I am extremely gullible. I never get practical jokes, I believe every internet prank on April Fool’s Day. And I take conspiracy theories very seriously. I tend to buy into all but the most outlandish of them, and even those I want to believe.
At the same time, I am extremely uncomfortable with uncertainty. I hate enigmas, inexplicable phenomena, and surprise parties. I’m no fan of the great unknown. Which makes me even more susceptible to conspiracy theories, because they provide me with answers as to how and why certain otherwise unexplained things happen. Never mind that they tend to raise more questions than they actually answer—that’s kind of what makes them fun! Each one is a gateway into an endless rabbit hole.
Being a huge music nerd, I gravitate toward conspiracy theories about musicians: This person who definitely died a long time ago may not actually be dead! This band is part of a secret cult! And so on. I gobble these stories up in the form of tabloid articles and hours of specials on the History Channel and VH1, and the more unbelievable they are on their face, the harder I’ll strain to suspend my disbelief.
In honor of the conspiracy theories that have helped nourish (and probably deteriorate) my nerd heart, allow me to break down some of my absolute favorites:
Tupac and Elvis are ALIVE!
I spent a lot of my childhood being obsessed with artists I was born too late to get to see perform, like Tupac Shakur and Elvis Presley, both of whom were already legends by the time I was made aware of them, due not just to their massive musical talent but also to their being snatched away from the world way too soon: Tupac was killed in a drive-by shooting in 1996, when he was 25; Elvis died in 1977, from an apparent drug overdose, at the age of 42. I always regretted never getting to see them live and up-close, so my mind was blown when I was told that both of these beloved icons were in fact alive and well and living in hiding in remote locations!
With Elvis, the story goes that the star was so sick of fame that he faked his own death so he could live the rest of his life in relative obscurity. If this is true, it was not the best plan: If possible, he’s been the object of even more attention and speculation in the years since. Thousands of people have claimed to have spotted him in person, in photos, and in videos, all over the world. There are websites devoted to variations on the fake-death theory, each with its own intricate set of explanations, but most of them are variations on the common “they’re actually alive” trope: a star wants to escape the spotlight, plus the wrath of the people they’ve pissed off, and also there’s some sort of nefarious business with the government. My favorite of these sites is probably Elvis-Is-Alive.com, which argues that Elvis was an undercover agent for the FBI and the DEA. The government asked for his help with a sting investigation into the Mafia that apparently got too dangerous, so President Jimmy Carter himself helped the King of Rock & Roll fake his own death and escape into a new identity and life.
A curious preponderance of Elvis sightings have been reported from Kalamazoo, Michigan, a sleepy town where the King has been spotted at a hotel, a supermarket, and this one Burger King. I find this version of the story incredibly plausible. If you were a rock star who needed a break from the limelight, what better place to get that than in Kalamazoo, Michigan? If you’re still not convinced, listen to what Kelly Burgess, a former NEWS REPORTER who spotted the King at a Kalamazoo hotel, has to say. Even if you don’t believe her, you have to admit it is a GREAT bit of fanfic:
The theories that bubbled up after Tupac’s death follow a similar plot line: A musical superstar, weary of the public spotlight and probably also being threatened by gangsters, fakes his own death and lives out the remainder of his days in obscurity—in this case, most likely on an island somewhere. Almost 20 years after Tupac’s death, this theory shows no signs of abating—Suge Knight, who ran the label Tupac was signed to, espoused it earlier this year in an interview with TMZ:
Why you think nobody been arrested if they said they the one that killed Tupac? Because Tupac not dead. If he was dead, they’d be arresting those dudes for murder. You know he’s somewhere smoking a Cuban cigar on an island.
I mean, right???? Why hasn’t anyone been arrested for murdering Tupac? Plus, look at all this photographic evidence!
One of the most convincing points to me in this story is that Pac’s love of the writings of Niccolò Machiavelli gave him the idea to fake his death in order to trick his enemies. That doesn’t seem too wild to me! I mean, he did go by the stage name Makaveli at one point, so it’s totally possible!