January 9, 1999

by Steve Baldwin

It's been a wild month here at Ghost Sites - several sites (including Upside.Com, Slashdot, and the Boston Globe) linked to us, which caused a flood of Dead Site Tips to pour in through the Ghost-O-Meter. The result is the single biggest crop of Web Death that I've ever seen.

This issue's listings reflect only the very tip of the iceberg - as I plow through the rest of this vast, morbid cache, I'll try to accelerate our (more or less monthly) publishing schedule to get these new Ghost Sites out to you more quickly.

A few years ago, when I was just starting Ghost Sites, Bruce Judson (a person I consider very wise who's also been very supportive) cautioned me that the biggest problem I'd have in making Ghost Sites sustain itself was running out of dead sites to write up. And while Bruce's probably right in the long term, I can safely say that your recent spate of tips have provided enough fuel for our skeleton crew of Webleologists to keep firing out reviews for at least three months - an eternity of time in this breakneck-fast medium.

So thank you people - I really couldn't do Ghost Sites without you.

Two final, crassly cross-promotional notes: first, if you're interested in meeting some of the benighted people who labored in some of the Net's great fiascos, please check out NetSlaves - a new project concocted by myself and co-editor Bill Lessard. Also, one or two of you might want to check out an MP3 single that I've recently released to the Net - its theme, while not directly related to Ghost Sites, is characteristically morbid in tone.


This high-profile parody of Michael Kinsley's well-funded e-zine, Slate, was put up in August, 1996, and it captured the look, feel, and tweed jacket editorial sensibility of Slate so well that (legend has it) a clueless newspaper mistakenly attributed one of its fake features to Slate itself.

Seventeen months later, Stale's parody articles are still pretty funny, but the passage of time is making its visual parody much less effective. For starters, the parody site doesn't look much like Slate anymore, because so many MSN logos, Microsoft-sponsored links, and other promotional flotsam deface the genuine article that Kinsley's poor site now more closely resembles a 3rd-tier MSN channel page than it does The New Yorker.

As was the case with Crapfinder (an infamous parody site of Time-Warner's Pathfinder) historians will need to resort to this parody site if they need to study Slate's earliest electronic incarnation.

Thanks to guyjr for this tip, submitted through the Ghost-O-Meter.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

HiFi on WWW

Here's an unfortunate Ghost Site whose author explains "has lately not been updated due to all the problems with the criminals in Hong Kong".

The author goes on to say that "Someone from Hong Kong has been sending numerous spam messages with faked headers to users all over the world pretending to be me." Mysterious spam attacks, bulletin board impersonations, and mailbombing followed, and the unfortunate webmaster gave up the HiFi on WWW site (which was reportedly very well-trafficked), in late 1996.

Who were these unnamed Hong Kong Criminals? What were they trying to stop this Web site from saying? Until a latter-day Lemmee Caution steps forward to protect the innocent and punish the guilty in Hong Kong's shadowy e-commerce districts, HiFi on WWW's corpse serves as a chilling warning.

Thanks to Danny van Dam for this tip.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

Michelle Shocked: ShellShock

"She could have let a corporation own her music, seize it and shape it and crumple it up and throw it away. Instead she put up a fight, and she won, bloody but unbowed."

What this site's hyperbolic copywriter is trying to tell us is that Michelle Shocked, who apparently suffered many ills and abuses when signed to her bloodthirsty record label, was lucky enough to break free and put out a CD on a small indie label. To promote the CD, the ShellShock site was launched in late 1996, and we hope it served its purpose.

Now, however, this site is a desultory wreck - its weekly updates were abandoned years ago, its link to Shocked's label is broken, and its merchandising section is still under construction.

We frankly don't know much about Shocked's brand of music, but suspect that if she knew how moldy her Web presence is, she'd write an angry protest song about it. In the meantime, this Ghost Site brings up a troublesome question: is having a major corporation "own, seize, shape, crumple, and throw out" one's music any worse than putting it up on the Web yourself, and letting it grow a beard of fungus?

Thanks to jwmacneill for this tip, submitted through the Ghost-O-Meter.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay


Once upon a time, "eye candy" was something many Web surfers actively sought out as a refreshing change from the slate gray drudgery of 1994-era HTML pages.

