The Top 5 Silliest Chicken Franchise Myths

chicken too

Now that the heartbreaking/enraging viral story about a disfigured 3-year-old being turfed from a KFC for “scaring the other customers” has turned out to be a likely sham, let’s review some of the other kooky hoaxes and urban myths involving fast food chicken joints…

5. Clones and Chickenblobs/KFC name change

Beginning in the late ’90s, scare emails claimed that Kentucky Fried Chicken was forced to change its name to KFC, because it was no longer selling actual chicken. It was farming genetically modified chickens with more than two legs, or chicken clones, or beakless, legless chickenblobs that had liquid nutrients transfused directly into their veins. The story was sometimes accompanied by this picture:

chickenblob

Needless to say, there wasn’t much truth to any of this.

  • KFC doesn’t even raise its own chickens; the chain buys from numerous suppliers that sell chicken to many other restaurants, supermarkets, and fast food chains.
  • No one forced Kentucky Fried Chicken to change its name. The common wisdom is that the name change was part of an early ’90s rebranding effort designed to downplay the word “fried” (and possibly the word “Kentucky”).
  • The word “chicken” still appeared on the KFC menu, so obviously they were still using chicken.
  • Genetically modified chickens are still chickens.
  • No one has yet figured out how to produce legless/beakless poultry.
  • Meat from clones is reportedly on the market. However, cloning animals is prohibitively expensive and risky, so it’s not going to appeal to fast food suppliers that need a steady, reliable flow of cheap animals.

Silly as the chickenblob legends are, factory farmed chickens can live in some pretty dismal conditions. A less-silly rumour, included in Super Size Me, is that chickens are being bred to have enormous breasts that make them so top-heavy they are barely able to walk. The ASPCA website even asserts that most chickens have to lie flat on the ground throughout their lives.

There is some truth to this one. In general, chickens bred for meat have disproportionately large chests and low bone density. Many of them have trouble supporting their own weight on those skinny legs.  I don’t know that the average broiler chicken has this problem, but it is a concern. In overcrowded poultry operations, birds can’t walk around, anyway, because they’re squished together like foam packing peanuts.

foghorn leghorn

 

4. The Kentucky Fried Rat

This is a golden oldie of an urban legend that I’ve been hearing my entire life. It seems to date from the mid-’70s. There are variations of it, but the most popular one is that a woman was nibbling a piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken when she suddenly realized it was actually a fried rat. In some versions of the tale, she died from a heart attack and her family sued the franchise. According to snopes, this story has never been traced to a single source, and it’s rarely connected to a specific location. It is incredibly unlikely that it really happened.

However, people now frequently share Guess What I Found in My Chicken photos and stories. In 2000, Katherine Ortega of Newport News, Virginia, produced a deep-fried rooster head that she claimed to have discovered in a box of McDonald’s chicken wings (which were being test-marketed in the area at the time). She threatened to sue, but apparently never did. It was not confirmed that the head came from McDonald’s.
In 2003, Baltimore pastor Tony Hill claimed he was served a mouse at a Popeye’s chicken outlet. He, too, never pursued the matter.
Last year, a Colchester man complained of finding a “brain” in his KFC meal. He chucked it in the trash, but KFC tentatively identified the object in his photo as a kidney. Two identical discoveries also received press attention.
Just this week, a woman in New Castle, England, released a photo of a piece of KFC chicken that was actually a battered and deepfried paper towel.

3. Church’s Chicken KKK Sterilization

In 1986, folklorist Patricia Turner was teaching an Introduction to Black Literature course at the University of Massachusetts. For some reason, she told her students the Kentucky Fried Rat story, and was intrigued when one of the students informed her that the Church’s Chicken chain was owned by the KKK, and was putting something in its food to chemically sterilize men – mostly black men, since Church’s Chicken franchises existed in predominantly black neighbourhoods.
A nearly identical KKK “stealth sterilization” rumour was attached to a new brand of cheap soda, Tropical Fantasy, in 1991, leading to a steep plunge in sales and a frantic PR campaign. Anonymous fliers posted in Harlem implicated the Tropical Fantasy, Top Pop, and Treat brand sodas as part of a genocide-by-beverage campaign. There were reports of attacks on delivery drivers by outraged youths.
Turner thoroughly investigated both stories and wrote about them in her 1993 book I Heard It Through the Grapevine. Though racist chicken joints were definitely a thing, she couldn’t find any KKK connection to either Church’s Chicken or the Brooklyn Bottling Corp. (which, ironically, employed a large percentage of minorities). Though there are chemicals believed to decrease fertility in men, there is no substance capable of permanently rendering a man sterile that could be introduced into food or liquid.

