Is Paul McCartney Dead, Really An Impersonator?

First Published: April 4, 2016 Last updated: August 31st, 2020 Written by: Marcus Lowth Estimated Reading Time: 11 minutes Posted in: Conspiracy, Unsolved & Unexplained

For readers of a certain vintage, the conspiracy theory we’re about to discuss might bring back a nice bout of nostalgia. After all, this was one of the biggest early theories of the 1960s and is, without a doubt, one of the most insane conspiracy theories we’ve ever come across.

One thing we notice quite a lot after the death of a celebrity are theories that they aren’t “really” dead – the idea that they all live on this magical island that nobody else can locate apart from dead celebrities.

From Tupac to Michael Jackson, every famous celebrity and musician seems to spend their time living away from the rest of the world, free from our expressions and love of their work.

Early McCartney

Paul McCartney

Spend enough time on YouTube and you can find the odd video depicting the idea that people like David Bowie never died.

One movie even suggested that his latest album before his passing, ‘Blackstar’, was actually a signal to the rest of the world to let us know that Planet X was on its way into our solar system! We know that Bowie was an incredibly talented guy, a legend, but c’mon…

One of the most bizarre conspiracy theories surrounding artists and fake deaths, though, has to be the one surrounding Paul McCartney, the Beatles icon. Now, you might be wondering what Sir Paul has to do with dead celebrities due to the fact that he’s, well, alive.

That’s precisely our point! From the 1960s, a conspiracy theory has existed that says that McCartney of today was actually replaced by someone else along the way. There’s all sorts of circumstantial and contextual evidence that seems a bit fruity, but we do admit that some of it had us raising our eyebrows.

Whilst not really sure ourselves, it felt right to cover this theory as it was, at one stage, a leading idea about what happened to the old Beatles legend. Here is a breakdown of all of the different ideas, the rumours, the story itself and various other snipes of detail we’ve been able to find over the years. What do you think?

The Story

A story with such ridiculous connotations needs to have a beginning, and this first began in early 1967 as stories that McCartney had died in a car crash began to circulate. The incident was related to a traffic accident involving his vehicle, which was eventually rebuked and put to bed in the Battles Book, a fanzine which ran at the time. With the Beatles close to splitting up and McCartney spending most of his time in Scotland with his wife Linda, his social and public engagements began to become fewer and fewer.

This was the beginning of this rather humorous tale of fiction becoming a genuine conspiracy theory. In September 1969, the student newspaper of the Drake University in Iowa, DrakeTimes-Delphic, posted a story that asked the question of whether McCartney was actually dead. Building on the already growing rumour about his untimely passing in the university campus, the story grew arms and legs in no time.

The rumour started to bring in to account things like hidden messages in songs. For example, if you play Revolution 9, from the White Album, backwards it sounds like it says “turn me on, dead man”. Naturally, this kind of thing captures the attention of people and builds a bit of a crescendo; especially back in the 60s when theories like this were all the rage.

The car Paul McCartney crashed in

The wrecked car

In October of that year, the Beatles Press Officer, Derek Taylor, had to make a strong dismissal of the rumours. He stated that he had been “even getting telephone calls from disc jockeys and others in the United States” so it’s fair to say that this rumour was not only engulfing the university campus in Iowa. This was quickly becoming a major theory that people were buying into.

In October 1969, it became the topic of major conversation on a Detroit radio station, WKNR-FM. A caller informed the DJ, Russ Gibb, about the theory and it became the major topic of discussion for that night on the radio. It soon became the subject of serious discussion but also satire, as publications such as The Michigan Daily started to create comical discussions about the death of McCartney.

As the author of the piece, Fred LaBour, began to create new clues such as “hints” on album covers, it soon began to get picked up by major press outlets and discussion points across the US. The WKNR-FM radio station even ran another two-hour special on the radio station – it’s been repeated several times since.

It even made its way to WABC and became a major talking point for Roby Yonge, a DJ at the time. It was eventually pulled for breaking the format of the show itself, but it was heard in over 38 states at that period of time. It was at this point that a genuine denial was made by the Beatles press office.

The original theory was then finally let out to the public – McCartney, in a fit of rage after an argument during a recording session, had taken off and drove away. This was supposed to have happened on the 9th November, 1966. Instead, McCartney crashed and died in a horrible incident. To avoid a mass public outcry and grief, the Beatles instead pretended that McCartney was still alive; they held a lookalike contest and picked William Campbell out as the winner. Henceforth, he became who everyone knows today as Paul McCartney (or so the claim goes).

