Michael Jackson's outlandish life is being overshadowed in his death by events so preposterous they seem to come from a fiction writer's overactive imagination.
They include a petition to award him a Nobel peace prize; a growing list of people who claim to be the real parents of Jackson's children; a lawsuit from an alleged ex-wife; and a sect that believes the "King of Pop" lives on, albeit on another planet.
Jackson died in Los Angeles on June 25 at age 50 from an apparent cardiac arrest. His son Prince Michael, 12; his daughter Paris, 11, and seven-year-old son Prince Michael II -- known as "Blanket" -- are the immediate heirs to the late singer's music empire. Their legal guardian is Katherine Jackson, the children's paternal grandmother.
According to a case filed recently in Los Angeles, a woman named Claire Elisabeth Fields Cruise claims to be the children's sole biological mother.
Documents filed by Fields Cruise, and posted on celebrity website TMZ.com, also claim Prince Michael I was fathered by a man who lives in France, while Paris Jackson's father was Fields Cruise's "unofficial college sweetheart."
Fields Cruise told a judge she gave birth to the children without being pregnant with them.
"There is technology that is in existence," she told reporters after she filed the case,"to remove the conceived children from her body and insert them into the bodies of the surrogates who gave birth to them."
Fields Cruise also claimed that Jackson "always knew" he was the biological father of Connor Cruise, the 14 year-old black child that actors Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman adopted in 1995, when they were still married.
One day before Fields Cruise filed her case, British ex-child star Mark Lester said that he might be Paris Jackson's father.
"I gave Michael my sperm so that he could have kids -- and I believe Paris is my daughter," Lester, who played Oliver Twist in the 1968 film musical "Oliver!," told the British tabloid News of the World.
Jackson family spokespeople said the 51-year-old Briton was a friend of Jackson and is godfather to all three of his children, but denied Lester's parenthood claim.
Jackson had his first two children, Prince Michael and Paris, when he was married to Debbie Rowe, an assistant to his dermatologist, between 1996 and 1999.
Rowe signed over parental rights to the children to Jackson, who later had a third child, Prince Michael II, by a surrogate.
Rowe's boss Arnold Klein even weighed in with a cryptic statement on paternity. "To the best of my knowledge, I am not the father of these children," Klein told ABC News in early July.
Rowe and Jackson may have divorced, but one Nona Paris Lola Ankhesenamun Jackson claims to be the singer's legitimate wife -- and filed a case in Los Angeles court five days after the singer's death asking "that all my husband's properties, monies and assets must be transferred to me immediately."
While there is no evidence linking the woman to Jackson, she also claims Jackson's children are hers and that she did not authorize them to live with their grandmother.
Separately, a woman by the name of Billie Jean Jackson -- like Jackson's famous hit song "Bille Jean" -- showed up in court claiming an unspecified link to "Blanket" Jackson.
Jean asked the judge to hire a handwriting expert to check Jackson's will for forgeries; asked for the right to visit Blanket every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm; and asked to not to be "arrested" by Katherine Jackson or estate executor John Branca.
Meanwhile, gossip magazines allege that 25-year-old rapper Omer Bhatti is Jackson's love child, conceived in a one-night stand with a Norwegian fan.
Bhatti lived at Neverland ranch for eight years and was with the Jackson family at the singer's funeral. Friends told reporters however that he was merely a Jackson protege, and Bhatti has denied any biological link to the singer.
That hasn't stopped the late singer's estranged father Joe Jackson from claiming that Bhatti was Michael's son.
"Yes, I knew he had another son, yes I did," Joe Jackson told ABC News in a July 31 interview. Bhatti "looks like a Jackson, he can dance like a Jackson," he added, offering no further proof.
Soon after Jackson's death, a website opened nominating the singer for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for having "given of himself completely and selflessly in a lifelong effort to help better global conditions for children, and all of humankind."
As of Saturday more than 31,000 people had signed the petition -- even though Nobel prizes are not awarded posthumously.
Some people say they see Jackson's ghost in a CNN documentary filmed at the late star's Neverland estate soon after his death.
Others may be consoled by the Raelian Movement, a group that says Jackson -- named a Raelian Honorary Guide in 1992 -- probably lives on.
"Considering all the good things Michael did on Earth for peace and love, I'm sure he is alive today on the Elohim's Eternal-Life Planet," group leader Rael said in a July 7 statement.
Raelians believe that all life on Earth was created by human scientists from another planet known as the Elohim, who ancient humans mistook for gods.
Jackson "is among the few humans from Earth to be so cloned, and will return to Earth with the Elohim" when humans will welcome them back, the statement read.
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