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The Day the Beatles’ ‘Paul Is Dead’ Rumors Hit the Papers

R. Powell, Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Paul McCartney is alive and well, but a well-placed rumor had some people thinking otherwise at the end of the ’60s.

On Sept. 23, 1969, the Northern Star newspaper of Northern Illinois University published a story claiming that McCartney had been killed in a car crash a few years earlier and had been replaced by a look-alike. A radio station in Detroit picked up on the story and ran with it. Within a month, the story had gone global and Beatles fans worldwide were collectively scratching their heads.

The intrigue led fans everywhere to search for clues on album covers and in songs. A few of these included McCartney’s appearance with his back to the camera on the back of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band sleeve, the fact that he wore a black rose in the clip of “Your Mother Should Know” in Magical Mystery Tour and the image of Paul walking barefoot and out of step on the cover of Abbey Road. There are, naturally, deep meanings behind these and the countless other clues that conspiracy theorists found. Most famously, one theory suggested that if you played the song “Revolution 9″ backwards, it sounds vaguely like “Turn me on dead man.”

Though initially amused by the story, McCartney finally decided to clear the decks. “Do I look dead?” he asked a reporter visiting him at his farm, “I’m as fit as a fiddle.”

Good news for us all, Paul was just fine … and, decades later, he still is.

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