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Dec. 2, 2021

Ep. 62: "Paul is Dead" - The Beatles Death Conspiracy

In honor of the Beatles documentary Get Back premiering over Thanksgiving on Disney+, Carrie takes us through one of her favorite conspiracies of all time: "Paul is Dead". 
This conspiracy theory, which spread across the globe like wildfire beginning...

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In honor of the Beatles documentary Get Back premiering over Thanksgiving on Disney+, Carrie takes us through one of her favorite conspiracies of all time: "Paul is Dead". 

This conspiracy theory, which spread across the globe like wildfire beginning in late 1969, purports that the "Cute Beatle", Paul McCartney - writer of such classic songs as "Yesterday", "Hey Jude", and more - was killed in a tragic car accident in November 1966. Not wanting to cause mass hysteria, The Beatles partnered up with MI-5 to cover up the untimely death, hiding the truth from the press and replacing McCartney with a lookalike, William Shears Campbell. Fake Paul, or 'Faul', premiered on the album cover art and in the songs for The Beatles' subsequent album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band...and has played the part of Paul McCartney ever since.

At least, that's what the conspiracy claims. And there are apparently dozens of clues to back the theory up; clues placed purposefully in the lyrics, music, and album art of The Beatles' final works before their official breakup in 1970. There are even tidbits to be found throughout each of The Beatles' solo careers, too.

Carrie explores and explains all of the most intriguing clues, gives us the skinny on what "I Am the Walrus" really means, and debates the strange sounds heard in backwards Beatles recordings. Do these strange backmasks really hold the key to unravel the mystery of "Paul is Dead"?
Thanks to the fabulous STATIC ERA RECORDS for sponsoring this episode - find them at www.staticerarecords.com!
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If you asked me at five years old what my favorite movie was, I would have probably quickly responded “HELP!”, the Beatles’ second movie from 1965, or maybe “Beauty and the Beast” or “Cry-Baby” if I was feeling fickle at the time. But my copy of “Help!”, taped off of TV and containing all the requisite early-90s commercials, was so well-worn that I learned just about every line in the movie. I could probably quote it as well as I could “Shaun of the Dead”, our shared favorite film. My dad, a huge Beatles fan, had taped the film at some point, and I don’t know what made him decide to show it to me - again, one of my favorite movies at the time was John Waters’ “Cry-Baby”, so my parents had a weird sense of what a child would enjoy - but I immediately latched on to it.

I’m not sure what it was that made me love it so much - I much preferred it to the Beatles’ more critically-acclaimed debut, “A Hard Day’s Night”, even though I didn’t really understand the James Bond-parody pastiche it was going for. But something about “Help!” just stuck with me. I adored all of the songs, I thought it was just so funny, and of course it heavily featured the man that I thought I would marry, at the time - young Beatle Paul McCartney.

Yes, toddler Caroline was absolutely IN LOVE with the Cute Beatle. I loved his sleepy eyes and sweet smile and I thought he had the best singing voice of the lot. He was my pure, non-sexual child’s interpretation of the perfect man. When I found out later that the film had been made 30 years before (hahaha it’s now going on 60 years since it was released hahaha kill me) and that the cute young left-handed bassist had now become, in comparison, an old man, it completely blew my mind. It was the first time I truly understood the concept of aging and the power of film to preserve a moment in time - before then, well, I’d only been in the world itself a few years, and I hadn’t really experienced seeing those around me grow old. They either were old, or not. But Macca maturing was what made me understand, like, mortality, without death. It was a big thing, and I still remember the revelation to this day.

I never stopped loving Paul, though. I loved his writing, preferring his sometimes saccharine style to the sometimes brutal or bizarre lyrics of John Lennon; I also preferred his lighter, smoother voice to Lennon’s more nasal tones. It’s always been “cooler” to like Lennon more, or in recent years I’ve found it’s the “cool” thing to prefer George of the lot...but I never stopped being a Paul girl. I mean, clearly, because later on I ended up marrying a certain cute left-handed bassist with sleepy eyes and a sweet smile. Some things are just ingrained in you, I guess.

But my enduring love of Paul was why learning about the “Paul is dead” conspiracy threw me for a HUGE loop, one that almost rocked my mind as hard as the concept of aging did. It was early on in my deep internet days, probably early high school, when I started researching weird mysteries and all the strange stuff that makes me, me. I’d never heard of “Paul is dead” until this time, and I will admit that it freaked me out when I did. 

Over Thanksgiving, Disney+ finally released the long-discussed “Get Back”, Peter Jackson’s re-edit of the 1969 video recordings of the Beatles’ “Let it Be” album sessions. Sean, I think we were both very moved by the experience of watching this immersive documentary...I actively cried a few times. It was like watching two people, once deeply in love - Lennon and McCartney - fall apart, but still find sparks here and there of what made them soul mates in the first place. This experience, too, got me thinking about the old conspiracy theory once more.

