May 10, 2000
It's a sure bet that the recent NASDAQ meltdown will yield many Ghost Sites in the weeks and months ahead.
The prospect of these well-financed Web sites sinking like so many doomed Liberty Ships doesn't fill us with joy - it fills us with panic! Because chances are that many of these sites will simply disappear, without anyone thinking to record their passing.
Will posterity feel cheated if it's denied even an inkling of the look and feel of sites such as Boo.com, Beyond.com, and iVillage? Are these endangered e-commerce dinosaurs so bereft of aesthetic value that no one will lift a finger to record their last moments before meeting the torch? It's sad that so few will mourn these sites' passing. But here, it's our job to mourn (and take screen shots whenever possible).
Thanks again to the tireless legion of Ghost Site Correspondents who've sent me word on dead sites in the last month. All of the sites in this issue are a product of your extraodinary perspicacity and obsessional zeal.
This Ghost Site has a tragic story behind it. At one time it was regularly maintained by Mary Kay Bergman, a voice-over artist whose "wacky voices" spiced up animated feature films for Disney and animated TV series such as South Park. Last year, however, Bergman, took her own life after a long battle with mental illness, leaving her site adrift in the cruel waters of Cyberspace.
Whenever lives are cut short, leaving Ghost Sites in their wake, it's haunting to linger in the abandoned HTML ruins. And browsing through WackyVoices.com is an eerie experience, especially because its cheery look and feel provides such an extreme contrast with the unfortunate circumstances of Bergman's demise.
(Note: This tip came in about three months ago, and I have unfortunately mislaid the name of its finder. Whoever you are, thank you.)
PanaVise is a well-known manufacturer of what it calls "work holding products" - vises, bases, mounts, and other things that hold other things. (If you're a hobbyist you've probably owned one of their superb miniature vises, useful for soldering circuit boards or superdetailing miniature models).
Detracting from the brilliance of PanaVise's product line, however, is the fact that its official Web site, last updated in November,1999), houses an incredibly undermaintained e-commerce area entitled "Online Purchase of Spares".
This area proudly announces:
"We expect to have this service online in late 1998. If you are having problems getting spares then use the comment to the webmaster located at the bottom of this page. We will do whatever we can to satisfy your needs until this service is online."
Nearly two years later, PanaVise's e-commerce area is still disabled. We can only imagine how many PanaVise products - lacking spares - are offline now as a result, crippling the Nation's ability to hold onto things.
Get a grip - PanaVise - update your Web site!
Thanks to Rick J. Reiman for this tip.
Site is Dead, But Well-Preserved
The Framing of OJ Simpson
Rogers Cadenhead, whose perpetual watch for e-cruelty occasionally nets him a close encounter with a Ghost Site, reports the following:
"After attracting more than seven million hits, William Schreck has let his "Framing of O.J. Simpson" site grow as cold as O.J.'s manhunt for the (wink, wink) real killer of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.
Sadly, the last update appears to have been on Feb. 10, 1998 -- two long years in which no more leads were analyzed linking the Goldman and Brown families to organized crime and the Colombian drug cartel, and no one else made the connection between the Goldman family's move to Southern California and the increased flow of drug money to the region."
This dead site is a classic piece of home-grown, hand-crafted HTML hyperbole. Most of its links are dead, and its design (or lack of it) typifies many such primoridial sites gathering dust on Geocities.
Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay
Interactive Web-Paging Productions
Because so few early (1994-95) 1.0 and 2.0-level browser optimized sites survive in pristine condition, learning of this one lit up every bell on our Ghost-O-Meter.
Who wouldn't love a vintage site christened in 1995 containing "special layout enhancements which look and work best using Netscape Navigator 1.1N (or its latest beta version) or another HTML 3.0 compatible viewer"?
Some of this site's strangely ambiguous marketing-speak is unconsciously funny -- check out this entry on its "Services" page:
"WWW - An Unbelieveable Resource Of Information: Probably the most exciting element about the Internet is it's an unbelievable reservoir of information. Just about anything your mind can dream up can most likely be located on the Internet."
