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Elvis is Alive Museum closing, contents auctioned on eBay
WRIGHT CITY, Mo. -- If Elvis were here today, he might say "Thank you, thank you very much" for an odd Missouri outpost's 17 years of making the case that the King never died.
But the burden of proof soon will fall on someone else's shoulders.
Bill Beeny, the 81-year-old proprietor of The Elvis is Alive Museum, said he has placed his Elvis memorabilia on eBay in hopes someone else will take up the cause. It includes photographs, books, FBI files, replicas of the Cadillac Elvis drove and the casket and gravestone from his purported 1977 funeral, even a painted Elvis head.
Beeny, a self-described "western Kentucky hillbilly" Baptist minister who wound up in Missouri 50 years ago, is selling the contents of his roadside attraction, a transformed laundromat 55 miles west of St. Louis that he opened in 1990, to satisfy something else that drives him.
"I have a burden to help people," said Beeny, wearing the penciled dark mustache, long sideburns and slicked black hair of an Elvis aficionado. "Someone else can run, will run, the museum. No one in the whole county is doing the job I intend to do."
Beeny, who over the years has run churches, rescue missions and other ministries, wants to put his energy into serving the needy in rapidly growing Warren County by providing child care, senior services, a food pantry and counseling for the addicted.
Will he miss Elvis?
"Yes," he said, "but life has its changes. You have to let go."
He hopes someone will buy the collection and open a new museum dedicated to the theory that Elvis lives.
But the look and feel of Beeny's place could be hard to duplicate.
Outside, a 16-foot sign of a rhinestone-belted Elvis holding a microphone, "the only 16-foot statue of Elvis in Wright City," Beeny said, dominates an otherwise humdrum small-town landscape. A replica of Elvis' old Cadillac, which hasn't been started for years, is parked out front.
Inside the 400-square-foot museum, signs in large, bold letters and exclamation points yell out like tabloid headlines, "FREE MUSEUM," "SEE FUNERAL ROOM," "10 REASONS WHY I BELIEVE ELVIS IS ALIVE!" and "DNA PROVES ELVIS IS ALIVE."
Visitors wind their way around a replica of the casket and tomb from Elvis' purported funeral; hundreds of photographs and yellowed news clippings; a poster of the famous photo of President Nixon and Presley from 1970; a thick, dog-eared FBI file on Elvis' involvement with federal authorities; and the report of The Presley Commission, which investigated his death. Visitors also can hear what is said to be a tape recording of Elvis' voice, which a relative reputedly copied off a telephone answering machine six years after the funeral.
"I knew Elvis was an icon of course, but I didn't know about his heavy association with the CIA and the [Drug Enforcement Agency]," Beeny said. "He was a bona fide agent. The Freedom of Information files reveal that."
Beeny, who had been only a nominal fan of Elvis Presley, started to doubt his death when customers at Beeny's former 1950s Cafe in Wright City asked questions that couldn't be answered.
His curiosity turned to obsession, and with his lawyer son's help, he dug deeper.
Beeny said he eventually showed that the tissue samples of Elvis he obtained from a Memphis, Tenn., doctor did not match samples of the cadaver "purported to be Elvis." Beeny later wrote a book, "Elvis' DNA Proves He's Alive!"
He also claims Presley had good reason to disappear: He's in the federal Witness Protection Program for assistance he provided federal law enforcement authorities.
David Beckwith, a spokesman for Elvis Presley Enterprises, which manages Graceland, the King's estate and mansion in Memphis, said the company has no comment.