I love a good conspiracy theory. I think Tupac is still alive; I think John F. Kennedy was assassinated by the CIA; and I believe the government flooded ghettos with heroin and cocaine to cripple the Black Panthers. Conspiracy theories are a product of hope. The human heart seeks to explain random evil (chaos is an enemy of goodness) by ascribing a motivation to it. Organized, goal-oriented evil can be combated, so there is hope it can be thwarted. Conspiracy theories are predicated on a willingness to believe that others are capable of malicious forethought -- not a particularly hopeful stance. Still, it's a realistic one, and paradoxically enables us to reason out the bad things that happen in our world.

I do realize that not all conspiracy theories are reasonable, or hopeful, or merit attention. What I also realize is that people equate conspiracy theories with insanity, ignoring that many of the greatest minds in history have been drawn to them. Religion is the greatest conspiracy theory of all, and faith has been mathematically affirmed by the 17th-century French mathematician/ philosopher Blaise Pascal. In his 1658 theological/rational treatise he put forth what is known as "Pascal's Wager": If God does not exist, one will lose nothing by believing in him, while if he does exist, one will lose everything by not believing. He concludes, then, that the only rational path is to believe.

With that in mind, I came across www.elvis-conspiracy.com, which boldly asserts, "A spectre is haunting America -- the spectre is the Helter Skelter Conspiracy -- the 'mother of all conspiracy theories.' The forces of evil are planning the destruction of the United States. The goal of Helter Skelter is to promote the moral decline of the United States. If the United States morally degenerates, it will join the New World Order. The purpose of the Templars of the Christian Brotherhood is to expose and defeat Helter Skelter."

This is heady stuff. For starters, the Templars of the Christian Brotherhood (TCB) is a secret society founded by Elvis Aaron Presley and the Memphis Mafia. The site is operated by "King Saint," the current Grand Master of the TCB. Those of you familiar with Elvis lore know that Elvis' motto was "Taking Care of Business in a flash," symbolized by "TCB" and a lightning bolt. But King Saint teaches us that TCB really stood for the Templars of the Christian Brotherhood, and the lightning bolt was modeled after the design on the costume of comic book hero Captain Marvel Jr., who earned his superhero status after defeating Captain Nazi. Therefore, the TCB lightning bolt is the good counterpart of the evil swastika, as sported by Hitler and Charles Manson -- two of the main messengers of Helter Skelter in the 20th century.

It turns out the Beatles were also minions of Helter Skelter, which in the 20th century aimed to spark a race war in America. Charles Manson was to emerge from this battle to lead us into a satanic millennium. According to the website, "One of the main phases of the conspiracy involved the fallen angel or demon of Germany, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon.

"Manson received demonic suggestions from the Beatles' White Album. The song 'Helter Skelter' was, of course, a blatant reference to the Helter Skelter Conspiracy and the song 'Revolution 9' was a veiled reference to Revelation 9, a chapter in the last book of the New Testament. It is in this chapter where Abaddon is mentioned by name. It is also in chapter 9 where mention is made of four angels set to kill a third of mankind. Manson took these four angels to be the Beatles. The Beatles were from Liverpool, the name which appeared on the RMS Titanic, which hit an iceberg on April 14, the same date Abraham Lincoln was shot, and sank on April 15, the same date Abraham Lincoln died. The Titanic was a warning, a prophetic metaphor, how quickly the United States could sink into the moral abyss. Also, the Beatles were given instructions from Abaddon, the demon of Germany, while they were performing in Hamburg, Germany."

Okay. So that's the history. But it's when King Saint gets to the present day that things get really interesting. King Saint says he received his calling on April 4, 1977, while visiting California's Joshua Tree National Monument. There he found a sealed bottle under a tree. He opened it, and the voice of the Angel of America informed him of his prophesied mission to defeat Helter Skelter. He says the bottle contained a poem -- "The Apocalypse of the King" (see sidebar, page 49) -- which was signed by none other than Elvis Aaron Presley, and dated March 17, 1977.

