Is Paul McCartney Dead? Inside The Conspiracy Theory The Beatles Singer Was Replaced By A Look-Alike In The 60s

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Paul McCartney

Hidden messages in albums and pictures wasn't something that Taylor Swift started. That idea was popularized by Beatles fans in 1966 when a Paul McCartney conspiracy theory started, suggesting the acclaimed English singer had died and was replaced by a look-alike.

But how did the Paul McCartney conspiracy theory start in the first place?

Technically: fifty years ago on October 12, 1969, when DJ Russ Gibb, host of WKNR in Detroit, Michigan, popularized the conspiracy theory that Paul McCartney was no longera live.

But going back even further, the rumor was first mentioned in February 1967, when false speculation about Paul's livelihood was posted in the The Beatles Book Monthly. The rumor stated that Paul McCartney died in a car crash in January 1967, one year before the Beatles released the White album, and had been replaced by a Paul McCartney doppelgänger. 

When Paul was asked about the rumor at the time, there were reports he said to, “Just leave it. It’s great publicity for the album. I’ve got nothing to say except ‘I’m not dead’.”

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Is there any truth to the Paul McCartney conspiracy theory?

The conspiracy theory states that on November 9th, 1966, Paul McCartney had an argument in a Beatles recording session at Abbey Road studios in London. He stormed out, got into his Aston Martin sports car, and was decapitated in a horrific accident. The theory then states that the UK security service MI5 advised the band to find a replacement because they feared that if news got out that  Paul McCartney had died, Beatles fans would suffer mass hysteria and possibly commit mass suicide.

So, as the conspiracy theory goes, to prevent any chaos, The Beatles hosted a Paul McCartney look-alike contest. The winner, which nobody can trace, was a Scottish orphan named William Shears Campbell A.K.A Billy Shears. Shears was then allegedly trained to sing, act, and play like Paul McCartney. 

The conspiracy theory was mostly spread around college campuses and fans of the theory were convinced, much like Taylor Swift fans today, that The Beatles left hidden messages about the Paul's untimely death in their songs and album artwork. 

At the time, one college student decided to explore the conspiracy theory more intensely by exploring the messages in the Abbey Road album. Fred LaBour, a student at the University of Michigan, wrote an article in the Michigan Daily, exploring all the clues and evidence. 

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What are the Beatles album clues that Paul McCartney is dead?

One clue was found on the inside cover of their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. In the photo, McCartney had a patch on his sleeve that looked like it had the initial O.P.D which stands for officially pronounced dead. Also, on the back of that album, McCartney is the only one facing backward. Next to him, George has his hand behind his back with his finger pointing to the lyric, “Wednesday morning at five o’clock,” which was the rumored time of Paul's death. November 9th was a Wednesday in 1966. 

Also, on the front cover of Abbey Road, McCartney is barefoot, symbolizing a corpse, because corpses are buried barefoot, and that he was holding a cigarette in his right hand, but McCartney was left-handed. 

LaBour also says he found hidden messages when songs were played backward from “Revolution 9” saying “Turn me on, dead man,” to the outro of “I Am the Walrus” saying “Ha ha! Paul is dead.”

There were many other clues that other fans but forward but the more the rumors spread, the more annoyed and upset the Beatles became. 

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News outlets ran with the story and many believed the conspiracy theory for years, some even believe it today

However, Fred Labour has since admitted to making up all the clues he shared in his 1969 article. 

John Lennon also was interviewed in 1970 about the rumors, saying, "I don’t know where that started, that was barmy. You know as much about it as me. That was bullsh*t, the whole thing was made up. We never went for anything like that. We put tit-tit-tit in ‘Girl’. It would be things like a beat missing or something like that, see if anyone noticed — I know we used to have a few things, but nothing that could be interpreted like that.”

Paul likes to joke about it all now but in a carpool karaoke episode with James Corden, McCartney provides some information that helps understand why people were obsessed with this conspiracy theory. “Everybody was stimulated with way too many stimulants,” and that “there wasn’t any way to really stop it.” 

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And on the David Letterman Show, McCartney told Letterman that occasionally when he performed, people gave him weird looks, as if they were debating if it was actually him they were seeing. 

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Do people still believe the Paul McCartney death conspiracy theory today?

Even though there’s seemingly no truth to these rumors, people still believe the now 50-year conspiracy theory that McCartney is dead. 

Writer Paolo Baron even released a psychedelic comic book from Image Comics called Paul is Dead: When The Beatles Lost McCartney about the conspiracy theory, which was released this past summer. 

The hashtag Paul is dead on TikTok also has 1.2 million views and proves people still are looking for clues in 2020.

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Megan Hatch is a writer at YourTango who covers celebrity and entertainment news and loves internet pop culture. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter for artsy and funny content.