2. Silicone in chicken nuggets

I covered this one several years ago at Leaving Alex Jonestown, when Natural News was twigging out over it. Yes, dimethylpolysiloxane, a type of silicone, is an ingredient in the coating of some chicken nuggets. It is added to many foods and drink mixes to prevent sticking, clumping, and foaming. It’s simply a synthetic version of silica, which occurs naturally in most grains, water, and meats because it’s one of the most common minerals on the planet. Like silica, dimethylpolysiloxane is perfectly safe to ingest.

nugget mcbuddies

Forget the silicone…why does this McNugget Buddy have hair?!

1. Mechanically Separated Meat Is Bad for You

There is widespread suspicion that we are still living in Upton Sinclair’s Jungle, where hooves and a**holes end up in our processed meats on a regular basis.

In Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock takes umbrage at the very idea of chicken nuggets. “What part of the chicken does a nugget come from?” he asks, wrinkling up his Mario ‘stache in a convincing simulacrum of disgust. In an article on nuggets published by NBC last year, a medical doctor is quoted as saying that chicken parts aren’t really chicken.
The notion behind chicken nuggets is exactly the same as meatloaf, liver pâté, or fishsticks, but for some reason, finely chopped chicken has become the new hot dog of the fast food world – always suspect, always derided, forever ghetto. It has to be the worst parts of the chicken that end up in Nuggetville, right?
Not really. The quality of the chicken is the same as you’ll find in other chicken products, since it comes from the same chickens. There is some skin in, say, McDonald’s nuggets – but most people eat the skin from roasted and fried chickens without a second thought.
Western consumers have developed a horror of mechanically separated meat (MSM), particularly after Jamie Oliver’s demonstration of how finely textured beef is processed went viral. In the aftermath of the “pink slime” revelations, certain facts were neglected:

  • Oliver drenched a tub of meat in liquid ammonia to show how it is sanitized, but “pink slime” does not contain ammonia. Ammonia fumes are used.
  • Using less-than-perfect parts of an animal means less waste. The less-than-perfect parts aren’t going to hurt you. In Eastern countries, all parts of an animal are used or consumed. Think of Filipino blood pudding, or Vietnamese fatty flank steak. Jamie Oliver is a wealthy white man, schooled in the European culinary tradition, who does not understand how most of the world eats. MSM is an efficient, cost-effective use of animal products that would otherwise be discarded.
  • It is a filler product only. You won’t find any meat products in the fast food market that contain just pink slime or MSM.

Bonus Urban Legend: The Colonel’s Curse

This one really doesn’t have anything to do with chicken, but it’s too fun to ignore. In 1985, the Hanshin Tigers won the Japanese baseball championship with a 4-2 defeat against the Seibu Lions. Triumphant fans got carried away that night, stealing a Colonel Sanders statue and hurling it into the Dōtonbori River.
The Tigers didn’t win another championship. In the great tradition of sports curses, the vengeful spirit of the Colonel was blamed…though he didn’t actually die until 1990, and the Tigers had always sucked. Every so often, TV personalities would make a big show of trying to find the statue. but it wasn’t recovered until 2009.
The Tigers continue to suck.
The curse-KFC link has become so entrenched in Japanese culture that it pops up in the very first episode of the anime horror series When They Cry, which is set in 1984.

Now, get a little closer to your screen, because I’m going to reveal a few of the real dirty little secrets of fast food chicken franchises…

Harlan Sanders only served three months in the U.S. Army. He used the name “Colonel” just to sell chicken.
In the ’60s, the “Colonel” made cameo appearances in cheesy exploitation flicks like Hell’s Bloody Devils and Hershel Gordon Lewis’s Blast Off Girls, hawking his chicken.
In the ’70s, long after he had sold his franchise, the Colonel described Kentucky Fried Chicken gravy as “sludge”.
After a 2010 survey of  Americans ages 18-25 found that 52% of them believed Colonel Sanders was a fictional part of KFC’s branding, KFC launched an intensive PR campaign to prove Sanders had been a real person.
Chick-fil-A has sent cease-and-desist letters to at least 30 businesses to demand they stop using slogans that begin with the phrase “Eat more…”

 

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup

Fake nuns with fake Anthrax, real vampires, UN conspiranoia, hateful lies about hate speech, and Bigfoot’s disgusting ancestry

