By Tim Binnall
Today marks the anniversary of legendary music icon Elvis Presley's passing and, ironically, the birth of a truly odd conspiracy theory suggesting that the King had faked his death.
It may surprise some people to learn that theories suggesting an Elvis death hoax actually began circulating almost as soon as he had passed away.
A little known book titled Elvis: Dead or Alive? was published a mere month after the singer had died in 1977.
In the intervening years, the book has taken on an almost legendary status in that it is incredibly hard to find and very few people have actually seen it.
One Elvis collector has marveled that "I have never found a copy anywhere, not on eBay, Amazon, AbeBooks, or anything like it, never mind any used book store."
However, another Elvis fan who claimed to have acquired it revealed that the work was a mere 14 pages and allegedly made the case for the death hoax theory that was later adopted by conspiracy theorists who advocated for the idea.
Much like many other fields of esoteric research, the Elvis death hoax field had a number of 'stars' that published a variety of books on the subject as well as participated in the burgeoning 'zine scene of the 1980's.
Over the ensuing years, various claims about explosive evidence would be made, expansive narratives surrounding how and why Elvis faked his death were woven, and bitter feuds would erupt between warring researchers.
While all of this was bubbling in the underground, the mainstream media occasionally noticed the odd movement, beginning with a 1979 segment on the TV show '20/20' and hosted by none other than Geraldo Rivera, who would return to the story a handful of other times throughout his career.
Actor Bill Bixby also hosted a pair of highly publicized TV specials in 1991 that also asked the question of whether or not Elvis really was alive.
With the emergence of the internet in the late 1990's, the Elvis death hoax, like UFOs and other fringe topics, found a home on the world wide web.
No longer bound by the restrictions of newsletters and conventions, the community initially flourished thanks to the easy exchange of information and ideas.
But, alas, the initial excitement surrounding this new medium didn't last and the online Elvis death hoax community, itself, began to die as the new millennium began.
Today many of the most prominent Elvis conspiracy researchers have either left the field or they themselves have passed away.
Nonetheless, tantalizing new photos occasionally appear in the news to briefly breath life into the beleaguered conspiracy theory before being debunked.
Considering that Elvis would be 82 years old if he were alive today, time is clearly running out for the death hoax conspiracy if researchers are hoping that the King will step forward and confirm their suspicions.
Barring an Earth-shattering revelation from someone in the Presley camp, it seems safe to call the Elvis death hoax an endangered conspiracy theory and one which will largely go extinct within a decade or two.
Lest one be wistful over such a pronouncement, rest assured that numerous other death hoaxes have emerged in recent years suggesting that Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, and other famous musicians are still with us and hiding in the shadows.
In light of his profound influence on the world of rock music, it's probably fitting that the perceived mystery surrounding Elvis' death would find its way imprinted onto the superstars that followed him.