Is Paul McCartney Dead? by Ehud Gatt -
This free e-book was created with

Create your own amazing e-book!
It's simple and free.

Start now

Is Paul McCartney Dead?

  • Joined Apr 2019
  • Published Books 1

We all know and love the Beatles (I hope), but what not all of us are aware of is that “The Fab Four” may not have been the same four throughout the years.

A conspiracy theory alleged that Paul McCartney, the Beatles’ bass guitarist and singer, died in November 1966 and was secretly replaced by “Faul”, a faux Paul look-alike.


The first rumour about Paul’s death was spread in early 1967, it claimed that Paul died on a traffic accident on the motorway between London and Leeds. It is not known whether this rumour was related to the later episodes.


On 17 September 1969 an article titled “Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead?” was published on the student newspaper of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, addressing a rumour being circulated that cited clues from recent Beatles albums, including a message interpreted as “Turn me on, dead man”, heard when “Revolution 9” (from the White Album) is played backwards.




Proponents of the theory maintained that in November 1966, McCartney had an argument with his bandmates during a Beatles recording session and drove off angrily in his car, crashed, and was decapitated.

To spare the public from grief, or simply as a joke, the surviving Beatles replaced him with the winner of a McCartney look-alike contest.

This scenario was facilitated by the Beatles’ recent retirement from live performance and by their choosing to present themselves with a new image for their next album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

This is a famously busy album cover, so it’s also a rich source of conspiracy leads.


The conspirators claimed that the replacement was instigated by Britain’s Security Service, the MI5, out of concern for the severe distress McCartney’s death would cause the Beatles’ audience.

In this latter telling, the surviving Beatles were said to be wracked by guilt at their duplicity, and therefore left messages in their music and album artwork to communicate the truth to their fans.


Dozens of supposed clues to McCartney’s death have been identified by fans and followers of the legend.


As we can see in the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album cover, there’s an open palm over McCartney’s head, which fans interpreted as being akin to a priest blessing the dead Beatle before internment.

While the other three Beatles are carrying brass instruments, McCartney is carrying a cor anglais, a black woodwind instrument.

In the corner, next to a doll wearing a “Welcome the Rolling Stones” jumper, is a reddish driving glove symbolizing McCartney’s bloody crash death.

A bass guitar made out of flowers in the foreground only has three strings, allegedly symbolizing a dead McCartney as the “missing” string.

Hold a mirror over “lonely hearts” in the drum logo and it appears to use numbers and Roman numerals to spell out 11/9 HE DIE — an alleged reference to McCartney’s dying on November 9, 1966.

And finally, the whole scene depicts McCartney’s burial.


In truth, the album is supposed to depict a burial, but a metaphorical one. The Beatles wanted a psychedelic way to communicate to fans that their mop-topped collarless suit days were over, and that the world should instead prepare for a quartet of sophisticated studio musicians who may or may not enjoy dressing in Edwardian military regalia.

Is Paul McCartney Dead? by Ehud Gatt -

Ontarians will immediately recognize the patch on McCartney’s left arm in this sleeve art from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It is the shoulder patch of the Ontario Provincial Police, and found its way into McCartney’s possession during a tour through Canada.

Given the angle of the photo, however, theorists took it that the patch read “OPD,” an alleged abbreviation for “officially pronounced dead.” Once again, there is little evidence that British hospitals ever used the acronym OPD to refer to a deceased patient. Today, any internet search for the medical term “officially pronounced dead” leads exclusively to pages discussing the Paul is dead theory.

Is Paul McCartney Dead? by Ehud Gatt -

Another example is the suggestion that the words “I buried Paul” are spoken by Lennon in the final section of the song “Strawberry Fields Forever”, which the Beatles recorded in November and December 1966. Lennon later said that the words were actually “Cranberry sauce”.



Another supposed clue is the interpretation of the Abbey Road album cover as depicting a funeral procession. Lennon, dressed in white, is said to symbolise the heavenly figure; Starr, dressed in black, symbolises the undertaker; George Harrison, in denim, represents the gravedigger; and McCartney, barefoot and out of step with the others, symbolises the corpse.

The number plate of the white Volkswagen Beetle in the photo was identified as further “evidence”, the characters “28IF” representing McCartney’s age “if” he had still been alive.