  • After years of top-secret lab work, Dr. Melba Ketchum has announced the results of her DNA analysis of alleged Bigfoot hair and tissue samples (including, perhaps, the “Bigfoot steak” that was central to the Sierra Kills hoax). The upshot: Bigfoot isn’t an ape or a human. It’s descended from an unknown primate and a human female, who mated about 15,000 years ago. Ew. Ketchum is calling for Bigfoot to be afforded full Constitutional rights, as an aboriginal. Best title about this, to date: “Boffin claims Bigfoot DNA reveals BESTIAL BONKING“. Not even avid Sasqwatchers are wholefootedly accepting Ketchum’s results, though; Bigfoot Lunch Club, for instance, shares a few of the same reasonable doubts expressed by the Houston Chronicle‘s “SciGuy”, Eric Berger (and the rest of the scientific community).
  • In the Serbian village of Zarozje, a different inhuman beast is supposed to be amuck. The mayor and the village council have warned locals that Zarozje’s legendary vampire, Sava Savanovic, might be pissed off and looking for blood now that the abandoned mill where he has dwelt for years untold has finally collapsed. In all apparent seriousness, officials have advised villagers to stock up on garlic and religious paraphernalia to keep Savanovic at bay. But given the vampire’s tourist appeal, garlic might not be the only thing that smells in Zarozje…
  • “Big Brother is watching, and he really is gay.” That’s the title of a chapter in Dr. Michael Brown’s book A Queer Thing Happened to America. In a recent webcast of an interview with Brown, Rick Joyner of MorningStar Ministries claimed that at a Christian conference he attended in Switzerland last summer, Swiss attendees refused to use the words “wife” or “husband” to describe their spouses. Instead, they used the word “partner”.  Asked why, a Swiss man supposedly informed Joyner that gender-specific titles for your significant other are classified as hate speech in Switzerland; you can actually go to jail for saying you have a wife or a husband. I’m calling BS on this one. Such radical restrictions on free speech would raise an international outcry, and there simply isn’t one. Either Joyner was misinformed, or he’s lying. His claims are remarkably similar to hate crime urban legends and misinformation that have been circulating in the Christian community for years: Hate crime legislation will prevent pastors from preaching against homosexuality, gays are trying to ban straight marriage, legislation could forbid homeschooling parents from sharing their opinions on gay marriage with their kids, etc.
    When it comes to human rights, gays are not at the top of the list, as a particularly nasty bit of proposed legislation in Uganda shows.
  • The last time I wrote about fake nuns, there was a serial killer/cult leader involved. This time, a fake nun in England simply sent some white powder to politicians and aristocrats because she was annoyed by their worship of Satan. Over the summer and autumn, 71-year-old “Sister” Ruth Augustus mailed envelopes stuffed with some harmless substance to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Baroness Scotland, Baroness Kennedy, and MP Edward Leigh.  On the envelopes Augustus had written “devil worshipping”, “freemason”, “sex with 30 plus women”, “stop this evil devil worshipping”, and “stop these evil devil-worshipping freemasons.” The one addressed to Baroness Scotland also bore a swastika.  Augustus refers to herself as a disabled Catholic nun who works for a children’s charity, but she does not actually belong to any Catholic order, and does not seem to be employed by any charity organization.  For sending “noxious substances” through the mail, she has been ordered to undergo mental health treatment and serve a two-year community order.
  •  Also this autumn, the entire town of Gypsum, Colorado, rallied behind a 9-year-old cancer patient named Alex Jordan, a boy no one in the community had ever met. According to a Jordan family friend, Alex’s parents relocated to Gypsum earlier this year so the boy could spend his final days in the mountains. He was dying of leukemia, after defeating it two years earlier. From his hospital bed, Alex enthusiastically followed the local high school football team, the Eagle Valley Devils, over the Internet. As soon as they learned about their number one fan, team members signed a football for Alex, began displaying the letter A on their helmets, and even wrote his name on the fence that surrounds their field. Soon, hundreds of other locals joined a Facebook page in support of Alex. When they learned at the end of October that Alex had died, Gypsum residents mourned the brave little boy who had become the Devils’ unofficial mascot. But, as in the cases of Kaycee Nicole Swenson, Jonathan Jay White, and Anthony Godby Johnson, a few people wondered why no one had actually seen this kid or his parents. The only individual with a known connection to the Jordan family was that mysterious family friend who had first mentioned him to local reporters and football parents, 22-year-old Briana Augustenborg. As it turned out, Augustenborg had created “Alex” out of thin air, for reasons that are not entirely clear (she didn’t attempt to raise any money, and didn’t accept any gifts or donations). Alex Jordan now joins a long list of cancer-related hoaxes that preyed upon the tenderhearted.
  • Meanwhile, UN conspiracy theories are in full bloom – and they’re actually getting a bit of mainstream attention. A small but vocal coalition of U.S. senators led by Rick Santorum is opposing ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, arguing that it will impinge upon parental rights, if not actually make every disabled child a ward of the New World Order global superstate (a view shared by the Home School Legal Defense Association and other homeschooling advocates). Other Republicans have succumbed to Agenda 21 paranoia, believing the UN and Obama are conspiring to forcibly relocate rural dwellers, and/or control their minds.