The legitimate desire of users to see something more interesting than basic H1 and H2 formatting commands was, unfortunately, not lost on Web designers, who used it as an excuse to cram sites with as many animated gizmos, plug-ins, and useless applets as humanly possible.

The ultimate result of the eye candy craze is the Web we see today - a blighted wasteland of unwanted billboards, gratuitous rollovers, and maddening interstitial marketing messages. Perhaps the whole sickness started with Eye Candy - a Ghost Site whose garish lights went out in October, 1997, but whose creators, in their infinite wisdom, willed it to the Net as a permanent "design resource" (and source of eternal eye strain).

Thanks to LordVague for pointing out Eye Candy's demise to us.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

The Highway 17 Page of Shame

This fascinating site redefines "road rage" for the Internet Age by telling the tale of "two geeks with Apple Quicktakes" who mercilessly documented the idiotic driving habits of their fellow motorists on California's Highway 17 - the main artery between Santa Cruz and San Jose.

Although they blurred out the license plates of each clueless driver they photographed (to avoid lawsuits), the authors pull no punches when describing what they see as the true bane of the highways - bad drivers behind the wheels of expensive foreign cars.

BMW drivers ("marketing dweebs - all hair and teeth, but no brain"), and Volvo drivers (who believe that their safety equipment means they have a right to drive at "ramming speed") bear the brunt of the authors' wrath, but minivan drivers (who have a penchant for teasing their hair in the fast lane), and drivers of SUVs ("Silly Ungainly Vehicles") don't do much better. Each is well represented in the authors' Jerqe du Jour - an illustrated gallery of driving pathology.

The Highway 17 Page of Shame ran out of petrol in April of 1996, after its authors relocated closer to work, and while they probably saved their lives in doing so, their abandonment of this project deprived the Net of a horrifying, entertaining, and throroughly educational resource whose gauntlet we can only hope will be taken up by other motorists seeking a way to avenge themselves against America's worst drivers.

Thanks to darren for this tip, submitted through the Ghost-O-Meter.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

The 1996 Democratic National Convention

If you've ever wondered what happened to that famous "Bridge to the Year 2000" the Democrats were building a few years ago, you owe yourself a trip to this frozen site, where the span's shattered girders still shimmer in the gloom.

Remember "A Place called Hope?" Although you can't learn much about its exact location, you can still listen to mind-numbing convention speeches, download a customized "DNCC News Ticker" that installs itself on your task bar, play a "Jammin' with Bill" Saxophone Java applet, and even print out a beautiful, highly optimistic souvenir T-shirt image that you can transfer to your favorite article of clothing.

Cache this site, my friends, and do it soon. My bet is that digital relics of the Dem's August 1996 lovefest will soon be very scarce - scarcer than hope, decency, and common sense.

Thanks to markbyrn for this tip, sent through the Ghost-O-Meter.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

Geezer Gear

This modest commercial site sought to channel the incipient rage of aging Baby Boomers by offering them T-Shirts, Golf Caps, and BBQ Aprons emblazened with the words "Outta My Way, Kid!".

We agree with Geezer Gear that young people shouldn't be the only ones to wear offensive messages on their chests. But we also know that as you get older, you spend a lot less money on clothes, which is perhaps why Geezer Gear's site shows so many signs of approaching mortality, including a "Best Viewed with Netscape 1.1" warning, a broken traffic counter, and a date stamp from September, 1996 - a time when everyone was a lot younger, and probably a lot nicer than we are today.

Thanks to jwmacneill for this one.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

Quake Cafe

"1/30/98 - Dear g0d make it STOP!" screams this page, and the Quake Cafe crumpled to a bloody pulp eleven long months ago, after providing Quake files, Quake-fests (also known as "LAN Parties"), and other Quakephilia to the gaming community for several carnage-ridden months.

As a recovering Quake addict, I'd like to think that this site's author made a clean break with this evil game, found a job, a girl, and a peaceful, well-lit place somewhere in the real world, out of reach of the tentacled armies of the night.

But I also know that there's an equal chance that he's now playing it 24x7, and won't ever make it back.

Thanks to chrismcc for notice of the Quake Cafe's demise.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay


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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