MEMPHIS, TENN., AUG. 11 -- Now they are arriving from all over the world by bus, car, jet and RV, a look of awe in their eyes and a flush of illicit excitement in their powdered cheeks.

A caravan of 22 buses, chartered by British aficionados, has just returned from a trip to the Tupelo, Miss., birthplace and the occupants are immersed in Elvis Presleyana, booking up the Sun Studios tour, in 20-minute shifts, for a whole day. (One English fan, declaring his musical allegiance, has tied his long hair up in a Stars and Bars bandanna.)

The arrival of mega-fan Janelle McCombs, the Tupelo collector whose memorabilia fill an entire McDonald's, has been delayed a day by the journey to Mississippi of a group of fan clubs from Japan and Scandinavia.

This is not a young person's pilgrimage; except for the young children in tow and a handful of frosted-blond teen-agers filling in as rush-week tour guides, Elvis' army is a veteran crew of over-40s.

Most of these -- and Graceland and city hotel officials now say they expect 100,000 tourists by the end of the week -- are one-time sojourners in paradise, who hope to turn the anniversary of Elvis Presley's death on Aug. 16, 1977, into a reassuring reunion of a family of the soul.

But the hardest-core fans here are observing a ritual, making a journey to whisper at Elvis' grave. They scrawl loving graffiti on the "wailing wall" in front of Graceland mansion, and then buy tickets to commercialized wakes, where collectibles have replaced consumables.

"I have so much stuff I'm going to have to move," says 72-year-old widow Marta Hahn, who has traveled from Chicago to Memphis every August since Presley died. "I never part with a card; I have two of every record he ever made. I have every book, every calendar, a bust" -- she marks its height at her waist -- "a doll dressed in black leather, a radio ... I can't think of it all."

Hahn, whose flowered blouse is rim-to-rim Elvis buttons, fell fast and hard for Elvis 30 years ago.

"He was just a down-to-earth person, plus he was the sexiest thing I had ever seen," she says. "No one could project sex the way he could -- and of course, years ago, a lot of people didn't approve of that at all. I got a lot of lectures about that {from my family}. But that didn't stop me!

"I know he's dead, but I don't feel like he is," Hahn says. "Every time I walk into the mansion, I can feel his presence ... It's a good feeling.

"No one's ever meant that much to me outside my husband," Hahn says with a smile, and if forced to choose between Elvis and her husband, "I'd have a problem, that's all I'll say."

Even now, Jean Robinson of Cincinnati lives as intimately with Elvis as with her husband Esker.

An Elvis adorer since his first television appearance in January 1956, Jean Robinson has worn her heart on her sleeve -- literally -- every day since 1971.

"I wouldn't buy anything but an Elvis shirt, I wouldn't wear anything but an Elvis shirt," Robinson says flatly. In the same tone of voice, she announces, "I don't buy any other kind of music, and I don't play any other kind."

Robinson estimates she has about 50 shirts at the moment, many of which she designed herself. She has a rainbow of tops for the nine days she will be here, many color-coded to the slogan.

"I brought a 'Moody Blue' one for the Nostalgia Concert Thursday night, and for the candlelight vigil {on Saturday} I have one that is black and has a silver shooting star and rhinestone studs on it. It says, 'It's midnight and I miss you' in silver."

She is carrying the matching bag, black canvas with silver lame' stars.

Robinson, who says her husband is an Elvis fan "now, but he wasn't when we got married," only celebrates with Elvis.

"We have holidays with Elvis, birthdays with Elvis; I made him a bunny rabbit {cake} for Easter, a heart for Valentine's, a leprechaun for St. Patrick's Day."

Robinson might be considered an Elvis addict -- she saw him in concert dozens of times between 1956 and 1977, including his last two shows in Cincinnati and Indianapolis, and still has tickets for three shows in the tour he was preparing when he died -- but she blends in easily with other fans who pass in and out of these informal "socials," trading souvenirs and sentiment.

"That's the way it should be," says a Colorado fan who has overheard Robinson talking about baking Elvis cakes. "The Mile-High fan club had this beautiful cake before they left for Memphis, but they couldn't cut it -- nobody could bear it."

Of course, such eager consumers attract eager procurers. Collector Fred Whobrey, an acknowledged master of the marketable memento, has set up an impressive folding-table shop for the Fan Festival at the Elvis Presley Boulevard Howard Johnson's with only a fraction of his stock.

Whobrey says his private collection holds more than 3,000 items "dating back to 1955 when I was 15 -- I got started early." His most profitable sale was of a radio promotional record for the March of Dimes made in 1957.

"It came with a script; the deejay read the script, and then {Elvis} answered him back," Whobrey says with a smile. "They were supposed to be destroyed." Whobrey got $4,000 for that.

