Fake Histories #39  Were all Model T Ford’s black, as dictated by Henry Ford?

 

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September 27 is a red letter day for transport. Two significant events took place, eighty-three years apart, that revolutionised and democratised the way we get around. In 1825 George Stephenson’s Locomotion Number One became the first steam engine to carry passengers on a public line, the Stockton and Darlington Railway. Within a decade, such was the pace of technological progress, it was obsolete. In the interim, however, it had killed one of its drivers when the boiler exploded in 1828.

The second transportive event, which took place on this date, happened in 1908. That was the appearance of the first ever Model T Ford, which emerged shiny and new from the Piquette motor plant in Detroit, Michigan. It was revolutionary for a number of reasons. Prior to the introduction of the Model T, cars were items beyond the merely luxurious. They were handcrafted, expensive to purchase and costly to maintain. At a stroke Ford’s new brand swept all of that away. The Model T was produced on an assembly line, in far greater numbers than any of its competitors, and was relatively cheap and low maintenance for its time. In his 1922 autobiography My Life and Work, Henry Ford outlined his vision for the Model T. He wrote …

‘ I will build a motor car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one …’

One of the things Ford wanted, for example, was that men who worked on the assembly lines of the Model T could actually afford to buy one themselves. To realise this objective it greatly helped that they were paid a decent wage at a time when industrial unrest was rife and America’s ‘robber baron’ industrialists were often reliant on the National Guard to break strikes.

In its first year of production a modest ten thousand, six hundred and sixty Model T’s were sold. Sales figures doubled the following year and had really taken off by 1917 when almost three quarters of a million units were sold worldwide. The model’s best year was 1923, when Ford shifted around two million of them. Some of those would have been manufactured in the company’s plant in Cork which opened in 1917 to make tractors, but began producing cars in 1921.

But were all fifteen million of them exactly the same colour? Did Henry Ford actually say, ‘You can have any colour you like, as long as it’s black’. The answer to the first question is, ‘no’. As regards the latter question, indeed he did. Once again you need look no further than his autobiography for confirmation. This is how he describes the moment.

‘In 1909 I announced one morning, without any previous warning, that in the future         we were going to build only one model, that the model was going to be the “Model    T,” and that the chassis would be exactly the same for all cars, and I remarked  “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” I cannot say that any one agreed with me. The selling people could not of course see the advantages that a single model would bring about in production.   More than that, they did not particularly care.’

 Now even though his name was Henry Ford, despite the fact that he was the undisputed boss, and notwithstanding that his name was attached to the car, he didn’t get his monochrome desire until 1914. Before that date not only did his company produce Model T’s that were grey, green, blue and red, the colour black was not even available. The first black Model T came off the assembly line in 1914 and thereafter, until the final year of production,  you could, genuinely, have any colour you wanted, as long as it was black.

By the time production ceased in 1927 a total of fifteen million Model T Ford’s had been manufactured and purchased. The Model T then, graciously, gave way to the Model A, which was available in a variety of shades, to which Henry Ford doubtless turned a colour blind eye

So, while Henry Ford did issue the instruction that all his Model T’s should be monochrome black, that didn’t happen until the seventh year of production. It’s fake history.

 

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Fake Histories #38  Did William Webb Ellis originate the game of rugby?

 

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It’s unlikely the pioneers of the game of rugby in the mid 19thcentury would ever have envisaged such a thing as a ‘World Cup of Rugby’. Still less that it should be taking place in Japan, a place still shrouded in mystery when the game got off the ground.

But, how, precisely, did that happen. The ‘origin myth’ of rugby football is that a young Warwickshire boy who was attending the famous British public school of Rugby picked up the ball and ran with it during a school match in 1823 and, thus, originated the game which is now called after the school. If the story is not true then there should probably be some questions asked on 2 November when the Rugby World Cup trophy is presented, because it’s called after him!

William Webb Ellis, born in 1806, was indeed a seventeen-year-old student at Rugby College in 1823. He had the misfortune to miss the great headmaster of the college, Thomas Arnold, by a few years. He was also well removed from Rugby in the 1830s during the fictional era of Tom Brown’s Schooldays and thus missed the pleasure of being bullied by Flashman. While at Rugby Ellis was known as an excellent cricketer—he would later play for Oxford.  A plaque erected in his name in Rugby school reads as follows.

