The (Late) Great Paul McCartney

Beatles Magazine, Issue #9
Beatles Magazine, Issue #9

In 1967 a rumor began circulating that Beatles member Paul McCartney had died and was replaced by a doppelganger. This rumor picked up steam and within two years had become an international phenomenon.

It started with rumors that McCartney had been killed in a London car crash in January 1967. In September 1969 the student newspaper of Drake University ran a story entitled “Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead?” The article pointed to various clues that confirmed the rumors, such as:

  • When playing the song “Revolution 9” from The White Album backward, the words, “turn me on, dead man” can be heard, as well as the sound of a spectacular car crash.
  • The Sergeant Pepper album bears a mysterious hand raised over McCartney’s head; this is “an ancient death symbol of either the Greeks or the American Indians” and shows a left-handed guitar (McCartney was the only left-handed band member) on the grave at the group’s feet. See the album cover here
  • On the back of the Sergeant Pepper album, McCartney has his back to the camera, while John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr are facing it, and Harrison is pointing toward a phrase in the song “A Day in the Life” relating to a certain Wednesday morning at 5:00 a.m. when some unidentified person “blew his mind out in a car.” Similarly, the other two Beatles are indicating phrases about gaining the world but losing the soul, as well as another reference to Wednesday morning at 5:00.
  • In the song “The Walrus” in The Magical Mystery Tour, there is a reference to McCartney being the walrus, even though Lennon sings the song. According to the article, “The walrus is supposedly the Viking symbol of death.”

Later that year the rumors were discussed on radio stations in Detroit and New York City. During these discussions, additional “facts” came to light, such as McCartney storming away from the recording studio after an argument and ending up in the fatal car accident and the Beatles’ replacing McCartney with “William Campbell”, the winner of a Paul McCartney look-alike contest.

Countless clues of McCartney’s death have been spotted by fans and conspiracy theorists, including:

  • The final words of “Strawberry Fields Forever” spoken by Lennon are, “I buried Paul.” (Lennon maintained he was actually saying, “cranberry sauce.”)
  • The cover of the album Abbey Road shows the band members in a funeral procession, with Lennon dressed in white as a clergyman, Starr dressed in black as the undertaker, Harrison in jeans as the gravedigger, and McCartney barefoot and out of step with the other members as the corpse, and he is holding a cigarette, also known as a “coffin nail” in his right hand, despite being left-handed. Additionally, there is a white Volkswagen behind Harrison with the license plate “28 IF,” referring, of course, to the fact that McCartney would be 28 years old if he were still alive.

The stories picked up such momentum that the Beatles issued press statements denying the rumor, and Life magazine ran a cover story in November 1969, announcing, “Paul is Still With Us.

Despite the denials, the rumors still persist. For more information, check out a website devoted to the rumor: Is Paul Dead?


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