Celebrities Faking Their Deaths

by Thang Tran

There are several rumors about deceased celebrities going into hiding like Elvis Presley, Tupac, Notorious B.I.G, or even extremely old icons like Amelia Earhart. However, one of the most popular theories is one of a living celebrity being dead which is the theory of Paul McCartney’s death and supposed body double. This story circulated via rumors in 1967 and then boomed when Tim Harper published a story with his evidence of the death (Schmidt, 2009). The situation was that in 1967 Paul McCartney supposedly crashed driving after being frustrated with the band. The record label allegedly hired a body double to pose as Paul to not cause grief amongst the fans. People that believe this theory usually look deep into the “evidence” of the album’s supposed subliminal messages and playing certain songs backwards and doubt the testimonies and interviews from the band and people close to the band. The theory had lost most of it believers over time as Paul McCartney built up his career and people just forgot about it after time.

The facts of the matter are that around this time of the rumor going about, Paul was getting less and less face time from the press and the general public because of his general erosion of wanting to feel famous after years of concerts and public fanfare according to interviews during this time (Neary, 1969). There are supposed messages in certain songs where parts focused in on or reversed sounded like phrases like “Paul is dead”, “I buried Paul”, other cryptic things about the subject (Yorke, 1970). This can be summed up to pareidolia where human beings look for messages or familiar shapes in pictures or sounds. Perhaps people did not have access to the evidence against the theory at the early times of this rumor, but as time went on the theory waned down on substantial evidence.

At previously mentioned the rumors mostly escalated when they first appeared. People went out to their shops to buy the albums or relistened to their albums if they had them already. They would listen closely or play backwards the parts that were told in the rumors and that was all they had to go by unless they were a hardcore fanatic and had access to every Beatle interview or news clipping vs just finding the “Paul is dead” theory from a tabloid at the time with big print and such an outstanding premise of a theory. The people that wanted to believe most likely believed it from the get go and the people who didn’t have the evidence to believe probably took a little to believe if they did at all.

The communities that most likely believed the theory were probably people that didn’t like Paul or noticed Paul acting differently post 1967 which was during a phase where the band was being more experimental with their music than continuing their boy band ways which also could have influenced people to believe more into the theory. The people that looked into or even started this rumor could have also been trying to just gain publicity. Some social influences that negatively affected the theory was that the band was shortly about to part ways after the article made it big anyways. The tremendous news of the band breaking up was most likely going to overshadow any rumor this late into the band’s career. However, this theory could have been supported by those thinking the band broke up because of the rumors surfacing.

In conclusion, there are a handful of reasons why people believe a currently living celebrity has been dead for over 50 years. Whether by hearing pareidolia, changes in the behavior of the band after years of being in the limelight, or cognitive dissonance from people that see several hours of Paul living post 1967 with several interviews. There are also people in general that will follow new findings that break the norm of what people believe to believe they have “insider knowledge”.


Schmidt, Bart ,It was 40 Years Ago, Yesterday… (2009, September 18). Retrieved February 25, 2018, from https://blogs.library.drake.edu/2009/09/18/it-was-40-years-ago-yesterday/

Neary, John (7 November 1969). Retrieved February 25, 2018“The Magical McCartney Mystery”. Life: 103–106.

Yorke, Ritchie (1970). Retrieved February 25, 2018 “A Private Talk With John”. Rolling Stone, 7 February 1970: 22

28 thoughts on “Celebrities Faking Their Deaths

  1. I liked how you used pareidolia to explain how many people believed that Paul was dead. And how pareidolia of the mind made it easier for this extraordinary belief to gain a lot of believers and followers. Also, how the subliminal messages in the songs is an example of auditory pareidolia not just visual.

    • i definitely agree with this! i think pareidolia of the mind is true thing! we definitely believe the things we want to believe and see the things we want to see and hear the things we want to hear based on what our mind THINKS is right. It is definitely a reason for this belief being strengthened.

  2. I found your blog post very interesting and I liked your unique topic! This conspiracy theory about Paul was one I had not heard before so I was interested to read about it. I am not surprised that this rumor came about considering how obsessed fans can be, especially with the Beatles. I also like how you related this craziness to pareidolia. This is highly likely and I also think fans might have experienced confirmation bias when looking for evidence of Paul’s death in the songs.

  3. This blog post is so interesting! I am definitely that person who says Tupac is still alive (although I know he actually isn’t). I think that a death of a celebrity seems so wild because it feels as though nothing can bring them down and sometimes they tend to seem God-like. So it makes more sense for people to say someone is still alive when they aren’t but it’s crazy that people will make up a celebrities death just because they changed their attitude or actions and then look for hidden clues in songs or interviews.

