The Paul Is Dead rumor mill finds its origins in an article written in the Drake University student newspaper Drake Times-Delphonic on September 17, 1969.
The article, by Tim Harper, outlined a series of clues found in the Beatles' music that suggest Paul was "insane, freaked out, even dead." Harper later said, "I didn’t own a Beatles record. I talked to others who might know about the rumor, or something about the Beatles." his story originated from reports heard from Times-Delphic Editor Dartanyan Brown.
The article catapulted Harper into fame, if only briefly. "Maury Leavitt, another editor at the TD, took me in hand and said we could make some money by selling interviews to radio stations. I said 'OK.' He lined up dozens of interviews with radio stations around the country, $10 for five minutes on the phone with Tim Harper. It was surreal...Maury and I were flown down to Chicago on a chartered plane to appear on a talk show, and by the time we came back everything had died down."
The following is a reproduction of the first page of story from the original article.
Also don't miss the Times-Delphonic's 2013 followup piece.