The Beatles Wiki


The Beatles Wiki

A magazine exploiting the rumour.

"Paul is dead" is an urban legend suggesting that Paul McCartney of the English rock band The Beatles died in 1966 and was secretly replaced by a look alike.

In September 1969, American college students published articles claiming that clues to McCartney's death could be found among the lyrics and artwork of The Beatles' recordings. Clue hunting proved infectious and within a few weeks had become an international phenomenon. Rumours declined after a contemporary interview with McCartney was published in Life magazine in November 1969.

Numerous songs contain "backmasking" that suggests a lot of factors that led to Paul McCartney's supposed death. These "clues", however (along with many of the visual ones) contain strong elements of pareidolia (the tendency of the human mind to see more detail than is actually present, especially if actively looking for it). For instance, someone who is a "Paul is dead" fan and is playing the "number nine" clip backwards with the specific intention of hearing something death-related, will probably hear it as "turn me on, dead man" (as will someone who has been told to expect to hear that); but another person, listening to the same clip without preconceptions, is perhaps more likely to hear "turn me o-" trailing off into indistinct mumbling.

The most pressing evidence was what they called the "Last Testament of George Harrison". A cassette tape labelled "The Last Testament of George Harrison" was supposedly sent to a film-making studio in hopes that a movie would be made about it, and sure enough, a "documentary" (more accurately, what is sometimes called a "mockumentary", a work of fiction in documentary form) was made about what was said on the tape. It was called, "Paul McCartney Really Is Dead: The Last Testament of George Harrison." The "documentary" had many flaws, including records being put out out-of-order and audio quality that was far too good for cassette tapes.

Notable "clues" and why they are false[]

  • "At the end of "Strawberry Fields Forever", you can hear John saying 'I buried Paul'."
    • Listen again; he actually says "cranberry sauce".
  • "Reflecting the letters on the drum of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band gives the text 'I ONE IX HE <> DIE'. This gives 11/9, the date of death."
    • One problem here is that Britain (like most of the world) uses European date format, in which "11/9" is the 11th of September, not the 9th of November.
  • "A further clue is in 'I am the Walrus' and 'Glass Onion'; 'the walrus was Paul', and the walrus is a symbol of death in some cultures."
    • Doing a web search on "the walrus is a symbol of death in some cultures" returns only "Paul is dead" sites, so this is a circular argument; until a source can be found which makes no mention of the Beatles or predates 1966 or both, this is at best "citation needed".
  • "The Abbey Road cover shows 'Paul' walking barefoot and out of step with the others. In the background is a car (a Beetle) with the numberplate 'LMW 281F', signifying 'Linda McCartney Weeps' " (or 'Linda McCartney Widow' depending on which version you hear) "and that Paul would have been 28 IF he had lived".
    • This just goes to show that there is such a thing as coincidence:
      • It was a hot day; Paul discarded his shoes because he felt uncomfortable in them.
      • Per standard practice, about half a dozen pictures were taken and the best looking one chosen; this happened to be the one where Paul was out of step.
      • Paul was actually 27.
      • Paul didn't even meet Linda until a year after his "death", so for her to be a widow makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
    • As the TV Tropes Wiki points out, if there's anything symbolic about this picture it's the fact that it shows the Beatles walking away from Abbey Road Studios (not "a cemetery" as some particularly clueless versions of this "clue" claim).

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