One well-known conspiracy theory is that Paul McCartney secretly died in 1966, and that this fact was covered up by the rest of the Beatles by hiring a McCartney look-a-like who sings and acts like Paul McCartney.
According to Ted Goertzel in his article “The Conspiracy Meme”, “claims of conspiracy cannot be reflexively dismissed, but they are difficult to test because lack of evidence can be interpreted as proof of how cleverly the conspirators have hidden it” (Goertzel). The only way to completely prove this conspiracy theory would be to find the remains of the allegedly deceased Paul McCartney and forensically compare them to DNA of the alleged Paul McCartney imposter. One way this conspiracy meme is expressed is through facial comparison of pictures of Paul McCartney before and after 1966. I found this on a website which appears to be the blog of an older gentleman from Italy, who’s username on the site is jamespaul. In the absence of the complete evidence, which is described above, jamespaul has done a very good job at providing evidence that suggests the real Paul McCartney is dead. His blog/website, http://digilander.libero.it/jamespaul/, is a very good place to learn about the “Paul is Dead” conspiracy theory. There is a lot of information on this site about the topic that is well-organized and well-presented. The owner of the jamespaul account is obviously a passionate believer in this conspiracy theory and has devoted a good amount of time to finding proof for it.
Another way this conspiracy meme is expressed is through lyrics from the Beatles. Part of the conspiracy theory is that the Beatles who covered up the death of the actual Paul McCartney started to feel bad about the cover up and they began to leave hints about the cover up in their songs. This allows the conspiracy meme to spread easily throughout the world, as The Beatles are a very popular band and a large amount of people listen to their music. Just like what we read in “The Meme Machine”, by Susan Blackmore (1999), this meme’s “only interest is [its] own replication; all [it] want is to be passed on to the next generation” (p. 5). This meme propagates itself very well because of its attachment to The Beatles and their popularity. On this site about the conspiracy theory (the http://catless.ncl.ac.uk site is merely a web server that people use to post information on the Internet), the author, R.J. Pietkivitch, who is quoted on other sites regarding the “Paul is Dead” theory, analyzes lyrics from The Beatles and what you hear when parts of certain songs are played backwards. One of the most famous of these lyrics is “Well here’s another clue for you all, the walrus was Paul” (“Glass onion lyrics,”). Pietkivitch also credits some of his information on the sight to Scott Slavin and Mark Fortney. I was not able to find any information on these two individuals.
Another way the “Paul is Dead” conspiracy theory is spread is a through YouTube. On this page from the Rational Skepticism forum, a forum site dedicated to the discussion of conspiracy theories and other topics such as creation science, there is a discussion about the conspiracy. The person who started the thread, a nineteen year old from the U.S., under the username Nautilidae, provided the links to several YouTube videos that are supporting evidence of the conspiracy theory. The fact that this conspiracy meme is in YouTube videos means that it can spread very easily. It is quite possible that anyone watching a music video by The Beatles on YouTube video could end up watching these videos that are evidence of the conspiracy, just through the “Related Videos” panel.
Susan Blackmore (1999). The Meme Machine. London: Oxford University Press.
Glass onion lyrics – the beatles. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Glass-Onion-lyrics-The-Beatles/A2735AA82A3484E148256BC2002134D5
Ted Goertzel (2011) “The conspiracy meme,” Skeptical Inquirer, 35(1).