So this week, for Beatles fans and non-Beatles fans alike (but if you’re a non-Beatles fan, like...you ok?), in honor of “Get Back”’s premiere, we’ll be diving into the conspiracy theory called “Paul is dead” - or the idea that the REAL Paul McCartney, the one that had played Hamburg with The Beatles, had written dozens of classic songs with John Lennon, and had smiled at me from the movie screen in “Help!”, died tragically in late 1966 and was secretly replaced by a look-and-sound-alike through the end of the band’s career...and is still masquerading as the “real Paul” to this day. Sound insane? Absolutely, but as someone who is a bit obsessed with rock n roll history, especially of the 50s and 60s, it’s completely fascinating - and I think it will be to even non-fans, too. For this episode, we’ll be using a variety of references that I will generally call out, but overall I’m also going to be referencing the book The Walrus Was Paul by R. Gary Patterson.This episode is also sponsored by one of our favorite local record stores: Static Era Records. Static Era is an independent record label with a brick and mortar shop just steps from the Metro North platform in Milford, Connecticut that features new releases and used vinyl in all different genres of music and even purchases or trades for the vinyl YOU might have sitting around! Check ‘em out at staticerarecords.com and let them know Ain’t it Scary sent you. 

So let me take you down to Strawberry Fields, where nothing is real...and let’s investigate the Great Beatle Death Hoax.

In the prologue to this conspiracy we have a rumor from early 1967, which claimed that Paul McCartney had died in a traffic accident along the M1 motorway on January 7th. In the February issue of the Beatles Monthly Book, the official Beatles Fan Club magazine, a rebuttal to the rumor was printed: "Stories about the Beatles are always flying around Fleet Street. The 7th of January was very icy, with dangerous conditions on the M1 motorway, linking London with the Midlands, and towards the end of the day, a rumor swept London that Paul McCartney had been killed in a car crash on the M1. But, of course, there was absolutely no truth in it at all. As the Beatles' Press Officer found out, when he telephoned Paul's St. John's Wood home and was answered by Paul himself, that he had been at home all day with his black Mini Cooper safely locked up in the garage." Now, Paul HAD been in an accident on his motorbike sometime around this point - which we’ll discuss later - but with McCartney’s rebuttal, the rumor became just a blip on the radar.

But the real thing began on September 17th, 1969, in a school newspaper, of all things. In an article titled “Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead” in the Drake Times-Delphic, student Tim Harper first put forth the theory that McCartney had died and was secretly replaced by an imposter, possibly McCartney’s brother, Michael. Harper began the article by saying “Lately on campus there has been much conjecturing on the present state of Beatle Paul McCartney,” so according to him he wasn’t the first to come up with this conspiracy, but who knows. However, unlike the original death rumor from 1967, Harper’s theory also included the juicy tidbit that the remaining Beatles had been placing clues about the truth in their music for die-hard fans to discover. Among his initial clues were points about the cover of the album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, supposed clues in songs like “I Am the Walrus” and “Revolution Number 9”, and more. With the inclusion of these supposed clues, this theory became like an ARG for anyone who owned a Beatles album - they could play the songs themselves and see what they could interpret, or examine the album covers for additional clues. And everyone loves a mystery, right?

I’ll go into the clues in a bit, but first we’ll talk about how this story snowballed from this somewhat obscure midwestern college newspaper. Late the same month, the Beatles released their album Abbey Road, which would be the last recorded by the band (but thanks to the shift of Let it Be, not the last released). On October 10th and 11th of 1969, papers from New Jersey and California reported on the rumor, relaying an official statement from Beatles spokesman Derek Taylor: “Recently we’ve been getting a flood of enquiries asking about reports that Paul is dead. We’ve been getting questions like that for years, of course, but in the past few weeks we’ve been getting them at the office and home night and day.” They also relayed McCartney’s official statement: “I am alive and well.” It’s not quite certain how it happened, but somehow between mid-September and early October, the rumor of McCartney’s death and the subsequent cover-up had spread from a random college newspaper back to the Beatles themselves. And all this without the internet!

Everything really exploded on October 12th, 1969. On this date a caller, named Tom, phoned in to Detroit radio station WKNR-FM and told disc jockey Russ Gibb about the rumor and all the clues he had gathered, both from the original Harper article and by himself. Tom explains it himself in the Acknowledgements of The Walrus Was Paul:

“I first heard the rumors about the clues from friends on a college campus in Ypsilanti Michigan...so many of the clues I put together myself. I spent 2 hours live on the WKNR call-in line reciting the clues...Then I visited the station, about an hour later, with two friends along for the fun. By then McCartney himself had already called WKNR from Scotland, in quite a state of rage, I hear, trying to put a stop to the story.” Gibb and other callers discussed the conspiracy for another hour, assembling even more clues. 2 days after this, The Michigan Daily published a satirical review of the recent release Abbey Road by University of Michigan student Fred LaBour, who had heard the Russ Gibb radio program. The review was titled “McCartney Dead; New Evidence Brought to Light”, which must’ve been traumatizing to any Beatles fan reading it without first hearing the rumors. LaBour’s review identified further clues from the Beatles’ album covers, including the now-iconic Abbey Road photograph of the band crossing the street in front of the studio. 

