September 7, 1999

by Steve Baldwin

Well, it's been a long, hot Summer, and we hope you got a nice break from your FTP Client, your "What's New" page, and all the other brain-numbing details of keeping whatever Web presence you have up-to-date.

If not, don't worry too much about having your decaying Web Wreck spotted by our Ghost Team in the next few months. Our Skeleton Crew isn't actually going AWOL from Watch Duty, but we'll probably be distracted by events connected with the rather bizarre success of NetSlaves, which will have many of our researchers travelling around the U.S.A., promoting this nutty book.

Don't get the idea that we'd let a silly little thing like a book tour get in the way of our Ahab-like quest to chronicle Web Decay, Failure, Entropy, and Ennui. We'll continue to do or Virtual Body Count from sleazy motels and Greyhound bus stations across America, and will do our best to keep cranking out this odd column on time, every time. So please keep those Dead Site Tips coming in!

Niederhoffer Investments, Inc.

Picture, if you will, a man who had everything - a Harvard Education, a flinty will to rule the Universe, bold and unconventional bold views on sports, sex, and financial speculation, and you'll have an accurate but very partial picture of Victor Niederhoffer, whose site received its last update almost two years ago.

Now picture financial tragedy stopping the heart of this digital shrine to the greatness of the man - his peerless professional associations, Squash championships, private libraries, a loving family, and most of all, his relentless passion to win. Imagine the moment when the value of tens of millions of dollars of "Put" options vaporized in an unexpected 500 point drop in the stock market in late October, 1997. That's the moment when time stopped for (not to be confused with; a site actively maintained by Victor's brother).

This frozen site is right out of Bonfire of the Vanities, with a touch of Citizen Kane, Icarus, and An American Tragedy mixed in for good measure. It's a chilling cyber-snapshot of the Icarus-like tragectory of a man who had so much, and lost so much - in a matter of minutes. Of all the Ghost Sites I've seen, its content is most quintessentially American - the scorched cinders of a spectacular financial flame-out.

Thanks to the enterprising tipster (who wishes to remain anonymous, because he's in the investment biz) for sending this extraordinary find on to us.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

CyberWire Digest

One of the boldest, baddest reporters to emerge from the Web's early days was Brock Meeks, whose CyberWire Digest provided a much-needed electronic hotline for everyone beleagured by The Communications Decency Act, a proposed Federal Law which threatened to throw writers, editors, health professionals, and pornographers into prison for publishing any Web content that a 10-year old might find "annoying".

Brock hasn't uploaded any new CyberWire Digests for many months, because, he says "he's a lousy Webmaster". But it's also true that today's post-CDA is a much less hysterical (although no less ominous) era, where threats to free electronic speech are less easily localizable in something as brutish, stupid, and ill-conceived as the CDA. Consequently, firebrand columnists like Brock seem to be out of fashion now (unless they write about IPOs, of course, or serve up tabloid pap for television-level IQ's).

But Meeks avers that Cyberwerks "is no Ghost site - just highly inactive." Which means that CWD may be back some day -- to level withering fire against any enterprising politician stepping too close to the First Amendment with a lit blowtorch.

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Site is Dying in I.C.U.

Los Lobos

Somehow, we've managed to get through life without developing a strong opinion on Los Lobos - a five piece Tex-Mex band based in East Los Angeles. And we would probably have continued to enjoy our blitheful ignorance forever, had it not been for Dugwa, who pointed out that the band's official Warner Brothers Records site hasn't been updated for two and a half years.

Warner Brothers can probably be forgiven for keeping this ghost site alive long past its prime - the site isn't even referenced from's home page (although it's obviously still being indexed by Web spiders). Odds are that the record company is probably too busy trying to sabatoge the MP3 Free Music Movement to spend time purging obsolete band pages from its servers.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

ROCK 100.3

"Something's Coming..." reads the home page for ROCK 100.3 - a Minneapolis radio station transmitting on the 281 meter band. But what? A big fat zero, according to Ghost Sites tipster CELang:

"This site was originally set up to promote the giveaway of a car at the 1998 Minnesota State Fair. Shortly after the Fair ended (Sept 1998), the site was reduced to its present state. Rock 100.3 no longer exists, having recently dumped their rock format. The "something's coming" notice is vague enough that I suppose it could mean Christmas, Y2K, and/or eternity. What probably ISN'T coming is a new web site."

After the August, 1999 format change to "Classic Hits" (which resulted in the merciful discontinuance of shock jock Howard Stern's syndicated feed in Minneapolis), WQRC became WLOL.We can only hope the last three letters of its Call Sign mean "Lots of Luck" (not "Laughing Out Loud").

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Site is Dead. Shows Advanced Decay

Monday Magazine

This peculiar relic was found one morning by Morbus,'s Webmaster, as he was sifting through some of his old links.

Monday Magazine is a rather amateurish-looking, business- oriented zine which ran out of steam almost a year ago, after running for about six months. In its short run, it served up a megadose of pragmatic, no-nonsense articles on entrepreneurship, taxes, and other grim stuff that's very much in-fashion these days with the Cash Generation, so it's a real mystery why it went sank (although we suspect that it's really ugly design might have had something to do with it).

Monday Magazine's Media Kit contains a mission statement pledging that it would cover "articles of persisting importance for businessmen and entrepreneurs". Unfortunately, to let articles persist this long without being updated certainly diminishes their importance.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

The Geek Code

This charmingly ancient effort to quantify one's Personal Geekiness Quotient dates from March, 1996, and it's a useful yardstick to measure the progress of Geek Culture, whose particular fixations may have changed in 3 years, but whose general attitudes, core preoccupations, and modes of being have held as rock-steady as Gibralter.

It seems that one of the tongue-in-cheek goals of The Geek Code's author, Robert A. Hayden, was to produce an actual line of code contained within a PGP-like "Geek Block" of text which, once properly decoded, would reveal one's own Geekiness quotient in exactly the sort of maddeningly granular detail which is the bread and butter of the true Geek. (Does this guy have too much time on his hands, or what?)

This is funny material which is still funny 3 years after it was posted, although many references to various USENET Oracles, DOOM, CypherPunks, and Babylon 5 exponents seem a bit dated. The fact that Hayden's grand plan never became a universal fixture of E-mail SIG files doesn't detract from the grandiose novelty of his ur-geeky vision.

Any enterprising Geeks out there care to give Hayden a hand appending the Geek Code for the New Millenium? You'd probably be elected a God in no time.

Thanks to ship3918 (a Geek, perhaps?) for this tip.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

Per's MANifesto

Per's MANifesto was a monthly electronic newsletter which ran from May of 1996 to October of 1998. It billed itself as "the premier webzine on man-bashing and feminist intolerance", and is depressing reading for anyone who hasn't already declared Total War on the opposite sex.

We don't know why the MANifesto isn't still being published, but we doubt it's the result of some evil FemiNazi plot. Perhaps Per got weary of hammering out this sort of content, month after month, did some soul-searching, and became a consciencious objector in the Gender Wars. Maybe he met a nice gal on and forgot the whole thing.

We'd speculate more, but we find the whole subject too depressing. Maybe we're just a bunch of wimps around here who don't have the guts to arm ourselves for the Great Sexual Apocalypse to come, but we'd like to think that the Great Webmaster in the Sky had grander plans for humanity than to let the whole thing degrade into this kind of pointless verbal shooting match.

Thanks to Kevan Whitten for this tip.

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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?

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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

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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