Days after a hologram of Tupac Shakur performed at Coachella, Suge Knight says he thinks the rapper didn’t really die. From Elvis to Kurt Cobain to Andy Kaufman, famous faces who never really went away.
First a hologram of Tupac Shakur stole the show at Coachella. Then former Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight said he thinks the rap star, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in 1996, isn’t really dead. In an interview with Los Angeles radio station 93.5 KDay, Knight said, “Maybe the question is Pac’s not really dead—Pac’s somewhere else. Nobody seen Tupac dead.” Further fueling the conspiracy theorists, he added, “The person who supposedly cremated Tupac, this guy got about $3 million personally from me —cash—and next thing I know I never heard from the guy or seen him again. He retired and left.” Shakur, who would be 40 now, has also been more prolific in the afterlife—he released six albums before he was fatally shot and eight posthumously.
Almost immediately after Elvis Presley’s death in August 1977, there were sightings of The King. Some claimed he was still alive, while others insisted they were visited by Presley’s spirit. In 1987—around the time there were multiple Elvis sightings in Kalamazoo, Mich.—Dr. Raymond Moody published Elvis After Life, which examined why fans were convinced of Presley’s resurrection. But to date, Elvis, who would have turned 77 this year, hasn’t announced a comeback tour.
Like the comedian who cried wolf, Andy Kaufman perpetrated so many hoaxes throughout his career—and talked about faking his own death—that when he announced he had lung cancer in January 1984, no one believed him. And just to prove he was serious, the 35-year-old Kaufman died that May. But then Tony Clifton, one of the characters Kaufman made famous, started making appearances after his death. (It turned out to be Bob Zmuda, the comedian’s longtime co-conspirator, in the Clifton prosthetics.) Then 20 years after Kaufman’s death, on May 19, 2004, a press release announced that the comic was back from the dead. It soon proved to be a hoax created by a Kaufman fan. Even Zmuda admits that his friend is not coming back. “Andy Kaufman is dead,” he said in 1999. “He’s not in some truck stop with Elvis.”
In 1971, after Jim Morrison died of “natural causes” in a bathtub in Paris at the age of 27, no autopsy was performed. While most believe Morrison died of a heroin overdose, his friends offered conflicting accounts of his final days, leading to conspiracy theories. And while Morrison was buried at the Pere Lachaise cemetery, he was frequently spotted among the living soon after. In 1981, Jerry Hopkins reported on one such encounter for Rolling Stone. “The first one I remember was a beaut,” Hopkins wrote. “He surfaced in San Francisco shortly after Morrison’s death and began cashing checks in Morrison’s name. He was not writing bad checks, mind you; it was his money he was spending. It was just that he was dressed as Jim would in his ‘leather period,’ and that he told everyone that he was indeed the ‘dead singer.’” But so far there’s no real proof that the Doors frontman has broken on through from the other side.
Ever since her plane went missing over the Pacific Ocean in 1937, countless conspiracy theorists—and eternally optimistic people—have contended that Amelia Earhart did not perish in a plane crash. The claims range from the plausible (Earhart and her navigator landed on Gardner Island and died there) to the ridiculous (Earhart was captured by the Japanese and made to serve as Tokyo Rose). Among the more famous Earhart hypotheses, put forth in a book called Amelia Earhart Lives, was that the 39-year-old aviator survived, was secretly repatriated, and assumed the identity of Irene Bolam of New Jersey. Shortly after the book was published, however, Bolam sued the publisher, claiming his allegations were false. But the Earhart mystery may soon be solved: In March, Hillary Clinton announced that the State Department will begin a search for Earhart on the 75th anniversary of her disappearance.
The King of Pop had much in common with his late father-in-law, The King of Rock and Roll. Like Elvis, Jackson was addicted to drugs, died young (at 50), and has been sighted since his funeral. In August 2009, TMZ even posted footage of what one man claimed was Jackson exiting the coroner’s van. But even if Jackson should come back from the dead, at least we know he dances well as a zombie.
On July 30, 1975, former Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa disappeared from a parking lot in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Seven years later—and a few sightings later—he was officially declared dead at the age of 69. In the 30 years since, there have been many theories about what happened to Hoffa, including that he was buried under the end zone of the old Giants stadium and part of the foundation of the new GM headquarters in Detroit.
Every decade gets a rock god who won’t die. In the 1990s, it was Kurt Cobain. While the Nirvana lead singer shot himself to death in April 1994 at 27, no autopsy was ever performed and the only photograph of his corpse never revealed his face. Add the fact that Cobain sang, “And I swear that I don’t have a gun. No I don’t have a gun” in “Come as You Are” and you have a conspiracy theory. Some fans contend that the singer faked his death to get away from the music business—and perhaps Courtney Love.
Did Adolf Hitler really shoot himself to death in that bunker in April 1945? Or was it cyanide? Either way, why was his body and Eva Braun’s cremated immediately afterward so they couldn’t be examined? It’s questions like these that have caused conspiracy theorists to wonder whether the Fuhrer could have gotten away alive. In May 1965, Esquire played on the concept with a cover depicting the aged Hitler and the line: “This month I will be 76 years old. Can I come home now?” Surely Hitler is gone by now, though—he would have turned 123 last week.
For years, historians agreed that Anastasia Romanov—youngest daughter of Nicholas II, the last Russian tsar—was killed by Bolsheviks along with the rest of her family in July 1918. But since the location of their bodies was unknown, several women came forward claiming to be the grand duchess. Most famously, in 1922, Anna Anderson insisted that she was Anastasia, though a German court ruled five years later that she had failed to prove it. (Upon her death in 1984, Anderson’s DNA was examined and definitively proved she was not Anastasia.) The story was fictionalized and made into the 1956 film Anastasia, for which Ingrid Bergmann won an Oscar in the title role. In 2008, Russian scientists found the remains of children believed to be the Romanovs, and in 2009 it was proved conclusively that Anastasia had died. But the romance of the story will live forever.