The review was reprinted extensively, first in Detroit, then Chicago, then on both coasts by the weekend. The rumor truly caught fire. WKNR aired a special 2 hour program, The Beatle Plot, on October 19th. WABC in New York City picked it up right after. WABC DJ Roby Yonge discussed the rumor on air in the early morning hours of October 21st, and by a quirk of radio, at that particular time of night the WABC signal would be able to extend to a huge listening area, including as many as 38 states in the US and even some other countries. Because of this, the rumor spread insanely quickly in all directions from those who had been listening to WABC that night. It probably helped that it was October, so the spooky story was fun for rock DJ’s to discuss on air for Halloween season. WMCA radio, also in New York, dispatched radio host Alex Bennett to the Beatles’ Apple Corps headquarters in London on October 23rd, where he got a statement from Beatle Ringo Starr: “If people are gonna believe it, they’re gonna believe it. I can only say it’s not true.” Lennon told original radio station WKNR that the rumor was “insane”, but good publicity for the new album. On Halloween 1969, WKBW in Buffalo New York broadcast Paul McCartney is Alive and Well - Maybe, analyzing the clues to the theory, and concluding that the Paul is Dead conspiracy was fabricated by John Lennon.

In just October - again, within a month of the theory first hitting an OBSCURE STUDENT NEWSPAPER - several one-off singles came out to capitalize on the hysteria. One was called “So Long Paul”, released by a Werbley Finster - a pseudonym for Mr. Feliz Navidad himself, Jose Feliciano. Here’s a clip: 

[:23 - :34]

Tactful. Another was “We’re All Paul Bearers” - Paul as in Paul - “Parts One and Two” by Zacharias and His Tree People. 

[:30 - :47]

Two more were “The Ballad of Paul” by the Mystery Tour and “Brother Paul” by Billy Shears and the All Americans; both band names played off of clues in the conspiracy - which again, we’ll go into. One even became a minor hit, “Saint Paul” by Terry Knight. Oddly, this latter song even became a clue itself, because due to the usage of a bit of “Hey Jude”, McCartney and Lennon’s Maclen music ended up taking publishing ownership of the song, becoming the only non Lennon-McCartney song owned by the publishing company. Obviously, that stuck out - especially considering Knight had met with McCartney previously, having sat in on one notable White Album recording session where Ringo temporarily left the band. Had he been hand-selected by the band to deliver even more secret clues? To me the song either sounds like a straightforward rumination about the actual apostle Saint Paul, or a metaphor for how Knight possibly saw during the White Album session that the band was about to fall apart, with McCartney struggling to be the glue to keep them together. You be the judge.

[:35 - 1:00]

In Canada, Polydor Records decided to exploit the conspiracy theory by re-releasing a package of the Beatles’ pre-fame recordings called Very Together. Likely intending it to be purchased and investigated for clues, the cover showed four candles, one of which had just been snuffed out. Very subtle. They weren’t wrong, though - November saw a significant increase in sales of the Beatles catalogue. Perhaps some were calmed when LIFE Magazine, on the trail of the Paul is Dead story, showed up to trespass on McCartney’s farm in Scotland to see if he was, y’know, dead. McCartney was initially furious, but traded a short interview and cover photo session in turn for some initially unflattering photos of him being pissed off. The November 7th cover story, called “Paul is still with us”, boasts an image of Paul with his wife Linda and two children. See, he’s all good, folks!

Or was he? The article also contained testimony from a Dr. Henry M Truby of the University of Miami, who had compared voice sonograms from “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude” only to find that the voices were not from the same person. This same doctor had been able to correctly match the voice sonograms of young adults to those of babies crying, meaning he could match a person’s speaking voice with complete accuracy to their voice from baby cries years prior. 

November also saw the airing of a Paul is Dead special broadcast on New York’s WOR. Yes, really. Paul McCartney: the Complete Story, Told for the First and Last Time, was set in a courtroom and hosted by celebrity lawyer F Lee Bailey, who listeners may know would go on to join the OJ Simpson defense team and be portrayed by Nathan Lane in American Crime Story. Bailey cross-examined theorists like Fred LaBour and Russ Gibb and heard opposing views from “witnesses” like Beatles manager Allen Klein and Peter Asher, McCartney’s friend, brother of his former fiance Jane Asher, and musician. No video of this special still exists - which may make some shout COVER UP??? - but here’s a clip of sound uploaded by Youtuber The Winged Beatle, who we will DEFINITELY be discussing again:

[ :21 - :56]

It probably didn’t help that, pretty soon after this whole fracas, the Beatles publicly fell apart. They were recording as solo artists, and though John had privately disclosed he was quitting the band, the break-up was publicly announced in April 1970 when McCartney released his surprised solo album, McCartney. Eventually, presumably, the furor died down once people had the band itself to mourn, and the rest of Beatles history played out. Lennon was tragically murdered, Harrison was stabbed, survived, but died soon after of cancer. Now, just Ringo Starr and McCartney - or his double, anyway - remain. 

We’ll get out our Beatles vinyls, discuss the legend, and dissect all the most famous clues...after the break.


So I know I’ve been teasing the clues themselves the whole time, and now we’re finally there. For me, this story made sense to first go through chronologically, analyze the spread of the hysteria, and then double back with that context for all of the clues. Because there are a LOT, and, well, they might seem a little crazy. 

Fans were able to piece together a narrative of the real Paul McCartney’s death, and it always goes something like this:

On late November 8th or very early morning November 9th, 1966, McCartney had an argument with his bandmates during a recording session for, I believe, what would be Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and drove off in a fury. He crashed the car, possibly after picking up a pretty young hitchhiker who, upon realizing who her driver was, threw her arms around him - and was killed. Decapitated, in fact, and yes, that’s an important part. To spare the public from grief, thinking mass suicides would take place if the world found out, the Beatles conspired with MI-5 and decided it was for the best if the death was covered up, and McCartney secretly replaced. They tapped the winner of a McCartney look-alike contest, William Shears Campbell, gave him some plastic surgery, and turned him into fake Paul - or Faul, as the believers in the conspiracy call him. Because of their deep guilt, grief, and Lennon in particular’s love of clues and wordplay, the band buried clues to the lie in the rest of their released music, so that fans may possibly finally realize what happened to their idol. Since then, McCartney has been Faul. 

