In the fall of 1969, college students all around the world were trying to find clues and hidden messages in Beatles songs and album covers, proving that Paul McCartney is dead. The ‘Paul is Dead’ hoax spread like wildfire and even made prime time news.
The theory? That Paul died in 1966 and was replaced. I know it sounds crazy, but some of the evidence that has been found over the years is pretty convincing. Get ready to take a deep dive into one of the music’s biggest urban legend.
Before I start, here’s a quick disclaimer: these are all just theories, and there is no proof that Paul McCartney is actually dead.
Let’s Start With the Beatles
Okay, let’s start with the band. If you haven’t heard of The Beatles, you have probably been living under a rock. They are an iconic band that revolutionized music. The four band members are John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and Paul McCartney.
Most of us grew up on their music. Even though they were a British band, they found international success. To give you an idea of how big they were, they sold 1.6 BILLION records in the United States alone!
Paul McCartney: Destined for Greatness
Born in Liverpool, England, on June 18th, 1942, Paul McCartney was destined for greatness. He was born into a musical family, and his father James played both the guitar and trumpet.
Paul McCartney met John Lennon in 1957, and the two started playing music together. However, the band wasn’t officially formed until three years later. McCartney played bass guitar and was the lead singer.
November 9th, 1966
The story started off on November 9th, 1966. That day, the Beatles got into an argument during a recording session, and Paul McCartney sped away in his car. This is where the conspiracy theory begins.
People claim that Paul lost control of his vehicle and died in a car accident. His death was then supposedly covered up, and he was quickly replaced before anybody noticed.
Why Hide His Death?
Apparently, the UK security services were worried that the news of Paul’s death would cause mass hysteria for Beatle fans and may even lead to mass suicide. I know this sounds dramatic, but the band was insanely popular back then.
Other theories suggest that it was their record label’s idea. The band was at its peak, and losing an essential member can be detrimental for the future of The Beatles.
One thing that actually happened that also supports this theory is the look-alike contest. The Beatles held a Look-alike contest for Paul McCartney, and the winner was a Canadian man named William Shears Campbell, better known by the name Billy Shears.
While the contest actually happened, part of the theory is that in addition to getting plastic surgery, the band taught Shears how to sing and act just like Paul. At the time, The Beatles just finished their tour and were changing up their image for the next album. So, Billy came at the perfect time.
The Start of the Rumors
At first, the story was just a tale told at college parties, but then it spread like wildfire. Someone called a Detroit radio station and asked the DJ to play Beatles songs that contained some hidden messages.
Since this was heard live on the air, a college student who was listening came up with a task. He was supposed to write a review on The Beatles’ new album. Instead of writing about each track, he chose to look deep into the songs and find more clues proving that Paul McCartney died.
Evidence Supporting the “Fact”
To his surprise, only the album cover was filled with hidden messages. After his article was published, other colleges and radio stations picked up his story. Suddenly, it became a widespread rumor, and people wanted answers.
At the time of this theory, The Beatles record label was receiving up to 3000 calls a day asking about Paul’s health. What added fuel to the fire is, when Paul was asked to confirm that he’s alive, he didn’t want to give any attention to the story.
Paul thought that the rumors would eventually die down. Since no outlets were able to confirm or deny these allegations, they decided to run with the story. This was when the story became a topic of conversation.
It was coming up in newspapers and with no internet at the time; this was how people received their information. They took it as a fact.
Wanting real information, some reporters trespassed on Paul McCartney’s farm. Paul was not happy and chased them away. However, when he found out that they took some unattractive pictures of him, he called them back.
McCartney finally agreed to an interview as long as the pictures don’t get published. Paul was the cover story of Life magazine that November, and he thought that he could finally put these rumors to rest.
The Magazine Cover
To most Beatles fans, the article settled the matter. Skeptics, however, have a different story. Although Paul is literally on the magazine cover, very much alive, some people say it is really Billy Shears.
There isn’t much-known information about Billy – just that his name was William Shears Campbell and was once living in Canada. Supposedly, he disappeared one day and became Paul’s impersonator.
Conspiracy theorists believe that the members of The Beatles felt so much guilt over Paul’s death and felt even worse about replacing him. To settle their conscience, they hid clues in their albums for fans to find.
There are thousands of hidden messages that people have found throughout the years, but some of them are more believable than others.
Here are the most convincing ones…
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club
The first Beatles album released after Paul’s supposed death was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club. At first glance, the album cover looks innocent enough, but if you take a closer look, you can discover multiple hidden messages.
Many fans claim that The Beatles are at a funeral. Everyone is looking towards Paul while someone is holding his open palm over his head. In different cultures, a hand over someone’s head symbolizes death. On the album cover, Paul is the only Beatle holding a black instrument, and black also represents death.
