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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Elvis by the Numbers or: The King and the Tower of Death

 It's been 45 years since Elvis left the building one final time. August 16, 1977, Elvis Aaron Presley was found dead in the bathroom of his home, Graceland. For millions of fans around the world, this was a dark and life-changing event indeed. One writer named Gail Brewer-Giorgio, who wasn't necessarily a big fan of the King of Rock and Roll, was so moved by the effect that the death of the idol had that she wrote a fictional story that coincidentally mirrored many of the events in Elvis's life. This set in motion the events that led her to write her book Is Elvis Alive? which, along with several other books and groups of dedicated fans led to the belief that the King had merely faked his death. But we're not here to talk about that so much; I would refer you to my appearance on Conspirinormal for that. Today we're talking about the numbers.

"50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong" is a phrase that has stuck in my mind since I heard it as a kid in TV commercials that advertised Elvis box sets while I watched reruns of 60s sitcoms. One can get philosophical about such a statement- does majority opinion really determine actual quality? Or, one can nitpick the numbers to determine how they were generated in the first place. I'm doing neither here, but rather using it to illustrate the importance of numbers on our common perception of people and things. If the box office sales for the 2022 Elvis movie are any indication, the numbers suggest an enduring interest in the King. According to Brewer-Giorgio, Elvis was very concerned with the numbers indeed.

She claims in her book that Elvis had been turned on to the occult science of Numerology by his hair dresser, Larry Geller. He had given the King a copy of Cheiro's Book of Numbers, which, she says, he was so enamored with that he always kept it with him and based his big decisions around dates that the numbers showed to be auspicious for whatever it was that he planned. Naturally, when I learned about this I had to get my own copy of Cheiro's book. 

The above mentioned books in front of my Velvet Elvis. Unfortunately, my copy of Is Elvis Alive? does not have the cassette tape.

Reading Cheiro's Book of Numbers it becomes apparent why it would have struck a particular chord with Elvis, as the author makes specific mention of his birth number. Born January 8, 1935, not only was he saddled with the "peculiar influence" of the number 8 as his birth number, Cheiro also indicates that those born between the 21st of December and the 26th of January are 8s born under the House of Saturn (Positive) which intensifies these peculiar vibrations. These influences make for a particularly fatalistic role of those bearing the birth number to play; they often feel isolated and misunderstood throughout their lives, have intense natures and great passion, and usually will either succeed in the most dramatic ways or fail spectacularly in life. In most cases, Cheiro recommends decisions be made on days that align with your birth number, but in the case of 8s born in January, particularly when they have other 8s and 4s in their chart, it's best to avoid them. He returns to this very specific date range several times throughout the book, and to Elvis it must have seemed that Cheiro was talking directly to him. It's worth mentioning here as well that David Bowie shared Elvis's birthday... make of that what you will. 

Since you can't change what day you were born, Cheiro recommends changing your name if you'd like to change your lucky numbers. Letters can be converted to numbers and added up, and it's possible to affect your fate by calculating a name with the number you wish to have. Much was made of Elvis's birth name being different than the one on his grave marker in Brewer-Giorgio's book, and true-believers have sometimes pointed to the difference in the spelling of his middle name (Aron to Aaron) as a clue that he had not died after all. It seems possible that he changed the spelling of his middle name, which by some accounts occurred around the time Geller introduced him to Numerology, in order to change his lucky numbers. If this indeed is the case, it would have been right before Elvis's big comeback at the end of the 60s. This is a bit odd though, because to Cheiro the name you're most known by is the one that's really important; having your middle name change from a 6 to a 7 shouldn't mean much if nobody calls you by that name. Instead, ELVIS = 18, which reduces to 9 (1+8), as does PRESLEY (27, 2+7=9), and if you add the first and last names you get 45 and then 9 again. 

This brings us back to the date of August 16th. Much speculation about the significance of that date in Is Elvis Alive? is aimed at proving that had Elvis wanted to fake his death, then that would have been the date he would choose to help him succeed. Brewer-Giorgio says that Elvis often expressed that he thought he would die at the same age his mother did (42) and on the same day, August 14th. Through a bunch of playing around with numbers, she determines that although he would have preferred to use August 14th as a date to fake his death, the cosmic influence of that day would not have worked, and that he invariably would have chosen the 16th instead. Having no mastery over Numerology myself, but having read Cheiro's book, I'm not sure her accounting adds up. But let's take a look at what Cheiro wrote about the number 16:

16. This number has a most peculiar occult symbolism. It is pictured by "a Tower Struck by Lightning from which a man is falling with a Crown on his head." It is also called "the Shattered Citadel". 