It’s a wild story, to be sure, but the clues supposedly bear this version of events out. For the rest of the episode, I suggest that if you have the vinyl albums in question that we’re discussing, take them out and examine them physically for the full 1969 conspiracy experience. If not, Google Images will do. And if you’re driving, for God’s sake, keep your eyes on the road, and I will do my best to explain everything visual to you so you can check it out later.

The first major clues come with the release of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the first album after McCartney’s alleged death in November 1966. You don’t even have to play the album to see the first clues, because there are a shitload within the album art. Here’s a list:

The whole scene on the iconic album cover is said to resemble a funeral, with flowers on a newly dug grave. Wax figures of the “old Beatles” look sadly on, while the “new Beatles” - Paul in the middle, of course - stand in the center of the image.
Many of those in the crowd on the album cover died young or tragic deaths, including: our boy Edgar Allan Poe, comedian Lenny Bruce, writer Dylan Thomas, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, former Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe, and more.
There are two interesting figures behind Paul in the middle of the image: comedian Issy Bohn and writer Stephen Crane. Issy Bohn is holding his hand open above Paul’s head, which apparently is supposed to signify death or a religious benediction associated with funerals in certain Far Eastern societies. However, it’s hard to find specific references to this outside of...well, Paul is Dead conspiracy sites. Stephen Crane is an interesting addition, though. He wrote a short story named “The Open Boat” about four men who struggle to survive in a lifeboat. The one most determined to keep the group together dies in the ordeal; the other three are then left to tell the story. Sound familiar?
Two other people included in the crowd are Lewis Caroll and Aleister Crowley. Caroll is most well-known for writing Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and was a particular proponent of quirky wordplay and made-up language. Crowley, also known as the Great Beast 666, wrote in his book Magick Book 4 that a follower should “train himself to think backwards by external means", one of which was to "listen to phonograph records, reversed". Both figures will be increasingly important as we get into the Beatles later more psychedelic lyrics and alleged backmasking. 
The flowers-on-grave area also offers some interesting clues. There is a left-handed guitar rendered in yellow hyacinths to the bottom right. Paul is (or was) the only member of the Beatles to be a leftie. The guitar only has 3 strings - is this meant to represent the 3 remaining members of the Beatles? Also, if you trace letters into the flower sections of the yellow guitar, they apparently spell PAUL?
A statue of the Indian goddess Kali sits in the direct bottom middle of the image. Kali is a symbol of rebirth and regeneration.
The red flowers in the image spell out Beatles, not THE Beatles - and often the band goes by “Beatles” for the rest of their career together. Is this supposed to represent that they’re not THE Beatles anymore without Paul, but just SOME Beatles?
The iconic bass drum design with the album’s name on it was credited to a visual artist named Joe Ephgrave, but there has been speculation that he didn’t actually exist, and it’s hard to find any other work of his. There’s also a thought that the surname Ephgrave was used as a shortened version of Epitaph-Grave.
The drum also delivers more clues. When a mirror is placed on its edge in the center of LONELY HEARTS, a “hidden message” is revealed - 1 ONE IX HE DIE. Some have interpreted this to mean 11-9 HE DIE. Of course, Britain would have used 9-11 HE DIE for November 9th, but then it brings us to 9/11, and that’s a whole other can of worms. Between this and some evidence that McCartney really was involved in a non-fatal motorbike accident around November 9th 1966, it’s become the supposed date of the real Paul’s death.
Paul, in his blue uniform, is playing a black clarinet, while the other Beatles are holding brass instruments. Black = death.