I would love to combine all these stories into a TV series about a gay, undead Bigfoot. He must defeat a bogus nun who pretends to have cancer and sends hate mail to the UN.

 

Anti-Occult Nonsense On Stilts: Kurt Koch’s Occult ABC


In the world of anti-occult zealotry, Kurt Koch is something of a legend. A Lutheran pastor in Germany, he traveled the world addressing churches of nearly every denomination for over half a century, and claimed to have counseled about 20,000 people by the late ’70s.

I was *lucky* enough to score a copy of his most famous book, Occult ABC, at my local secondhand bookshop.

While it’s hard not to admire Koch’s deep religious devotion, it’s pretty easy to hate this book. Originally published in 1978, it reads like it was written in the early ’50s and consists almost entirely of anecdotes – mostly secondhand stories told by missionaries and pastors. You know the kind: “You wouldn’t believe what these savages are doing!” Koch even includes the old legend of the Hippie Babysitter and the Roasted Baby, substituting devil worshippers for the hippie. He also promotes the b.s. stories of “former Satanists” like Doreen Irvine and Mike Warnke. A big part of the reason Koch falls for this blarney is explained on p. 229: “When people have been convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit and have received Jesus Christ as their Lord, they generally speak the truth.”

As you’ve probably guessed, just about everything that doesn’t involve Bible-reading and praying to Jesus is “occult” in Koch’s opinion. He devotes sections to acupuncture, homosexuality, porn, yoga, meditation, “descent from the ape”, Freemasonry, and of course rock music. And Koch believes that any degree of occult influence can afflict multiple generations (the “sins of the father”), causing everything from skin diseases to demonic possession.

The wisdom Koch dispenses is often wildly contradictory. For instance, he maintains that all precognitive powers come from Satan, yet implies several times that it can be 100% accurate and that only a fool would ignore a warning from a psychic.
He stresses that some mental illnesses have natural causes and can be treated by psychiatry, while others are occult in origin and must be treated spiritually. But then he states that occult involvment isn’t the cause of mental illness; it just paves the way for mental illness to develop.
He describes many cases in which occultists changed their evil ways because a spouse or parent prayed for their salvation for many years. Later, he tells us never to pray for occultists unless they have explicitly expressed a desire to change, because it simply won’t work.

Some of his examples are just plain creepy. Koch boasts that Mirin Dajo died because some Christians prayed for his sword-piercing trick to fail onstage, and it did. (Actually, it didn’t. Dajo died after slipping into a coma, and he was not performing at the time.)
In another example, Koch writes of a man who foolishly yoked himself to a non-Christian wife and spent the rest of his life regretting it. His poor son-in-law got so tired of the woman’s nagging that he boxed her ears until she shut up. The lesson seems to be that it’s A-OK to smack your mother-in-law around if she’s a non-Christian.
Once, when a woman with a nasty skin disease consulted him, Koch asked her “how she ever got married in such a condition.” Nice.
Then there was the little girl who become “dreadfully depraved” after being treated by a nature healer. “At the age of ten she seduced a married man – not vice versa.” Where have I heard that before? Oh, right, from child molesters.

Here are just a few choice bits from Occult ABC:

  • Christian Scientists ganged up to psychically murder a man who left the church, giving him a skin disease that caused him to shed his skin “like a snake.”
  • Sorcerors in East Timor engage in “criminal activity” by projecting parts of their spirits into owls, which fly to the homes of enemies to steal pieces of the enemies’ livers.
  • After signing a pact with the Devil, a German woman become possessed and was repeatedly squished by a giant, invisible snake. Koch recorded about 100 cases of such blood pacts, and states that in the previous 20 years, “tens of thousands of young people have signed their souls to the Devil in their own blood.” As with every other statistic in the book, we have no idea where he got these numbers.
  • Elves are real.
  • All hypnosis is dangerous, even stage hypnosis. If you allow yourself to be hypnotized by one, you may become a drunk like this one chick in Argentina. Stage hypnotists are criminals.
  • If you go to an iridologist, you might become a wife-beating drunk like this one dude.
  • If an occultist becomes a Christian, the Devil will be furious and will do everything in his power to oppose you. So you might become a wife-beater anyway, like this other dude.
  • UFOs are heralds of the Antichrist.
  • Gospel singer Henry Drummond, before becoming a Christian, could hypnotize people at a distance of 50 miles.
  • A woman with legs of unequal length went to a “spiritist healer” for healing, and the shorter leg magically grew. But when she became a Christian, it shrank.
  • You must never collect bric-a-brac from non-Christian cultures. “A minister’s wife on Prince Edward Island had collected a whole table-full of figures of gods and cultic objects from the mission field. Today she is in a mental institution.”
  • About 50% of the compulsive neurotics Koch counseled had connections with spiritism or magic in their backgrounds, hence these things cause compulsive neuroses. (Keep in mind that Koch has no training in psychology.)
  • Uri Geller is really psychic, and everyone who found their cutlery bent after one of his TV broadcasts had some psychic ability, as well. “Only the ignorant make fun of these things.”
  • “Voodoo” practitioners drink blood and sacrifice children.
  • In his chapter on Freemasonry, Koch writes that “French historians like Abbe Barnuel maintain that the French Revolution” was engineered by Masons. First of all, it’s Barruel. Secondly, he was not a historian. He was a conspiranoid priest who later rewrote his anti-Masonic thesis, shifting blame to the Jews.
  • Koch takes the view that porn is a Communist device to weaken the morals of Westerners. Perversion for Profit, anyone?
  • Anonymous psychiatrist: “The ouija board is filling our pyschiatric clinics in New York.”
  • Koch on the manufacturers of ouija boards: “If the American government knew how much evil this one firm in Massassachusetts has brought on the American people, they would prohibit the production of these devilish boards at once.”
  • Some Africans can turn themselves into leopards.
  • “I go to the dentist when it is necessary. But I always pray when I go, for dental treatment can last six months and cause much pain.” (I’m guessing this wouldn’t have been the case if he went to the dentist more than “necessary”…)
  • In the Arctic, archaeologists found bones that were said to be 20,000 years old. “I am somewhat skeptical about this claim.”
  • On astrology: “There really ought to be a law prohibiting this and all other forms of fortune-telling. Astrology has been responsible for a number of suicides and murders.”
  • You must not touch a practicing medium. You might get an electric shock, like this one guy.

And so on. From what I’ve seen, all Koch’s books are like this one – so I won’t be reading any of them.

Conspiracy Monday: Review of Paul McCartney Really is Dead

Mockumentary, or documentary based on a hoax?

The other day I watched a peculiar documentary titled Paul McCartney Really Is Dead: The Last Testament of George Harrison, directed by Joel Gilbert.

Gilbert claims that on July 31, 2005, the office of Highway 61 Entertainment received a package with no return address, postmarked in London. It contained a mini cassette player and two mini cassettes. The tape cases were hand-labeled “The Last Testament of George Harrison”. Supposedly, George Harrison recorded his own “final confession” in December 1999, as he recovered in hospital from an attack by deranged intruder Michael Abram. Silver says his studio spent five years trying to verify the tapes’ authenticity, but three different “forensic tests” were inconclusive. Despite this setback, he assures us the documentary contains “startling new evidence” that could forever alter the history of rock and roll.
The film’s website offers no further information. We’re left to wonder why anyone possessing these recordings would ship them to an obscure production company, rather than a major daily or a TV network.

If you’re like me, you would expect Silver to describe the methods used to analyze the tapes, the efforts to trace the source of the tapes, and whatnot. But you’ll see nothing like that in this film. Instead, you get an hour and a half of an unconvincing George Harrison soundalike giving an alternative history of the Beatles that could easily be stitched together from decades-old conspiracy theories and anti-rock religious literature from the ’70s and ’80s. If you’re at all familiar with the Paul is Dead/”Faul” rumours, you’ve seen everything this documentary has to offer. The only “new” thing is the somewhat entertaining way in which the material has been crafted into a goofy, cloak-and-dagger narrative.

The tape begins with “George Harrison” describing the knife attack that landed him in hospital. “I don’t know why I was attacked,” he says, “But I have my suspicions.” He tells us that on December 1, 1980, Lennon phoned him to announce he was going public with the truth about Paul McCartney. A week later he was dead.
Two weeks before he was attacked, George said the same thing to “the man we know as Paul McCartney”.

George then gives us a capsule history of the Beatles, which is wholly unnecessary. A man giving his last confession isn’t going to waste precious breath recording the same information available in dozens of coffeetable books. “I remember the girls screaming and crying. It was so strange,” isn’t exactly a stunning new insight into the band’s early years.