The Clues

One of the major factors involved in this is the fact that many clues have been provided by fans and followers of this myth over the years. Whilst some are the most tenuous and limited levels of believability possible, some of the theories actually hold some plausible evidence about them.

Strawberry Fields Artwork

The artwork for Strawberry Fields

The most common ones, though, are songs played backwards – a popular way to hide conspiracies, apparently. According to the song Strawberry Fields Forever, when played backwards, John Lennon says the words “I buried Paul”. Take a listen for yourself, it’s widely available. Whilst Lennon states that he actually says “cranberry sauce” most people look beyond that and think otherwise.

Another similar story that people use as “evidence” of this occurrence was that the Abbey Road cover album depicts a funeral. Lennon stands there, dressed in white, and is supposed to be a clergyman. Ringo Starr is there in black, and is supposed to symbolise the undertaker. George Harrison stands there in a denim tracksuit (jeans and shirt) and is supposed to be the gravedigger. McCartney, though, stands barefoot and away from everyone else, symbolising the corpse.

It’s the little messages like this that people have hung over to for years, believing that they actually depict the strongest possible message that Paul McCartney is actually dead.

There are of course many rebuttals and explanations for the majority of the clues, but we’ll break down some of the most interesting to try and help readers understand where people are coming from with this theory. It is, though, one of the most outlandish theories we have ever heard!

The Theories

Whilst many of the theories are just downright crazy, here are some of the most commonly referred to theories about what really happened to McCartney. We’ll leave you to decide what you think about each – some are crazy!

Abbey Road

  • As mentioned above, the famous Abbey Road photos is one of the most commonly used to portray his death. The cover itself is home to more than one theory, but it’s the “evidence” used in here that is particularly tickling. The idea that because he does not have shoes on indicates his death is a little…yeah. It’s seemingly the evidence used because by the time this shot was taken, he was already “dead”. It’s not exactly the kind of thing we intend to believe because, well, why would we? It’s not the most powerful evidence. However, it’s one of the most popular and commonly referred to theories.
  • The easiest to disprove of all the theories is that the of 28IF rumour. On the Abbey Road cover, it shows you a Beetle car with the license plate LMW 28IF. They believe that this is a reference to the fact that McCartney would have been 28. Unfortunately, our old friend mathematics puts a hammer to this as it shows that McCartney would have been 27, not 28, by the time that the album was released. As creative an idea as this one is, we can’t possibly buy into it as a legitimate piece of evidence of his death.

Subliminal Messages

  • The “I Buried Paul” feature is another one that is always used as the “proof” that he’s dead. One of the most common explanations for this piece of evidence, though, is the fact that Lennon loved a joke. The rumours were absolutely rife by the time this was created so it’s very much possible that, long before the days of internet trolls, one of music’s finest was doing a good old job on the whole of society. Whilst the believers won’t see it that way, it’s as likely as being a subliminal message.

Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club

  • One popular theory out there is the large yellow wreath at the bottom of the album cover for the Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club. This shows a yellow wreath sitting at the bottom of the Beatles wreath in the shape of a bass guitar – a sure-fire sign for some. However, the logical explanation that has been given over the years is that this is actually a dedication to Stu Sutcliffe, who died in 1962. Sutcliffe was best mates with Lennon and was the original bass player in the Beatles, so it makes sense it’s a tribute to him instead.
  • Following on with the Sgt Peppers theme, another popular reference is that in the first line they say that they have formed a new band with “the one and only Billy Shears”. Naturally, people jumped on this and seen it as proof that he was indeed dead and replaced with an alias known as Billy Shears. However, experts and most logical people tend to point to the fact that the Beatles had already done seven #1 albums, now they wanted to do something a bit more creative and different. In an era with aliases becoming all the rage, why not come up with a new name or alter ego for themselves? It might sound a bit strange but, let’s face it, the Beatles weren’t your average band!

Paul Shot Himself

  • On the same album, Lennon references that “he blew his mind out in a car” and this has led many to believe it could be a reference to the fact that Paul done the deed himself. Whilst it’s “known” that he died in a car, it’s also never been agreed upon how he died.
  • Some believe that he shot himself in a car, but the actual musical connotations of the song go against this. For example, the Lennon to McCartney section in the day Day in the Life sounds far too much like signature Paul to actually be anyone else. It’s something that really makes it hard to believe in some of the evidence that has been shown across the years about this.

The Paul McCartney Conspiracy Video

James Paul

One website that brings a lot of interest to the world of McCartney conspiracies is this.

This website is a very interesting read and probably makes more sense – and legitimate claims – than any of the leading theories from over the years. With the help of the web it’s much easier to find the circumstantial and contextual evidence needed to make your point come across in a far more legitimate sounding manner, after all.