To the right of the group standing is a ghoulish-looking grandma dummy sitting on a chair. On its lap is a doll of Shirley Temple wearing a “Welcome the Rolling Stones” sweater. Also on its lap is a toy Aston Martin, supposedly the car Paul crashed in his fatal accident. The dummy also bears a white driver’s glove on its left hand - again, Paul was famously a leftie - and it appears to be stained with red. Possibly blood?
The clues don’t stop at the front cover. On the back, Ringo, John, and George stand facing the camera, while only Paul stands with his back to the camera. Is this supposed to symbolize that he’s different than the other 3? Or maybe it’s to cover up the fact that the Paul seen on the front and back covers is a cardboard cutout, used while William Shears Campbell was undergoing his plastic surgery? Maybe this explains why Paul seems taller than the rest in these images, whereas in earlier photos and footage pre-November 1966 he’s about the same height as John and George. Or maybe Billy Shears was a bit taller than Paul, and that wasn’t something they could fix with surgery. 
The back cover is blood red, symbolizing...you guessed it! Blood.
The song title “Within You Without You” is across Paul’s back, with the lyric suggesting that “we never glimpse the truth until we pass away”.
George kind of awkwardly has his finger pointing up in the image, directly at the lyrics “Wednesday morning at 5 o’clock as the day begins” from “She’s Leaving Home”. Was this when Paul got in his fatal crash, or perhaps when the rest received the news? Ironically, November 9th was indeed a Wednesday. 
When the album cover is opened, we see the group sitting and all facing the camera. Paul is wearing an arm patch on his uniform that seems to read OPD - in Britain, OPD stands for Officially Pronounced Dead, and is their equivalent of America’s DOA. Paul later said that it was a patch from the Ontario Police Department, but in reality, it looks to be a patch from the Ontario Provincial Police - with the last P reading like a D in the picture.
NOW, finally, we get to the actual music. In the title song “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, we get these lyrics: [1:27 - 1:57]. Is Paul, or Faul, saying that because they didn’t want to “Stop the show” and end the Beatles, they replaced the singer with Billy Shears, who they’re officially “introducing” on this album?
The song then fades into “With a Little Help From My Friends”, which famously begins with the band singing BIIIIIILLYYYYY SHEAAAAARRRRRSSSS! The song asks what if I sang out of tune? I’ll try not to sing out of key. Well, with a little help from Faul’s friends - Ringo, John, and George - Faul will get by with his ruse.
The song “Lovely Rita” just might be about the hitchhiker Paul picked up that preempted his fatal accident, called Rita. The song also has this eerie lyric, in context: “Took her home, I nearly made it.” Were they killed before they could reach home?
The song “A Day in the Life” is supposed to have several clues, the main being the lyrics “He blew his mind out in a car, he didn’t notice that the lights had changed. A crowd of people stood and stared - they’d seen his face before.” Is this talking about Paul’s car accident and head trauma or decapitation, and that he was a famous man when he died? Lennon later said that this portion of the song was about Guinness heir Tara Browne, a friend of McCartney’s who died in a car accident. This same Tara Browne was, weirdly, with McCartney at the time of his rumored actual motorbike accident. Here’s the story behind that, by the way: as recounted in the book McCartney by Chris Salewicz, McCartney and Browne were at Paul’s brother’s house, where they shared a joint and a few drinks. They decided to take a pair of mopeds to visit Paul’s Aunt Bett, but shortly before arriving at her house, Paul lost control of his motorbike and was thrown over the handlebars into the street, landing on his face with some serious injuries. A private doctor was called, and a scar would eventually remain on his upper lip - unless, of course, it was a scar leftover from Faul’s plastic surgery. So yeah, Browne got into 2 accidents on the road in late 1966, one of which was fatal. 