    • I liked what you said about how celebrities can appear God-like. I think the way the media is constantly all over them and making them more available to the public can contribute to the average person feeling like they know the celebrity. When a celebrity goes MIA for a bit or is acting atypical, people automatically assume the worst because they are so use to seeing the celebrity a certain amount or acting a certain way. It’s always funny to see a celebrity’s response to someone’s claim that that celebrity has died!

    • I agree with your comment! I was one of the people saying tupac was still alive because his death was so weird to me and I have read so many articles that confirm the beliefs but deep down I feel like he is dead it is just interesting to read about it!! I also agree with the notion that the reason we make our selves believe celebs are still alive is because we see them as God like and it is so hard for us to let go! For the longest time I didn’t want to believe Michael Jackson was dead!haha

  4. I was excited when I saw the title of this post, because I used to be obsessed with thinking Tupac was still alive. When you’re young and cant understand complex situations it may be a lot easier to buy into the idea of someone still being alive. I know I would always ask myself how is music being released after a death? In reality, there was probably already music published that was unreleased. If a celebrity does fake their death, what do you think that the motivation behind it would be? To me, there is really no benefit so that alone is enough evidence as to why it isn’t real.

  5. Thang, I thought you post was extremely interesting. Your subject also seems to be more realistic. Celebrities faking their death seems like something that could be real in this day and age, but what I thought was intriguing was the “evidence” you talked about of people finding subliminal messages back in Paul McCartney’s album. Rumors are already something that can spread so easily and fast and especially so in an environment like this so it does not surprise me that there are many different stories going around of what people think really happened. When reading about this topic, did you find any other examples of celebrities faking their deaths?

  6. I heard about this certain conspiracy theory a few months ago and thought how could anyone believe it? It reminded me of the conspiracy about Avril Levine being dead and replaced by a look-alike. I am so fascinated in the reasoning behind why people think these theories are facts, and I was glad to read your post and the explanations about the belief! I think that listening to the songs backwards and hearing the supposed “hidden messages” is one of the most convincing pieces of evidence to supporters of this theory. I liked how you explained the psychological mechanism of pareidolia and how it affects so many of the theory’s supporters.

  7. This phenomenon is so fascinating! I wonder if the reason why people speculate about celebrities being dead or alive is in part because so few people actually see the celebrities they know in person. It seems like maybe the distance of a celebrity gives you room to speculate about so many different aspects of celebrities’ lives. But this is definitely a really strange result of an active media, since people know many different celebrities and can communicate about them with people all around the world without ever actually meeting or talking to the actual celebrity.

  8. So, I am wondering, could the rumor have been started by Paul himself? If he was getting less popular, this could have brought attention to him. In Hollywood, they say “There is no such thing as bad publicity”. You even mentioned that they bought the records and listened, so I feel like it could have been a publicity stunt to bring attention to him! Just my theory…

    • I have always thought about this! Like do celebrities make things up because they are addicted to the lime-light? I believe some celebrities for sure do this but would they do it to the extent of saying they’re dead? I don’t know, it seems VERY extreme but it would definitely get the world looking in your direction. A lot of celebrities even talk openly about how they love what they do but they hate being famous so would they still do it then if they were losing their career?

    • that is a really good point! maybe celebrities start the rumors themselves so they can become more popular, or maybe they do it so they can stay away from the limelight! i mean i do not blame them, i feel like being a celebrity is so hard. Either way i think it is crazy that some people get so obsessed and crazed over a celeb’s life !

  9. There’s a ton of celebrity conspiracy theories out there that celebs have either faked their own death or have actually died and were replaced by a look-alike. These are very interesting in nature and it’s almost astounding that people think these theories are true. I think what you said about people believing they have insider knowledge plays a big part in it. People want to feel like they know more than everyone else or have the inside scoop on latest celebrity news as if celebrities aren’t people, just spectacles to theorize over.

  10. I really like this topic. I think it is just because I have a fascination with death, and it is such taboo to fake one’s own death. There are many popular theories suggesting that popular celebrities have faked their death, one of my personal favorites being that Michael Jackson faked his death and a wax figure was placed in his coffin. However, as mentally stimulating as these theories may be, I think they gain so much attention because they are fun to think about, and it is just wishful thinking for fans of these celebrities. The Paul McCartney theory is interesting, I’ve never heard it before. There is a similar popular theory about Avril Lavigne!

  11. Great post! This topic is so interesting to me! I was a huge believer that celebs fake their death, Tupac being one of the biggest ones! I am definitely guilty of using confirmation bias to strengthen by beliefs that tupac is still alive by watching documentaries and reading articles and twitter threads. I don’t actually really care whether he is alive or not but I find it interesting to research and learn about . I know a lot of people think the same about avril lavigne and Michael Jackson and elvis and it is just fun to research about so far as people do not go too far!