His most valuable relic is an olive satin shirt with brass studs and puffed sleeves that Elvis wore for one of his later Las Vegas shows. Estimated value $5,000, but "it's not for sale," Whobrey insists.

Dwayne Hunt, who recently moved to Memphis from the Washington area, has transplanted the popular "pix with the Prez" idea, in which vendors take instant photographs of tourists with wooden stand-ups of Reagan, to his new home.

Equipped with camera, tripod and life-sized cutout of a still-svelte Elvis, Hunt invites fans to "Pose with the King" for $5 a shot.

(Souvenirs, it should be noted, are cheaper in the South: Even at Graceland, T-shirts sell for $10 and coffee mugs for $4.50 instead of the $15 and $7.50 D.C. tourists often shell out. Of course, there are the exceptions, such as the nine Elvis whiskey decanters the man on the roadside next to the watermelons is asking $1,100 for. One of the most popular new gimmicks, imported from the West Coast, hasn't even hit Washington yet: For $9.95, an Elvis fan can step into a tiny recording booth the size of a pay phone and sing one of about 75 Elvis numbers over a prerecorded sound track. Imagine what "Rap With Reagan" studios could do.)

These fans are out to take Elvis home with them, but there are hundreds of others, from in town and out, who buy mementos for Elvis. They are the patrons of Burke's Flowers, which could almost lay claim to being the official Elvis florist.

It was Burke's, a few miles north of Graceland on Elvis Presley Boulevard, who at Elvis' order kept his mother's grave supplied with flowers for 20 years.

"It was a basket of fresh flowers, any kind, only red. 'Just so's it's red,' Elvis said," according to former store manager Anita Watkins. "She loved red."

Nowadays, Burke's is a regular stopover for fans and clubs who send floral tributes -- most of them with artificial flowers that, like the fans' affections, are guaranteed never to fade -- in the shape of Elvis arcana. And like some oriental household god, a white ceramic Elvis smiles benevolently down from behind the cash register.

Styrofoam and fabric flower hound dogs, crowns, gold records, good luck charms (usually four-leaf clovers), blue suede shoes, teddy bears, post cards (as in "U.S. Male"), flags, stars, guitars, hearts and even pink Cadillacs fill the store.

Every one has been Polaroided and filed in a scrapbook, along with the Christmas card sent to Burke's by Elvis himself, so that clubs like the Maine True Fans of Elvis, who like to reproduce the same pine motif arrangement, can simply charge the year's creation.

Some are quite expensive, including a six-foot Look Homeward-style angel that was ordered by a woman in Ontario, estimated at $300 ("we're kind of Dutch about telling the price, because her husband doesn't know she did it," says Watkins), and a record-shaped arrangement that included 16 clear gold vinyl 45 records bought by the customer for $25 each.

The four-foot turquoise and white shield ordered by the Elvis Presley Scholarship Fund of Virginia, which raises $1,000 every year for a graduating high school senior to study performing arts, contains more than 300 fresh pompons, which are used because they will stand up to the heat.

There are dozens of orders for roses, Watkins says, but they won't be delivered until this weekend, when the actual anniversary falls.

Such conspicuous consumption seems part of the Presley style -- especially to the fans who tour Graceland two and three times, apparently to make sure they haven't missed a single crushed-velvet sofa or 24-karat gold-lined sink (including the two on the Lisa Marie, Elvis' Conair 880 jet).

The jet is nicknamed "Hound Dog 1" to distinguish it from the much smaller Jet Star, known as "Hound Dog 2" that ferried the lesser entourage members. Its 98 seats ripped out and replaced with sofas, closed-circuit TVs, air-to-ground telephone, bar and baby-blue velvet bed (with queen-sized seat belt), the Lisa Marie was another power-play setup for Elvis in the last two troubled years.

"Elvis had control of everything, he wanted to be in control," says tour guide Meredith Phillips. "He could control the lights in the whole plane ... There was a door to the bedroom that only had a knob on the inside so Elvis could control who came in."

In fact, Delta Air Lines sold Elvis the aging Conair because "it consumed so much fuel it was kinda going out of style," Phillips says. "But Elvis said, 'What the hell, I've got the money.' "

There is the ghost of a powerful metaphor in this, the story of high flight and heavy cost, but the fans seem to ignore this. Instead, they turn their imagination and memorabilia to use in parking lot parleys and display competitions.

One entire Days Inn about a mile north of Graceland has been turned into a window-designer's nightmare, with photos, posters, spray paint and construction paper galore.

"It's Elvis in Bearadise" says the one with a half-dozen teddy bears reclining on a '50s-style teen-ager's bedroom.

Unbearable.