I’ve always been interested in the “abnormal” in history. Whether it be alternative history, psychotic mental disorders, or pushing historical heroes off of their pedestals. I’ve always been interested in political scandals, the possible destruction of society, picking apart famous debates, you name it. Sometimes, however, the abnormal gets pretty outrageous. Here’s one of my favorite conspiracy theories.
Paul Is Dead started off as a simple urban legend that evolved into a global conspiracy theory in September 1969 after American college students published several articles claiming that the famous Beatle Paul McCartney died in 1966 due to a horrific car accident that was covered up and quickly dealt with. The idea that clues to McCartney’s death could be found among the album covers and lyrics of several famous Beatles’ recordings shocked the world and thus a conspiracy was born. Eventually, the rumors grew so big that it became a global controversy that dawned the headlines of every major magazine.
The idea that one of the twentieth centuries most iconic and respectable musicians had been suddenly replaced with a lookalike after perishing without fans or the general public knowing haunted yet somewhat intrigued thousands. Hundreds of “clues” were almost immediately “discovered” by desperate fans and followers of the legend. Some claim that when you listen to specific songs backwards you hear secret messages along the lines of “Paul Died, Miss Him, Miss Him.” However, one of the leading arguments against this is that the human mind can hear just about anything if you play a song backwards if it really wants to hear it. Case and point goes to the “Hail Satan” comments in the original “Pokemon” theme song.
Many claim that John Lennon, in the hit song “Strawberry Fields Forever”, mutters “I buried Paul” in the outro of the song. Lennon later explained the words were actually “cranberry sauce” and many conspiracy doubters claim to hear “I’m very bored.” This seems to be an occurring theme with the Beatles’ music.
One of the largest and most ominous so-called “clue”, however, goes to the album covers. The interpretation of the Abbey Road album cover (pictured) as symbolizing a funeral procession, where Lennon, dressed in white, symbolizes the clergyman; Ringo Starr, dressed in black, symbolizes the mourner; George Harrison, in denim jeans and shirt, symbolizes the gravedigger; and McCartney, barefoot and out of step with other members of the band, symbolizes the corpse.
Rumors started to decline after the November 1969 Life magazine interview with McCartney in which he said:
Perhaps the rumor started because I haven’t been much in the press lately. I have done enough press for a lifetime, and I don’t have anything to say these days. I am happy to be with my family and I will work when I work. I was switched on for ten years and I never switched off. Now I am switching off whenever I can. I would rather be a little less famous these days.
Popular culture to this day continues to make occasional reference to the legend, and McCartney himself, although upset with it before, poked fun at it with his 1993 live album titled Paul Is Live, in which he made the cover parody the “clues” allegedly on the cover of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album. Very recently, rumors that Ringo Starr reported that Paul McCartney really did die in 1966 surfaced thanks to the overwhelming spread caused by the Internet.
But is Paul McCartney actually dead? Perhaps one of the most “who the hell would think that?” controversies, it still exists. It is still believed by many, and it is still resurfacing even 49 years after the alleged “death” of McCartney and 45 years after the breakup of the hit band.
People have their own opinions, and nevertheless, the conspiracy theory will live on. Long after he — or, if you believe the story, whoever his lookalike is — has passed away.