Looking For Clues
Here’s a really well-hidden discovery. If you hold up a mirror to the bass drum on their album cover, it reveals a clue. Stay with me here. The number one plus the word one stands for the 11th month (November). Then there is an IX, the Roman numeral for the number nine.
As we know, the story suggests that Paul died on November 9th, and to reinforce it, the words “He Die” are spelled out next to where it says the date.
More Hidden Messages
The bottom of this album cover seems to be a grave. There are flowers over it spelling out “Beatles” next to a left-handed guitar. This raised many eyebrows considering Paul was the only left-handed member of the band.
Some theorists take it a step further, claiming that the guitar-shaped flowers spell out Paul’s name with a question mark next to it. Do you think this is a real clue? Or are people looking too deep into it?
Album Cover Details
There is so much detail on the Lonely Hearts album that fans spent years trying to analyze secret messages. One eerie element that was discovered is a creepy doll covered in blood.
If that’s not chilling enough, next to the doll is a driving glove also covered in blood. Another minute detail that you can easily miss is a small toy car sitting on the doll’s knee. If that’s not a hint to Paul’s fatal car crash, I don’t know what is.
The Shoulder Patch
When you open up the record, there is a picture of the four band members. This seems like just a regular picture, right? Well, some fans discovered that the patch on Paul’s shoulder says O.P.D.
Many people claim that the letters stand for “Officially Pronounced Dead.” Apparently, this is the British Version of D.O.A. (Dead on arrival).
Back of the Album
When you look at the back of the album, all of the Beatles are facing forward except for Paul, who has his back towards us. Some people think that it doesn’t mean anything, but look at George’s finger.
It’s pointing to a lyric from the song She’s Leaving Home. “Wednesday morning at 5am”. 5 o’clock is the time of Paul’s “death,” but this is the strange part: November 9th, 1966, did indeed fall on a Wednesday.
This piece of evidence is a popular one and is hidden in the actual song. This song-theory takes place as soon as the title track (With a Little Help From My Friends) ends.
Many people claim that they can hear the Beatles sing ‘Billy Shears.’ As we know, Billy Shears is Paul’s “replacement.” Maybe this was their way of giving him credit.
Magical Mystery Tour
When their next album Magical Mystery Tour was released, fans immediately noticed some clues on the cover. All of the Band members are wearing white, except Paul, who is dressed in back. What makes this even stranger is that he is standing in a crucified position.
If you turn the album cover upside down, it looks like a phone number. People have reported that when calling this phone number on a Wednesday at 5 o’clock, they receive creepy messages. Other’s claim that they actually spoke to Billy Shears.
Magical Mystery Clues
When you open up the album, there are 24 pages filled with secret messages that have been discovered. There are several pictures of Paul with a hand over his head. Fans didn’t miss this, and as we know, it symbolizes death.
On page three, you can find Paul sitting on a desk that says, “I Was.” In another photo, you can see Paul is the only one not wearing shoes.
The Black Rose
This gets weirder. His shoes are in the picture but covered in blood. They are also located right over page 13. In many parts of the world, 13 is considered an unlucky number, and fans suggest it represents his unfortunate fate.
Another picture leaves a not so subtle clue. We can see the Beatles wearing red flowers on their shirts except for, you guessed it; Paul. His flower is black, an obvious indication of death.
I Am The Walrus
The Walrus character was introduced in two albums. At the end of the song, I Am The Walrus; fans found a strange and almost inaudible lyric. The cryptic message is alluding to the death of Oswald, from Shakespeare’s King Lear.
If that wasn’t creepy enough, try playing this track backward! You can hear people reciting “Paul’s dead, haha,” over and over again. In addition, a Walrus symbolizes death in some European countries.
Who is The Walrus?
Another interpretation for the meaning of “The Walrus” is that it is a reference to a Lewis Carrol character who was known as being an imposter.
In the song Glass Onion, John Lennon didn’t hide who he intended the Walrus to be. “I told you about the Walrus and me, man, you know we’re as close as can be, man well here’s another clue for you all… the Walrus was Paul.”
Strawberry Fields Forever
If the backward lyrics weren’t unsettling enough, on side 2, the second track is called Strawberry Fields Forever. If you listen carefully, people claim that you can hear John’s voice saying, “I buried Paul.”
Skeptics say that people hear what they want to hear, and that’s not what John is saying. When I listened, I definitely heard it. Did you?
Unfortunately, the album is plain white. Without pictures and details, fans couldn’t get any clues from looking at the album cover. But, luckily, there was a poster included inside.
What alerted many people was that it wasn’t hard to find this next clue. On the poster, there is the only known picture of… you guessed it… Billy Shears! This is a picture before his alleged plastic surgery, so he can’t be confused as Paul for this one.
The song Glass Onion holds another clue, and this one is pretty straight forward. If you don’t know, Glass Onion literally means a coffin with a glass lid. That’s not all. John may have confirmed Paul’s death.