So that was JUST Sgt Pepper’s. If the remaining Beatles really were leaving hints, those are a hell of a lot of breadcrumbs. The trail wouldn’t stop there, though. Next for fans to peruse was the Beatles’ late 1967 release, Magical Mystery Tour, and the accompanying BBC TV film of the same name. There’s a LOT here, folks, so take out your Magical Mystery Tour vinyl and strap in.

First, again, we’ll start with the album art. They’ve gone fully psychedelic with this one, sporting rainbows, bright colors, and fat 60s fonts. The 4 band members are wearing full animal costumes - a white hippo, a white rabbit, a white chicken, and a black walrus. Guess who it’s said is in the walrus costume? Of course, it’s Paul, because black = death. Also, allegedly, according to some Scandinavian cultures, the walrus is a harbinger of death, and the word walrus was supposedly derived for the word “corpse” in Greek. However, I can’t find anything non-Paul is Dead related about the Scandinavian walrus thing, and the word corpse in Greek is ptoma. Lennon claimed that he was the one in the walrus costume, but that admittedly is hard to believe, because the chicken is the one wearing Lennon’s signature circular glasses. Anyway, we’ll get more into walruses in a minute.
If you trace lines over the letters in BEATLES spelled out in yellow stars - again, just Beatles, not THE Beatles - and hold it up to a mirror, a phone number supposedly became visible. You could get a few different phone numbers out of it - 537.1438, or 231.7438, etcetera. Some claimed that if you called the correct number, it would tell the caller “You’re getting closer”. Others swore the number led to  funeral home, while others claimed that someone stating their name was Billy Shears picked up and quizzed them on Beatles trivia. If you called at Wednesday morning at 5 o’clock, perhaps, you would receive the truth about Paul’s death. One phone number apparently belonged to a journalist for The Guardian who was going nuts answering calls from those hoping to talk to McCartney, or maybe his ghost.
Ok, decent amount on the cover, not as much as Sgt Pepper, but there’s a LOT going on on that cover. But let’s take a look at the original LP’s 24-page color booklet insert that came with the album because of course THAT will have a lot. This booklet contained photos taken from the TV special, as well as the song list. On the song list, underneath the words “I Am the Walrus”, is a weird little note - “no you’re not! Said Little Nicola”. This happens again in a cartoon on page 3. Is this supposed to mean that John was lying when he said he was the walrus? Or that the Paul inside the walrus costume wasn’t the real Paul? Another photo in the booklet shows Paul in military garb sitting at a desk. A sign in front of him reads “I WAS”. Well, okay, kinda “I YOU WAS”. But does this mean he WAS Paul, but is no longer? Another alleged clue in this picture is that the crossed flags behind Paul are how flags are positioned for military funerals in England.  
In several photos in the booklet there are also a ton of hands or open hands above Paul’s head specifically, which goes back to that death symbol I mentioned from the cover of Sgt Pepper’s. No other Beatle is shown with a hand over their head in photos from Magical Mystery Tour, or any other album for that matter. I must say, it is a little weird considering how OFTEN it happens to Paul, but maybe he just has a fetish for standing under hands. A couple cartoons of Paul in the booklet are also shown playing with a toy car, and with a crack in his head. I don’t think I need to explain these.
Paul is barefoot on page 13 - ooh spooky! - in one image of him standing in front of a piano, which will come back again when we discuss Abbey Road. Bare feet are supposed to signify a corpse, but I’m not totally sure why. I read that it might be because corpses in England are buried that way, but that seems a little crazy. Paul’s shoes are off to the side in this picture, and what appears to be red staining is on them. Is that supposed to be blood? Or is it just color bleed from the red bass drum near them? Speaking of the drum, it appears to read “Love the 3 Beatles”. Is that because the 4th...is dead??
On page 23 of the booklet as well as in the film, the Beatles are shown wearing all-white suits and flowers in their lapels. Ringo, John, and George’s flowers are red...but Paul’s is, strangely, black. How did Paul explain this weird little difference? [XXX] Okay, even if you don’t believe in this conspiracy whatsoever, that’s a pretty poor excuse. Why would you just happen to have black flowers on hand, considering they don’t naturally occur in nature?
Another image in the booklet is of a fisheye lens view of a banquet scene in black and white. When you rotate the image 90 degrees and, I dunno, blur it slightly or squint your eyes, it does seem to look like a laughing skull.
In the film there’s a sequence where the Beatles stand in a field between a tree and an old piano. Behind them, a white car speeds down the road - is this supposed to symbolize Paul’s white Aston Martin from the crash?
The music in Magical Mystery Tour does contain some of the spookiest Paul is Dead clues of the whole lot. We can begin with the song “I Am the Walrus”, which Lennon later explained as an acid-fueled tribute to another Lewis Carroll work, “The Walrus and the Carpenter”. In this poem, the titular walrus tricks a group of oysters into taking a walk along the beach, eventually becoming victims of his cruel hoax. If Lennon is the walrus, as he sings in the song, is he talking about how he’s making the public his gullible oysters in the Paul cover up? We’ll return to the walrus yet AGAIN later. Also in the song is mention of a “stupid bloody Tuesday” - perhaps the Tuesday night Paul stormed out of the Beatles recording session, never to return. At the very end of the song, during the fade out, voices can be heard performing the final lines of Act 4, Scene 6 of Shakespeare’s King Lear, including the line “O untimely death!” Lennon later explained this away by saying that they were doing live theater on BBC radio at the time, and he decided to just cut in those lines as they were recording. But if you reverse the same section, you get this: [CLIP] What does that sound like to you? // Well, apparently it says “Ha ha Paul is Dead” over and over, which is pretty ghoulish. It also just sounds weird, thanks to the inherent creepiness of backmasking. You may remember backmasking from our Satanic Panic episodes - it’s the belief that musical artists bury hidden messages backwards within their music, only accessible when the record is played backwards. This is supposed to fit in with Crowley’s Satanic beliefs, and also act as a subconscious message to the listener. 
Next, in the fade out of the song “Strawberry Fields Forever”. Let’s take a listen. [CLIP] What does that sound like to you, Sean? // Well apparently it’s supposed to be “I buried Paul”. 
In David Sheff’s Playboy Interviews with Lennon and Yoko Ono, he asked “What about that line in “I am the Walrus - I buried Paul?” Lennon responded “I said Cranberry Sauce. Cranberry sauce is all I said.” Why was he talking about cranberry sauce, then? Who knows.
Reversing the music at the beginning of “Blue Jay Way” is also supposed to reveal a clue: [CLIP] What do you hear, Sean? // Well, supposedly, it says “Paul is bloody, Paul is bloody,” over again. 
We’ll end Magical Mystery Tour with one lyric sung by Paul - or Faul - that may prove to be particularly telling: “I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello.” 

Next was The White Album, the Beatles’ famous double album, released in November 1968. Nothing on the cover to examine here, folks - almost purposefully, as the album was simply just white, with the band’s name embossed on it. But, sigh, there ARE photos on the inside of the album thanks to the accompanying poster, and there’s a lot to investigate here.