The rest of the film details the conspiracy to cover up Paul McCartney’s death, and the clues scattered throughout the Beatles’ music. The basic story is already familiar to any Beatles fan, but here’s a short recap…

In September 1969, Drake University student Tim Harper published an article in the campus newspaper titled “Is Paul McCartney Dead?”. He pointed to clues in the Beatles’ lyrics, films, and album artwork indicating that Paul was no longer among the living. For instance, Paul dressed up as a walrus for Magical Mystery Tour, and the walrus is a symbol of death in the Soviet Union. (This particular clue has no validity at all. Yes, the walrus was Paul, but walruses don’t have any symbolic significance to Russians.)
Within a month, radio djs and college students had spread the theory so widely that WABC’s Ruby Yonge discussed it on-air on October 21st.
By the end of November, the rumours had gained so much steam that New York’s RKO broadcast a TV “trial”, in which illustrious attorney F. Lee Bailey examined the “evidence” presented by Michigan State student Fred LaBour.
The theory soon gained legs and teeth, evolving into a full-grown monster that may never be slain. Rumour had it that Paul had died in a car crash in ’66, or faked his death to escape from public life. But the remaining three Beatles didn’t want to disband, and losing their cutest member would definitely have put a dent in their popularity. So a Paul lookalike (“Faul”) was found and trained to play with the group. In some versions of the story, “Faul” was the winner of a lookalike contest sponsored by a teen magazine, and Paul didn’t give up music entirely; he joined Badfinger, one of the first acts signed by The Beatles’ label, Apple Records.
A November ’69 Life magazine interview with McCartney, in which he insisted he was the real Paul, maimed the rumour but didn’t kill it. If anything, the article fed the mystery and made some people more suspicious. It quoted Dr. Henry Truby of the University of Miami, who compared “Yesterday” to “Hey Jude” and declared them “suspiciously different.” Why would a major magazine devote its front page to the rumour if there wasn’t some meat to it?

The “final testament of George Harrison”, of course, describes the Paul-is-actually-dead scenario, borrowing heavily from the tabloid booklet Paul McCartney Dead: The Great Hoax:

On the rainy night of November 9, 1966, John and Paul bickered in the recording studio over whether to remain kitschy and radio-oriented (Paul) or to become more Dylanesque and message-oriented (John). Shortly before 5 AM, Paul stormed out of the studio and roared off in his white Austin Healey. About three miles from the studio, his car struck a lorry and flipped.
A “police officer” identifying himself only as Maxwell arrived at the studio about an hour later. He said he had been sent by MI5 to deal with a “sensitive matter”; a white Austin Healey had crashed, and a woman named Rita was insisting the dead driver was Paul McCartney.
Maxwell drove the Beatles to scene of the accident to identify the body. A young woman named Rita was sitting near the wrecked car, sobbing. She claimed Paul had offered her a lift. In her excitement, she screamed and threw her arms around him, causing him to crash into the lorry. Rita escaped unharmed before the car exploded, but Paul was decapitated (in the booklet, the unnamed female passenger is also killed, leading readers to wonder how anyone could know she caused the crash).
Though the head was horribly disfigured, it was unmistakably Paul’s. Maxwell made the macabre comment that he looked like a walrus. Sobbing, John pummeled Maxwell with his fists and cried , “No, I am the walrus! I am the walrus.”

(In reality, Paul and girlfriend Jane Asher were vacationing in Kenya and France November 6-19, 1966.)

Maxwell took the remaining three Beatles to an MI5 safehouse and told them the death of Paul McCartney would have to be kept a secret, to avoid a rash of girl suicides. A surgeon could alter another man’s face to resemble Paul’s, and the band could continue as before, using uncompleted material written by Paul to patch together new songs (John estimated they could do 50). Maxwell, who was apparently an MI5 agent rather than a police officer, swore them to secrecy on threat of death.

(Srsly? MI5 gives a flying fig about teenyboppers offing themselves?)

Two days later, as soon as they left the safehouse, the Beatles announced they would no longer be touring. It was arranged for Tiger Beat magazine to sponsor a Paul lookalike contest. No winner was announced, but a new Paul was found: William Campbell (we are shown a photo of a young man with a thick mustache and glasses, vaguely resembling McCartney). Campbell underwent extensive plastic surgery, music lessons, and speech therapy to transform him into “Faul”. The situation reminded John of a Stephen Crane novel, The Open Boat, in which three men seed clues to a fourth companion’s death throughout their poetry. John wanted to do the same thing, which would allow them to reveal the truth about Paul’s death without crossing MI5.