Everything except a Dictionary and a Spell Checker.
Thanks to jyoung for finding this amazing relic.
Site is Dead, But Well-Preserved
Long-time readers of this column will recall that we identified the Web site of Lollapalooza (an annual Rock Concert project) as a flat-liner more than three years ago.
When the site was freshened back in 1997, we removed it from our Master List of Ghost Sites. Now, however, the bitrot is back, and it's worse than ever. Although the site's index page is gone, a few JPEGs survive, presenting a fragmentary picture of this site's heyday. A lonely page touts the headlining appearance of Dwight Yoakam, but very little else remains.
The original 1997 Lollapalooza page was a dreadfully bloated Ghost Site whose image-mapped GIFs took up thousands of kilobytes. At least this corpse is a lot thinner.
Thanks to Lukas for this Ghost Site tip.
Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay
Ghost Site corresondant Lukas also reports that Lost in Space Galaxy, built by New Line Cinema to promote the crummy 1999 remake of what was originally a crummy TV series, is dead.
This hideously over-endowed site, chocked with just about every bandwidth-sucking interactive doodad the human mind can conceive, must have cost many thousands of dollars to construct. It's more or less what we've come to expect from dead Hollywood Web sites - all sizzle and no steak.
I suppose there are people alive today who are passionate enough about Lost in Space to download the various players from ToggleThis, Macromedia, and Cosmo required to enjoy this site. But I wouldn't recommend doing so, or spending a nanosecond on Doctor Smith's dysfunctional BBS system. Life is just too damned short.
Get me out of here, Robbo!
Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum
You're on the web a lot. You've seen many a dead site. You've forgotten our email address... and you don't feel like coming back here to get it.
What do you do?
The Ghost-o-Meter opens a small, movable window... if you've found a Ghost Site, fill in the blanks, fire it off, and go back to foolin' around. Its that easy.
You can also use this form:
What the ??!
Well, this is all very interesting, but what the heck is Ghost Sites anyway? Why devote a live site to Dead Sites?
If you're interested in this Ghost Sites thing, it is a project that I began in the summer of 1996 while I was working for Time-Warner's Pathfinder. Late in the evening of July 4th, while piloting a small craft across Long Island Sound, I had what only can be described as an epiphany.
From out of the depths came a cruel vision of the World Wide Web. It wasn't a friendly place - an innocent place of community, commerce and chat. It was a great and utterly pitiless electronic ocean that swallowed up sites, careers, and venture capital like a ravenous killer whale. Great sites - sites like Mecklerweb and iGuide - were going down with all hands. Great fortunes were collapsing and proud content sites lay wrecked on the bottom. No one seemed to care. The future was a vast abyss - who would record these days of New Media folly, disaster and despair?
Back on shore, but still haunted by this vision, I launched Ghost Sites as a modest attempt to document the great disappearing fleet of web sites sinking beneath the waves. This project briefly made me spectacularly famous, and then I was quickly, and completely forgotten.
By March of 1997, Ghost Sites had succumbed to the same deadly entropy that had settled over the Internet, and became a crewless wreck itself. For six cruel months, it drifted like a despised garbage barge, broke its keel in a summer squall, and finally washed up on Geocities.
On an icy November morning, Morbus boarded the wreck, inspected the damage, and offered the captain a safe harbor. The bilge pump was started, and the squealing, rusty hull lifted off the sands again. It soon arrived here - in the dark, unquiet waters of Disobey.Com.
If you want to see the article that made me briefly famous, check out Ghosts in the Machine. I became so famous because of this article that there were women lining up to see me - I felt like Elvis! But then... the fall from grace...
If you have a favorite rotting site that you'd like to mention, email me at Steve_Baldwin@hotmail.com.
Ghost Sites has appeared in a number of places including Time Magazine, ZDNet, The Netly News and more. For a list of all those we know of, as well as links to online counterparts, click here. You can also take a look at the limited edition t-shirt we once offered.