On the bottom right there’s a photo of Paul, looking like he’s dancing and clapping his hands. From the right side of the picture a weird image can be seen...almost like two skeletal, ghostly hands reaching out for Paul. On the top right there’s an image of Paul in a bath, which many say resembles a body being cleaned at an autopsy. On the bottom right is a photo, somewhat resembling a clean-cut Paul with horn rimmed specs and a mustache. It looks something like a passport photo. Many believers say this is actually William Shears Campbell, before he joined the Beatles as Faul and got his McCartney makeover. We also see another white car in this poster, symbolizing McCartney’s doomed white Aston Martin. 
The record itself has some of the most famous clues both forwards and backwards on the record. Disc 1 starts with a lyric that left conspiracists frothing at the mouth: In “Glass Onion”, Lennon sings “I have another clue for you all - the walrus was Paul.” This is odd for two reasons - one, the conspiracy hadn’t even begun yet since this was recorded in 1968, so why is he talking about clues, especially those relating to Paul? Unless, of course, he had purposefully dropped some into previous work. Second, why is he saying the walrus was Paul here, when he insisted that he was both the walrus in the song and on the cover of Magical Mystery Tour? 
Another famous bit of a song integral to the Paul is Dead theory is at the end of Lennon’s song “I’m So Tired”. Muttering can be heard between the end of the song and the beginning of the next, McCartney’s “Blackbird”. Forwards it sounds like gibberish, but when you reverse that clip, you get this: [CLIP] // Paul is dead man, miss him, miss him, miss him! 
Next, the song “Don’t Pass Me By”, written by Ringo, has one fairly creepy lyric in or out of context: “You were in a car crash, and you lost your hair.” Don’t have to explain the relevance of this one either, I think.
Near the end of the album is the longest and probably the weirdest Beatles recording ever committed to vinyl - John Lennon’s trippy “Revolution 9”. Listening to this whole song is a struggle, because it’s not really a song...more of a musical acid trip collage. However, the song contains multiple Paul is Dead clues. At the very beginning of the song we hear a sterile voice repeat “Number 9, number 9” over and over again. When this is reversed, you get: [CLIP] That’s the famous “turn me on, dead man” - with the dead man being, of course, Paul. There’s also the sound of a car crash, with a man’s voice seemingly screaming “Get me out, get me out!”; and some weird lines that just sound creepy. [CLIP]

With that audio nightmare we move on to the much peppier Yellow Submarine, the soundtrack to the Beatles’ animated film released in January 1969. Again, on the cover we have a hand held over cartoon Paul’s head. This time, it’s John Lennon giving Paul the funeral benediction. There’s not much more in the art, surprisingly, but there are a few clues in the songs.

In “Only a Northern Song”, George sings the lyrics “When you’re listening late at night / You may think the band’s not quite right” and “If you think the harmony / is a little dark and out of key / You’re correct there’s nobody there.” Is the harmony out of key and the band not quite right because the real Paul isn’t there, having been replaced by Faul?
Let’s play a clip from “All Together Now”, backwards: [CLIP] I buried Paul, I buried Paul...
And in the single “Lady Madonna”, we again get a reference to Wednesday morning: “Wednesday’s papers didn’t come”. Is this because they decided to cover up Paul’s death, so there weren’t any shocking headlines? 

Next came Abbey Road, the album released in late September 1969, just before the Paul is Dead craze began. And the clues start right on the cover, kids! You know this cover, it’s probably just as iconic as Sgt Pepper’s - the 4 Beatles are crossing the street, the titular Abbey Road, on a crosswalk, walking in a line. 

Guess what this is supposed to look like? A funeral procession, of course. John is in the front with long hair and a white suit, looking all Jesus-y - he’s the preacher. Next is Ringo in a plain black suit - the undertaker. Paul is 3rd, in an “outdated” suit but no shoes. Again the whole barefoot thing. He’s also out of step with the other 3, symbolizing he’s different. He’s also holding a cigarette, but in his right hand, not his left, which seems like it would be natural because he’s a leftie. Sean, you’re a leftie who once smoked, ew - how did you hold cigarettes? // Also, cigarettes are apparently sometimes called “coffin nails”, so, yknow, spooky coffins and all that. Paul later explained the barefoot thing, but this doesn’t really fly to me as making any sort of sense. He told Rolling Stone in 1973 that the reason he was barefoot on the album cover was because it was a “hot day”, so he kicked off his flip flops and went barefoot. But wouldn’t hot asphalt be unbearably hot in that case? Especially having to walk back and forth on it until getting the right shot? I dunno. Behind him is George in all working-man’s denim, the gravedigger. 
Behind the group is a white Volkswagen, another white car, and the license plate reads LMW 28IF - which is supposed to signify that McCartney would’ve been in his 28th year of existence IF he was still alive. He was 27 at the time, but this is according to some philosophy believing that aging begins at conception and not birth. 
There are several clues on the back cover as well. Again we see “Beatles” written out, not THE Beatles. There are also a series of dots to the left of “Beatles” that, if connected, appear to spell out the number 3, as in only 3 Beatles left. There’s an odd shadow/reflection to the right of the S that looks like a skull. There’s also a woman crossing quickly in front of the shot, with only her back, blue dress, and leg scene. This is supposed to symbolize Rita. 
The lyrics are an embarrassment of riches as well. We begin with another psychedelic John romp, “Come Together”. Some think he’s singing about a corpse - namely, Paul’s corpse - in this song, with references to “flat top”, as in decapitated, “joo joo eyeball” and another barefoot reference with “he wear no shoe shine”. He also references a walrus yet again. And there’s the line “one and one and one is three” - 3 Beatles left. Most importantly is the chorus: “Come together, right now, over me.” Me being a body in a grave, with the sad remaining Beatles looking down - hey, like the Sgt Pepper’s cover!
The 8-song medley that makes up side 2 of the LP gives plenty of clues by itself. We have the song “Sun King” - the Sun King was Louis XIV. In the story of The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas, Louis XIV’s twin brother replaces the Sun King, hiding his real identity behind an iron mask. Is this a reference to Faul? The final medley can be seen as the experience of death: “Golden Slumbers”, aka the Big Sleep; “Carry that Weight”, the pallbearers - or PAUL bearers - carrying the coffin; and “The End”, the funeral and ascension to another plane. 

