The rumored death of Paul McCartney

Stanley A. Skrabut

United States Air Force Academy Preparatory School

April 1982


The Beatles through their short but fabulous career created many unusual, unprecedented firsts in both their music and their closely followed social lives. One of those unusual firsts happened to be the unbelievable rumor of the death of Paul McCartney.

November 9th, 1966, James Paul McCartney, a former Beatle, was killed in an automobile (Aston Martin) accident after leaving Apple Recording Studios. The accident happened at approximately five- o’clock in the morning. He had left Apple Studios after an argument with the rest of the Beatles. The rest of the Beatles organized a cover-up to avoid detection from the public. A Paul McCartney, look-alike, contest winner underwent plastic surgery and replaced Paul, his name was William Campbell. (Schaffner, 1977) This is the rumor that swept America and is still very popular today.

Due to insufficient evidence proving Paul McCartney alive, there is a good possibility that he actually did die in an automobile accident. The only way to determine the real story is to connect the rumor with the clues supporting it and the reasons for its continual existence.

Although Paul McCartney’s rumored death occurred in 1966, the rumor started in 1969. October 12, 1969, Disc Jockey Russ Gibb of WKR-FM (Detroit’s “underground” station) was advised of clues to Paul McCartney’s death by telephone. (Schaffner, 1977) Naturally, Russ Gibb did not believe what he had heard and started to investigate the matter. He discovered that, “this fantastic death wish seems to have been stimulated by a University of Michigan undergraduate named Fred Labour who did a record review in the college paper of the Beatle’s latest album ‘Abbey Road‘ in which he expounded at length on the elaborate clues indicating that McCartney had died and been replaced by a stand-in.” (Marks, November 2, 1969)

These, clues that Fred Labour pointed out were a few of a list of many that Beatle fans later discovered. The clues pertaining to McCartney’s rumored death can be divided into three significant groups; clues found on the Beatle’s album covers and sleeve inserts, clues found on the Beatle’s songs played forwards, and clues found on the Beatles songs played backwards.

The clues found on the Beatles’ album covers and sleeve inserts are the most noticeable The clues range from the Beatles’ albums Yesterday and Today to Abbey Road. The clues found were not noticed until the release of Fred Labour’s record review.

The first album to be released containing clues on it was Yesterday… and Today, everyone is standing around a luggage chest except for Paul who is sitting in it, as if the chest were a casket. The Revolver album followed Yesterday.. and Today, and on the Revolver album cover Beatle fans noted that of the four caricature’s of the Beatles all of them have two eyes except for Paul who only has one. The clue could possibly be just art but it could also be the Beatles trying to tell the public something has happened to McCartney. The next album that proved to be significant was Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Many clues were noted on this album cover both front and back. The front of the cover shows most of the clues. The cover depicts the Beatles in their colored uniforms, standing in front of a crowd of people, and looking over an array of flowers. The interesting thing to note about the display is the fact that the crowd of people standing behind the Beatles are all people that Paul McCartney admired. If a picture, appears with a hand showing over an individual’s bead, it is considered an omen of death in England; on the cover of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, Paul is shown with a hand above his head. The flowers also prove to be very significant, the yellow flowers displayed before the Beatles are in the shape of a guitar. The guitar also is a very special one, if Paul were to bend down and pick it up, the guitar would prove to be a left-handed guitar. Paul was the only one that played a left-handed instrument, he played a bass guitar that has four strings, this guitar has only three strings; three could signify that one individual was missing from the four Beatles… Paul McCartney. Also noted by Beatle fans was the fact that all the Beatles are standing over an open grave. The last clue on the front of the cover was that all the Beatles were carrying brass instruments except for Paul who was carrying a woodwind, once again different. The back of the cover also has significant clues pertaining to Paul’s rumored death. The back of the cover shows the fronts of all the Beatles, Paul, however, is the only one showing his back Also on the back of the cover, George Harrison is pointing to a line of music, it says, ‘Wednesday morning at five o’clock,’ (Schaffner, 1977) this is the time that Paul McCartney supposedly died. There are two significant clues shown on the sleeve insert both are directly related to Paul. One of the clues is in regard to a medal that Paul is wearing, it is an English medal only given in time of a heroic death. Also, Paul is wearing a patch that has the, letters O.P.D. on it. O.P.D. according to Paul stands for Ottowa Police Department, but it also stands for “Officially pronounced dead.” (Schaffner, 1977) The album that followed Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the Magical Mystery Tour album. There was only one major clue on the cover of the Magical Mystery Tour album, on the front cover Paul is shown wearing a walrus costume in a black suit. In Greek, walrus means corpse. (Schaffner, 1977) This was the only clue on the cover, the rest were located in the insert booklet. Page three of the booklet shows Paul in a military uniform sitting behind a desk that has a sign on it, the sign reads, “I was.” There is a large skull on page eight of the booklet. On page twenty-three, the Beatles are shown all wearing red carnations except for Paul, who once again is different, he is wearing a black one. The next album in the sequence was the album entitled The Beatles but it was better known as the “white” album This album contained only one clue, a clue that is shown on a poster insert. A skeleton hand is shown reaching out from behind Paul near the left-hand corner of the poster. The next and last album of the sequence was the album that started the whole rumor, the Abbey Road album. Clues are found on both the front and back of the cover. The front of the cover shows the Beatles walking across Abbey Road. John Lennon is first, dressed in white as if he were a minister. Ringo Starr is next, dressed in black as if he were an undertaker. Paul is following Ringo and he, is also dressed in black, but Paul is barefooted as if he were a corpse (the Italians and English bury their dead without shoes.) George Harrison is the last one of the parade and he is dressed in blue denim as if he were a gravedigger. Everyone is in step except for Paul who is once again different. Paul is also carrying a cigarette, however, he is carrying it in his right hand which is odd for someone, who is left-handed. (Schaffner, 1977) There is a car parked alongside the road, the car happens to be a Volkswagen “Beetle.” “The license plate of the parked Volkswagen spells out Paul’s age: 28 IF he had lived.” (Schaffner, 1977) On the back of the Abbey Road album cover next to the word “Beatles” is a slanted skull.