(“The Open Boat” is a short story, not a novel, and the protaganists do not write any poetry. Rather, one of them reflects on a poem while they drift in a boat. The story ends with the death of one of the men.)
There is no evidence that Tiger Beat – or anyone else – held a Paul lookalike contest. William Campbell is variously named William Shears Campbell, William Sheppard Campbell, and William Stuart Campbell. He is said to have been either an actor or a Canadian police officer employed by the Ontario Provincial Police, but no proof of his existence has ever surfaced. In some versions of the rumour, he had a girlfriend named Rita.)

Somehow, Faul was able to fool McCartney’s girlfriend, Jane Asher. But the Beatles forced Faul to break up with her, anyway, just in case.

In George’s opinion, John was too obvious with his clues. He wanted to title their next album Rubber Paul, one of his nicknames for Campbell. But most of the clues are too obscure to be noticed: Faul smoking a “coffin nail”, lyrics like “wiping the dirt from his hands as he walked from the grave”, Faul facing away from the others on the cover of Revolver, etc. Some clues dealt with Paul’s death, while others offered subtle hints that there was something different about Faul. Song titles said to be clues include “I’m Only Sleeping”, “I’m Looking Through You”, and “Act Naturally”. Some of these clues have been contradicted by the Beatles’ own statements over the years. For instance, Lennon said that “Dr. Robert”, supposedly Campbell’s plastic surgeon, was a reference to himself.
The cover of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (SPLHCB) is a wealth of clues, of course. It’s a funeral scene, with Paul’s name spelled out in yellow flowers atop the grave. The photos are of people Paul would have wanted at his funeral, most of them dead; Stephen Crane holds his hand over Paul’s head in a priest-like fashion.

Then there are the backwards messages. According to George, Lennon coined the word “backmasking” and was the first to use it to hide messages in albums. “Getting Better” supposedly contains the message, “Paul is dead, he lost his hair, his head”, and “SPLHCB Reprieve” holds the obscure clue, “It was a fake mustache.”

The SPLHCB clues were so obvious, George tells us, that even Maxwell caught on. He warned the Beatles to watch their step. Instead, they jammed even more clues into Magical Mystery Tour. On the album cover, “Beatles” upside-down was the phone number of a funeral home, Faul’s walrus costume has a gaping hole in the chest to signify his lack of a soul, and the white figures on the back cover spell out RIP. “A Day in the Life” and “Lovely Rita” are major clues, though anyone who accepts the car crash story will have to wonder why the Beatles made such a sunny, flippant song about the woman who caused their friend’s death.
After more death threats and beatings from Maxwell’s goons, they prudently decided to leave their next album untitled with a blank white cover, but still left lots of clues in the songs.

Here’s where the film gets really funny. Lennon, with Yoko, flees to the U.S. and fakes insanity so that Maxwell will leave him alone. He has a bed-in, makes incoherent statements about peace and love, and just generally acts like a loon.
Meanwhile, Rita threatens to spill the beans unless Faul divorces Linda and marries her. She loses a leg in an accident shortly after making her demand, but this doesn’t stop her from resurfacing later as “Heather Mills”.

So Paul McCartney Really is Dead has its humorous moments. Overall, however, it’s a silly and mean-spirited mockumentary. All of the Beatles are portrayed in the worst possible light. Lennon’s activism is mocked. The real George repeatedly refers to McCartney as “Faul” in an interview. McCartney is a shallow, idiotic, untalented pothead. He’s shown responding to Lennon’s death in a cavalier way. “It’s a drag, isn’t it?” he says to a reporter, chomping gum. In the film’s closing clip, he tells an interviewer, “In that tragedy, there were some good things about it.”

The real story of the Beatles is a lot more complex. McCartney did feud with John and George, but this has a lot to do with Paul’s unwillingness to continue life as a Beatle. In 1970, he actually sued his bandmates to get out of the ten-year contract they signed in ’67.

The notion that post-’66 Paul was an imposter is absurd. Lennon himself lampooned the whole Paul is Dead craze in his ’71 song “How Do You Sleep?”: “Those freaks was right when they said you was dead”. The “clues” unearthed by college journalism majors, radio d.j.s, and fans are just inventive interpretations of ambiguous lyrics and imagery. And let’s face it: The Beatles offered up ambiguity in spades. That’s how folks like Charlie Manson could hear personal messages in every song.

Many of the Paul is Dead clues in Paul McCartney Really is Dead are easily debunked:

  • “Taxman” isn’t about the taxidermist who preserved Paul’s body, because taxidermists only preserve animal carcasses. Also, the song is clearly about a taxman.
  • Besides, Rubber Soul was released a full year prior to the car crash (I think the real George Harrison would have known this, though I wouldn’t bank on it).
  • Heather Mills was born in 1968, over a year after “Rita” caused Paul’s fatal crash. Her early life is well-documented.
  • The scar on Paul’s lip, supposedly caused by plastic surgery, was the result of a December 1965 moped accident.

