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The Great Ghosts of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Post-death adventures with John Lennon, Jim Morrison and the King’s twin, Jesse Garon Presley

I'm going down to the ground
to see my funeral and watch my casket be buried
I wanna hide behind a gravestone and watch them cry over me.
— Jim Morrison, The End (Live)

On this, a new all hallows’ eve, we can rest assured the spirits of rock 'n' roll no longer hide behind their gravestones.

Today the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, is said to haunt the halls of Neverland. CNN cameras captured his moonwalking shadow there before the live "Larry King Show" last July.

Even in life, that other irrepressible pop star, Jim Morrison, was amused when his managers showed him the latest UPI headline, JIM MORRISON DIES – MORE LATER!

“How did I go this time?” the Lizard King, in the habit of going dark for weeks, would ask.

In fact, Jim looked forward to the real event. “I don’t want to die of old age or OD or drift off in my sleep,” he once said. “I want to feel what it’s like. I want to taste it, hear it, smell it. Death is only going to happen once. I don’t want to miss it.” 

In the meantime, he’d visited his predecessors. He’d danced around Valentino’s crypt in Hollywood. He drank six-packs outside Sheilah Graham’s L.A. apartment where F. Scott Fitzgerald had his last heart attack while listening to Beethoven’s Eroica. He drove Cholame Road where James Dean met his end in his silver Porsche Spyder.

The Doors singer called his own car the Blue Lady, after the legendary ghost of young lover who drove off a California cliffside into Half Moon Bay.

On the night Jim at last joined her and the others, his manager’s wife — 5,000 miles away — suddenly awakened and cried out, “Jim’s dead!” His second wife, Patricia, a Celtic witch, woke up to find her wedding ring on her other hand. After burying him in Paris, his first wife, Pamela, spoke to him through their German shepherd, Sage: “Yes, Jim. What are you trying to tell me?” she would ask the dog when he whined.

Like Pamela Morrison, Yoko Ono was a firm believer in the afterlife. But she had no interest in speaking to her husband through intermediaries. After conjuring Princess Diana on live TV, channelers Craig and Jane Hamilton-Parker, offered to contact John Lennon for Yoko. She declined their services, confident her husband was still on hand. On the cover of her 1982 album, "It's Alright (I See Rainbows)," John’s ghost benignly watches over her and Sean.

The Beatles’ eldest son, Julian, felt his presence too when an Australian aborigine gave him a white feather which his father had said would be his sign from the other side. Paul McCartney, who wrote "Hey, Jude" for Julian, knew the feeling as well. When in 1995 he was recording his writing partner’s "Free as a Bird," “There were a lot of strange goings on in the studio,” he said, “… an overall feeling that John was around.”

"I am an optimist about eternity,” Lennon had once declared. “I believe in life after death. I believe that death is not an end but a beginning."

The Maharishi had told the Beatles so. Just before they followed their guru to India, Brian Epstein fatally OD’d, and they held a séance. Though the Fab Four had no luck contacting their manager, John was undiscouraged.

Later, when moving into New York’s Dakota, he and Yoko held a séance for the late great residents there. Among them was Boris Karloff. Though the Lennons had no luck with the Frankenstein and the Mummy himself, they were warmly greeted by actor Robert Ryan’s wife, Jessie, who had just slipped the mortal coil.

The Dakota’s uncanny reputation had climaxed in 1968, when Roman Polanski shot "Rosemary’s Baby" there on the seventh floor — the Lennons' future floor. Thirteen years later, Lennon’s assassin, Mark David Chapman, saw Rosemary herself — Mia Farrow — emerge from the building; he took this as an auspicious sign.

A few days before, a journalist was interviewing John upstairs when a car backfired like a gunshot on the street below. “Another murder on the Rue Morgue!” cracked the psychic star.

Lennon’s idol was the King himself. Elvis, too, had always gravitated to things otherworldly. His twin, Jesse Garon, had been stillborn, and Elvis believed that he taken his brother’s soul. Later, his guru, Larry Geller — who was also his hairdresser — put Elvis back in touch with Jesse.

By this time, his twin wasn’t the only spirit in Elvis’s life. After the passing of his beloved mother, Gladys, in ’58, he saw her ghost outside her bedroom in Graceland and broke into tears.

Like Lennon, the King was a firm believer in the hereafter. And, like Morrison, he got off on visiting graveyards. Funeral parlors, too. “His fascination with corpses was downright terrifying,’ said his Man Friday, Sonny West. Sonny recalled how his boss took him to Memphis mortuaries, explaining embalming and cosmetic procedures on the clients.

Though Elvis abhorred autopsies, he received a full one himself — he was buried without organs or brain in a 900-pound copper coffin. Later, two fans, convinced that the King had already risen, raided his mausoleum, expecting to find it empty. For safekeeping, Elvis and his mother were then moved from the Forest Hill Cemetery to the Meditation Garden in Graceland.

Since then, Elvis’ ghost has been even more sociable then Lennon’s, Morrison’s or any of the other immortal rockers. Among other places, he has been spotted in the Las Vegas Hilton, in the Heartbreak Hotel and in Nashville’s old RCA studio where he recorded his Heartbreak hit in 1956.

Of all the stars, only Jim Morrison sang, "Cancel my subscription to the resurrection." The others knew better and continue to rock, now harmonizing with him:

The dead are newborn awakening. Gently they sigh in rapt funeral amazement.

David Comfort is the author of three popular Simon & Schuster titles, and the recipient of numerous literary awards. His latest title from Citadel/Kensington, "The Rock and Roll Book of the Dead: The Fatal Journeys of Rock’s Seven Immortals," is an in-depth study of the traumatic childhoods, tormented relationships, addictions, and tragic ends of Elvis, Lennon, Janis, Morrison, Hendrix, Cobain, and Garcia.
For details see: http://www.rockandrollbookofthedead.com.