In the decades since John Lennon’s death, his murder on December 8, 1980, has taken on a mythic quality. John Lennon murder conspiracies have taken on lives of their own, and have entangled themselves into his status as a folk hero. The death of John Lennon wasn’t just a blow to the world of pop music, it was essentially a nail in the coffin of the anti-war movement. But who killed John Lennon? The official story is that it was Mark David Chapman, a loner who had just flown to New York from Hawaii. But was it really the bookish nerd who was allegedly one of Lennon’s biggest fans? Or was someone pulling his strings?
Most of the John Lennon murder theories are predicated on the idea that someone, or some group of people wanted Lennon to put a sock in all of his positive, peace and love BS. All of his sleep-ins and talk about being a dreamer didn’t jive with the way the shadowy somebodies wanted the rest of the world to think so he was put down. Or maybe it was simpler than that. Keep reading to explore all of the possibilities behind John Lennon’s death.
Vote on the theories about the former Beatle’s death that you think are most likely to be true. And if you have your own theories about why John Lennon was killed, leave it for us in the comments – and whatever you do, don’t reveal your true identity.
The Government Killed John Lennon
This is essentially a seed for the conspiracy tree that branches off into a million other conspiracies about Nixon, Reagan, or Bush Sr. wanting to kill the former Beatle, but it's an interesting idea. Was Lennon such a powerful force amongst left-leaning voters in America that he needed to be taken out? Some people seem to think so.
Many of these people believe that the government was placing cryptograms about their plan to kill Lennon with bold words and headlines that ran in a variety of newspapers across the country. Messages like "Johnny Comes Marching Home," "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Ouch Ouch," and "The Job Richard Nixon Really Wanted" that were printed in papers supposedly telegraphed their plans while setting off sleeper agents.
It's no secret that Lennon believed that he was under government surveillance for the final few years of his life. And if the revelations brought on by Edward Snowden have taught us anything, it's that Lennon probably was being monitored to some degree. But did the government really want to kill him for leading sleep-ins and releasing art rock records? Maybe.
What Is Project Walrus?
If we're using context clues, Project Walrus was named as such because John Lennon was the titular Walrus from The Beatles song. While this could be true, it feels a little tongue in cheek for the U.S. government in the decade leading up to Lennon's murder.
But maybe the CIA or the FBI or whichever government agency really killed John Lennon was feeling a little frisky as the '80s were rolling in. Most of Project Walrus concerned setting up an apartment adjacent to John Lennon and Yoko Ono's in order to break in and steal their personal belongings (journals, mail, etc.) so they could sell the material after Lennon's death and drag his name through the mud.
Mark David Chapman Was a Manchurian Candidate
While most of the theories surrounding John Lennon's death concern the government wanting to take out the former Beatle because of his lefty political activism, the idea that Chapman was being controlled via MK-Ultra mind control is one of the most prevalent. Much has been been discussed of Mark David Champan's pre-assassination timeline, and its similarities to other assassins from history. Like Lee Harvey Oswald, he went on an extensive cross-country road trip that took him through the eastern hemisphere before landing in Hawaii, and then making his way to New York to take out Lennon.
It's possible that Chapman had no idea why he was going to New York and the catalyst for his trip was a thought put into his head by his handlers. While there are a variety of things that could have set Chapman off, most people tend to believe that it was his tattered copy of The Catcher in the Rye that synced up with an MK-Ultra trigger word that caused him to kill John Lennon in broad daylight.
Catcher in the Rye Triggered Mark David Chapman
Mark David Chapman using The Catcher in the Rye as inspiration to murder John Lennon is a well-known urban legend, and it seems like it is at least partly true. After Chapman shot Lennon, he remained at the crime scene, calming reading the novel. Much conspiratorial hay has been made of the fact that the assassin was obsessed with Holden Caulfield, the main character of Salinger's breakthrough novel. Chapman believed that he and Caulfield were kindred spirits: they both loved children, they both believed that people in power were "phonies," and they were both drawn to New York City.
From interviews with Chapman, many have deduced that he wanted to kill Lennon because he thought that Lennon had become a phony - something to be despised. Chapman said that he "would pray for demons to enter my body, to give me strength to pull that gun out" so he could rid the world of people like Lennon.
Most agree that Chapman wanted to use the murder to draw attention to the book. "Everybody's going to be reading this book--with the help of the god-almighty media," he told his lawyer. Chapman called himself "the catcher in the rye for this generation."