“Paul Is Dead” Clues in “I Am the Walrus”

“I Am the Walrus” is on the Beatles’ 1967 release Magical Mystery Tour. Because of its strange imagery, “I Am the Walrus” has long been closely scrutinized by people looking for clues that Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was replaced by a lookalike. To search this song for hidden meanings is rather ironic since, according to Pete Shotton, John Lennon intended to write a song with nonsensical imagery to confound those who looked for significance in every Beatle lyric. After recalling a grotesque song they used to sing as children, John strung together the most ludicrous imagery he could think of. Shotton recalls that after writing the song, “He turned to me, smiling. ‘Let the fuckers work that one out, Pete.'”

As Andru Reeve explains in Turn Me On, Dead Man, in the “Paul is dead” mythology “I Am the Walrus” is John Lennon’s account of Paul’s death. According to R. Gary Patterson, in The Walrus Was Paul: The Great Beatle Death Clues, Paul suffered his fatal car crash after squabbling with his bandmates and leaving the recording studio in anger on a “stupid bloody Tuesday”. The refrain “I’m crying” is John expressing his grief over Paul’s death. The accompaniment at the beginning of the song has a repeating two-note pattern similar to the two-tone sirens in use on emergency vehicles in Britain at the time. According to Joel Glazier, the references to “pretty little policemen” and “waiting for the van to come” supposedly refer to the police who were present at the site of Paul’s fatal accident but were paid to remain silent.

In The Fifth Magician: The Great Beatles Impostor Theory, Forrest Dailey suggests that almost every line of “I Am the Walrus” relates to Paul’s death and replacement by a lookalike. “Sitting on a cornflake/Waiting for the van to come” describes how Paul was high while driving and crashed into a parked van. Paul picked up a female hitchhiker and she distracted him while he was driving (“Boy you’ve been a nbaughty girl/You let your knickers down”). “Yellow matter custard/Dripping from a dead dog’s eye” signifies the gruesome injuries Paul suffered in the crash. The replacement Paul grew a mustache to cover up his face while healing from plastic surgery to look more like the real Paul (“Man you’ve been a naughty boy/You let your face grow long”). The opening line of the song, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together” indicates that all of the Beatles were involved in the conspiracy, and “Expert texpert/Choking smokers/Don’t you think the joker laughs at you” is directed at “the stoned college students who would later actually uncover the first clues.”

In the “Paul is dead” mythology, the walrus is an image of death. This has been repeated so often in “Paul is dead” sources that it is taken as given, but what is the origin of this? Perhaps it started with Fred LaBour’s article in The Michigan Daily when he jokingly asserted that the word “walrus” was the Greek word for “corpse”, or perhaps because the walrus costume on the cover of Magical Mystery Tour is the only one that’s black. A number of sources have tried to identify the cultural origins of the walrus as image of death though they’re not quite sure what to make of it. In his Life magazine article John Neary was purposefully vague when he stated that the “black walrus [is] a folk symbol of death.” The Chicago Sun-Times noted that, “The walrus is supposed to be the Viking symbol of death” and B.J. Phillips in the Oct. 22, 1969, issue of the Washington Post stated, “According to the hypothesis, the walrus is a symbol of death, although its origins have been attributed to such dissimilar sources as the ancient Greeks and modern Eskimos.” A walrus, then, isn’t immediately recognizable as a symbol of death but yet it has become an important image in the “Paul is dead” mythology.

And who was the walrus anyway? All of the Beatles are dressed in animal costumes on the cover of Magical Mystery Tour but it isn’t clear who is in each costume from that picture. The Beatles are dressed in the same costumes in the photo in the Magical Mystery Tour booklet performing the song. This photo comes from the Beatles’ performance of “I Am the Walrus” in the film Magical Mystery Tour.


pid_MMT_LittleNicolaAlthough John plays the piano and sings “I Am the Walrus” and the walrus is seated behind the piano in the group photo, Little Nicola refutes John’s claim that he is the walrus. In the list of song titles in the inside front cover, “I Am the Walrus” is followed by “‘No you’re not!’ said Little Nicola”. Then, of course, is the intriguing line from “Glass Onion” on the White Album: “And here’s another clue for you all/The walrus was Paul.” Perhaps the final word on this subject is on the song “God” on John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. On that most confessional of songs, John sings “I was the walrus but now I’m John”.

In the Journal of Popular Culture, Michael E. Roos provides key insight into the imagery of “I Am the Walrus” in his discussion of Lewis Carroll’s influence on John Lennon. The nonsense lyrics to this song take on new meaning when interpreted through the lens of Carroll’s poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter“, along with John Lennon’s growing cynicism about the Summer of Love ideals and the Beatles’ role in popular culture. For example, the line “See how they run/Like pigs from a gun/See how they fly” seems to connect the unrest of the 1960s to “The Walrus and the Carpenter”:

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

In  Carroll’s poem, which appears in Through the Looking-Glass, the walrus and the carpenter lure youthful, unsuspecting oysters to follow them only so they could eat them. John saw a connection with the Beatles’ relationship with their fans and the walrus and the carpenter taking advantage of the innocence of the oysters. Their young unsuspecting fans were looking to the Beatles for answers but Lennon had none to give, so he came to see the Beatles as con artists. The Walrus regrets playing such a trick on the oysters and he weeps for them (“I’m crying,” John sings in “I Am the Walrus”) but he continues to eat them nonetheless.