The last Beatles album to come out - again, not the last recorded - was Let it Be, in 1970. It doesn’t have many clues, but there are a couple, which are doubly important because it was the only album to come out post-Paul is Dead hysteria. Mainly we have the cover, where Ringo, John, and George are pictured looking to the left (their right) all with white backgrounds...while Paul is the only one looking straight forward, with a blood red background, symbolizing his difference from the other 3. The album cover background itself is, appropriately, funeral black. As far as I could tell, though, there weren’t many clues thought to be hidden in the songs themselves.

The clues didn’t end when the Beatles broke up. Here are a few of my oft-cited favorites:

In his song “How Do You Sleep”, a scathing indictment of his old bandmate Paul, Lennon sings “Those freaks was right when they said you was dead.”
In Ringo’s song “Back Off Boogaloo”, he sang “Wake up meathead, don’t forget that you were dead.” Is the meathead here Faul?
McCartney’s first solo album, McCartney, bore a cover image of a bowl of cherries scattered about, leaving the bowl empty, save some cherry juice - which kinda resembles blood. Also, if the saying goes that “life is a bowl of cherries”, well, there’s no life here, the bowl is empty.
In his 1987 music video for “When We Was Fab” George Harrison shows a person clad in a black walrus costume playing a left-handed bass - an obvious reference to Paul and the conspiracy. This also means all of the other Beatles included clues in their solo work.
In 1993 McCartney cheekily released the live album “Paul is Live”, recreating the Abbey Road cover this time with a sheepdog - referencing his song “Martha My Dear”, and deliberately placed clues, such as a license plate reading 51 IS, his age at the time.
When discussing the “Free as a Bird” music video release on the radio show Beatle Archives for the Anthology compilation, McCartney did say this: “We used to make a game of putting little clues in all our music back then…” Was this finally an admission of guilt?
This is not a clue, but a fun reference - in the bonus features for our favorite film Shaun of the Dead, there's a spoof "interview" with Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, in which Pegg mentions a number of famous people who have allegedly become zombies, including McCartney.
Paul discussed the conspiracy as recently as 2019. On Paul McCartney.com he was asked about the rumors. His response? “Too many drugs! People may have taken too many drugs and started looking for answers in all the wrong places!” 

I remember when I first found this theory as a teenager, though I didn’t necessarily believe it, listening to the backmasks and investigating all the clues definitely gave me the creeps. In her essay The Curious Death of Paul McCartney, sociologist Barbara Suczek interviewed average 13 and 14 year olds about the conspiracy, noting that they mostly felt cold and creepy about the whole thing. Suczek went on to state that she felt the theory had ascended to legend, partly because it included many parts of classic mythology, like interpretation of clues, the combination of death and the occult, and the premature death of a youth that, in the afterlife, ascends to the status of god. And what are the Beatles, if not rock n roll gods?

Folks, here are so many more clues, honestly, but these were the most frequently cited, and I was trying hard not to make this a two parter. Over on Patreon and Youtube this week we’ll be uploading a special interview with Charles Rosenay, who you may remember from our ParaConn special - Rosenay is a Beatles expert who, I was chuffed to find out, was even cited in the Acknowledgements of my main source for today’s episode, the book The Walrus Was Paul. So check in probably this weekend for that and obviously, join Patreon if you haven’t already!

Keep your eyes out, by the way - since this is one of my favorite conspiracies of all time, we’re definitely having more supplemental material. We’ll be interviewing my dad, who you’ll remember from the Gettysburg Ghosts episode - another Beatles expert with a firsthand account of being a Beatles fan during the Paul is Dead hysteria. AND, I’m going to be making Sean watch the documentary-or-is-it-mockumentary Paul McCartney Really is Dead: The Last Testament of George Harrison, so check out Patreon for his reaction to all that craziness!

There were a ton of sources for today’s episode along with the book, but if you’re looking for more on this topic from the perspective of very earnest believers, check out the documentaries The Winged Beatle and Cranberry Sauce on Youtube and the sites turnmeondeadman.com and paulmccartneyisdead.tumblr.com, particularly for facial comparisons between Paul and the so-called “Faul” that I couldn’t get into as much in this non-visual format. Unfortunately, the exhaustingly comprehensive Paul is Dead site that I first stumbled upon back in high school doesn’t exist anymore, but at least I’m here to share all this nonsense with YOU. 

So Sean, do YOU think the Paul is Dead theory is correct?

I’ll part today with some of the most meaningful Beatles lyrics, words that I live by and that bring great comfort to me: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” 



No news this week because this episode is hella long and we have a bunch of supplemental material coming out to support it on Youtube and especially PATREON! Please, please join us at Patreon.com/Aintitscary to stay updated on all the new and exclusive content we have coming out, including launches of mini shows like “Ainterviews”, “Movies Macabre”, and more!

Also, be sure to check out our friends over at the New York Mystery Machine podcast next week as they’ll be releasing a special episode on the conspiracies surrounding the death of John Lennon. We’ll also be partnering with them on a special two parter in January, so be sure to subscribe and catch up! 



That’s it for this episode of Ain’t It Scary with Sean and Carrie! Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @aintitscary, and check out our website at aintitscary.com. You can support the show by supporting our sponsors, and becoming a patron at www.patreon.com/aintitscary. And please, subscribe to the show and throw us a 5-star review on Apple Podcasts...we’ll be forever grateful. Don’t forget to screenshot your 5-star reviews and share with us on social media for your chance to win a gift straight from us!

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