This Man Accidentally Pulled Off the World’s Greatest Photobomb

Four men crossing a zebra crossing on a street, with one of them circled in red. cars are parked on both sides of the road, under a clear sky.
Paul Cole (circled) didn’t feel like going to a museum the same day The Beatles shot the cover for Abbey Road.

When American tourist Paul Cole was visiting London in 1969, he’d grown tired of visiting museums so he decided to have a wander around Abbey Road while waiting for his wife.

But little did Cole know that his spontaneous exploration would lead to him being included on arguably the most famous album cover of all time: The Beatles’ Abbey Road.

Grainy image of a man standing alone on a city sidewalk, wearing a suit and looking to the side, with blurred cars and trees in the background.

Cole can be seen in the photograph, taken by Iain Macmillan, wearing a brown jacket and glasses with his hands on his hips looking over toward the Fab Four.

“I just happened to look up, and I saw those guys walking across the street like a line of ducks,” Cole said.

“A bunch of kooks, I called them, because they were rather radical-looking at that time. You didn’t walk around in London barefoot.” Referring to the fact that Paul McCartney eschewed shoes for the iconic photo.

Four men cross a zebra crossing in a single file on a sunny street, dressed in suits and casual wear, evoking an iconic pop culture moment. vintage cars and trees line the street.

Cole told The Palm Beach Post in 2004 that he had no interest in The Beatles and didn’t think much of his encounter until his wife, an organist, purchased Abbey Road so she could learn a number from it for a wedding.

“I did a double-take and said, ‘Hey, that’s me!’ ” he said. “I say to people, ‘You don’t realize it, but you’re talking to a person whose picture is in millions of homes throughout the world.”

Given the album’s huge influence, Cole isn’t the only person to claim that it is him standing on Abbey Road that day but family members vouch for him saying that he had been talking about seeing four “kooks” in London months before The Beatles’ final album was released.

Cole died back in 2008 at the age of 98 but always kept a copy of the album in the house and said he was able to recognize himself immediately from the new sports jacket he had just bought.

The story of his epic photobomb was kept quiet for years until a newspaper asked readers for their Beatles stories and Cole responded with his. He soon found himself at the center of a media frenzy — something he found baffling.

“I was probably in a million things,” a bemused Cole told The Palm Beach Post 20 years ago. “I don’t quite understand it. It’s almost getting out of hand.”

Image credits: Abbey Road cover by Iain Macmillan.