October 31, 2000

by Steve Baldwin

Well, it's time once again to join hands, burn some incense, say some mumbo-jumbo, and pay tribute to those unfortunate Web sites that have fallen along the way.

This month, we ask that you pause for a few precious moments to honor those Web sites that have given their lives so that yours and mine might live. Those sites which, were it not for this column and your contributions to it, would die in utter obscurity - unmourned and unsung.

Bitrotten wonders of the Internet - we salute thee! And if you'd like to salute them, please forward any news of their passing to me, Steve Baldwin, or use our patented, one-click Ghost Site Notifier service, the Ghost-o-Meter.

Jeff Bezos - eat your heart out.

P.S. I'd very much like to bring back the Ghost Sites T-Shirts that were a modest success back in 1998 in new colors, a new design, and possibly some other products (mousepads and mugs). If you know of anyone who can help me manufacture these items (and take a sizeable chunk of the revenues), please let me know - it's really my only chance of making a dime from this site (and yes, my kid really does need braces). Thanks!

France 98 World Cup

Passions in the superheated world of international soccer run deep, but do they have to run this long?

More than two years after France attained the World Cup by defeating Brazil in a 3-0 battle, this stadium-sized Web site soldiers on, complete with a moldy News Page, antique advertorial material, and atavistic GIF89A animations from the likes of Hewlett-Packard, Sybase, EDS, and Frances Telecom.

Truly fanatical sports nationalists who've become completely unstuck in time can go so far as to download several different France 98 screen savers, but will be disappointed by the fact that the site's Chat, Fan Mail and Trivia Contest sections have all been shut down.

One unintended consequence of surfing around this relic for the better part of an hour was that several of our researchers became hopelessly attached to Footix, a likeable rooster mascot who seems destined to become as important a Gallic symbol as General DeGaulle. (We'd take Footix over that out-of-shape Linux Penguin any day.)

Thanks to R.Lee.Sullivan for finding this Ghost Site.

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Site is Dead, But Well-Preserved


NetScrap ("Stuff and Things for You") is a mid-sized electronic potpourri of humorous, largely unrelated information that runs the gamut from Animal Jokes to Workplace Humor.

Some of this material is amusing - much of it you've doubtless read before if you've ever been "blessed" with a friend suffering from an insane compulsion to forward you jokes via e-mail.

Nothing on NetScrap actually appears to be broken, which makes it appear to be alive and well. But the most recent scraps added to the site date from late 1998, and its FAQ is also from that year - both fairly reliable indications that its webmaster has turned his or her attention to other pursuits.

Thanks to Morbus (a man who is forever shaking the cobwebs from his bookmarks), for finding this site.

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Site is Dead, But Well-Preserved

Theatre des Vampires

Theatre des Vampires is a small, gothic-oriented site that's been lying in suspended animation for just about a year. TDV's webmaster, M. Nishioka, took the trouble to post a brief statement explaining her reasons for letting things slide, which distinguishes this site from other Web projects that go to their grave without their creators making a peep about what caused their creations to stop breathing:

"Please Note: As of September 18, 1999 this site is no longer updated. I just don't have the time to give it the attention it needs or deserves. Thank you for visiting and supporting it over its four year existence.".

As expected, TDV's link pages to Vampire-related resources have drifted badly in the last year, reducing their value to Vampire enthusiasts. All in all, a typical Ghost Site whose webmaster had the good sense to make it clear that its cryptlike store of information is gloriously obsolete.

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Site is Dead, But Well-Preserved

The Open Road

The Open Road, a small weekly e-zine that reviewed e-mail publications, was written by Todd Kuipers, a software designer based in Calgary, Alberta. It ran on schedule from May 25, 1998 to April 1999, and then simply stopped running, with nary a note from Todd to explain what happened.

Kuiper's reviews, while out of date, remain thoughtful and well-written, and what he has to say about the strength and efficacy of e-mail 'zine publishing remains valid.

Kuipers seems to very good at creating Ghost Sites - in addition to The Open Road, two other projects with which he was involved - http://propagandist.com/, and http://www.canbeer.com (see below), appear to be in an advanced state of suspended animation.

Thanks (again) to Morbus for this find.

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Site is Dead, But Well-Preserved

The Canadian Beer Review

When sifting through the wreckage of The Open Road, we happened to click on one of Todd Kuiper's other projects: the Canadian Beer Review, "a Net based publication dedicated to the discovery, promotion, enjoyment and review of all things Canadian in beer".

Judging from its dusty News Page, CBR seems to have been abandoned in September of 1999. Before giving up the ghost, CBR's small but well-motivated staff managed to put together a remarkably complete section reviewing and rating many of Canada's micro-brews, along with better-known Canadian beers such as Molson.

This is one failed Web site that I wouldn't have minded working for.

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Site is Dead, But Well-Preserved

Coleman's Music Industry & Radio Biz Links

Beth Reiten, a librarian with Oklahoma State University, sent us word that this small site, maintained by David Coleman, is a dead one:

"I stumbled across this site this morning in the middle of a really messy reference question. I haven't looked through all of the sites for the other countries, but the links for the US are dreadful! The only two that still work are the MTV site and the Concrete/Soundscan Hard Music Charts, but the latter one is a redirect. Last update was Jun 14, 1996."

Other areas of this site, including link areas for Internet Broadcasting, The Radio Business, and Careers, are slightly newer (1998), but this is still a long way from being fresh.

We e-mailed David Coleman in early October to ask him about what caused his site to succomb to the forces of entropy, but he didn't reply. We can only conclude that the task of maintaining all these links in operating condition somehow become an onerous one.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

The Charlie Horse Music Pizza

Chris Stamper sent us a very sad note the other day:

"Remember Shari Lewis? The lady with the sock puppet Lambchop? Well, a few years ago she was making a comeback with a PBS kids' show just before dying of uterine cancer. The site is still there."

It's hard for us not to get teary-eyed about Shari Lewis. The stuff she created for TV was heads-and-shoulders above the dross that passes for childrens' television. And everything we've read about her suggests that she was as nice a person off-screen as on, which is extremely rare in showbiz.

Although production on The Charlie Horse Music Pizza ended when Shari died, the show can still be seen at many PBS affiliate stations around the USA. So in a funny way, this site isn't really dead, as long as kids can still interact with Lamb Chop and the gang.

Which is fine by us.


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?

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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.

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