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Rumors Of McCartney’s Death Were Greatly Exaggerated

Music | January 8, 2022

28th January 1980: English songwriter and pop star Paul McCartney on his farm near Rye, Sussex. (Photo by David Harris/Keystone/Getty Images)

On October 12, 1969, one of the biggest hoaxes in music history started on Russ Gibb’s radio show on WKNR. A man called in and told Gibb to play the intro to “number nine, number nine” on the Beatles’ White Album backward. He did so on the air and heard “Turn me on, dead man.” At the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” he heard John saying, “I buried Paul.” The radio broadcast led fans to start to look for the truth about McCartney’s demise in the images on the album covers and in the songs themselves. In the process, they came up with some truly farfetched interpretations to support the belief.

Source: (

St. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Held A Lot Of Clues 

One of the first Several clues came from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was recorded after Paul’s “demise” and released on June 1, 1967. On the album’s cover, the band members were gathered around a drum and surrounded by a crowd which resembled mourners at a funeral; they had flowers in front of them which spelled out “Beatles” as well as yellow hyacinths in the shape of Paul McCartney’s instrument, a left-handed bass guitar. The right hand raised above Paul’s head was supposedly a symbol of death in some Eastern societies; another symbol of mourning was the black clarinet Paul held. A doll in a striped sweatshirt has a model car resembling an Aston Martin which is heading towards the word “Stones” on the sweatshirt. Additionally, on the inside photo spread, McCartney sports a patch that people thought read “O.P.D.” to stand for “officially pronounced dead.” It was actually O.P.P for “Ontario Provincial Police.”

Source: (Ultimate Guitar).

They Used Mirrors To Look For Clues

People even held mirrors perpendicular to the center of “Lonely Hearts” to reveal a hidden message which they believed indicated the date of his death, 11/9/66, with the word “he” referring to McCartney and a diamond pointing to Paul with the word “die.” On the back of the album, there is also a picture of the four Beatles, and Paul is the only one with his back to the camera. The album also had the song lyrics on the back, and George’s thumb points to the beginning of “She’s Leaving Home.” These lines are “Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins,” which was the day and time of Paul’s “death.” 

Source: (Amazon).

Paul Was The Walrus

Clues were found on subsequent albums including the cover of Magical Mystery Tour, in which the Beatles were wearing animal costumes. McCartney was a walrus, which, some claimed was a harbinger of death in some Scandinavian cultures. The album also included a booklet with pictures. In some, Paul is shoeless, he is the only one to wear a black flower on his lapel, and he sits behind a sign that reads “I Was.” As with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, using a mirror with the cover revealed a clue. Holding the cover upside down and looking at the reflection in the mirror, the stars revealed a phone number. Supposedly, a caller could call the number to learn the truth about McCartney’s death. 

Source: (Ulitmate Classic Rock).

The Funeral Procession On Abbey Road

Similarly, they found clues on Abbey Road. People interpreted the image as a funeral procession, with John as the preacher (in white), Ringo as the undertaker (in black), Paul as the corpse, with his bare feet, and George as the gravedigger (in blue denim). They also noted that Paul was out of step with his bandmates and that the Volkswagen had a license plate that read “28 IF”. Conspiracy theorists pointed out that McCartney would have been 28 if he were still alive.

Source: (Reddit).

The Lyrics Held Clues

Clues were also found in the lyrics, such as the line “He blew his mind out in a car” in the song “A Day in the Life,” and “Nothing to do but to save his life” in “Good Morning, Good Morning.” They found indications that it happened on Tuesday in the lyrics of “I Am the Walrus” and the time he was pronounced dead in “She’s Leaving Home.” At the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever," John Lennon (his voice is distorted), can be heard saying something. Conspiracy theorists claim that he said, “I buried Paul,” even though Lennon claimed he said, “cranberry sauce,” and the press officer claimed he said, “I’m very bored.” Some even spun side B of The White Album backward to hear “Paul is dead man, miss him, miss him,” on the “I’m So Tired” track. 

Performing with his wife, Linda, in 1976. Source: (Wikipedia).

All Of The Clues Helped To Create A Story

The conspiracy theory that developed from the fans’ deductions was that Paul McCartney left Abbey Road late on November 8, 1966, “a stupid bloody Tuesday” and died in his car. He was pronounced dead on “Wednesday morning at 5 o’clock.” Then the band replaced him with an impostor, who was responsible for writing “Hey Jude” and “Blackbird.” There is at least one variation on the story, claiming that McCartney’s death happened at 5 a.m. on November 9, 1966, after he was in a car accident caused by a lovely hitchhiker named Rita who he picked up. Some even identified the impostor as William Campbell, an actor who had won a Paul McCartney lookalike contest; they also claimed that the remaining Beatles started to embed hints in the songs and on the albums to deal with their guilt over the deception.

Source: (the Beatles Bible!).

The Conspiracy Theory Lives On

Of course, McCartney was not dead; he was at his Scottish farm with his wife and their six-week-old daughter. On October 26, John Lennon called the station the rumor originated from debunking the fans’ conclusions. Although they denied the conspiracy, it seemed to live on in popular culture, including a TV investigation hosted by attorney F. Lee Bailey and songs such as “We’re All Paul Bearers” by Zacherias and the Tree People. McCartney himself even played with the conspiracy theory, releasing an album he called Paul is Live; the cover alluded to the cover of Abbey Road. On April 1, 2004, as an April Fool’s joke, Bruce Spizer, a Beatles historian, published an article in Goldmine Magazine, claiming that Paul McCartney stated that the Beatles had staged the hoax. 

Tags: George Harrison | John Lennon | Paul McCartney | Ringo Starr | The Beatles

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Linda Speckhals


When she’s not out walking her dog, or taking in a baseball game, Linda loves learning about history, science, and philosophy. She will travel wherever the wind may blow, and happily loses herself in a book, whenever she can. At heart, she is a music loving tree-hugger.