In “Glass Onion”, included on The White Album the following year, John made references to a number of past Beatle songs, and again invoked the image of the walrus with the infamous line “And here’s another clue for you all/The walrus was Paul”. John was acknowledging his role as a Beatle and that he had at one time been idealistic about the possibilities that they represented, but he had now come to see that as false. In “Glass Onion” John was accusing Paul of perpetuating a false image of the Beatles. In John’s eyes, Paul had become the con man.

Another possible influence on John Lennon in creating “I Am the Walrus” is James Joyce. In his review of John’s 1964 book In His Own Write (the first Beatle solo project), reviewer John Wain likened John’s wordplay to that of James Joyce. “I Am the Walrus” has a dreamlike quality and uses invented language in a manner akin to Joyce in his 1939 novel Finnegans Wake. Joel Glazier asserts that the phrase “goo goo g’joob” is from Finnegans Wake. According to Allen B. Ruch, however, Joyce did not use the phrase “goo goo g’joob”. In his website “The Brazen Head“, Ruch cites the phrase “googoo goosth” as the closest Joyce gets to “goo goo g’joob” in Finnegans Wake. A search through the online version of Finnegans Wake available on eBooks@Adelaide confirms this. Also, like Through the Looking Glass, Humpty Dumpty (the Eggman) makes an appearance in Finnegans Wake in a song James Joyce wrote for the novel called “The Ballad of Persse O’Reilly“. John Lennon wasn’t all that familiar with James Joyce in 1964 but he was later quoted as saying that discovering Joyce was like “finding daddy”.

I Am the Walrus
by John Lennon & Paul McCartney

I am he as you are he as you are me
And we are all together
See how they run
Like pigs from a gun
See how they fly
I’m crying

Sitting on a cornflake
Waiting for the van to come
Corporation T-shirt
Stupid bloody Tuesday
Man you been a naughty boy
You let your face grow long

I am the eggman
They are the eggmen
I am the walrus
Goo goo g’joob

Mister City Policeman
Sitting pretty little policemen in a row
See how they fly like Lucy in the sky
See how they run
I’m crying

Yellow matter custard
Dripping from a dead dog’s eye
Crabalocker fishwife
Pornographic priestess
Boy you been a naughty girl
You let your knickers down

I am the eggman
They are the eggmen
I am the walrus
Goo goo g’joob

Sitting in an English garden
Waiting for the sun
If the sun don’t come
You get a tan
From standing in the English rain

I am the eggman
They are the eggmen
I am the walrus
Goo goo g’joob

Expert textpert
Choking smokers
Don’t you think the joker laughs at you?
See how they smile like pigs in a sty
See how they snied
I’m crying

Semolina pilchard
Climbing up the Eiffel Tower
Elementary penguin
Singing Hare Krishna
Man you should have seen them
Kicking Edgar Alan Poe

I am the eggman
They are the eggmen
I am the walrus
Goo goo g’joob
Jooba jooba jooba

As “I Am the Walrus” begins to fade out two chants are heard (“Oompah, oompah/Stick it up your jumper” and “Got one got one/Everybody’s got one”). When played in reverse these chants become “Ha! Ha! Paul is dead”. On October 23, 1969, Gregory Jackson played this bit of audio on the ABC Evening News in a report on the “Paul is dead” rumor that was then sweeping the country.

Another source of “Paul is dead” clues from “I Am the Walrus” is in the Shakespearean play heard as the song fades out. The following lines from a BBC radio production of “King Lear” are heard:

Slave, thou hast slain me: villain, take my purse:
If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body;
And give the letters thou find’st about me
To Edmund Earl of Gloucester, seek him out
Among the British party: O, untimely death.
(Oswald dies)

I know thee well: a serviceable villain;
As duteous to the vices of thy mistress
As badness would desire.

What, is he dead?

Sit you down father, rest you.

John included this recording through happenstance, though it does bear some superficial similarities to the circumstances of Paul’s rumored death, not to mention a high concentration of lines making reference to death: “bury my body”, “O, untimely death” and “What, is he dead?”. Paranoia magazine even hears a direct reference to Paul’s death in the radio play, “Paul, you’re darn near death”. Either they are mishearing the line “O, untimely death” or William Shakespeare was in on the hoax as well.

21 thoughts on ““Paul Is Dead” Clues in “I Am the Walrus”

    • The whole hoax isn’t that people still believe Paul is actually dead, it’s that fans think The Beatles planted these things on purpose to make people THINK they were implying Paul is dead. They never confirmed this though.

