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