‘This stone commemorates the exploit of William Webb Ellis, who with a fine        disregard for the rules of football as played in his time first took the ball in his arms and ran with it thus originating the distinctive feature of the rugby game. A.D. 1823.’

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Or so the legend goes anyway!

The problem is finding any supporting evidence for the claim. Nobody ever mentioned it during the lifetime of Webb Ellis, and he himself never shouted about it from the rooftops. Although, as he went on to become a respected clergyman of the Church of England, that might not be altogether surprising.  A former curator of the World Rugby Museum at Twickenham is even on record as asserting that ‘Webb Ellis is like the King Arthur of rugby. He is very important but as soon as you start to analyse the facts behind it, there is really very little or no evidence to support the story.’

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The only source for the Webb Ellis narrative is straight out of the school of  ‘dúirt bean liom go ndúirt bean lei’. A local Warwickshire man, and past pupil of Rugby, one Matthew Bloxam, wrote to the College magazine in 1876 and recounted the story of how Webb Ellis’s infraction—he did cheat after all—had blossomed into a new sport with its own set of rules first laid down in Rugby school. While there is no doubt about the latter element of the story, Bloxam himself had not actually seen Webb’s legendary run. Someone had told him about it, possibly his brother John who was a contemporary of Ellis! The other problem is that he claimed the event had taken place in 1824, at which point Ellis was at Oxford. Four years later Bloxam revised this to 1823.

An investigation into the claim by the Old Rugbean Society in 1895 led to the questioning of a number of Old Rugbeians, including Thomas Hughes, the author of Tom Brown’s Schooldays. He told the inquisitors that in his time at the college in the 1830s ‘a jury of Rugby boys of that day would almost certainly have found a verdict of ‘justifiable homicide’ if a boy had been killed in running with the ball.’

A more likely candidate, according to Hughes, was a boy called Jem Mackie. Mackie had popularised try scoring at the college in the late 1830s and his innovation had been formalised in an 1841 rule book. Problem was Mackie had been expelled from the school for being a bad boy. Is that why Ellis, by then a respectable clergyman, got the nod when the foundation myth was being created? Perhaps, on the 2 November, the newly crowned World Cup champions should be presented with the Jem Mackie Trophy?

Ironically Rugby school has firm credentials when it comes to the origins of another muscular pastime. One of the founders of the game of Australian Rules football, Thomas Wentworth Wills, was a student at Rugby from the age of fourteen.

But did eminent past pupil William Webb Ellis make the crucial, and illegal, run that spawned the game of rugby, possibly not, and definitely susceptible to the Scottish verdict, of ‘not proven’.

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Fake Histories #37   Is there really anything to fear from Friday the thirteenth?

 

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Despite its exalted position as a prime number, indivisible by any number other than itself, thirteen suffers from a very bad press and must get really depressed when it looks back at twelve. Because twelve has it all. Historically it denotes completeness. How many listeners ever did thirteen times tables? No one! You always stopped at twelve by twelve equals one hundred and forty-four. There are twelve months in the year. Twelve hours on the clock. Twelve tribes of Israel. Twelve astrological signs of the zodiac. Twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. Thirteen just never gets a luck in.

Except when it comes to the bad stuff!

Thirteen is so unpopular that many American cities do not have a Thirteenth Street or a Thirteenth Avenue. How many high-rise buildings have you been in without a  thirteenth floor? Hospitals, where ill-luck is a really bad idea, often avoid labelling rooms with the number. You may also have flown through an airport with no Gate thirteen. Even the so-called  ‘bakers dozen’, thirteen loaves, came about only because of the risk that the sale of twelve underweight loaves to a customer might lead to the loss of a baker’s ear or a hand as a punishment ‑ they did that kind of thing back in the mists of time. So a medieval Pat the Baker would toss in a thirteenth, just to be sure of keeping all his appendages.

Now put thirteen together with a Friday, and you have Bonny and Clyde, Torquemada and the Inquisition, and Bros. Lethal combinations all.

Do you by any chance suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia? You might think not, but if I tell you that Frigga was the Norse goddess of Friday, and that triskaidekaphobia denotes a fear of the number thirteen, perhaps you might be willing to acknowledge that you share, apparently, with twenty million fearful Americans, an aversion to Friday the thirteenth.

