October 16, 1996 [Madonn-a-Ween Special]

by Steve Baldwin

To celebrate Halloween, this week's Ghost Sites takes aim at dead and dying entertainment sites. Sorry, celebrity necros, I'm not talking about web shrines to dead stars like Bing, Elvis, Janis, Jim, Kurt, Marilyn, or Veronica - our focus is on decaying entertainment sites whose dysfunctional bit rot is making certain stars' careers look like they've flat-lined.

Madonna on IUMA (Internet Underground Music Archive)

Madonna's always been aggressive in cyberspace, and recently released an Evita track that's got the rubes waiting in line. But the M-Girl would have a cow if she could see the sparse gray web page she's been stuck with on IUMA. This crude page, dating from late 1994, lacks Real Audio, E-mail links, and quotable quotes from the star. Apparently, Madonna's record company forgot to turn off Madonna's old pages when the label moved from IUMA to its own megasite sometime in 1995. Fans seeking fresher Madonna info need go to http://www.wbr.com/madonna/, better yet, slouch back to Madonn-a-Ween for true bedtime horror.

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Site is Dead, but Well-Preserved

Judge Dredd

Remember Judge Dredd? This 1995 Stallone action picture was a critical and box-office snoozer, but Sony's promotional pages persist, and they're a gloomy techno-wasteland, with broken links to something called "Dreddspace" that was purged from Disney's servers a long time ago. Someday I'm sure web users -- like Judge Dredd, will unilaterally blast obsolete web sites like this out of existence -- until then, Hollywood relics like Dredd are doomed to live on like so much futuristic space junk.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

Megadeth Arizona

Capitol Records runs a fairly up-to-date music site called "Hollywood and Vine", but the portion of it devoted to Megadeth resembles a piece of rotting roadkill, with every graphic on the page smashed and broken. Recall that this very same content was one of the first really stimulating band sites to hit the web when it launched in early 1995 to promote the band's "Youthanasia" album. Leaving it to wither in the sun may be a form of frontier justice, but it's still Mega-Depressing.

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Site is Dead, shows Advanced Decay

Johnny Mnemonic

If people wanted to see this tepid techo-thriller, wouldn't they have seen it 15 months ago? Perhaps this ill-fated site -- which has clearly outlived its usefulness -- represents a last-ditch effort by Sony to drum up interest in Mnemonic. Or could the all-powerful William Gibson be pulling strings to keep it alive? The more likely explanation is that Sony's new media staff simply forgot about the aging Mnemonic site, just as film audiences forgot the film when it was released last year.

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Site is Dead, shows Advanced Decay

Jerry Garcia is Dead

As Chevy Chase might say, "Jerry Garcia is still dead", and so is this special commerative site, put up by Pathfinder and People Magazine to serve as a virtual wailing wall for grieving deadheads back in August 1995. If you enjoy the feeling of being frozen in time, bookmark this page - not a byte has changed in 14 months.

In the site's defense, the Dead scene has been so quiet in recent months that any updates would probably be gratuitous, but a year's worth of bit rot produces some disturbingly undignified artifacts. Click on "Captain Trip's Memorial Wall" and you'll be greeted by the bland message: "Sorry, Captain Trip's Memorial Wall Is No Longer In Service". For God's sake, it's a memorial wall to Jerry - not a subway car with brake trouble.

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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?

(javascript required)

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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