Is the Elvis Dead Body Photo a Hoax?

When the National Enquirer ran the infamous photo of Elvis Presley in his casket, conspiracy theorists immediately decried the photo as fake.

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Elvis Dead Body Photo

The photo ran on the cover of the National Enquirer on September 6, 1977, just weeks after Elvis passed away. The photographer was the object of speculation for years, but it was later confirmed in a tell-all book by Enquirer editor Iain Calder that Elvis’ cousin Billy Mann was paid $18,000 to sneak a photo of Elvis in his coffin. Elvis’ cousin Billy Smith also corroborated this claim. (Some sources erroneously claim the cousin was “Bobby Mann” which is inaccurate. Some sources also claim it was $10,000, some say $30,000, and others say $75,000.) This cousin should not be confused with Billy Smith, who was a first cousin and close confidant of Elvis.

Questions About the Photo…

  • Body Too Thin? It has been said that Elvis looks too thin in the casket photo, and more like Elvis from 1957 instead of 1977. Some reports claim that those who attended the funeral claim that Elvis did not resemble the photo that was on the cover of the National Enquirer. One defense of the photo states that Enquirer retouch artist Robert Stevens may have been a little too generous in his retouching efforts. Others claim that he merely appears thin because he is laying on his back.
  • Nose Not Right? It has been claimed that the nose seen in the casket photo looked flat and was not the same as the nose of Elvis Presley. This theory bolsters the claim by some that it was a wax dummy in the coffin, and not Elvis. Those who defend the photo have said that the “wrong nose” is again due to over-retouching by Robert Stevens. It has been claimed that Elvis collapsed face-first and broke his nose when he died, which could also explain the “pug nose” in the coffin.

Other Rumors

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There are so many other rumors about the death of Elvis Presley, that volumes of books have already been written on the subject. We, however, are focused purely on the photo that appeared in the National Enquirer.

Bottom Line

There has been much debate about a photo supposedly showing Elvis in his casket. This has been used in a larger debate regarding Elvis’ death and claims that a wax dummy or a lookalike was in the coffin. As far as the photo representing what was in the casket, it appears to be genuine, although it was retouched by an artist at the National Enquirer. Elvis’ cousin Billy Smith has confirmed that the photo was taken of Elvis, and did not dispute the image’s veracity. Unless the body is exhumed, it’s doubtful that the debate on the contents of the casket and the infamous photo will ever end. For those of us on the sidelines, both sides of the debate are fascinating.

Further Reading

Updated February 19, 2015
Originally published May 2012

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12 Comments on Is the Elvis Dead Body Photo a Hoax?

  1. patricia gurley // February 4, 2015 at 9:24 am // Reply

    Does anyone have anything to say about why the name on the tombstone is “Elvis AAron Presley” but his name was “Elvis Aron Presley” ? I mean.. why is it spelled differently? Anyone that is a true Elvis fan knows his name is only spelled with one “a” not two.

  2. George Vreeland Hill // April 13, 2014 at 3:10 pm // Reply

    Elvis is dead.
    He died on August 16, 1977.
    The body is real.

    George Vreeland Hill

  3. Robin Jeffcoate // April 2, 2014 at 2:05 pm // Reply

    I really do hope Elvis faked his death.
    As if the reality is that he did die in his bathroom in Aug 77 , that is just so tragic , that he was allowed to get so ill and not get any treatment.I just can’t believe how callous the people around him were that they drove him to perform , when he was seriously ill and should of been in hospital .
    I hope they all don’t sleep at night through guilt .
    If as we are led to believe he did die , then some of these greedy individuals should of been charged with murder or manslaughter , because the word slaughter sums up what occurred very well .
    God bless Elvis , if he is dead then, I hope he found the peace , he so desperately needed when he was alive .

  4. Elvis was the king he rock the world god bless R.I.P elvis sleep tight may you have the best bed in heaven

  5. Alexis Kinsey // February 11, 2014 at 8:57 am // Reply

    OMG I can’t believe what is Elvis Aaron Presley:( :( o.k. he was the best king of Rock and Roll ever in the world. Elvis Aaron Presley was my favorite guy ever seen in the world. O.k. I really do miss Elvis Aaron Presley so much:( :(:( :( from Elvis Aaron Presley’s big fan alexiskinsey.

  6. Quentin Presley // December 6, 2013 at 8:18 am // Reply

    Elvis is gone…at least that’s what my family tells me. But I don’t believe it. This picture of my relative doesn’t resemble him in 77′. He looked like this in 1957/58 but not 1977. I loved Elvis very much though I never met him.

  7. Robert Burns Glennie // August 17, 2013 at 5:41 am // Reply

    According to my understanding, Presley looked so thin in the coffin, because his being overweight was due to an excess of fat, but a dangerous buildup of fluids due to drug abuse and other excesses.

    Post-mortem, this fluid was drained and thus Elvis lost a substantial amount of weight…

  8. Don’t you mean Elvis Aron Presley? (spelled correctly)

  9. elvis aaron presley // June 24, 2013 at 5:58 pm // Reply

    I did not die in 1977 I had to leave to save my life I have a great life now and have been drug free ever since people think I died let it be so

  10. I’ve read a number of well-researched Elvis biographies, several of which report that Elvis was dead for hours before the paramedics were called. One also reported that his body had bloated and turned black, and that the paramedics – unaware of who he was – marked him down as African-American in their paperwork. His discoloration was supposedly a result of the combination of the huge quantities of drugs he had been taking for years, and the face-down position the corpse had lain in for hours. If that’s true, I sincerely doubt that even the most skilled undertaker would be able to make Elvis’s corpse took as good as it did in that photo.

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