Christianity seems to be very much at fault here. Friday is considered to be unlucky because Christ was crucified on that day. Thirteen is ill-starred because that was the number for dinner when Christ sat down with his twelve apostles for the Last Supper. But if that is the case why does the ancient Babylonian code of Hammurabi, dating from 1772 BC not have any law number thirteen? Is it possible that thirteen was already problematic long before Jesus broke bread with his dozen closest disciples?

To demonstrate their utter fearlessness a number of prominent Americans got together in the 1880s and formed The Thirteen Club, promising to root out superstition while tempting fate by sitting down thirteen to a table for their annual dinners. They even walked under ladders to prove how silly that old chestnut was. Members included five US Presidents, among them William McKinley. You might have heard of William McKinley, he was assassinated! However, in the interests of full disclosure it should be pointed out that Theodore Roosevelt was also a member of The Thirteen Club. As he became President when McKinley was shot, it would appear that sitting down thirteen to a table didn’t do him any harm.

Just as well for retailers that the spurious American import, Black Friday, falls at the end of the month of November because according to something called the North Carolina Stress Management Centre and Phobia Institute more than $800m is lost each year due to shoppers staying home on Friday the thirteenth.

In 1993 the august British Medical Journal decided to test the superstition in a research piece entitled ‘Is Friday the thirteenth bad for your health’. They looked at a range of traffic accident statistics over a period of years on two different dates, Friday the sixth and Friday the thirteenth. While they found that more drivers stayed at home on the latter date, they discovered that the former was a safer day on which to travel. Their conclusion was that ‘Friday the thirteenth is unlucky for some. The risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as fifty-two percent. Staying at home is recommended.’

Oh, and by the way, it appears that if you break a mirror that old ‘seven years of bad luck’ thing is only applicable if you do so on Friday the thirteenth. If you want to experiment you still have a few hours left, but maybe don’t check the makeup until after midnight, just in case.

So, is there anything to fear from Friday the thirteenth? Not at all, relax. What can possibly go wrong just because the thirteenth day of the month falls on a Friday? Is it ok if I uncross my fingers now?

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Fake Histories #36   Jack the Ripper was a member of the royal family?

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Imagine you are a woman living in the poverty trap of the East End of London in the autumn of 1888. Queen Victoria is on the throne, Lord Salisbury is Prime Minister. But high politics are of little interest to you. Making ends meet is a more pertinent concern. That, and avoiding a serial killer, stalking the Whitechapel district, who is about to be given a name, Jack the Ripper. A week ago the body of the first of his five victims, Mary Anne Nicholls was found. Two days from now he will kill Annie Chapman. Then there will be two more, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, at the end of this month, before a gap of almost six weeks to his final victim, Mary Jane Kelly.

If you do fall to the knife of Jack the Ripper there is an excellent chance you will go down in history as a prostitute, although there is no solid evidence that three of the Ripper’s five victims were ever involved in that line of work. So, although you will be immortalised by hundreds of ‘true-crime’ writers, each convinced they have identified your killer, there will be an implicit question in all of their writing. What were you doing wandering around the streets of Whitechapel late at night? As we are unable, definitively, to blame your killer for his crimes, it is almost as convenient to blame you for your own death.

Behind the Whitechapel murders of 1888, there was undoubtedly a form of lunacy, but the frenzy exhibited by Jack the Ripper has been almost matched by the craziness unleashed in thousands of ex post facto attempts to identify him. Never has a subject given rise to so much special pleading, dodgy theses, outright lies, and ingenious hoaxes.

Welcome to the Rippersphere!  Not an arena for the faint-hearted. Ripperology might sound like an intellectual discipline but it’s actually a blood sport, where, it would appear, you identify your Ripper in advance and get the facts to fit afterwards.  You then defend your position with as much venom as possible, a phenomenon greatly facilitated these days by the unidentifiable basement trolling of social media. The internet, as we know, was developed purely for the proliferation of cute cat videos, and to encourage the multiplication of even more outrageous Jack the Ripper narratives.

The Rippersphere is a realm where your choice of the guilty party might well depend on your politics. So that Boris Johnson’s Ripper would probably be one of the thousands of immigrants who populated the East End of London in the 1880s. While Jeremy Corbyn’s would be a deviant member of the privileged upper classes.

While there is every likelihood Corbyn would be spot on, there is one particular myth that has grown and festered over the years, that is not worthy of the gallons of printer’s ink that have been expended on it. A constant Ripperological theme has been the ‘Royal Conspiracy’ theory.  This holds that the Duke of Clarence, Albert Victor, was the killer. Known to his family as ‘Eddie’ he was the eldest grandson of Queen Victoria, and next in line to the throne after his father, Edward, Prince of Wales.

