The Library’s Research staff had heard this rumor over the years but like many rumors that come to us for authentication, we’d found no concrete evidence one way or another. Then, in the November 17, 2008, issue of The New Yorker, an article reviewed the work of the photographer William Eggleston. The accompanying illustration, called “Untitled” and taken in 1984, was a photograph in the living room at Graceland, showing an Eggleston photograph of Presley reflected in a mirror above a dresser. On the dresser was a pile of books—and the top book on that pile was a copy of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.
We called the staff of Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home in Memphis, and spoke to researchers there, who were able to confirm that there was a copy of Science and Health in Presley’s personal library. It was placed in his living room for the photo shoot.
The researchers at Graceland suggested that the book had been a gift from Presley’s spiritual advisor, Larry Geller. Geller, a hairdresser, became a friend and confidant of Presley’s after a chance discussion during a haircut. He often brought Presley books to read and the two discussed many different outlooks on spiritual philosophy.
Geller later wrote a book about his time with Presley called Elvis’s Search for God. In it, he discusses Presley’s deep spirituality and includes one chapter titled “The Healer.” Clearly, religion was deeply important to Presley, who had started his career as a Gospel singer and continued to record popular hymns throughout his life.
We were able to get in contact with Geller, who confirmed that he did give Presley the copy of Science and Health that is still at Graceland today. He said that though Presley had been raised in a fundamentalist home, he searched for new spiritual ideas throughout his life, and that he and Presley had many conversations about Eddy’s ideas. Several others from Presley’s household have spoken about his spiritual search, including a nursemaid who was a Christian Scientist. Geller spoke of his own lifelong interest in Christian Science, and of how much he had enjoyed his own visit to The Mother Church years ago.