The clues on the album covers are really obvious, but the words to the songs are more subtle. The words to songs are also very significant clues to Paul McCartney’s rumored death but are not always as obvious as photographs or pictures.

“A Day in the Life,” a song that is from the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album tells about an accident or a mishap in a car. The following words are from “‘A Day in the. Life”: “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, /” (1967) Many of the clues in the songs related to something happening to either a car or a person. The next song that Beatle fans determined significant was “Magical Mystery Tour”, because of the lines, “The Magical Mystery Tour is dying to take you away, Dying to take you away – take you today.” (1965) These words suggest that something is wrong. The next song is one of the most unusual and it also appeared with the song “Magical Mystery Tour” on the Magical Mystery Tour album, it was called “I am the. Walrus.” The song, “I am the Walrus,” suggests something is wrong with the words, “Corporation Teashirt, stupid bloody Tuesday man you’ve been a naughty boy you’ve let your face grow long.” (1965) During the time this album was being made, Paul was the only one growing a beard which explains the line, “man you’ve been a naughty boy you’ve let your face grow long.” (1965) “Stupid bloody Tuesday,” is also considered a day when Paul was killed. Also throughout the song the words “goo goo goo joob” (Schaffner, 1977) are used as a chorus, these words are also found in James Joyce’s book, Finnegan’s Wake and “these are Humpty Dumpty’s last words before he takes a fall and cracks his head.” (Schaffner, 1977) During the second half of the song, words can be heard dubbed in. These words are from Shakespeare’s play entitled, “King Lear,” the words are from Scene VI of Act IV. These are the words:

Edgar ‘Chill not let go, zir, without vurther ‘casion.

Oswald Let go, slave, or thou diest! 241

Edger Good gentleman, go you gait, and let poor volk pass. An ‘chud ha ‘bin zwaggered out of my life, ‘I would not ha ‘bin zo long as ‘t is by a vornight Nay, come not near Th ‘old man; Keep out, ‘che vorye, or Ise Try whether your costard or my ballow be the harder. ‘Chill be plain with you. 248

Oswald Out, dunghill!

Edgar ‘Chill pick your teeth, zir. Come, no matter vor your foins. 251

They fight, and Edgar knocks him down.

Oswald Slave, thou hast slain me. Villian, take my purse.

If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body; and give the letter’s which thou find’st about me to Edmund Earl of Gloucester, seek him upon the English party. O, untimely death! Death! Dies.
Edgar I know thee well; a serviceable villian. As duteous to the vices of they mistress.

As badness would desire.

Gloucester What, is he dead?

Edgar Sit down you, father, rest you. 260″ (Parrott, 1953)

