Anybody remember the ‘Paul is Dead’ uproar?

If you weren’t alive in 1969 you might not realize just how huge this urban legend (?) was.

For around 40 years now the Paul Death Hoax has intrigued Beatles fans and fanatics alike. While it’s difficult to point to an absolute point of origination, there is no evidence whatsoever that the Beatles themselves had anything to do with its genesis, although many claim that the Beatles intended it to be a joke on their fans.

The clues, which seem so cleverly and intentionally arranged, have obviously not been proven to be anything more than random coincidences or inaccurate interpretations of existing facts.

All four Beatles have denied that they were involved in any way with the hoax, 

Several indications point to an origination of the hoax in the American midwest, sometime just prior to the release of the LP “Abbey Road” in September of 1969.

The first documented written source for the hoax was in a Drake University (Iowa) article written by Tim Harper, published on 17 September 1969.

Fred LaBour, another campus journalist (Michigan Daily) actually admits to having made up a substantial number of clues. Between Harper’s initial report and LaBour’s invention, almost every alleged “clue” about Paul’s death can be traced to one or the other source.

Another source for clues invention was a popular radio show hosted by disc-jockey Russell Gibb of WKNR-FM in Detroit was a vital element in the spread of the hoax. He came on the air in October 1969 with a list of “Paul Is Dead” clues, and then all hell broke loose.

Of course when Paul was asked about it he said if he were dead he’d be the last to know….

But he wasn’t. 

So here’s the “story”:

 During the early morning hours of November 9, 1966, Paul argued with his band mates in the studio while recording songs for their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. He left in a huff just before 5 a.m. While driving to a friend’s house, Paul picked up a female hitchhiker who couldn’t control her excitement when she realized who was behind the wheel. She lunged to hug Paul, causing him to lose control of his car. It smashed into a stone fence and burst into flames, killing them both.

 Because of all the money the Beatles contributed to England’s tax collectors, their continued success was vital to the financial health of the nation. So the British government, in cahoots with the surviving members of the Beatles, their producer George Martin, manager Brian Epstein, recording engineer Geoff Emerick and road manager Mal Evans, conspired to cover-up Paul’s death. It was speculated that in return they were given a huge sum of money and guaranteed success in whatever future endeavors they engaged.

In order for McCartney’s death to be kept under wraps, the Beatles would need a look-alike to sub for him. It’s said they found the perfect candidate in an actor named William Shears Campbell, the winner of a McCartney look-alike contest who resembled the singer so much that he was supposedly on the Beatles’ payroll as a stand-in to throw off fans and the press. The name may ring a bell from the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” lyric on the album of the same name: “So let me introduce to you / The one and only Billy Shears / And Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”  (Of course, it makes perfect sense that Ringo then sang the part of Billy Shears….)

Supposedly, Billy had cosmetic surgery (It’s why they all grew the Sgt Pepper mustaches) and quickly learned to become left-handed.  It was also very convenient that William Campbell was as talented as he was…

And inexplicably The Beatles felt so guilty about it all they left “clues” for the world to know.  Makes sense.  So….

 Here are just some of the “clues”.

The cover of the groundbreaking album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, has multiple indications that Paul McCartney may not have survived. The Beatles, wearing their new hippy attire, stand in the middle of the cover overlooking what appears to be a flower-covered grave at a “funeral scene”. To their right are wax mannequins—borrowed from Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum—of the younger Beatles sadly looking down toward the “grave.”  Paul is seen with a hand over his head, which is an eastern blessing for the deceased.  

The drumhead in the center of the cover that says “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” contained a clue. When you hold a straight-edge mirror perpendicular to the center of the drum, in the middle of the words “Lonely Hearts,” the reflection reads, I ONE IX HE ♦ DIE (“One one nine he die,” or November 9 he die). The diamond points to McCartney.

