A Night at Graceland Too

Words by Josh Colfer, Photos by Dean Alari

I don’t know how many people that read this will know of Graceland Too and its legacy in the Delta and beyond. It was one of those places that make this land and its people fabled in the American conscience, the kind that occupies Southern lore alongside voodoo villages, abandoned factories, and the like.   

Graceland Too is no longer in operation following the strange death of its curator, Paul MacLeod in the summer of 2014. I visited the eccentric man and his immense collection of Elvis memorabilia one stormy night in the summer of 2012 as a fresh Memphis transplant by way of California. Like the thousands who visited Graceland Too during its years of operation, my experience is tinged with oddity, nervousness, and the possibility that the reclusive man holed up in the blue-painted antebellum house may in fact, be the last face I laid eyes on while I was alive.   

August, 2012

On a black and stormy night ridden with rain and wind, a few friends and I met at an hour before midnight to leave for Holly Springs, Mississippi. This small, quiet town was home to the iconic blue house known more affectionately as 'Graceland Too.' One of us had visited Graceland Too once during her high school days of intrigue, and the rest of us possessed a vibrant fascination for the famed house where Elvis memorabilia filled every corner and crevice, collected by a man named 'Paul' whose obsession was known by rumor and fabled by lore.   

After driving through heavy rain for almost an hour we arrived a little after midnight to the Antebellum house painted blue, covered in high chain link fences and barbed wire; a setting not unlike the beginning scenes of so many horror films. Two stone lions crouched on their platforms guarding the house in stoicism and caution to the ill-intended intruder. The porch held nothing, apart from an empty postcard rack that squeaked in the wind. On the door hung a single Christmas reef.     

Michael, the brazen one of our midnight motley crew, rapped four sturdy and boisterous knocks on the door, and waited for a reply. 

No answer.
He gave another series of knocks with even more vehemence, determined to witness the eccentric, off-the-beaten path attraction that held so much mysticism. The rain pattered around us in soft chorus.   

"Maybe he's not there. It is after midnight you know," I suggested.   

"He's definitely here," Liz, our seasoned Graceland Too veteran, replied. "He's always here. He never leaves the house."   

No answer.

"Guys I'm going to go around to the side and knock on his windows," Austin remarked as he descended the porch steps. 

"Austin that's how all the horror movies start; the friends split up and something bad happens!" I joked.   

Austin and Michael turned the corner of the house a couple of minutes later, returning from their failed attempts to get the mysterious Paul's attention at the window. At that moment, a man opened the door.   

It was difficult to see the details and expression of his face from the darkened porch, but the shady aura of the blue monstrosity he called his home and low voice thickened with a Southern drawl that greeted us made the bumps on my arm rise and blood run cold.   "Welcome to Graceland Too," he said, "Come on; I'll show you around"   

We shuffled in. Too far gone to retreat and too late to find some other activity for the night, fear and curiosity guided us through the doorway. I stepped inside, and took in the eclectic sight of the famed Elvis fanatic.   

Remnants of greying hair clung to a balding head, slicked back so that a bright sheen reflected the light from a single lamp resting on a nearby cabinet. An opened Hawaiin shirt revealed a gold chain and grey-haired chest. The dim light also revealed a gold ring clad on the third finger of his right hand, which proceeded to shimmer with every flail of his hand as he began to tell us about Graceland Too and Elvis Presley.   

“Hey, yo!” He yelled, pointing to Eric, “You know how much I was offered for the memorabilia in this house?”   

 “Not really.”   

 “Two million dollars; and you know what else? I didn’t sell because another collector appraised the value of it all at twenty million!”   

And with that staccato of an introduction, he began the tour he had given probably thousands of times in his life. He espoused rapidly uttered facts about the price of Elvis memorabilia with a memorized script I could only assume he recited to every visitor that has ever come before us.   

As we slowly strode from room to room, he informed us about the value of each item, and the famous people that had visited Graceland Too in the past. He held hundreds of pictures in a frayed binder with an illegible label on the cover, which he picked up from a stack laying on the ground. It was possible that Paul had some kind of organizational system for the records, posters, cutouts, announcements and clothes, but if there was, I was at a loss to find it.

We witnessed the King at nearly every stage of his short life, from the sculpted face and bright eyes that made women throw their undergarments on stage, to the aging man growing wide in figure but full in hair. Always, at every corner, those cool blue eyes stared at us with a reassuring smile; eternal and unchanging no matter what cheap artifact he appeared on.

Occasionally, he would grab the arm of some unfortunate friend who was too close for comfort in a firm and commanding hold as he proceeded to iterate some fact with a voracious focus that one only finds in zealous soldiers charging an enemy causeway. He would bark womanizing comments, curse in southern fashion, and beat his chest at random moments throughout our tour.

“Girl, J-lo’s booty ain’t got nothing on yours,” he remarked at one point during the tour, addressing Liz during the viewing of some rare footage of Elvis at a concert.

Expecting to enter a dimly-lit room to find a man in a hockey mask and chainsaw or hatchet, I proceeded with the tour wondering what prayers one ought to utter before being killed in a house full of Elvis memorabilia by a Coca-Cola drinking, insomniac, obsessed collector, and whether had I left any damp clothes in the washer at home.

A couple hours later, we exited through the front door with only our innocence greatly damaged, each verbally making a vow to never return to that blue eyesore.     

Josh Colfer serves as the managing editor of The Galleon, as well as Digital Media Coordinator for Christian Brothers University. When he's not formatting articles for this site you can find him wandering into strange houses. Dean Alari is a photographer living and working somewhere in California...he's not quite sure where yet. These photos were taken from his blog. You can find more of his work at deanalari.com

Posted by Josh Colfer at 11:59 AM

The Galleon is curated and managed by Christian Brothers University, a Memphis-based university founded in the Lasallian tradition (a sect within the Catholic faith). Part of our founding mission is to uphold respect for all persons-regardless of political, religious, or social beliefs. As an institution, we take no stand on political matters; to do so would undermine our commitment to intellectual inquiry and thoughtful response to events taking place in our World by members of the CBU community.

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