Originally created 08/12/97

Former Elvis vault up for sale



MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Elvis left the building a long time ago, but you're welcome to stay for an eternity.

A mausoleum vault where Presley and his mom, Gladys, were once entombed is being offered for sale by Forest Hill Cemetery for at least $800,000.

Why would someone pay that kind of money for a space that held the King of Rock 'n' Roll's remains for less than two months?

"I honestly don't know," cemetery sales director Darrell Dishner said. "But obviously you have people like Michael Jackson out there who owns the remains of the Elephant Man. What a perfect thing for him to buy so he can place the remains of the Elephant Man."

These are the kinds of ideas that crop up around Memphis in August.

Elvis died at Graceland, his Memphis estate, on Aug. 16, 1977. Thousands of fans return each year to mark the anniversary. This year's crowd will be larger because it is the 20th anniversary.

A weeklong series of concerts, fan-club meetings and teary-eyed memorials began Monday and culminate in a candlelight vigil Friday, the eve of the anniversary of Elvis' death.

More than 10,000 fans are expected to file past his grave in a procession to the small Graceland garden where he, his mother, father and grandmother are buried.

Many also will visit Forest Hill, where Elvis and his mother were entombed before their remains were moved to Graceland in October 1977.

"We've had visitors just break down and cry. It's a very sacred place to them," Dishner said.

The vault, a private "family room" with space for eight caskets, is in a granite-and-marble mausoleum built in 1915. More than 450 people are entombed there, but the Elvis room has remained empty since his brief stay.

Gladys was buried at Forest Hill in 1958 and then moved into the mausoleum after Elvis died.

Shortly before Elvis and Gladys were returned to Graceland, three Memphis men were accused of plotting to steal the King's body from Forest Hill and hold it for ransom. The trespassing charges eventually were dropped.

Dishner said Elvis' father, Vernon, left the King at Forest Hill until state permission was obtained to establish a family plot at Graceland.

The Presley estate never paid for the vault, so it belongs to Forest Hill. Dishner's company, which owns 176 funeral homes and graveyards around the country, bought the cemetery in 1993. The vault could be developed as a tourist attraction, Dishner said.

"We are prepared to work with the new owner in meeting whatever they would like done with it. But obviously, we're not going to turn this into a fair," he said.

Dishner estimated the vault would sell for $30,000 if Elvis had never been there.

Todd Morgan, a Graceland spokesman, said: "We're confident the Forest Hill management doesn't want to see anything irregular happen to it."