            This canard began to emerge as late as the 1970s when a Dr Thomas Stowell published an article in a magazine called The Criminologist implicating the Duke of Clarence without actually naming him. Stowell claimed that a royal family member he called simply ‘S’  had been driven insane from syphilis. He further claimed that the Royal family was aware of the killings, and interfered with the investigation of the crimes. ‘S’ was quickly identified as Clarence and the chase began.

The Duke of Clarence pre-deceased his father in an influenza epidemic in 1892, but Ripperologists who subscribe to the Royal Conspiracy theory have him dying of syphilis.

Even a cursory examination of Royal court records blows the entire ‘Clarence the Ripper’ theory out of the water. It can easily be established that Eddie was well away from London, in Yorkshire and Scotland, at the time of the first four murders. He was at his father’s birthday party on the night of the murder of Mary Kelly. All alibis which, of course, were ingeniously fabricated by Buckingham Palace, according to the more deluded Royal Conspiracy theorists.

So, did the Duke of Clarence go on a murderous rampage in the East End of London over a seventy day period in 1888 and brutally murder five women? No, he did not, that is fake history.

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Fake Histories #35 The All Ireland Football Final has always been played in Croke Park in September?

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The three-year GAA trial which sees the All Ireland finals pulled back by three weeks each has its champions and its detractors. They will all get their opportunity soon enough to debate the efficacy of the experiment and, after 2020, we may see things returning to the normality to which we’ve all become accustomed.

But it was not ever thus! Tradition, by definition, takes a while to become established—except on social media when fifteen minutes or so does it nicely—and so it was with the All Ireland schedule.

The Gaelic Athletic Association has been around since 1884 and after a decidedly rocky start in life became a stable fixture in the 1890s and started to move towards national treasure status thereafter. The part it played in the achievement of Irish nationhood is unchallenged, and its subsequent role in entertaining and exasperating the people of Ireland is equally incontestable. If you doubt me, just wander into any public space during an Irish summer and eavesdrop on the conversations. If you don’t hear the Dublin football team being slagged off outside of the Pale then you need your hearing tested.

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The first fixture described as the All Ireland Football final was played three years after the formation of the GAA at a meeting in Thurles attended by seven men. Quite an oak has grown from that little acorn. The match was staged on 29 April 1887 in the iconic confines of … Beech Hill in Clonskeagh on the fringes of Donnybrook. It was contested between Commercials of Limerick and Young Irelands of Louth, both winners of their respective county championships. There were forty-two players involved as each had had twenty-one players. Think of the teams and the benches of today all on the pitch at the same time. It must often have resembled the only recently abandoned Donnybrook Fair, whose own ‘robust exchanges’ had caused it to be brought to an end. For the record Commercials won, making Limerick the first-ever All Ireland FOOTBALL champions. Now there’s an interesting and unusual sentence. Though, in fairness to the Treaty County they won it again in 1896. Since then they’ve been a tad better at the old hurling!

Over the next five years of the football championship, it was decided at a variety of Dublin venues, including Phoenix Park in 1893. No one, however, seemed to care that much, with crowds never topping five thousand. Until that is, it returned, in 1895, for the 1894 final—don’t ask, it got a bit out of kilter in 1890—to the home of the GAA, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. There ten thousand people saw Dublin take their third title, beating Cork—well, sort of. The game was a replay after a drawn match in Dublin and it never actually ended. Some of the Dublin players were attacked by Cork supporters and the match was abandoned. The GAA awarded the trophy to Dublin, although, as Cork were leading at the time, inhabitants of the Rebel County still claim that one to this day.

The following year the final moved to a location on a Dublin thoroughfare known as Jones’ Road. You may be familiar with it! However, the so-called City and Suburban Racecourse was not yet exclusive to the GAA. Bohemians soccer club played their home games there in the 1890s, and in 1901 it hosted the Irish Football Association final between Belfast’s Cliftonville (still with us today) and Freebooters F.C. from Sandymount in Dublin, who have sadly migrated to that great changing room in the sky. The football final kept moving around until the ‘venue that would be Croke Park’ became exclusive GAA territory in 1908.

