Finding out your favourite musician has died can be an emotionally turbulent experience. Superstars seem a little superhuman – for some it can be impossible to accept that they, like us, eventually have to croak. The real difference between them and us, though, is the astronomical influence they leave behind, a grieving fanbase who’d begun to think of their idols like family.
Some reality-aboding fans choose instead to interpret their passing as “death hoaxes” and look for evidence to prove that they’re merely hiding round the back of this mortal coil. The internet is awash with conspiracy theories about artists faking their death to escape fame, and running away to Cuba. However, it’s probably worth bearing in mind Agent Scully’s words of wisdom when it comes to YouTube videos:
Here are six conspiracy theories arguing that famous clearly-deceased musicians are still alive and kicking.
What went down
Michael Jackson was pronounced dead on June 25th 2009 at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in California. The drug dosage in his blood stream was so great that his personal physician, Conrad Murray, was sent to jail for a two year prison sentence.
A YouTuber and “documentary filmmaker” named Pearl Jr has released multiple videos insisting Michael is not dead, and has done surprisingly extensive research into MJ’s death. She is also an avid fan of Comic Sans.
She believes Michael’s body could have been faked with a waxwork, and that Michael switched out the bodies in the hospital photos because they look like a “cancer hospice patient” and not like Michael. In addition, she thinks the body lifted out of the helicopter rescue looked like a “surfboard not a body”.
BeLIEve, a Michael Jackson conspiracy theorist, posted a video this week interpreting Paris Jackson’s latest Instagram selfie as a ‘sighting’ of Michael. He claims to see Michael’s face and recognisable fedora in a pile of clothes on the back seat of Paris’s car.
Yet another YouTuber to weigh in on the Michael Jackson controversy is ‘acidhunk’, who claims MJ bumped into him on the way back from a late-night trip to the vending machine.
“I heard ‘sorry’ and I immediately thought of Michael Jackson.”
What went down
Elvis Presley died aged 42 on the 16th August 1977 at his Graceland home in Tennessee. He died of a heart attack caused by high blood pressure, aucoma, an enlarged colon and liver damage. He was reportedly overweight and unable to do anything without assistance. He was also heavily dosed up on codeine. Read the full NME explanation on how Elvis Presley died.
It’s thought Elvis faked his death to escape the public eye. Theorists speculate on everything from the fact his headstone bares his middle name as Aaron as opposed to the better known Aron, even though Presley’s official middle name is in fact Aaron. Also supposedly suspicious is the fact that the day after Elvis’s death, a man named John Burrows (Elvis’s usual alias for hotels, etc), reportedly purchased a ticket to Buenos Aires.
Fans have made multiple claims to have sighted The King post-‘death’. As recently as June, this video of a ‘Possible Elvis Sighting’ was shared widely online. The video depicts a man walking towards the camera and flipping two fingers, a sign YouTube user The Shadow claims is a “simple V sign” to tell us “he is alive”.
Never mind the fact ‘Elvis’ looks nothing like Elvis, looks far younger than Elvis would be now (81) and wears Elvis merch; something a former rockstar in hiding probably wouldn’t do.
Then there’s this admittedly weird interview from 2005 where Priscilla Presley mentions something Elvis “said the other day”. But if you were on Oprah talking about your dead husband, you might make some slip-ups too.
Here’s a slideshow detailing points from the conspiracy theory, set to a particularly soppy rendition of ‘My Way’, because Elvis isn’t dead, guys.
What went down
Marilyn Monroe was found dead on August 5th 1962 in her home in Los Angeles, having locked the door and taken an overdose of barbiturate pills.
Aside from the copious conspiracy theories which claim Marilyn Monroe was murdered by the CIA to avoid the actress pushing Mrs Kennedy out of her first lady status (yes, that is a theory), this chap has gone further and believes Marilyn/Norma was still alive in 1984 when he picked her up whilst she was hitchhiking away from the mental hospital where she was being kept to avoid public scrutiny.
What went down
Cobain died on April 5th 1994, from a self-inflicted bullet wound.
There are some inconsistencies in the death of Kurt Cobain, like how he could have shot himself whilst under the influence of the substantial 1.52 milligrams per litre of heroin in his bloodstream. This has led some fans to speculate foul play. However, with different addicts having different levels of tolerance, this suggestion has been largely dismissed.
Some fans, however, have taken the controversy around the Nirvana frontman’s death to the next level, believing that Kurt Cobain lives on as Rivers Cuomo of Weezer.
Or maybe he faked his death to get custody of Frances Bean, as this YouTuber believes.
What went down
Tupac Shakur was the victim of a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in 1996, at the Flamingo Road and Koval Lane intersection. He died six days later on September 13th at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada.
The mystery surrounding Tupac’s death is extensive, and delves deep into the artist’s musical catalogue for clues or signs of his anticipated return. To this day, California police have not arrested anyone in relation to the murder.
His last album was titled ‘Makaveli’, in reference to the Italian writer Machiavelli, who wrote, “to fool one’s enemies, fake one’s death”. The album sleeve also featured the words “Exit: 2pac”, implying the entrance of a new alter ego; Makaveli.
In addition, the man whom Tupac sat next to in the car, the heavy-set Suge Knight of Death Row Records, took none of the 14 bullets fired, four of which landed on Tupac. Knight was a large man. Controversy around the case suggests that Knight may have masterminded his murder as retaliation for Tupac wishing to leave Death Row Records, and to avoid the extensive debts he allegedly owed to Tupac.
The shooting took place the same night as a fight between Mike Tyson and Bruce Seldon, so the streets of Las Vegas should have been gridlocked. However, there were no witnesses of the white Cadillac the bullets were fired from.
This and other coincidences have led fans to believe ‘Makaveli’ planned the attack and supposed death as a means of getting out of the limelight and away from the East/West coast rap rivalry of the ‘90s.
Like other celebrities who’ve fallen foul of the “death hoax” theory, fans claim to have spotted Tupac, and despite being in hiding, he apparently still wears his iconic red bandana. He takes selfies now too:
What went down
On July 3rd 1971, The Doors’ frontman died in the bathtub of his Paris apartment from an accidental heroin overdose, aged just 27.
Following the announcement of Morrison’s death, no autopsies were conducted. Consequently, YouTuber Brokkenstar is adamant that the rockstar is still alive, and is now living in New York, “alive & well” and reciting poetry.
There’s also a theory that Jim has moved to Oregon and is living as ‘Bill Loyer’, who opened the Jim Morrison Sanctuary ranch. Because you’d totally name your new ranch after your former celebrity identity you’ve just hoaxed the world into thinking is dead. Watch the face morph if you’re not in a particularly cynical mood.
Who to believe
So are these celebrities alive, dead, or in hiding? Did they instigate the death hoaxes to escape the public eye?! Whether you believe the police reports or have more of a sceptical eye, bear in mind Cher’s words of wisdom from 2013 David Letterman: “sometimes the best thing you can do for your career is die.”
In conclusion: Illuminati