At the end of the song, I’m So Tired; you can hear some unclear mumbling. It almost sounds like gibberish. Many people have stated that when you play the track backward, you can hear John saying, “Paul is dead man, miss him, miss him.” This gave me the chills.
This is another message hidden in backward lyrics. Some people say this is the most convincing piece of evidence. I recommend playing this one for yourself.
Listen to the beginning of Revolution Nine backward. Can you hear it? Unlike other mumbled lyrics, you can clearly hear the words “Turn me on dead man.”
Not that many clues have been found in Yellow Submarine, except one. There is another hand over his head. A lot of clues came from the Abbey Road iconic album cover. Their classic walk has been copied thousands of times.
Abbey Road is probably The Beatles’ most recognized album cover. It features all four Beatles crossing the street, and fans quickly found more clues alluding to Paul’s death.
Crossing the Street
Apparently, the band is walking away from a cemetery. John takes the lead dressed in white with long hair resembling Christ. Next is Ringo, who is wearing black like an undertaker. Behind Ringo is Paul.
Not only is Paul walking out of step, but he is also barefoot, which represents a corpse. Furthermore, Paul is holding a cigarette in his right hand, and as we know, the real Paul was left-handed. Last in line is George, wearing all jeans, which signifies a gravedigger.
In the background, you’ll notice a Volkswagen Beetle with the license plate “28 if.” Many people believe it’s an indication that Paul would have been 28 that year if he was still alive.
On the back of the album, there are dots. By connecting them, they form the number 3, making it say 3 Beatles. Is this another hint that one of the Beatles really died?
Who Started It?
It is widely believed that The Beatles themselves started this crazy rumor. However, a lot of people accused the record company of starting it as a well-thought-out publicity stunt to sell more albums.
If this was there plan, it worked. Record sales were sky-high because everyone was excited to find more hints. Some fans even bought two records because one would get ruined after playing it backward to look for clues.
Some fans theorize that after Paul’s death, the band’s manager Brian Epstein found the look-alike. He wanted to really replace Paul, but when he noticed the similarities, Brian decided just to pretend its Paul and not reveal the truth to the fans.
Whether or not the record label started this rumor, they realized the hoax was increasing record sales and had no problem capitalizing on it.
There are a few (and by a few I mean a lot) of holes in this story. I mean, Paul even had some explanations. Paul said the only reason his shoes were off was that it was hot out.
That still doesn’t explain why there is a picture of his bloody shoes over page 13 of that booklet, but there could be other reasons. Paul has stated that people who are still looking into it need to find something to do with their time.
Yesterday and Today
On the disturbing cover if this album, Paul is in the middle covered in meat and decapitated dolls. Fans say that it clearly signified Paul’s “fatal” car accident. Everything seems normal on the reissued cover until you turn the record sideways.
Once you turn it around, you can clearly see Paul looking like he is in a coffin. Unfortunately, we can’t use this as evidence because both covers were released before Paul’s supposed death.
People got another hint in the song A Day in The Life. John Lennon sings, ‘He blew his mind out in a car.’ Fans believe he is referring to Paul. John has never confirmed this.
It’s important to mention that John has come out saying that he thinks this entire rumor is hilarious. He even added that he never suspected Paul being impersonated.
A big piece of evidence supporting the ‘Paul is dead’ theory is that John was heard saying, “I buried Paul” in Strawberry Fields Forever.
What’s funny about this is that John explained that what he really said was “Cranberry Sauce.” When I listened to it with this in mind, I heard cranberry sauce. Maybe people really do hear what they want.
Today Paul just laughs this off. There is nothing much he can do to prove that he is not an imposter. However, Paul has admitted that he did get into a car crash back in 1966.
Thankfully, this accident was not as nearly as dreadful as the urban legend. It was definitely not fatal, and the extent of his injuries was a cut lip and a chipped tooth. Apparently, the reason Paul grew a mustache shortly afterward was to hide the scar on his lip.
Before and After
Now, with the internet, there are hundreds of theories circulating surrounding this alleged ‘death.’ Fans have found some before and after pictures claiming that his jaw, teeth, and facial structure are different.
Keep in mind that people change their look over the years. However, some theorists claim that his eyes used to be brown and are now Green. To me, it looks like the normal aging of a man. What do you think?
Paul Is Alive
In 1993, Paul McCartney released a live album titled Paul is Alive. The Album cover features him crossing the street, hilariously imitating the Abbey Road cover.
He tried to address this rumor humorously. However, this is the biggest hoax in music history, so some people still struggle to let this rumor go.
Paul is an incredible musician, and The Beatles are a momentous band that changed music forever. Is it possible that Billy Shears was impersonating Paul this entire time?
That means Paul didn’t write the hit Beatles song, Hey Jude! Although some of the evidence is convincing, do you think there is any truth to it? Or do people just believe what they want?