Even after that, there was one celebrated break in a tradition that now goes back over a century. This came in 1947 when the All Ireland final wasn’t even played in Ireland. It moved to the Polo Grounds in New York for the encounter between Cavan and Kerry. Cavan had become the first Ulster team to win the All Ireland in 1933. In a four-point win over Kerry, they became the first Ulster team to win two All Irelands. Nobody outside Kerry had much sympathy for the vanquished Munstermen. They already had sixteen titles to their credit and Bomber Liston wouldn’t even be born for another ten years.

Incidentally, the first September All Ireland final wasn’t played until 1902, and the September date didn’t become fixed until the late 1920s.

So, the notion that the All Ireland football final has always been played in the vicinity of Jones’s Road in September, is way off the mark.

 

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FH#34   ‘Stockholm syndrome’ is the mutual attachment of hostage and kidnapper in an abduction?

 

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It’s an odd coincidence. On 23 August 2006 an eighteen-year-old Austrian woman, Natascha Kampusch, freed herself from eight years of often brutal captivity.  On the same date, in Sweden in 1973 a convict on parole, Jan Erik Olsson, made a botched attempt to rob one of the biggest banks in Stockholm.

How are these events connected? By something called ‘Stockholm syndrome’.

Olsson’s failed bank robbery of the Kreditbanken on Norrmalmstorg Square led to a six-day stand-off during which he held four employees (three women and a man), hostage. One of his first demands to besieging police was for the release from prison of his friend Clark Olofsson, who was brought to the bank and became Olsson’s accomplice. Hostage negotiation was in its infancy in the 1970s and the Swedish police often behaved in a fashion that would hardly be in keeping with best practice today. For example, Olsson was allowed to phone the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, threaten to kill the hostages, and even grabbed one of the three women in a headlock causing her to scream as the Prime Minister listened on.

The following day one of the hostages called up Palme and demanded that he allow them and their two abductors to go free. The four hostages, constantly threatened with being killed, were subjected to mental and physical ill-treatment. Arguably the worst torture was the fact the Olsson walked around the bank vault in which they were all imprisoned, singing the same song, Roberta Flack’s Killing me Softly, an ominous choice of tune. On 28 August, after six days, the authorities got fed up and used tear gas to end the crisis.

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So far, so relatively mundane. A bank robbery goes wrong, unfortunate bank officials are taken hostage, after a few initial missteps the police effect a rescue without loss of life. But it was the aftermath that was the astonishing part.

When Olsson and Olofsson were put on trial their four hostages didn’t exactly help the prosecution case by refusing to testify against their captors. Not only that, they actually began to raise money to assist the defence cases of Olsson and Olofsson. Despite their lack of co-operation, Olsson was jailed for ten years while Olofsson was released after an appeal.

A distinguished Swedish criminologist and psychiatrist, Nils Bejerot, gave a name to this unexpected development. He dubbed the empathy that had built up among the kidnapped for their kidnappers as ‘Norrmalmstorg syndrome’. The description stuck in Sweden itself, but not outside Scandinavia. Instead, internationally, the phenomenon has become known as ‘Stockholm syndrome.’

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Fast forward to Vienna in March 1998. A ten-year-old girl, Natascha Kampusch goes missing. After a while, the search for Natascha ends, memories of her kidnapping begin to fade. It is generally assumed that she has been murdered. Her memory is kept alive only by her family, friends and neighbours. But she is still alive, imprisoned in the basement of a house, located about half an hour from Vienna, by her abductor, Wolfgang Priklopil. There she is held for eight years, subjected to regular abuse, as well as acts of kindness and contrition, until she manages to escape. Knowing that he is about to be arrested her abductor kills himself.

After such a traumatic experience you might think that Natascha Kampusch would want nothing further to do with the house in which she had been imprisoned for much of her childhood and adolescence. However, she is now the owner of the house, albeit the tiny basement in which she was incarcerated has been filled in.

Not that purchasing Priklopil’s house makes Kampusch a Patty Hearst, who famously, became an integral part of the illegal activities of the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974 after they had kidnapped her to extract a ransom from her wealthy family. Her defence lawyer, F. Lee Bailey, who later defended O.J.Simpson, was not allowed to use Stockholm syndrome as a defence in court.