This scene was a major death seem in the play “King Lear.” Another interesting fact about. the song is that this song was written by John Lennon; however, under the song title on the album cover are the words, “No You’re Not Said Little Nicola,” (Schaffner, 1977) Which indicates that the walrus is someone other than John Lennon The next song to come along was “Strawberry Fields Forever” also off the Magical Mystery Tour album. The only significant thing about this song is the fact that it fades out to the words, “I buried Paul.” (1965) Following the Magical Mystery Tour album came, the “White Album” which contained the clue bearing songs “Glass Onion,” “Don’t Pass me by,” and “Revolution #9.” The song, “Glass Onion,” clears up the mystery of who the walrus was with the words, ‘I told you about the walrus and me man, you know we were as close as can be man, well here’s another clue for you more, the walrus was Paul.” (1968) In the song, “Don’t Pass Me By,” Beatles fans noted a lyric that was out of place from the rest of the song and that was the words, “you were, in a car crash and you lost your hair.” (1968) Also on the “White Album,” “there is a nine-minute montage of sounds, ‘Revolution No. 9.’ In it, a man’s voice intones repeatedly, number nine, number nine. McCartney’s name has nine letters in it.” (Neary, November 7, 1969) “if the piece is played stereophonically…, this is what is heard on one of the four tracks: ‘He hit a pole! We better get him to see a surgeon. (Scream) So anyhow, he went to see a dentist instead. They gave him a pair of teeth that weren’t any good at all, so – (A car horn blares.) My wings are broken and so is my hair. I’m not in the mood for words. (Gurgling, battle sounds.) Find the night watchman. A fine natural imbalance. Must have got it in the shoulder blades.” (Neary, November 7, 1969) These clues played an important part in the rumor, taken individually they are nothing but taken as a group, they prove very meaningful.

“Revolution #9” was not only noted for its clues while being played forward but also in reverse. To obtain meanings from a song being played forward could be just coincidence, but to understand a song while being played in reverse is another thing altogether. “If the Beatles’ song ‘Revolution Number 9’ is played backwards and on listened carefully to the voice saying, ‘Number 9, Number 9, Number 9’ the words magically become; “Turn me on, dead man!…” (Rosnow, R. and Fine, G., 1976) Also while playing this song in reverse the sounds of a terrible traffic accident emerge: A collision, crackling flames, a voice crying, ‘Get me out, get me out!'” (Neary, November 7, 1969) Another important piece played backwards is the gibberish words between the songs “I’m So Tired” and “Blackbird.” When played backwards these words turn out to be “Paul is dead man, miss him, miss him, miss him.” (Schaffner, 1977) Combined together, the album covers, the songs played both forward and backwards all seem to prove that Paul was actually killed. If these clues were just coincidental, the sheer number of clues is overwhelming.

The main reason the rumor is still popular is its entertainment value. “Paul McCartney’s ‘death’ and the gossip surrounding it take on the form of a well-constructed murder mystery, in which both clues and puzzles are numerous.” (Rosnow, R. & Fine, G., 1976) The public didn’t actually drink think Paul was dead but they did consider it, which gave the rumor life. “It is great fun hunting for clues and talking about the mystery with friends. The Paul McCartney rumor may have flourished for the same reasons that mystery stories are popular, suspense without fear and emotional stimulation. It titillated the imagination.” (Rosnow, R. & Fine, G., 1976)

Another reason the rumor is still popular is its uncertain outcome. Along with clues, there has been more proof provided proving that Paul McCartney could actually be dead. Dr. Henry M. Truly, Professor at the University of Miami, did a voice comparison of different segments of Paul McCartney’s voice. He found there to be more than one Paul McCartney. When Paul was arrested in Japan a few years ago, there seemed to be a little commotion over Paul’s fingerprints; they did not match his fingerprints that he had taken while with the rest of the Beatles.

Throughout the whole situation, the Beatles deny starting the rumor or even having any part in it. “Yet there are many who, despite all the denials, remain convinced that the entire cosmic joke was masterminded by the Beatles themselves. The sheer number of Paul-Is-Dead clues, it is argued, stretches the long arm of coincidence beyond the breaking point.” (Schaffner, 1977) However, until the real story is actually told or proven and believed, the rumor will continue to be fabulous work of the Beatles.


Beatles, The. (1967). A Day in the Life. On Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band [record]. Capitol.

Beatles, The. (1968). Don’t Pass Me By. On The Beatles [record]. Apple.

Beatles, The. (1968). Glass Onion. On The Beatles [record]. Apple.

Beatles, The. (1965). I am the Walrus. On Magical Mystery Tour [record]. Capitol.

Beatles, The. (1965). Magical Mystery Tour. On Magical Mystery Tour [record]. Capitol.

Beatles, The. (1965). Strawberry Fields Forever. On Magical Mystery Tour [record]. Capitol.

Marks, J. (1969, November 2).”No, No, No, No, Paul McCartney is not Dead,” The New York Times, Sec II, p. 13:2.

Neary, J. (1969, November 7). The Magical McCartney Mystery. Life, p. 104.

Parrott, T. M.. (1953). Shakespeare-Twenty-three Plays and Sonnets, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Rosnow, R. L., & Fine, G. A. (1976). Rumor and Gossip: the Social Psychology of Hearsay, New York: Elsevier Scientific Publishing, Inc.

Schaffner, N. (1977). The Beatle’s Forever, San Francisco.