That the left-handed McCartney holds a cigarette in his right hand was also said to support the idea that he was an imposter.

Is Paul McCartney Dead? by Ehud Gatt -

There are two things to note about Magical Mystery Tour.

Firstly, there’s the word “Beatles” spelled out in stars. When viewed upside down the stars appear to spell out a phone number: 231-7438. Rumour had it that this was some kind of special Paul is dead hotline. Call it in Toronto, however, and you’ll be connected to Caruk Homes Ltd., a custom homes contractor that has little to no information about celebrity death conspiracies.


Secondly, fans surmised that McCartney was in a black walrus suit because certain Arctic cultures see the walrus as a symbol of death. The immediate problem with this concept is that the Beatle in the walrus costume is not McCartney: it’s Lennon. And, like the barefoot thing above, there’s slim evidence that any Arctic peoples actually see the walrus as a symbol of death. Canada’s Inuit, for one, feature walruses in their mythology and spirituality, but generally only treat the animal as an explicit harbinger of death if an angry one happens to be coming at them.

Is Paul McCartney Dead? by Ehud Gatt -

Randomly interjecting during recording sessions was a favourite habit of Lennon. At the end of the White Album song “I’m So Tired”, Lennon fades out the track with a few seconds of gibberish. Play it backwards and it does indeed sound like Lennon is saying “Paul is a dead man, miss him, miss him, miss him.” One of the reasons that alleged secret messages were able to gain such traction with fans is because the Beatles actually did have a penchant to put secret messages in their albums. But rather than communicating a morbid coverup, they were usually just trying to slip naughty things past the censors. The 1965 song Girl, for instance, features the Beatles saying “tit” over and over again in the background. And on early pressings of Sgt. Pepper, the album ended with a dog whistle designed to annoy any canine within earshot of the stereo.



A compilation album for Yesterday and Today was released for the North American market.

On the right is the cover that the Beatles wanted to use; an extremely abstract concept image intended to symbolize the fact that the Beatles remained flesh and blood despite their fame.

On the left is the photo that ultimately ended up on the album when horrified record executives kiboshed the butcher cover.

For conspiracy theorists, the butcher cover’s symbolism was easy: It depicted the carnage of McCartney’s grisly death. But they even had an explanation for the mild cover. McCartney is seated inside a steamer trunk symbolizing the fact that the “real” McCartney was also in a box six feet underground.

Is Paul McCartney Dead? by Ehud Gatt -

This is the reverse of Sgt. Pepper, showing McCartney inexplicably facing his back to the camera — an apparent sign that his death had set him apart from the three surviving Beatles.

Is Paul McCartney Dead? by Ehud Gatt -

As an organization, the Beatles generally seemed quite annoyed with the death conspiracy, as was McCartney himself. “It is all bloody stupid,” McCartney told a LIFE magazine reporter in 1970 who had hiked to his remote Scottish farm by way of a bog. He added, “the people who are making up these rumours should look to themselves a little more.” John Lennon, by contrast, seemed to delight in the legend, which he mentioned in no less than two songs. In the Beatles’ Glass Onion, he says “here’s another clue for you all; the walrus was Paul.”


After the Beatles’ breakup, Lennon composed a hate song against McCartney containing the verse “those freaks was right when they said you was dead.”

McCartney titled his 1993 live album “Paul Is Live” and presented it in a sleeve that parodied the Abbey Road cover and its clues.

Is Paul McCartney Dead? by Ehud Gatt -

Author Peter Doggett writes that, while the theory behind “Paul is dead” defied logic, its popularity was understandable in a climate where citizens were faced with conspiracy theories insisting that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 was in fact a coup d’état.


The rumour benefited the commercial performance of Abbey Road in the US, where it comfortably outsold all of the band’s previous albums. Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour, both of which had been off the charts since February, re-entered the Billboard Top LPs chart, peaking at number 101 and number 109, respectively.


During the 1970s, the phenomenon became a topic of academic study in America in the fields of sociology, psychology and communications.


A short summary video:



A documentary discussing the clues:

This free e-book was created with

Create your own amazing e-book!
It's simple and free.

Start now

Ad Remove Ads [X]
Skip to content