The website starts off by showing us two photos of John Lennon, aged 23 and 34 respectively. You can see the similarity in facial structure, body build and just about everything else. From these images it’s pretty clear to see that John Lennon at 23 is the same guy as he was at 34; there’s been no body switching there, for sure. The facial structure and features all fit more or less where they would even giving the ability for our bodies and faces to change as we age.

James Paul screenshot

The conspiracy of Paul McCartney

He also shows you a similar photo of Paul’s old flame, Jane Asher, and what she looked like at different parts of her lives. Again, the similarities are there to see – it’s more or less obvious that this is the same person in each photo, albeit at significantly different points in her life.

Then, he shows us a picture of McCartney himself taken three years apart. He agrees that in these two photos, it’s the same person without a doubt. The facial structure and everything else is more or less spot on – in these photos that are being used in this collection, there is no doubt in the writers mind that McCartney is present – real McCartney – in both photos.

We then take a step forward into Section Two of the website, and we have to admit that things get a whole lot weirder.

His conspiracy, though, is that later photos and replacements of Paul is actually using Billy Pepper from Billy Pepper and the Peperpots, a band from back in the day. It’s alleged that he took on major reconstructive surgery to look like McCartney as much as he could.

He claims that from a “scientific standpoint” it cannot be argued as the old photo of Pepper, put against a modern photo of McCartney, hold exceptionally similar facial structures. Given that our skills change minimally from our mid 20s to the day we die, it’s quite important to note that for the first time this was the kind of “proof” that can actually be worth taking notice of.

We have to say that he has a point – there is a significant change in the way that both heads line up together. This isn’t quite enough to convince us that it’s true but you have to admit – it’s a little weird that his head seems to change shape both pre-and-post accident.

The height part in Section 4 also threw us a little – he clearly gets taller as time has gone on. Whilst that wouldn’t seem weird comparing teenage photos to adult photos, this is the mid-60s where they are all grownups and thus aren’t getting any taller. Without any kind of real standing or knowledge of biology, how could that be? How can you just somehow get taller as time goes on?

Even in one of the photos he has no shoes on and is still taller than them, so that makes no sense – it can’t be a trick using his shoes to appear taller. The most striking one, though, is the picture of him with his ex-girlfriend. He immediately becomes far taller than her!

Again, we don’t really believe in this theory – we just find it interesting that all of these little things seem to appear. If nothing else, the author of this theory has done a huge amount of work trying to compile the evidence.

The Denials

Of course, as you might expect, there have been plenty of denials from the Beatles themselves. In his 1971 song How Do You Sleep? John Lennon referred to the people who spread the rumour as “freaks” and McCartney even parodied his own death in 1993 with the live album Paul is Live. It’s these little things that make such a tremendous difference to the whole idea of the theory, and make it much harder to buy into the idea that it’s true. However, several ideas exist out there which people see as defying what the Beatles have claimed.

One of the most popular notices of denial about this, though, comes from LaBour himself. He was cross-examined by celebrity lawyer F. Lee Bailey, on WOR in New York. Before they broadcast the show to discuss it, though, LaBour told Bailey that he wrote his original article as a joke. Reportedly, Bailey informed him that he was “going to have to go along with this” because it was now part of an hour-long TV show. Therefore, even one of the original authors of the story had no real belief that it was true – his “expose” was nothing more than satire.

The story itself has become emblazoned in popular culture over the years, too. For example, there is a mockumentary which exists known as Paul McCartney Really is Dead and in this, fabricated audio tapes from George Harrison are used as the basis of the “proof”. Whilst most know its entertainment, this has actually been used in the past by believers as proof. This was released in 2010 and since then has grown to be a bit of a cult hit, with many recognizing its comical approach to a sensitive subject whilst also making it come across as almost entirely believable.

The Verdict

It’s certainly more believable when you look at all the work put together by the website above – it’s something that certainly got us all talking. At first we thought it was just the usual hokum that you come across, but this seems to carry a bit more weight. To tell you the truth, we don’t know; we don’t really believe it, but we can’t come up with any good answers for the accusations above.

Whilst most of the features are ridiculous to say the least, many of the ideas on that website is exceptionally intriguing. We may never know if Paul McCartney is really Paul, but it’s certainly a little less guaranteed than it was before reading that!

What do you think? Does the ideas put across above to do with eye shape and similar give you any kind of belief that the truth may actually be that Paul McCartney is dead? Let us know what you think!


The stories, accounts, and discussion in this article are not always based on proven facts and may go against currently accepted science and common beliefs. The details included in the article are based on the reports and accounts available to us as provided by witnesses and documentation.

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About Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years experience. Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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