October 6, 1999

by Steve Baldwin

Welcome back to your favorite monthly dose of stinking, smoldering, and ruinated digital effluvia. I apologize for the fact that Ghost Sites' dead site count is a bit short this month - it's not that plenty of sites aren't dying, it's just that with a mild case of West Nile Fever, I'm too weary and weak to serve up more than a handful of them at a time. Provided that a full recovery is in store for our Skeleton Crew, we'll be back in November with a cart full of corpses, so please keep your Dead Site tips flowing in through the Ghost-o-Meter!

In other news, Disobey.com's creator Morbus has informed me of a new site being released on Halloween. If it follows the path Disobey has taken in the past, it's sure to be an excellent addition to its shaky waters. You can grab a sneak peek at http://www.disobey.com/horror/.


Dr. Frederick Lenz, AKA "Rama", was the leader of a cult which ensnared several prominent members of the mid-90's techno elite (now known as the digirati). Before he died by his own hand in 1998, Lenz had amassed a considerable list of achievements: he was a world-class snowboarder, a black-belt in karate, a best-selling author, the producer of 12 New Age rock albums, and even a Senior Systems Architect. (now, that last one takes talent!)

Lenz, in other words, was a real Tech Guru, not your garden variety Macarishi. Before things went terribly wrong for him, he put up this Web site, which has remained unchanged for many months. It's a very ghostly place, but less sinister than the famous Heaven's Gate site, many copies of which still litter the Internet. At least Lenz, for all his faults, wasn't fool enough to try to take his followers with him.

Thanks to Courtland Shafer for finding this site.

g g g g g

Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

Gadget (The Newsletter for Grown-Up Kids)

This sad, rusty site once functioned as a somewhat unsystematic guide to gadgetry - electronic gizmos and mechanical whatnots intended to "remind us of the child we once were". A product of General Media Communications (the publisher of Penthouse), this lavishly-illustrated site appears to have been killed shortly after its launch: only a handful of products were reviewed before its last update occurred in October of 1998.

Much to my own personal discredit, I've been personally involved in several ill-fated "gadget-oriented" sites (the most notorious being Time Warner's doomed "Gizmo"), so I know why Gadget News must have been such an appealing idea to someone on Guccione's staff. Running a site devoted to useless technology sounds like fun (one tends to wind up with drawers full of doo-dads that are too worthless to return to the vendor), but in practice, doing so is a real grind after the novelty runs thin. Worse, gadgetry-based sites inherently lack editorial focus worthy of attracting more than a handful of readers (yes, VCR remote controls, portable translators and hand-buzzers are all "gadgets", but does it necessarily follow that these disparate devices belong in the same category? Nope.)

Anyway, thanks to Caldara for pointing out this rusty bucket of bitrot - it brings back a lot of screamingly traumatic memories.

g g g g g

Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

Jesus.com and Christ.org

It took the Lord a mere seven days to set this whole mess into motion, so why is Jesus.com still "under development" 22 months after its last update? And why is Christ.org similarly bereft of refreshment, with the only adornment visible to human eyes a "This Domain for Sale" sign?

Now look - I'm a sinner that many righteous people would probably consider beyond any possible redemption. But isn't maintaining a site in Jesus's name, and either failing to update it, or worse, trying to make a quick buck off of it through a domain name sale a form of Blasphemy - perhaps even an Abomination?

If Jesus shows up January 1, and dials in, I'm sure he'll forgive us all, turn the other cheek, and surf on. But I'm not so sure that his Dad will feel so charitable (and one good lightning bolt aimed squarely at Network Solutions would be enough to put an end to all this nonsense forever).

Thanks to strupp for this Ghost Site tip.

g g g

Sites are Dead, but May Rise Again

Falchion's Music Cavern

This small mp3 music site (which seems to have been hastily constructed by a teenager) died this September for reasons which the site builder recounts in detail:

"all of a sudden the entire funpoint network disappeared from the face of the planet. That's right, it no longer exists. All of my files? Gone. I fortunately got a chance to back up most of it, but that does me little good when I have nowhere to upload them!"

Welcome to homelessness, 21st Century-style. I feel sorry for you, kid - I've been down so low in my life that I've had to resort to Geocities for a warm bed to ease me through the cold, cruel night, and advise you to do the same.

Now stop crying and finish your homework, will you?

g g g

Site is Dead, but Well Preserved


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.

Previous Issues

Text issues? Click here.
Web issues? Click here.

Read the next issue or
this issue in plain text.