Surprisingly, one iffy-sounded allegation turns out to be fact. John Lennon really did use some backwards vocals in the 1966 song “Rain”, the first known instance of deliberate backmasking. But this song was released in June, 1966.

Despite the dearth of solid evidence (or perhaps because of it), the Paul is Dead mystery still thrives on the Internets. The sites Officially Pronounced Dead? The Great Beatle Death Conspiracy and Is Paul Dead? are devoted exclusively to it. This site offers up facial comparisons of pre- and post-1966 Paul and concludes they were two different men. Dozens of YouTube videos pick over the clues. Even the Uncyclopedia covers the controversy in detail. Paul McCartney Really is Dead offers nothing new, is based on a pathetically transparent hoax, and is just generally a waste of everyone’s time.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup

  • After my first encounter with “Satanic Nephilim hybrids“, I didn’t think I’d be running into any more fusions of alien abduction lore and Satanic ritual abuse (SRA) narratives. So far as I know, alien abductees rarely recover memories of human abuse under hypnosis (David Icke’s Reptilian/Illuminati survivors would be an exception), and ritual abuse advocates generally don’t stray too far into the paranormal (Michelle Pazder’s Marian visitation would be a notable exception). It’s just not a likely combination, though both phenomena probably involve false memories and/or fantasy-proneness to some extent. So I was hugely disappointed to learn that on the most recent edition of his online radio show, Dreamland, famous alien abductee Whitley Strieber featured a woman named Christine Day who claims not only that she’s in communication with Pleiadians, but that her parents “gave her to a Satanic cult when she was a child.” Day’s contact story is remarkably similar to hundreds of others. She was taken aboard a huge UFO near Mount Shasta (a sacred energy site to New Agers) and felt an overwhelming sense of peace among the Pleiadian aliens. Their vibration filled her with a powerful energy that forced her to undergo a spiritual/psychological transformation. Two months later, Jesus appeared to her and declared, “The Pleiadians are part of the Oneness, and we are part of the Oneness. We are all part of the God-self.” Day claims these memories are consciously recalled. The SRA memories, on the other hand, remained repressed until Day was a grandmother; she accidentally slammed her fingers in her garage door, and spontaneously recalled Satanists breaking her fingers when she was a child. After four years of intense treatment with a therapist who “specializes in this sort of work”, she recalled a life full of Satanic atrocities. (And that’s not all. Sai Baba appeared in Day’s bedroom one night to urge her to go to India.) In a July 9, 1993 interview on Larry King Live, Whitley Strieber said he was working on a novel about ritual abuse, but told guest host Frank Sesno, “Something is happening, people are getting beat up, but it is a psychological thing, basically. I don’t think it’s real.” Now, granted, the Dreamland interview with Christine Day was conducted by guest host Marla Frees. Perhaps Strieber didn’t want to touch the subject himself. Nonetheless, it’s still discouraging to see unverifiable contactee messages being merged with verifiably false SRA information, which can’t possibly do any real favours for either alien abductees or SRA survivors.
  • This is just sad: While searching for the legendary ghost train of Iredell County in Statesville, North Carolina, 29-year-old concierge Christopher Kaiser was struck by an actual train. About a dozen amateur ghost-hunters were on the elevated train trestle called Bostian Bridge in the predawn hours of August 27th, waiting for the phantom #9 out of Salisbury to make an appearance on the 119th anniversary of its crash. That’s when a three-car Norfolk Southern train somehow took them by surprise. Mr. Kaiser reportedly saved his girlfriend’s life by pushing her off the tracks into the ravine 30-40 feet below, just before he was struck head-on. Something tells me that next August 27th, people are going to gather on the trestle to look for the ghost of the guy who saved his girlfriend from an oncoming train. Sigh. Sadder still: This is not the first preventable death to occur on an amateur ghost-hunting trip. Last September, 29-year-old Leah Kubik fell to her death from the roof of the “haunted” Connaught medical research building on the University of Toronto campus after she and a date snuck into the building in search of ghosts. In 2006, 17-year-old Rachel Barezinsky was shot to death by the owner of a “haunted house” in Worthington, Ohio. Allen Davis says he didn’t know that the people who continually lurked on his property were searching for witches and ghosts; he just assumed they were up to no good and loaded his rifle.
  • The blog Three Dead Words, maintained by a Saskatchewan veterinarian who evidently believes her province is crawling with Satanists, is trying to put a Satanic spin on the crimes of Stuart Northcott. He’s the serial killer depicted in The Changeling (you can read my post on him here).