Tuesday, April 19, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: P is for Paul is Dead

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories P
The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: P is for Paul is Dead

Ok. This one is VERY different from my other conspiracy theories posted here this month, but maybe one of the most important ones to me.  Why?  Because this is the conspiracy theory that introduced me to all the others.

Back in the 80s my dad (or maybe it was my mom, both were voracious readers) had a book about conspiracy theories and urban legends.  One grabbed my attention because my older brother Mike had gotten me into the Beatle recently and I was tuned in to anything Beatles.

The rumor was that Paul McCartney was dead and the clues had been scattered across all their albums if you knew what to look for.   And the list was a tantalizing one.

The rumor began in 1967 that Paul, singer, songwriter, and bass player for the Beatles was killed in a car crash.  The rumor was denied later, but it caught on and fans began to look for clues.  Here are some of the things they found.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

  • On Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band, the album cover had a hand over Paul's head, which many people claimed (with no evidence) was an ancient sign of someone about to die.  
  • Paul's uniform had a patch on the shoulder with the initials "O.P.D." on it which fans took as "Officially Pronounced Dead."  It was, according to McCartney from the "Ontario Police Department." This can be seen on the cover and the gatefold.
  • The lyrics page of Sgt. Pepper's had all of the band, except for Paul, facing the camera.  
  • The lyrics page also had George Harrison pointing to a lyric from "She's Leaving Home."  The line says "Wednesday at 5 o'clock."   This was not just when Paul died, but also to signify George Harrison's disappointment that Paul was replaced.
  • The flowers on the cover represented a left-handed bass or a P, both for Paul. 

The Beatles, aka The White Album (1968)

  • Ringo's song "Don't Pass Me By" features the lyrics, "You were in a car crash, And you lost your hair."  
  • John Lennon's song "I'm So Tired" has some mumbling in the recording that when played backward says "Paul is a dead man. Miss him. Miss him. Miss him."
  • If you play the end of "Revolution 9" backward (the "Number 9. Number 9" bit) you can hear John saying "Turn me on Deadman."   Producer Alan Parsons confirms that this is true, but only because John liked the sound of it. 
  • The song "Glass Onion" has the line "the Walrus was Paul."   People decide that the walrus was the "Viking animal of death" or whatever that means.  

Abbey Road (1969)

One of the most famous covers of Beatles' albums is also full of clues.

  • Each Beatle is crossing the road in step with the other, except for Paul.
  • Paul is barefoot (as a corpse, so it is claimed) and smoking his "last cigarette."
  • Each Beatle represents a different person in a funeral.  John is the priest in all white, Ringo the undertaker, Paul the corpse, and George in work clothes the srave digger.
  • There is a Volkwagon (also known as a "Beetle") in the background with the license plate "28IF." Paul would have been 28 IF he had lived. Though in truth he was only 27 at the time.
And there are more, some going back to the Beatles catalog to find more clues.  Some even going back to "Revolver", released in 1966 BEFORE Paul "died."

The idea, which I clearly knew was false, fascinated me that people could be so caught up in it.  I would later see the same sort of behavior when the Satanic Panic happened.

Of course, this happened all by word of mouth and rumor and shoddy reporting and less than critical DJs on FM and college radios.  Certainly, something like this would never happen in the days of the Internet and fact-checking websites? 


Avril Está Morta / Avril is Dead

The newest version of this rumor is that Canadian singer Avril Lavigne died in 2003.  She was replaced by someone named Melissa Vandella (oh I have to use that name sometime) and was used to support their perception that Avril's style, both musically and personally, had changed from 2003 on.

What must they think of Lady Gaga then?

Both of these though bring up an interesting point in contrast.

Avril is Dead is a rumor or urban legend.  Paul is Dead is a conspiracy theory.

What is the difference?  Well, the key here is twofold.  Both seem to have grown from fans reactions to their artists and rumor getting out of hand.  While that seems to be the beginning and the end for Avril's supposed death, there is some evidence that Paul is Dead was embraced by at least John Lennon, and clues were seeded.  These are largely in the backward masking of songs from The White Album.  

Intentional involvement to hide the truth (or a lie) is the key element here.


