11 Disturbing Stories You Might Not Have Heard About The Beatles

The Beatles are widely regarded as the most famous and influential band of the 20th century. After forming in 1960 in Liverpool, the group made their initial rounds in the red-light district of Hamburg, Germany. At the time, there were five: Pete Best on the drums, George Harrison on lead guitar, and Stuart Sutcliffe on the bass, co-led by songwriters John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

In 1961, Sutcliffe left the band to pursue a career in painting, but by April 1962, he would perish from a cerebral hemorrhage at just 21 years old. Years later, Sutcliffe's sister would claim the brain hemorrhage was caused by Lennon kicking Sutcliffe in the head during a fight. 

The following year, shortly before recording their debut single "Love Me Do," Pete Best was fired and replaced by Ringo Starr, who joined Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison to become "The Fab Four." The counterculture icons would only play together for eight prolific years before their split. After Lennon was murdered in 1980 and Harrison died of lung cancer in 2001, only McCartney and Starr were left to carry on the Beatles' bright albeit complex legacy - one with a very dark side.

Photo: EMI / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

  • The Manson Family's slayings were committed in a house rented by controversial director Roman Polanski, who had just catapulted to fame with his horror movie classic, Rosemary's BabySharon Tate, one of the victims, was married to Polanski and eight months pregnant when her life was taken by the Manson Family.

    This act came on the heels of other sudden, shocking tragedies connected to Polanski's film. Rosemary's Baby, so the conspiracy goes, unleashed a curse that ruined the lives of numerous people with even tenuous connections to the film.

    John Lennon was friends with both Polanski and Mia Farrow, the film's star. For many years, Lennon and Yoko Ono lived in the Dakota Hotel, where Rosemary's Baby was filmed (though it was called the Bramford in the movie). The gothic building, constructed in the 1880s, lent itself perfectly to the brooding, oppressive, and ominous mood of a movie about Satanists. 

    The Dakota Hotel is also where John Lennon was assassinated by Mark David Chapman in 1980. Chapman wasn't inspired by Rosemary's Baby - he was carrying a copy of The Catcher in the Rye at the time of the murder, which he later claimed was his inspiration to kill. 

  • The White Album Inspired Charles Manson's Heinous Acts
    Photo: State of California, San Quentin Prison / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The friendship between John Lennon and Roman Polanski was not the only connection between the Beatles and Charles Manson, the mastermind behind the Tate-LaBianca tragedy that shocked the world in 1969.

    The Beatles' lyrics were an intricate part of Manson's off-kilter theology (he saw them as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse), and he claimed they provided direct inspiration for the manner in which his Family carried out their misdeeds. 

  • Sgt. Pepper Might Actually Be Aleister Crowley
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Rumors have circulated for decades that "Sgt. Pepper" was actually Aleister Crowley, the controversial English occultist who many referred to as the "wickedest man in the world." 

    The Beatles featured Crowley's face among the famous people they admired on the album cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (he's at the top left-hand corner in the back row, right next to Mae West). The album itself was released 20 years after Crowley's demise.

    Some conspiracy theorists believe that when the Beatles open the album by singing, "It was 20 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play," they're declaring their allegiance to Crowley's occult and spiritual teachings.

    John Lennon may or may not have admitted this in one of his last interviews:

    The whole Beatle idea was to do what you want, right? To take your own responsibility, do what you want and try not to harm other people, right? Do what thou wilst, as long as it doesn't hurt somebody.

    "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law," was one of Crowley's more famous teachings.

  • A 'Wicked Dentist' Tricked The Beatles Into Trying Acid
    Photo: United Artists / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    A 'Wicked Dentist' Tricked The Beatles Into Trying Acid

    John Riley was the name of a dentist who befriended John Lennon, George Harrison, and their romantic partners at the time, Cynthia Lennon and Pattie Boyd, respectively. In March 1965, the two couples attended a dinner party hosted by Riley, who secretly spiked his guests' coffee with LSD after dinner. The experience was a first for Lennon and Harrison, who had never experimented with LSD before this party. 

    Some time later, George Harrison would refer to Riley as "the wicked dentist," and many speculate that Riley was the inspiration behind the Beatles' song titled "Doctor Robert," which was released in 1966 on Revolver. The song's lyrics were co-written by Lennon and McCartney:

    Doctor Robert
    Day or night he'll be there any time at all
    Doctor Robert
    Doctor Robert
    You're a new and better man
    He helps you to understand
    He does everything he can
    Doctor Robert
    If you're down he'll pick you up
    Doctor Robert
    Take a drink from his special cup

    The Beatles ultimately enjoyed acid and used it consensually for years. 

  • Paul McCartney Is Rumored To Have Been Replaced By A Doppelganger
    Photo: BeatlesVara1964.png / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 NL

    One of the most persistent conspiracy theories surrounding the Beatles is that Paul McCartney perished in a car crash on November 9, 1966, and was replaced by a look-alike named William Shears Campbell - an orphan who had recently won a McCartney look-alike contest in Edinburgh. 

    Those who believe the "Paul is Dead" conspiracy came to be known as "cluesters." One of their most popular claims is that John Lennon actually says, "I buried Paul," at the end of "Strawberry Fields Forever." However, in an interview with Playboy magazine, Lennon maintained that the actual words were "cranberry sauce." He told the interviewer:

    I said "Cranberry sauce." That's all I said. Some people like ping-pong, other people like digging over graves. Some people will do anything rather than be here now.

    Other hints that cluesters have dug up from the Beatles' songs and album art include:

    • There's supposedly a back-masked message on the song "Revolution 9" from the White Album, which says, "Turn me on, dead man."
    • The photo of the Beatles on the cover of Abbey Road supposedly represents a funeral procession for Paul, who is walking out of sync from the other band members and carrying a cigarette in his right hand (Paul is left-handed). Also, a car license plate in the same photo displays the alphanumeric sequence "28IF," which allegedly means the "real Paul" would have been 28 that year if he had survived the accident.
    • A hand is being held up behind Paul's head on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. A raised hand is a mystical symbol of expiration in some religions.

    Though these subtle messages have convinced some fans, there is no concrete evidence to suggest the switch actually happened.

  • Paul McCartney Is A JFK Conspiracy Theorist

    John Lennon and Paul McCartney believed in their fair share of conspiracies, as well. McCartney himself was an early believer in the conspiracy theory that Lee Harvey Oswald was a patsy for the CIA.

    McCartney was first introduced to the idea by Mark Lane, the civil rights attorney whose book, Rush to Judgment, was one of the earliest to argue that Oswald had not, in fact, assassinated JFK. McCartney, who was keenly interested in the case, had met Lane at a party and asked him for an advance copy of the book. Allegedly, McCartney was so convinced by Lane's evidence that he called the author a few days later, and the two went out to dinner to discuss the case.

    Rush to Judgment was highly controversial at the time and opened Lane up to all kinds of accusations and bad publicity. Nonetheless, unswayed by public opinion, Lane went on to make his book into a documentary. While editing the film, Lane was once again contacted by McCartney, who wanted to compose music for the film's score as a present to Lane.

    Lane tried to warn McCartney off, telling him that such a move could permanently damage the Beatle's career, especially in America, but McCartney was insistent. "One day," he said to Lane, "my children are going to ask me what I did with my life, and I can't just answer that I was a Beatle."

    Ultimately, the film's director chose not to involve McCartney in the production.