
rampant paranoia, related cover-ups and incredible tales.
A quick consideration of some of the 'over-the-top' themes highlights
the soap opera element:
· Elvis had a "split-personality": the "good" twin, Elvis Aron; the "evil" twin, Jesse Garon
· Elvis couldn't sing ("doubles" performed for him on stage and in the studio for more than 20 years!)
· Elvis murdered a woman as a teenager (he was sleepwalking at the time)
· Elvis accidentally killed a man while driving a truck in his late teens
· Elvis assassinated JFK
· Elvis was murdered by the mob
· Elvis continues to act for the Government as an undercover agent
· Elvis was mentally insane
· Elvis suffered from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
· Elvis was held "prisoner" at Graceland
· Elvis died in 1997, not 1977
Notice the recurring themes: strong motifs of "death" and "mental disorder". Individually, any of the claims stretch credibility. Collectively, they suggest a warped world devoid of conscious understanding or cognizance of known realities.
Surprisingly, given what the believers have made out of Elvis' death date (8/16/1977 = 2001) and his Christian name (elvis/lives), they are yet to recognize the significance of the term "Elvis is King". (Hint: the USA's major post-war encounters.)
Conspiracy or coincidence? I'll let you make up your own mind.
Analysis of Messageboard Postings
Earlier this year I was asked to undertake a content analysis of postings on several Elvis "underground" messageboards. Content analysis is a quantitative research application that classifies textual material by reducing it to more relevant, manageable bits of data. It can allow the researcher to identify postings that, in all likelihood, were made by one person using different aliases. Some readers will be familiar with the use of content analysis in revealing the authors of infamous publications like "The Hitler Diaries".
My analysis specifically sought to identify similar patterns of spelling, grammar, punctuation, style and sentence/paragraph structure in messageboard postings.
I concluded that at least two prominent members (who shall remain nameless) of the Elvis underground community were posting under different aliases. There appeared to be a dual purpose to their strategy: support their own arguments (it always helps if others concur with your beliefs - the "safety in numbers" philosophy) and generate debate among believers (a good conspiracy needs to burn brightly).
Conclusion: The theories of The Presley Commission and others are largely conjecture and/or open to several alternative answers. Aitcheson states there are many issues: "that have singular answers, that ultimately satisfy the curiosity of the public interest. Our mission has been to try and sort it out".
After 20 years of the conspiracy, if Aitcheson and others were serious, they would substantiate their case with the "singular answers" and specific findings. But they don't, instead all we get is unsupported, politically inspired rhetoric.
Why don't the major protagonists simply "table" their evidence for fans and a court of law to evaluate? There are two interrelated answers:
(1) there is no "hard evidence", and
(2) if they did, their "house of cards" would quickly crumble and the psychological satisfaction they derive from the game they are playing would dissolve, with the return of that dreaded, sinking feeling that must be avoided at all costs: personal impotence.
Denial, rationalization, ignorance, the need for personal power - these are the operational constants of the Elvis underground. It is a fertile ground where imaginations run rife, a conspiracy lover's heaven. It should be treated as such.
Dr. Gary Enders (October 2003)
The late Dr. Enders is author of the publications/papers:
* 'Elvis: Cultural Influence, Intolerance and Political Correctness', 2003-04 Online Symposium on Elvis Aron Presley(www.geocities.com/elvissymposium.com)
* 'Press Media Reaction to the Death of Elvis Aaron Presley in August 1977 (A Content Analysis)', 2003-04 Online Symposium on Elvis Aron Presley
'Popular Music Collision - Talent vs. Marketing', 2001
* 'Elvis: Coming Back from the Dark Age', 2000
* 'The Impact of Elvis on the Australian Top 40 Charts' (co-author with Nigel Patterson), 1998.
EIN note: Dr. Enders passed away in late 2003 after a long battle with cancer.
© Dr. Gary Enders, EIN, November 2003
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