U2's The Joshua Tree was released on March 17, 1987, exactly 10 years after the poem was written. According to King Saint, U2 is photographed standing in front of the very same Joshua tree under which the poem was found. "U2, the 'Anti-Beatles,' are prophets whose mission is to expose Helter Skelter. The rock band Rush, in their song 'Mission' from the album Hold Your Fire, attest to U2's mission.... U2 warn that America is under attack by demonic forces and that Americans need to be morally wide awake."

The wonder of the TCB manifesto is how perfectly it envelops the last half-century of music. Explains King Saint (at length): "Bruce Springsteen has been awarded the prestigious position of honorary head of the Brotherhood Office of Secret Service for his covert fight against Helter Skelter. The Brotherhood Office of Secret Service is the propaganda department of the TCB. Other members include Johnny Cash (the first man in black), Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, Chris Isaak, Tiger Woods (whose name comes from Elvis' karate nickname of 'Tiger'), John Mellencamp, Sammy Hagar, and U2 (whose fanclub newsletter is titled Propaganda). Springsteen's song 'Johnny Bye Bye' recalls Chuck Berry's 'Bye Bye Johnny' and 'Promised Land.' Elvis covered Berry's 'Promised Land' and his album of the same name was featured in the movie Men in Black.

"Elvis' guardian angel is commemorated by Paul Simon's album Graceland. The icon on the album cover represents Elvis' guardian angel riding on a white horse, just as in the book of Revelation, chapter 19, Yeshua HaMashiach, the Divine Warrior, rides a white horse to vanquish evil.

"It was in 1967 that the Stones' album Their Satanic Majesties' Request and the Beatles' album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band appeared. It was in 1968 that the Stones' song 'Sympathy for the Devil' and the Beatles' White Album appeared. Not coincidentally, Hell's Angels were responsible for a murder during a Stones performance at Altamont on December 6, 1969. It was at Altamont where Mick Jagger took on the personality of the Devil during the performance of 'Sympathy for the Devil.'"

Every time the TCB manifesto lapses into absolutely crazy talk, though, it spews forth something that makes sense. The current enemies of the TCB are neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and members of the order of the Ku Klux Klan. Granted, these groups are singled out because of their satanic alliance with Abaddon, the demon of Germany, but I can still get behind anyone who wants to fight neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

King Saint asserts that he gets his power from the guardian angel of Jesse Garon Presley, who chooses the TCB's Grand Masters: "Satan tried to kill Elvis at birth but killed Elvis' twin brother Jesse Garon instead, not realizing that Gladys gave birth to twins. This is how Elvis escaped the clutches of death." The Grand Master has a yearly meeting with the guardian angel in Tupelo, Mississippi, to receive instructions about the mission of the TCB. King Saint claims that he has only been Grand Master since 1990, and that he succeeded Jon Burrows who was at the helm since '78 (Elvis, the first Grand Master, died in '77).

It is strange that King Saint would use the name Jon Burrows without explanation, since any Elvis conspiracy theorist worth his salt would know that "Jon Burrows" was a pseudonym used by Elvis Presley himself, when he was trying to avoid the paparazzi. In fact, the National Archives and Records Association shows that in a 1970 letter to President Richard Nixon, Elvis wrote, "Sir, I am staying at the Washington Hotel, Room 505-506-507. I have two men who work with me by the name of Jerry Schilling and Sonny West. I am registered under the name of Jon Burrows."

It's the gaping hole in the theory. Is King Saint implying that Elvis is alive and living under the name Jon Burrows? Or is he mysteriously unaware of Elvis' well-documented pseudonym? It leads me to wonder if this manifesto is the work of a zealot or an elaborate, clever fiction. Pascal's Wager would posit that it costs me nothing to believe Elvis was fighting evil, but King Saint draws a trap door with a big neon "Exit" sign in the shape of Jon Burrows. Either way, the TCB is a positive force in the vein of the Wizard of Oz: It gives Springsteen a heart, Elvis a brain, and U2 a cause (and boy, does U2 need a cause).

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