      • Not only that, but also there is a lack of understanding of the clues by most (if not all) of PID seekers.
        For instance, the ‘car crash” is a very common misconception of the circumstances of Paul’s death.
        The walrus is not a symbol of death, but appears in the Chukchi legend of creation, where the daughter (“naughty girl”) of the Evil Spirit is seduced by the Raven.
        To punish her, her father push her from a high cliff and she became the first Walrus.
        Now if you combine this with the legend of the Eggman, it is very probable that Paul died from a great fall (“Eiffel tower”). Many years ago, I have noticed the hidden picture of a man fell from a building (or high cliff) on the Blue Album sleeve, and I never could read anywhere somebody mentioning it. Now, he wasn’t necessary pushed by, but shot (see “gun” and the hole in the hippo costume).
        The “they (are the eggmen)” probably refers to Paul and Brian (“a pair of sleepy red moose”), while “joker” and “they (kicked EAP)” are maybe linked to the famous “blue meanies”.
        Another point where most are wrong is the date : it wasn’t 9 november but 11 september 1966, you’d just have to check the Beatles calendar of this period to come with it.

      • I buried Paul ain’t no cranberry sauce.The Beatles clearly chant Ha Ha Paul is dead in the fade out towards the end of I am the walrus The Base guitar depicted as a grave Site on the cover of Sgt.Pepper.While my guitar gently weeps.I look at you Paul see the love there thats Sleeping.

  1. Hmm, also when the words I am the egg man, I am the walrus, coocoo cachoo are sung they are saying, the cracked egg or head of the original Paul being replaced by the walrus I.e moustache as tusks of the walrus on replacement Paul and in nature the coocoo chucks an egg out of a crows nest and replaces it with it’s own.

  2. When this occurred it was big news. The Beatles had stopped touring. Due to lack of access it was difficult to disprove Paul’s demise unlike today. The Beatles changed everything! Without them what is pop culture today would otherwise have not occurred for another 15 years.

  3. Paul McCartney did not really die in a car crash in 1966. If he did the replacement they quickly found was an even better base player and even more creative songwriter. (Wings and solo career bare this out even if you try to argue that John and maybe George did the real songwriting and Paul was given credit just to avoid suspicion.). However having said the above, I do think one of the main themes of the albums starting with Sargent Pepper was an inside joke that Paul is dead probably because of the inaccurate news report in 1966 of the car crash. Many of the clues are undeniable and the alternate meanings don’t add up. I believe they denied the joke because of how out of control the rumors got and also the because of the Charles Manson cult and their belief that Beatles songs had hidden meanings. I don’t have any bad feelings towards the Beatles, what they did was pure genius. The most creative songwriting ever. No band will ever touch the songwriting on display in the albums from Sargent Peppers to Let it Be. Paul McCartney is one of the best frontman ever, one of the best bassist ever, and him and John were by far the best songwriting duo ever.

    • Well, for sure you need a great understanding of English language to get the meaning of the song, but this is not even sufficient as there are also a lot of opaque references.
      For instance, “singing Hare Krishna” refers to a Mantra related to the demon Kali, of which we have good reasons to think it is linked with the destructive aspect of the goddess Kali. This very goddess appears on St Pepper’s sleeve, with her two aspects creation and destruction, pointing the late Paul (“destroyed”) and the new one (“created”).
      Quite every line of this song is a reference to another work of the Beatles.

  4. Our entire reality is a lie we are force fed lies and deception in replacement of truth and love so much that the truth has become a myth and we search for it our entire life

  5. It is difficult to believe the Beatles along with others could create the death of Paul Mccartney to further their careers and sell more albums later CD’s This band revolutionized music in the 20th century. There was no musical group bigger than the Beatles. .None. Why the backward masking? The photos and clues on all their albums after 1966. Lyrics in glass onion. The testament of George Harrison contains video photos of what looks like a very dead Paul Mccartney. WHY is the question. If in fact the testament was faked where did the video clips come from.How could the voice know about the clues like the grim reaper on Abbey Road that is plain and right there. There is no rhyme or reason to create such a misleading and downright morbid stunt in order to further their careers.
    Look at pictures taken in 1965 then look at pictures taken of Paul in 1967..Clearly different.. pauls face is round and Fauls face is more oblong..Like the lyrics in Glass Onion you let your face grow long. Of course the Beatles are not going to come out directly and say Yes Paul is dead and this is Billy Shears. Their career would have ended in 1966..No Sgt Peppers Magical Mystery Tour no White album Abbey Road or Let It Be. No career for Faul No nothing..
    If the testament is factual all the Beatles where terrified Of MI5 and Maxwell.. He threatened to kills them all if they blew the whistle. John Lennon was murdered in 1980. The rumor was he was about to go public about McCartney.. Georger Harrison was stabbed in his home by a wing nut or a paid assasin?
    If the testament came out in 1998 or around there then why did George Harrison not say this is BS..I didn’t have anything to do with it..He certainly didn’t need the cash generated by sales of the tape. GO FIGURE.. The question is WHY..

    there when you turn the album cover sideways.

    • What about their manager who was killed by an assassin in a police costume and his wife who had a leg amputated by a motorcycle policeman driving by, never stopped, then threatened to reveal him on dancing with the stars. She died too.

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