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It was also the locus of an ideological battlefield over who were the heroes and who the real villains in American life: pro-Castro and anti-Castro leftists; Russian operatives; the CIA; LBJ; the Mafia; the Camelot Kennedys — the list goes on.

But pop culture is confused these days about authorship, wanting to elevate “geniuses” but also litigate credit (which often amounts to royalty payments) and apportion responsibility between, say, the eight or ten producers who worked on a particular pop song, or the six screenwriters who labored over versions of a script, or between the showrunners whose names appear below television shows almost like bylines and the writers’ rooms responsible for the words their characters actually speak.

In that kind of environment, second-guessing official stories isn’t just natural, it’s inevitable.

Unlike political conspiracies, the motives here aren’t necessarily devious, although there’s plenty of that. And what they concluded is that the most famous band in the world was an elaborate hoax pulled off by an endless array of actors and conspirators.

Choosing what made the cut was not a scientific process. The only way four boys from Liverpool could execute the manic schedule of the Beatles is if there were many more than four (or they were on amphetamines).

While there were both political and pop-culture conspiracy theories in the 1960s and 1970s — Elvis is still alive, you may have heard — conspiracism as a phenomenon didn’t come into full flower until the 1990s. Message boards and chat rooms of that era gave us the golden age of political conspiracy theory, which we are still living in. ) These days, pop-culture obsessives are quick to cook up conspiracies anytime a celebrity dies, changes her appearance, or even stands next to a triangle, and ideas can now be passed from the edges of sanity to your Facebook feed in a matter of minutes, converting more of the easily influenced into paranoid believers.

They were also the birthplace of pop-culture paranoia — when doubts about the real identities of singers and actors, whether they had actually died or truly written that particular song, gave rise to real debate and “forensic” scrutiny. Not to say that pop-culture conspiracies live only in the present — they are often most delicious when they reach back in time, even way back in time, to propose we consider, say, whether it was George Lucas who actually directed Return of the Jedi (which was, you have to admit, worse than Empire) or whether it was actually Emily Brontë’s brother who wrote Wuthering Heights (exhibit A: fucking Heathcliff! Vulture has spent the past few months undertaking an exhaustive cataloguing of these conspiracy theories of pop culture.

So says one of rock music’s most enduring conspiracy theories, based largely on what believers see as clues left by the surviving members of the Beatles.

Take, for example, the cover of Abbey Road, which resembles a funeral procession, with John Lennon as the clergyman dressed in white, Ringo Starr as the mourner in black, Mc Cartney as the dead man with no shoes, and George Harrison as the grave digger in denim. The story of Avril Lavigne’s death in 2003 and the subsequent cover-up begins a few years prior, when she hired a look-alike named Melissa Vandella to confuse the paparazzi.

Music, film, literature, TV, and anything else a celebrity might touch are organized by “genre” (do you like reading about zombie pop stars or Illuminati Svengalis or secret authors of famous books?

) and presented pure — that is, not as investigative claims but conspiracy theories.

Who really killed Natalie Wood, or Bob Marley, or Albert Camus?