This Is Why People Think Paul McCartney Died In 1966 And Was Replaced By A Doppelgänger

    It's rock and roll's greatest conspiracy theory...but is it true?

    This is, of course, the Beatles. They’re rock's most influential band and the creators of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which topped Rolling Stone's ranking of the 500 Greatest Albums of all Time.

    And this is Paul McCartney, the co-writer and lead singer of many of the Beatles’ most famous songs, like "Yesterday," "Hey Jude," and "Can't Buy Me Love."

    Here’s Paul today, still playing Beatles songs for packed stadiums all over the world. That is, if he actually IS Paul McCartney.

    You see, for decades there have been rumors that Paul McCartney actually died in 1966, and was replaced by a lookalike who still masquerades as Paul today.

    Here’s everything you need to know in a few minutes:

    In the fall of 1969, rumors spread across American college campuses that Paul had tragically died in a car crash three years earlier after angrily running out of a contentious recording session.

    According to the rumors, the surviving Beatles — perhaps pressured by the British government — decided to cover up the death and replace Paul with a lookalike musician named Billy Campbell.

    Sound outlandish? Absolutely! But it became more plausible to those college kids when they realized the date of McCartney's alleged death coincided with the Beatles' sudden retirement from touring.

    Soon radio stations and newspapers picked up on the rumors and discussed them breathlessly. Go to a college party anywhere in the U.S.A. in the fall of '69, and people were talking about it, guaranteed.

    There were even a number of songs released about the rumors, like "Brother Paul" by Billy Shears and the All-Americans.

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    Sample lyrics:

    Brother Paul, I’m crying
    Are you really lying
    Every night and day beneath the cold and lonely stone?

    Are you getting older
    Or just getting colder
    Brother Paul where did you fall and are you still alone?

    Can you hear me singing, Brother Paul?
    Can you stand and sing your song?

    Did you hear the trumpet when it called?
    Tell me is it true?
    Are you gone?

    And how did Paul respond to this controversy? With...silence. This was long before the days of social media, so responding to something like this was harder than it is today. Still, his silence fueled the fire.

    Meanwhile, fans began poring over The Beatles' songs and albums and surmised that John, George, and Ringo — perhaps wracked by guilt over what had happened — had left clues about the tragedy for their fans to find.

    For example, on "Strawberry Fields Forever" (which would have been recorded shortly after Paul's supposed death), John twice says "I buried Paul" in the fade starting at 3:57 on this video.

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    Of course, just about everyone involved in the recording claims John was actually saying "Cranberry sauce."

    Next, on the back cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Paul is facing away from the camera while the other three are looking into it.

    Also, Paul's Pepper uniform has a badge with the acronym "O.P.D." on it — believed to stand for "officially pronounced dead." It was later revealed the badge was from the Ontario Police Department, but the conspiracy theorists were skeptical.

    The most famous clues were found on the then-recently released Abbey Road.

    Around this time, Paul's brother, Mike, was touring the United States with his comedy group, The Scaffold. He went on a TV show thinking he would perform, and instead was forced to sit through a 10-minute presentation by a "Paul is Dead" expert about why his brother was, in fact, dead.

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    Afterward, an annoyed Mike said, "I don’t want to really rip you to shreds because that would be stupid, but I find all of that very embarrassing. You have no factual backing up. Nothing at all to base it on. It’s a fantastically contrived piece of press material…It’s terrifying how you get away with it… It’s a hoax, It’s a con.”

    The host then asked, “When was the last time you saw your brother?” Mike quipped, “It was at his funeral, I think.”

    Finally, in late November, a reporter for Life magazine trudged all the way up to Paul's farm where Paul denounced the rumor, saying he is alive and well.

    The Life magazine cover — with Paul's denial inside — did a lot to calm the hysteria, and soon the "Paul is dead" rumors started to fade away. Years later, Paul even made fun of the situation by releasing a live album cleverly titled, Paul is Live.

    The "Paul is dead" believers never went away, though. And with the advent of the internet and social media, they picked up again, creating new believers.

    Talk to a "Paul is dead" believer, and they will tell you the story continued long after 1969. Some believe John Lennon was, in fact, murdered because he was about to go public with the truth about Paul/Billy once and for all.

    While others believe that Paul, or should I say Billy, left a message on his 2007 song "Gratitude." When you play it backwards, he sings "Who is this now?"

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    What do you think?