  12. I thought this was one of the coolest theories. I have read about the “faux-paul” theory before and found it to be insanely interesting. The level of crazy coverup that would have to happen would be insane! I would say occhams razor is pretty apparent here. I really enjoyed reading about this and re-remembering it. I find it really interesting and I like to believe rather then people believing in it whole heartedly that they think of it more as a fun tale to believe in.

  13. This is a great topic! I had never heard of that Paul McCartney story and it was easily my favorite post to read through. I’m impressed with how you found such a clear example of pareidolia. I think it’s really funny how far people will take different theories and how hard they search for evidence to support them. There’s definitely a lot of confirmation bias taking place in order for them to believe theories like this.

  14. This is one of my favorite conspiracy theories aside from the 27 club because there is so much believable “evidence” that comes along with the theory. It’s just interesting to see how people develop reasoning for higher-ups killing off celebrities or in this case being kept alive.

  15. This topic was very fun to read about. I had never heard specifically about Paul’s case, but I had heard it about other celebrities such as Tupac and Elvis. I always thought it was crazy that people believed Elvis had really been alive all of those years. I think the only reason people buy into this is because society view’s celebrities as higher ups and not everyday people. You don’t hear theories like this about your neighbor, friend, family member, etc.

  16. This is such a common belief and I also hear sane people considering the dead to be alive all the time! I guess I semi-kind-of understand it… if you really had to get away from a life of fame, faking your death wouldn’t be the worst way out. I would however imagine that it would still be easy for people to recognize me, and that I would blend in about as equally well dead or alive. On the other hand, saying an alive person is dead seems slightly more insane to me, I just don’t see any logic or reason to it. I’ve also heard of celebrities being replaced, cloned, converted, selling their souls, and sacrificing children. I really think people just love to gossip about celebrities.

  17. Celebrities faking their deaths has always been so bizarre to me. Can you imagine the effort it would take to not only fake your death, but to remain hidden from basically everyone forever. That seems ungodly difficult to me, and I am not even famous! That is why it is always so mind blowing to me. I am one of those people who sees faked deaths as nothing more than publicity for something or for themselves period. It just seems very dramatic to do this, and in the long run, more work on themselves. I hate that faking one’s death is even a thing. I also see it as a possible last ditch effort for a famous person to eventually be forgotten about and they are able to live freely. Just so many possibilities!

    • Hi Abigail,
      I agree that the primary means of this extraordinary belief is just for entertainment purposes. I mentioned in a previous comment about how lonely and miserable isolation from the world would be. I may be wrong but I feel like the cases of “faked deaths” are diminishing, I remember hearing about them when I was younger but havent heard much lately. I also think that it is way easier to believe when you are young.

  18. This belief reminds me a lot of the conspiracy theory about Avril Lavigne being dead that was extremely popular last year. It seems that instead of accepting the fact that their favorite artists can change throughout the years people come up with theories saying that they are dead and are replaced by other people. I liked the point you brought up about pareidolia, people seem to readily to interpret and hear things that support their theories. I would not be surprised if it was the record label themselves that purposely put things in like that to gain more attention for Paul or even if they created this theory themselves

    • I’ve seen the Avril conspiracy on social media before as well. It seemed to be just a fun joke, but there are people who are actually invested and believe certain celebrities have died and are replaced by a clone. With how famous celebrities like Avril Lavigne are, it seems highly unlikely that they’d be able to hide her death and successfully replace her with a look-a-like.

  19. I think the idea of celebrities faking their death is very easy to get sucked into and it is usually done for entertainment. It is usually done when younger celebrities who had a sudden death like Tupac and many people can not handle the grief of knowing their favorite celebrity is no longer with us and choose to create these alternative explanations for what happened.

  20. Thang,
    Something else I was thinking about this extraordinary belief is that why would someone want to fake their death and be in isolation for the remainder of their life. In prison, the worst punishment someone can have is to be put in isolation. This alone is a compelling argument against celebrities faking their death. This is literally no point, and life would be so miserable alone. If this were true at all, do you see any benefits from it?

  21. For me I think this is one of the wildest things that people believe in. I can somewhat understand people who believe in conspiracy theories about celebrities faking their deaths but to think someone would die and be replaced with a clone seems too wild for me. I think it would just require way too much work on the part of the people trying to make this celebrity clone believable. Not only would it require them to clone a person but they would then have to have the clone act just as the person they are cloned to look like. Also it would require a decent amount of people to be involved in this process to pull it off meaning that there are several people that could blow the secret at anytime. I just think something like this would be more trouble than it’s worth to try and do.

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