But ‘Stockholm syndrome’ is a one-way street. It denotes a degree of sympathy or empathy of the kidnapped for their kidnappers. Its reverse is often called ‘Lima syndrome’, a phrase coined by a Peruvian psychiatrist Mariano Querol who was himself abducted for more than a fortnight. It is also applied to the 1996 mass hostage-taking at the Japanese Embassy in Lima. There many of the dozens of those taken were quickly released and the abductors appointed to kill the remaining hostages were unable to do so.

So, the phenomenon first identified in Sweden in 1973 and dubbed ‘Stockholm syndrome’ does not denote a mutual affection between hostages and abductors.  It’s meant to denote a largely one-sided relationship only.

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Fake Histories #33  Is Elvis still taking care of business?

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Depending on when you were born, Elvis Presley—who died forty-two years ago today—was the King of Rock and Roll and a practising demi-God, or a morbidly obese Las Vegas cabaret singer who didn’t even write his own songs. It largely depends on whether you were born in the forties—in which case he was a genius—or the fifties—in which case you were more of a Beatles type anyway.

Falling squarely into the latter category I was one of those people who was puzzled at the mawkish outpouring of grief when Elvis died on 16 August 1977 and those spangly white costumes, which latterly had almost been painted on to his frame, were no more. Personally, I was more affected by the death of the great Groucho Marx the same week.

As is the case with most icons there are many myths surrounding the life, times and music of Elvis Presley. Among these is the notion that Presley and Oprah Winfrey are related. Which occasionally morphs into the narrative that Oprah’s ancestors were once slaves on the Presley estate. This, however, is hard to reconcile with the idea of Elvis being descended from an impoverished line of Mississippi sharecroppers who were forced to shoot, skin and eat squirrels to stay alive. Plantation owners were more of the ‘mint julep on the porch’ variety.

Then there is the rumour that Elvis had a pet chimpanzee named Scatter who died of alcoholic poisoning. Well, this one definitely has at least an element of truth about it. Elvis had a lot of pets, and one of them was a chimpanzee named Scatter who often dressed, like his owner, in Hawaiian shirts. Whether or not he was spoon-fed liquor and died as a result, however, remains merely a nasty rumour.

But, of course, the abiding myth that surrounds Elvis is that he is still ‘taking care of business’, holed up somewhere with that other great immortal Jim Morrison. Neither man, thousands of people fervently hold as an act of blind faith,  ever left the building.

Apparently, the King’s Graceland mansion included a secret tunnel dating back to the days of the Underground Railroad, when slaves were smuggled out of the South to freedom in the North. Elvis is supposed to have abandoned his career by means of this nineteenth-century convenience, rather than actually having died of a heart attack on his own twentieth-century convenience. He is then alleged to have purchased a ticket to Buenos Aires in the name of John Burrows the day after his faked death. Why is this significant, you ask? And I will tell you, as breathlessly as possible. The man who bought the ticket looked very Elvish and the alias ‘John Burrows’ was often used by Presley’s management team when booking hotel rooms for him anonymously.

Presleyean conspiracy theorists also point to the misspelling of his middle name on his gravestone as a clear indication of an intention to simulate his own demise. Now when you look at this gravestone it clearly reads ‘Elvis Aaron Presley’, the spelling being all present and correct. Except, apparently, Elvis’s middle name on his birth certificate was spelt ‘A-R-O-N’ as opposed to the more conventional ‘A-A-R-O-N.’ Which monumental typo, obviously demonstrates a clear intent to leave a wax dummy in your open coffin and do a bunk for Argentina where your savings would immediately have been eroded by rampant inflation.

The wax dummy theory, by the way, is lent credence by the weight of the coffin, which clocked in at nine hundred pounds. This was, supposedly, because it housed an air conditioning unit to prevent the wax from melting in the August Tennessee heat. Clearly, it had nothing to do with the fact that Elvis himself weighed almost nine hundred pounds at the time of his death.

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Between 1977 and 1981 six of his new releases became top ten singles. This prompted people unfamiliar with the concept of ‘recording’ or ‘archive’ to assume that he was still active in the music business. He was also said to have appeared as an extra in the film Home Alone thirteen years after his faked death. Sightings of him are now more frequent than those of the much older and more credible Loch Ness monster. You can expect him to turn up soon doing tours of Graceland, and for the first miracles to be cited in his name.

So, is Elvis still alive somewhere, possibly working as a vaquero on the Argentinian Pampas, at the grand old age of eighty-four? Well, we should probably assume that he was dead when an autopsy was performed on his body and, tentatively and regrettably, accept this as fake history.

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