This is the harder bit.  Despite my enjoyment of this particular bit of Beatles trivia, I have not found a good way to use it in a game except for the obvious.  Doppelgängers.  Someone famous has been replaced by a doppelgänger, or maybe a shape-shifted Reptoid, and the characters are the only ones who have noticed.  OR better yet.  Someone else has noticed and collected all this data but is then later killed.  It is up to the characters to discover the truth. Is the person a doppelgänger? Victim of a false rumor? Or did they cook the whole idea up to sell more whatever, albums, books, hits on YouTube.

Up to the characters to find out.

The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF)


Tasha Duncan-Drake said...

I didn't know any of the details of this one. I think I only heard of it recently. Fascinating all the "details" the theorists dug up.
Ah, I saw a YouTube vid about Avril not being Avril the other day and didn't bother clicking on it - this explains that. Thank you, I was wondering.😂
Tasha's Thinkings: YouTube - What They Don't Tell You (and free fiction)

Dick McGee said...

Well, I'm certainly going to have to use that "the walrus is the viking animal of death" thing somewhere, aren't I? Maybe Vaesen? Or just as a random encounter in some far north adventure - I mean, if Harryhausen could do it in the "Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger" film why can't I?

One of the recurring supervillains in my games is named Vandella. She's got a "space gladiator looking to kidnap heroes for her games" thing going on. So far she's appeared in V&V, Champions, M&M, and Sentinel Comics campaigns. What can I say, I like space gladiator stories. :)

PT Dilloway said...

Some people had way too much time on their hands back then. With social media it's easier than ever to spread false rumors of someone's death--and then often the person in question has to come forward to say he/she is still alive.

Frewin55 said...

Nothing new under the sun - I had forgotten this conspiracy theory and never knew the details so thanks for that - thanks for visiting at https://how-would-you-know.com/2022/04/persimmons-pulses-and-pressure-cookers.html

Joy said...

Fun to see these pulled together. I've heard bits and pieces but not all in one place.
Joy's Book Blog

Maria L. Berg said...

I learned about this when I was living in Sweden as an exchange student. My Swedish Mom had a copy of Sergeant Pepper. We listened to it and she told me the story about Paul is Dead. Fun post.

betty said...

I remember this about Paul supposedly being dead as I was a young teen during this time. I didn't make much of it. I thought it was a bit of a publicity stunt myself.


Brizzy Mays Books And Bruschetta said...

I needed that laugh today. Thank you :)

Quinn said...

I love this. I can totally see where John Lennon would have taken it up and run with it. Backward masking was a huge thing at the time being blamed as a whole other conspiracy theory to be brainwashing people to worship the devil, so how could such an artist resist piling conspiracy theory upon conspiracy theory? Nearly all writers/artists/game developers...probably musicians, put inside jokes or 'Easter eggs' into their works for themselves, their friends and their biggest fans to enjoy, so I don't think it means Lennon believed it, but he certainly seems to have had fun fueling the fire.
The human brain will always look for patterns and group things to support what they 'know' so far. My favorite in your post is the 28IF. LOL! -Sheri J Kennedy (from RealitywithaTwistbooks.worpress.com - a very Persnickety site. :) )

Arlee Bird said...

I never went for the Dead Paul conspiracy, but it's fun to see the lengths that people went to in order to prove it. I guess some people might argue that Paul's music is "dead".

Imagination can come up with some crazy things.

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

Marcy said...

This was all news to me! But then I was a bit on the younger side back then and am considerably uninformed on many topics. Interesting post!

bookworm said...

I was a teenager when the Paul is Dead theory became what we all talked about, at least the people I knew. It created so much excitement, and led some of my friends to waste time looking for more"clues". What I don't remember is how it all died out. Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory, it would seem. Thank you for visiting my A to Z blog. Alana ramblinwitham.blogspot.com

diedre Knight said...

I did hear the rumor. I also heard he refurbished an old tin-roofed adobe hut outside of town. I didn't believe either story back then. Now I know the second story was true ;-)

Duncan D. Horne - the Kuantan blogger said...

Hey Tim, what a quirky and fascinating blog! I love this stuff on this post - it's all so intriguing!

Ministering A-Z