A mustachioed Paul ( hiding plastic-surgery scars, obviously) has a patch on his left arm with the initials, “OPD,” which could be an acronym for Officially Pronounced Dead. In the November 7, 1969, Life interview meant to address the death rumors, “Paul” explained, “It is all bloody stupid. I picked up that OPD badge in Canada. It was a police badge. Perhaps it means Ontario Police Department or something.” Hardcore conspiracy theorists maintain that the photo was retouched to make the imposter look more like McCartney.

On the back cover, THe Beatles stand together aginst a vivid red background, of course representing blood, with the album’s song lyrics superimposed over the photo. Paul stands with his back to the camera, as if he does not want to be closely examined, while Harrison’s thumb points to the opening line of the “She’s Leaving Home” lyric that reads: “Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins…” November 9, 1966, was a Wednesday and 5 a.m. was the purported time of McCartney’s car crash.

 Now on to ‘Magical Mystery Tour’

Magical Mystery Tour   features both visual and musical clues starting with the group in disguise—with Paul dressed as a walrus. Allegedly, in the Nordic-Viking culture, the walrus is a symbol of death.  In the MMT movie, he is the only Beatle wearing a black carnation during the last scene.  The others are wearing red.

In the Magical Mystery Tour film, as the group performs “I Am the Walrus,” Paul in stocking feet stands next to an empty pair of blood-spattered shoes and the drumhead reads “Love the 3 Beatles” 

In a scene from the film Magical Mystery Tour, Paul in a military uniform sits behind a mysterious psychedelic sign that reads: “I WAS.”

 Onward to “The White Album”

On the album,  John sings a song he wrote called “Glass Onion,” an unambiguous line from which states: “And here’s another clue for you all: / The walrus was Paul.”

The White Album had several different audio clues not as straight forward as “Glass Onion”.  Some were considered “Backmasking”, when you play a track backwards.  At the beginning of ‘Revolution #9″ a voice is continually looped saying “number nine, number nine, number nine…”  When played backwards it seems to say “Turn me on dead man, Turn me on dead man”.  I’ve listened to this and it’s pretty freaky.  At the end of ‘I’m so Tired” if you play the mumbling backwards it supposedly says “Paul is dead, miss him miss him”.

And now to the one that started it all:  Abbey Road.

On the cover of the last album that the Beatles recorded, the band is photographed crossing Abbey Road in London, outside of EMI’s Abbey Road Recording Studios. Paul is out of step with the other Beatles, barefoot and with his eyes closed. In many countries, including England, bodies are buried shoeless. Also, the way that the Beatles are dressed on the cover is said to have this meaning:

-Lennon in white – the preacher

-Starr in black – the undertaker

-“McCartney” in a suit and barefoot – the corpse

-Harrison in blue jeans and work shirt – the grave digger

In the background of the cover is a Volkswagen with the possibly cryptic message, “28 IF,” on its license plate. Proponents of the Paul-is-dead school take this to mean that had Paul McCartney lived, he would have been 28 years old. Life magazine quoted “Paul” as explaining, “On Abbey Road we were wearing our ordinary clothes. I was walking barefoot because it was a hot day. The Volkswagen just happened to be parked there.”

Which really sums up the whole thing.  A  lot of random circumstances put together to read into something  that obviously never happened.


But talk about the chaos theory at work.


So, Since his “death”, Paul McCartney has led a full life.  He has fronted a largely successful post-Beatles band, Wings; has released several group and solo hits; was knighted by the Queen of England; and has been certified by Guinness World Records as pop music’s most successful songwriter.

Turn me on dead man indeed.


4 responses

  1. Lee Hurley


    October 4, 2012 at 5:14 pm


    I think the same salvage yard that has Princess Di’s limo has the wreck of the Huff that Paul was driving when he left the studio and crashed.

    October 4, 2012 at 8:28 pm

  3. SEM

    Very well said. Learned a few more clues….

    October 13, 2012 at 2:13 am

  4. David

    Was reading this story while listening to Pandora, all channels on shuffle, and just as I read the last words of the post…”Hey Jude” starts up. Kinda startled me.

    September 24, 2013 at 1:29 am

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