Conspiracy Theory Thursday — Is Jim Morrison Alive?

Jim Morrison alive

Jim Morrison probably has the most conspiracy theories of any celebrity out there.

The official story is that he fled to Paris about three months before his 'death' in 1971. He was desperate to get out of Hollywood, he was overweight, bearded and his drinking was out of control.  His voice was giving out and he was struggling with his lyric writing so he retreated to Paris.  Accompanied by his common law wife, Pamela Courson, he intended to get clean, lose weight and reconnect with his creative self.

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Courson however was a junkie and claims she had been doing heroin and lying to Jim about it.  She says that on that fateful night, she gave him heroin, telling him it was coke and downers and they snorted it together.  Allegedly he started feeling ill and vomited some blood, so she ran him a bath and went back to bed.  Courson says that when she woke around 6 am she went looking for Jim and found him dead in the bath, under the water.

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She says she called the fire department and the police. The corpse was put on ice in the apartment while Courson and a friend of the couple, Alain Ronay arranged the funeral. Three days later a cheap coffin arrived and at some point a doctor visited and signed a death certificate.  The cause of death was listed as heart failure.

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Doors manager Bill Siddons arrived from the USA on July  6 and the coffin (which Siddons did not look inside) was buried on July 7.  Siddons and Courson returned to LA where it was announced to the press that Jim Morrison had died.

The Theory

Questions started immediately about the strange turn of events.  Things just didn't add up for the millions of Doors fans worldwide and conspiracy theories have been floated about ever since.

The most persistent theory is that James Douglas Morrison faked his death.  Here's why.

The "Proof"

  • Jim had talked about faking his own death in the past.   He wanted to be a member of the 27 club and predicted that his celebrity would lead him down the same path as Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

  • He wanted out.  Personality wise the 'celebrity' persona that had been created didn't sit well with him. Morrison was a wordsmith, fascinated by literature and known to his college classmates as a shy intellectual.  He didn't appear to show any interest in music when he was young and none of his peers had him pegged as a future famous rock star—they saw him as an author.  He loved to observe, question, bait and provoke those around him. Morrison was a poet and never intended to become a 'rock star' or an idol.  His role in the world was detrimental to his health and he hated the fact that his life was under a microscope.  He was frustrated and the worse he felt the more he would drink and abuse to forget. His time wasn't his own anymore—it belonged to The Doors, the record companies and the fans and he was incredibly unhappy—like I said, he wanted out.

  • He was facing jail time.  At a live show in Miami in 1969 he had turned up so drunk he was barely able to perform and taunted the 15,000 strong crowd;

    • "You're all a bunch of fucking idiots"
    • "Maybe you like being pushed around.  Maybe you love it.  Maybe you love getting your face stuck in the shit."
    • "You're all a bunch of slaves"
    • "You want to see my cock don't you?"

All hell broke loose at the gig. He ended up stripping off, flashing his peen and charging through the crowd.  A warrant was issued for his arrest for indecent exposure and profanity which could mean jail.  He was on bail when he fled to Paris.

  • He had no family to speak of—he had been estranged from his parents for the whole of his career.  When Jim wrote his parents in 1965 that he had met Ray Manzarek and started The Doors, his father replied that he though the plan was a "crock" and that Jim was wasting his time.  Jim never spoke to his parents again.

  • He wanted to get away from Pamela Courson.  She was a junkie, she'd gone to Paris ahead of him to sort out an apartment for them, and promptly started an affair with aristocratic drug dealer Jean DeBreteuil, who was the boyfriend of Marianne Faithfull at the time. Pamela and Jim had a history of break ups and make ups and whilst she was the closest person to him (he left everything to her), she wasn't his be-all and end-all. She'd apparently got jealous of him enjoying his time in Paris.  He had shaved off his beard and was able to walk about the streets alone, without being recognized. She certainly cared for him, but he had got tired of being stood up by her one minute and then having to put up with her motherly over protectiveness the next.

  • There are conflicting stories around his physical state while in Paris.  Some say that he continued drinking excessively while he was there.  Others report that he had cut down on the drinking in June which resulted in him losing some weight.  He was struggling with his asthma due to the Paris air quality, but knew he didn't want to go back to LA.

  • There are also contradictions about Jim's attitude to hard drugs. Many close friends state that he hated drugs and stayed away from them.  There is no evidence that he used drugs.

  • On the night he died why is there no record of a police investigation or autopsy?  Why was the body put on ice and left in the apartment for three days?

  • Only Pamela Courson, who is now dead (dying from a heroin overdose in 1974) and French doctor Dr Max Vassile who signed the death certificate saw the body. Vassile recorded the cause of death as 'heart failure' and refused to speak about it up until his death.  Morrison's personal physician Dr Derwin stated him to be in "excellent health before traveling to Paris",

  • It seems that Dr Vassile  may have given himself an out—the death cert is in the name of 'Douglas Morrison' with the James being added later by a different person (see the difference in the handwriting of 'J' on the certificate).  Legally this means the death certificate isn't for James Douglas Morrison.  This could have been at the urging of Alain Ronay who was in the apartment when the police and medical examiner were present.  He has said that he was trying to protect Jim's identity.

Jim Morrison's death certificate showing different handwriting for 'James' and 'Juliet'.

  • Bill Siddons arrived in Paris on July 6 but says that he didn't want to see the body. He found the sealed coffin and the death certificate and apparently that was good enough for him.  Courson lied to the US Embassy, saying that Morrison was an orphan to allow for a quickie no-questions-asked burial. Morrison's parents, siblings or bandmates weren't informed of the death or given the opportunity to attend the funeral—there wasn't even a priest.

  • Why was he buried with such extreme haste and a total media blackout until after Siddons and Courson had arrived back in the States?  No-one knew of his death until several days after the funeral.

  • Jim had visited his burial site at Pere Lachaise on a number of occasions—the last time being just three days before his 'death'.  The cemetery is under tight security as many famous people are buried there (Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf)—there would be no chance of stealing a body or opening a sealed coffin to check there's a body in it.  It is rare that a foreigner would be allowed to be buried at the French monument which raises questions.  The Baltimore Morning Sun wondered just how he might have cajoled his way into the cemetery to be buried and even Siddons has said "how it happened is still not clear to me."

  • The grave went unmarked for three months and when bandmate John Densmore saw it he could not believe that Morrison would fit in there as it is too short to house him. Ray Manzarek has stated and was quoted many times about the grave, saying, that “Jim isn’t here”.

  • Jim had written to his accountant, Bob Greene, in the month leading up to his 'death' telling him that he would not be returning to LA and asking him to put his affairs in order.  He'd been checking on the progress of the latest album sales too with bandmate Densmore—he knew Pamela would be taken care of.

  • The only way to debunk the claim that he faked his own death would be to exhume his remains and carry out tests.  A group of fans actually went so far as to try to get Morrison's dental records to then try to get permission to dig up his body and match the records to the remains.  This was immediately blocked by Morrison's parent and their attorneys.


"If there was one guy that would have been capable of staging his own death -- getting a phony death certificate and paying off some French doctor... And putting a hundred and fifty pound sack of sand into a coffin and splitting to some point on this planet -- Africa, who knows where -- it is Jim Morrison who would have been able to pull it off." 
- Ray Manzarek


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And, check out Popdust’s previous Conspiracy Theory Thursday posts here

Jim Morrison alive

Jim Morrison alive


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