3"Paul Is Dead" Was Caused by a School Newspaper
In a bizarre twist on the Elvis phenomenon, during the late '60s, Paul McCartney's biggest fans all were convinced that he was dead. The legend was that, after storming out of a heated studio session in November 1966, Paul crashed his car and had the top of his head chopped off.
Paul is the one with the ridiculous hair.
Depending on their level of insanity, the fans believed that the greedy record executive had replaced Paul with an actor, a doppelganger or a lizard man. Cowed into keeping the whole thing a secret, the rest of the Beatles (and the doppelganger himself, apparently) spent the next four years sending hints to the public like kidnapped children trying to send a message to people at a gas station, if those children were the four most famous people on earth.
How else could you explain the fact that Paul was the only Beatle not wearing shoes on the Abbey Road album cover?
Dead people hate shoes. This makes perfect sense!
Or the raised hand that appears over his head on the Sgt. Pepper's album cover?
Hand over head. "Head" rhymes with "dead." Do we have to spell it out for you?
Of course, not all the "clues" were such absurd stretches. For the next few years, the Beatles did seem to single Paul out in strange ways. The picture on the inside of the Sgt. Pepper's album under the lyrics was definitely weirder than the one of the front:
And the lyrics themselves were creepily ambiguous at times (especially when played backward) and sometimes even seemed to be acknowledging at least the rumor that the top of Paul's head had been chopped off in a car crash, like when Ringo sang, "You were in a car crash/And you lost your hair."
Since the conspiracy theorists usually start each dissertation on the subject with the line that "Nobody knows where or when the rumor began," the bizarre specificity of the rumors seemed to be the hardest thing to explain away. It's not like everyone just decided to make up the same bizarre lie at the exact same time, right?
It was all clearly the work of the Ringolluminati.
The Ridiculous Origin:
We actually have a pretty good idea of exactly where and when the rumor started. Like pretty much everything that was cool in the '60s, the rumor started in London:
The seventh of January was very icy, with dangerous conditions on the M1 motorway linking London with the midlands, and towards the end of the day, a rumor swept London that Paul McCartney had been killed in a car crash on the M1. But of course, there was absolutely no truth in it at all, as the Beatles' press officer found out when he telephoned Paul's St. Johns Wood home, and was answered by Paul himself ...
That's from the magazine of the official Beatles Fan Club from February 1967. The rumor got so big in London that year that McCartney alluded to it at a press conference. That same year, the New York Times reported on a London party where the rumor was joked about by the Beatles. The hip people of New York read that and started joking about it, too. And that's where it would have ended if everyone were as hip as Londoners and New Yorkers.
However, two years later, Tim Harper, a school newspaper editor at Drake University in Iowa, needed something to write about. Scrambling for ideas, he remembered a confusing, in-no-way-stoned theory he had "heard from someone" regarding how "Paul is, like, totally another guy." Employing the kind of journalistic integrity college newspapers are known for, he published the shit out of the story, and college papers around the Midwest began picking it up, too. After a bunch of tabloid-quality radio and TV outlets picked up the story and ran with it, the mainstream media began reporting on the craze (though never that it was actually true). Things got so out of hand that McCartney was forced to do an intimate interview for Life magazine in 1969 to prove that he was still very much alive. In 1973, he flaunted it in the soundtrack of the mediocre Bond movie Live and Let Die.
Very funny, Paul.
While Paul's refusal to die has been confirmed, the debate over whether the "Paul is dead" messages were actually hidden in the Beatles' music rages on. The thing that both sides of the argument seem to ignore is that Paul and the rest of the Beatles were acutely aware of the death rumors from 1967 to 1969, the years when they recorded all the albums the messages were supposedly hidden in. It's entirely possible that the band made accidental allusions to the car crash rumor along the way because it was something that they encountered on a regular basis.
There's nothing better than taunting conspiracy nuts while tripping your balls off.
It's important to point out that this doesn't make the theory any less profoundly stupid. Singing about being dead and actually being dead are two completely different things, as fans of metal can attest.
2The Illuminati Was Dreamed Up by a 20th Century Paranoid Anti-Semite
When you woke up this morning and had your breakfast cereal, it's only because the Illuminati decided to let you live another day. It's the Chuck Norris of conspiracies -- an all-powerful, all-encompassing shadowy entity that runs everything and has leverage everywhere. Their ultimate goal is something called the New World Order, which is basically a planet-scale re-enactment of 1984.
Chuck Norris is the likely choice for America's Big Brother. Think about it.
The organization is said to be led by the queen of England (so that's what a queen does), and lists of known members include pretty much everyone of influence who isn't her. This flowchart should clear things up for you ...
C'mon, Zombie Pope, get your act together. The Queen Mother is counting on you.
The Ridiculous Origin:
Nesta Webster was a 1920s British historian, writer, propagandist and Nazi sympathizer who had a less-than-secret vendetta against Jews. If you're unfamiliar with the Roaring '20s, you might be wondering how such a person could gain influence in pre-WWII Britain. If you've read The Sun Also Rises, or a biography of Henry Ford, you know that anti-Semitism was up there with stupid-looking pants and the Charleston in terms of things rich white people lost their goddamned minds over.
Webster was married to a superintendent of the British police, which rendered her pretty much untouchable, and she was even tight with Winston Churchill a few decades before he came to his goddamn senses. While Webster wasn't the only crazy anti-Semite working at the time, she used an ability to weave far-reaching conspiracies and a willingness to have sex with powerful men to become hugely influential. And then she got really crazy.
The deuce, you say!
While laboring in the bullshit mines of run-of-the-mill anti-Semitism, Webster struck gold when she proposed an elaborate historical bad-guy cult that worked in alliance with the Jews and was responsible for everything bad that had ever happened. She was studying a fringe conspiracy theory that the French Revolution was secretly orchestrated by a tiny, long extinct secret society called the Bavarian Illuminati, when she decided "What if that, but like the Jews are in on it, too!?"
Thankfully, Cracked Conspirologists have charted out who really runs the world.
Noticing that people rather liked her theory that the decisions they disagreed with were secretly decided at secret meetings they weren't invited to, she started expanding it to include various other historical events she deemed unsavory. The theory was too elaborate to blame just the Jews and Illuminati, so she had to construct a vast network of secret societies, all working together. Basically, if you dared to dabble with suspicious concepts such as "science" and "free thought," you were in on the conspiracy.
Pretty much all the legends of the Illuminati in today's public consciousness and popular culture can be traced back to Webster, who greatly exaggerated and even completely fabricated the facts. Her massively ballooned, cartoonishly evil version of the Illuminati is the version that Americans first heard about, and the one whose mythology has since been further twisted by various authors.
You have to admit, the U.N.'s logo is pretty supervillainy.
The moral of the story: You can get away with saying some pretty crazy stuff if you fuck the right people.