Paul is Dead
In the Autumn of 1969 rumours circulated across colleges in the USA that Paul McCartney was dead this fact was being hidden from the public. The rumour coincided with the release of the Beatles' final album Abbey Road and quickly DJ's, journalists, writers and radio stations all over America found secret clues in the Album and in previous releases. The iconic cover art - showing the group striding across the Abbey Rd zebra crossing - showed the left -handed McCartney uniquely barefoot holding a cigarette in his right hand and the number plate of the car in shot was 28 IF (supposedly McCartney's age IF he'd been alive). The story grew that Paul had been killed in 1966 (which coincided with their retirement from touring) and substituted with the winner of a look-alike contest called WIlliam Shears Campbell from Edinburgh.
Fans trawled through the Beatles' back-catalogue discovering clues secretly hidden, supposedly by John, George and Ringo wracked with guilt and trying to get the message out. Songs were played backwards to reveal "Paul is dead" or "I buried Paul", cover art was scrutinized to reveal subtle clues in stances, costume or props and the whole thing grew over several months in late 1969. There was even a TV special with a mock courtroom which left it to the viewer to determine a conclusion.
The record company released statements rebutting the conspiracy, as did the Beatles and their friends - even Paul himself did a radio interview but it failed to die down. Ringo Starr said 'It was just madness ... There was no way we could prove he was alive'. The truth was that the Beatles had already broken up and McCartney had retreated to his farm on the isolated Mull of Kintyre and only when Time magazine released an interview with him did the whole thing start to die down. Despite this, the conspiracy still resurfaces and it is used as an exemplar by sociologists and psychologists.