As a child growing up poor in Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis Presley promised his parents that one day he would earn a lot of money and use it to buy the family a big house.
He made good on that promise in 1957, when he bought Graceland for $102,500 in Memphis, Tennessee. The mansion, originally built in 1939, remains the centerpiece of the 5.6-hectare estate, although it has been considerably refurbished and embellished over the decades.
Elvis, his parents, wife Priscilla Presley, daughter Lisa Marie and a collection of friends and relatives that made up his entourage all lived in Graceland most of the time until Elvis’s sudden death in August 1977 at the age of 42.
The official cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia — a form of heart attack —but overuse of prescription drugs for years is widely believed to have been a major cause of his final illness, when his heartbeat became so erratic that Elvis fell unconscious and died in his private quarters. His father, Vernon Presley, had the autopsy report sealed from public view.
Funeral rites for Presley at Graceland commanded worldwide attention, with 80,000 mourners in attendance. His gravesite on the mansion grounds became a magnet for visitors.
Less than five years after Elvis’s death, Graceland was opened to the public on June 7, 1982.
“600,000 people visit Graceland annually,” said Libby Perry, a Graceland spokesman.
All these years later, do visitors report feeling Elvis’s presence at Graceland?
“Of course,” Perry said. “Just ask anyone who has visited.”