It gives warning of some strange fatality awaiting one, also danger of accidents and defeat of one's plans. If it appears as a "compound" number relating to the future, it si a warning sign that should be carefully noted and plans made in advance in the endeavour to avert its fatalistic tendency.

So, probably not a great day to plan a cunning deceit like faking one's own death then...

What's striking here though is that Cheiro uses the Tarot's Major Arcana to illustrate the meanings behind the numbers. He is of course referring here to The Tower, numbered 16 in the deck. The image of lightning, which calls to mind Elvis's custom "TCB" symbol, striking a Tower and causing the fall of a crowned figure really is evocative. The simplest meaning of this card in the Tarot is Chaos, but the more nuanced read of it is the clearing away of the old to encourage new growth. As my friend, author and Tarot reader Kiki Dombrowski commented when I shared this on Twitter - "I wonder if we could say that a fairly decent interpretation of the Tower card is 'taking care of business!'"

     Oddly enough, had the date been aligned with Gladys Presley's death date of August 14th, the card that would have been Temperance. As Cheiro explains, it's a number of "movement, combination of people and things... This number is fortunate for dealings with money, speculation, and changes in business..." He adds that there is an element of risk and that caution should be employed when planning for this day.

Now we can get into how odd August 16th is as a death date. The image of a fallen monarch isn't exclusive to the King of Rock and Roll, because just a few years after he was born another King had died on that same day. 

Robert Johnson, sometimes referred to as the King of the Delta Blues Singers, died by poisoning on August 16, 1938, at the age of 27. It can here be noted that 27 reduces to 9, and we again see 9 as significant. Further, Johnson was also in the 8 club, his birth date being May 8, 1911. His early demise makes him perhaps the founding member of the so-called "27 Club" - the odd grouping of musicians who left us at that age. This list includes Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim "The Lizard King" Morrison, and in more recent decades Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. 

Much of Johnson's life story is mixed up in legends told about him, including the idea that he met the Devil at the Crossroads in order to sell his soul for his guitar playing ability. This story is likely apocryphal, and it's likely that Robert had been confused with another bluesman called Tommie Johnson, for whom that claim had often been made. Still, Robert had songs like "Me and the Devil Blues" which probably didn't help discourage the idea. It's worth noting that the card immediately preceding the Tower in the Major Arcana is The Devil, and Cheiro says of 15 that people born under 4 or 8 can be unscrupulous in employing it. It has an association with "good talkers", musical and artistic gifts, and charisma. So it seems that a bargain with the Devil isn't off the table, in this sense.

Another musical monarch, the Queen of Soul, also died on August 16th. Aretha Franklin was born March 25, 1942, making her birth number a 7 ultimately. 25 is, according to Cheiro, indicative not so much of luck but of strength and benefits through hard work and trials early on. Passing on at age 76, she is the longest-lived of the crowned heads who fell on the 16th. It is odd that this pattern holds up so well, and what it ultimately means is really just a matter of perspective, just as the opinion of 50,000,000 Elvis fans is. 

A few non-musical entries can also be added to this list - Babe Ruth, sometimes called "The King of Swing", the "Sultan of Swat", etc, died August 16th 1948. One could say that numbers were significant with the Great Bambino, as his was the first player number to be retired in his honor. The number 3 was his when he played for the New York Yankees, and it originally signified his place at bat in the line-up. Prior to that, when he played for the Red Sox, players didn't have numbers. His leaving the Sox led to what was called The Curse of the Bambino, an 86 year period during which time Boston never won a world series.

Finally, Bela Lugosi also died on August 16, in 1953. Though not labelled a king of anything, he was pigeon-holed into horror roles after his depiction of Count Dracula. Toward the end of his life, he costarred with the Amazing Criswell in several Ed Wood movies. Criswell's actual name was Jeron Criswell King, and his birthday was August 18th. Close, but no cigar, to the dates already mentioned, but too fun not to include especially since he had the surname 'King'. The 18th of August, 1999 was also when he predicted that the end of the world would occur, after the planet became enveloped inside a "black rainbow". Cheery, that.

On a final and more personal note, August 16th was the birthday of my best friend Jeff Siegrist, who passed away earlier this year. Worcester Magazine was kind enough to publish my tribute to him, and it occurs to me writing this now that I referenced Elvis in that tribute. I also made reference to Jeff's gold jacket, and in finding images for this post the album cover that came up features the King in a gold suit. It's bittersweet, these synchronicities, and although I sometimes worry that I get too granular and go on too long about these things, over all it seems sometimes like reality rhymes with itself quite often. There are systems at work and underlying structures which can only be peripherally perceived; like numbers, they can be played with, made to support the messages we want to hear. My hope is to inspire the reader to consider these odd coincidences and decide for themselves what they mean. I truly hope you take away something useful from this.

That's all for now... and Thank you, thank you very much for reading!