Here are the clues that Beatles fans “found” in the band’s album covers to convince themselves that Paul McCartney died as early as 1966 and was replaced by a lookalike named Billy Shears. Since all accounts of the “Paul is Dead” story have Paul dying no earlier than fall of 1966, clues will be limited here to albums that came out after Paul’s supposed demise — although that inconsistency hasn’t stopped fans from “finding” PID “clues” as far back as 1964’s A Hard Day’s Night album.
Since it’s possible for creative minds to read anything into anything, this list focuses on the main clues that are repeated most often by PID believers and non-believers. Clues which are based on clearly false information are listed in italics.
1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
- The “new” Paul (called Faul by Paul is Dead believers) is shown with a hand over his head. Throughout the Beatles’ later period, pictures and drawings of Paul surfaced featuring a hand over his head. This is an Eastern religion’s way of symbolizing evil or death. (Not true.) None of the other Beatles have a hand over their heads in any officially released picture or drawing after the fall of 1966.
- Paul is the only Beatle holding a black musical instrument.
- A group of hyacinths forms a guitar, positioned as a left-handed musician would play it. Paul is the only left-handed Beatle. The guitar only has three strings, representing the three remaining Beatles. The flowers also spell “Paul?” (This arrangement was the brainstorm of the floral assistant, who decided on the spot to create a guitar from flowers.)
- Hold a mirror up to the exact middle of the bass drum that features the “Sgt. Pepper” logo, horizontally, and it spells out “I ONE IX HE DIE.” This refers to the date of Paul’s death — November 9th. (Some suggest that since the British system of dates puts the day and not the month first, this would make the date of Paul’s death September 11th, which has morbid connotations already. It also fits in with the fact that the band was completely inactive from August 29, 1966 until September 14, 1966, a period of isolation unmatched in their history.)
- Paul’s back is to the camera, while the rest of the Beatles are facing the camera. This is a reference to Paul’s death. (Outtakes from the photo sessions show many different positions, most of which feature Paul facing the camera.)
- George “points” to the lyric “Wednesday morning at five o’ clock,” the day and time of the crash. Read across that line from left to right and you receive several clues in a row: “Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly,” “Wednesday Morning at five o’clock as the day begins,” “Life flows on within you and without you,” “You’re on your own, you’re in the street.”
- “Paul” is wearing a patch which says “OPD.” This is Canadian for “Officially Pronounced Dead.” (All four Beatles had received this patch, which actually reads “OPP” and stands for “Ontario Provincial Police.”)
2. Magical Mystery Tour
- Paul is dressed as a walrus. The walrus, in India, is a symbol of death. (Not true.) His arms are spread wide, as in a crucifixion.
- Turn the cover upside down and the word “Beatles” spells out “537-1438,” or “231-7438,” or, backwards, 834-7132. This is a phone number that, when dialed, leads to an answering machine message featuring more clues. (Try it yourself.)
Original album booklet
- In the tracklisting, under “I Am The Walrus,” is written in longhand “‘No you’re not!’ said little Nicola.” Little Nicola is a character in the accompanying MMT film, but she never says this to John. Paul is the Walrus in the film. The walrus, in India, is a symbol of death. (Not true.)
- On Page 2 Paul sits in front of a sign reading “I You Was.” No explanation is given.
- On Page 9 the word “Hill” runs down the side of the cartoon Paul’s head, in red. This is a reference to his massive head injury suffered in the crash.
- On Page 13 Paul is pictured without shoes, a sign of death. (Not true.) The shoes are to his left, and, some say, covered in a blood-red substance.
- On Page 23, and in the “Your Mother Should Know” portion of the film, Paul is wearing a black carnation. The other Beatles are all wearing red ones.
- There is a picture of “Paul” with a mustache and glasses which is actually William Campbell before his Paul makeover.
- There is a picture of Paul in the bathtub which parallels how his corpse looked after the crash.
3. Yellow Submarine
- A hand is over Paul’s head on the cover cartoon. This is an Eastern religion’s way of symbolizing evil or death. (Not true.)
4. Abbey Road
- Paul is barefoot, which is how corpses are buried. John, in white, represents the preacher, George, in denim, represents the gravedigger, Ringo, all in black, represents the pallbearer. (No pun intended.)
- Paul’s eyes are closed, he’s walking out of step with the others, and smoking a cigarette in the “wrong” hand (Paul being a leftie).
- The license plate on the Volkswagon reads “LMW 28IF.” Paul would have been 28 IF he was still alive. (Paul was 27.)
- The dots to the left of the “B” in “Beatles” can be connected to form a “3,” indicating that there are now only three Beatles.
- There’s a crack running through the word “Beatles,” and a skull barely visible to the right of the sign.
5. Let It Be
- The other Beatles are pictured on a white background; Paul’s background is blood-red. Supposedly, there are few visual clues on this album since it was released after the PID furor died down.
(This article was original published on ThoughtCo)