November 4, 1999

by Steve Baldwin

We were a bit taken aback when Morbus,'s Webmaster, informed us that BESS, an Internet Filtering Product of a company called N2H2, was blocking Ghost Sites from being seen by five million children across the U.S.A.

Internet porn is, of course, a serious issue, and so is being silenced by BESS-style censoring software. We even went so far as to write a long, pleading letter to BESS's Cyber-Censors, but received nothing in reply, which is typical of the response you get when Big Brother decides he doesn't like you for some reason.

Let's face it though, Ghost Sites really is a pretty corrupting influence, and maybe we deserve to be blocked, shut up, and crucified by some evil piece of software whose logo is a slavering guard dog. After all, think of what might happen if every kid in America started seriously scrutinizing the ancient cheese that's served up in this medium, and started loudly complaining about it. Just about every Public School and University server in America would have to update its ancient curriculum pages, faculty lists, and other outdated whatnot. Pandemonium would break out!

If the Updating Revolution spread far enough, even those sneaky Cyber-Censors might have to update their blacklists more than once a decade. Unthinkable!

P.S.: We have another abbreviated Dead Site list again this month - the Netslaves Book Tour is still taking its toll. Within a month, however, all the hoopla will end, and our entropy level will return to normal around here.

The University Center

As long as Ghost Sites finds itself at war with the educational establishment, let it be known that the College of William and Mary is harboring a liberal dose of bit rot within its ivied walls. Take a gander at the University Center, which dates from 1996-97 and is optimized for Netscape Navigator 2.0. Take a step further into this strange college catacomb and you'll be greeted by the University Center Menu Page : it's a little newer (April 1998), but no less bitrotten.

In fairness to the College, this Ghost Site isn't an officially sanctioned project - it's just a bunch of pages that some college kid turned out for a class project as a homage to "The Spot" (God help him). But you know what? The official site of the College of William and Mary isn't much better. Take a look at its current Commencement Schedule Page - it's from May of 1999.

See, this is the kind of stuff that BESS doesn't want your kids to know!

Thanks to Amey for pointing out this one.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

The York Free Guide

DLeonard was kind enough to let us know that The York Free Guide, a cyber-product of The Evening Press, a British newspaper, stopped updating its monthly guide to York, England back in August of 1998.

The site's bit rot is particularly evident when visiting its once bustling Gig Guide, its Cinema Section, and its Theatre area. Fortunately, the Historical Attractions Area, which discusses York's famous medieval walls, can probably be relied upon. York's fortifications, which apparently retain "something like 95 per cent of their medieval circumference", probably haven't changed much in 15 months, which makes them a safe bet to visit if you're in the neighborhood.

More recently, the Evening Press launched a new site devoted to York called This is York. With luck and a few strategic fortifications, it will hopefully stay a lot less medieval than the York Free Guide now is.

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

The Tacoma Reporter Online

The home page of the Tacoma Reporter Online is quite a depressing place, because it features a grim story about drug addiction entitled "High Times in the City of Destiny" published on January 14th, 1998. It's actually a very well-written, horrifying article, but is it so well-written and so horrifying that it deserves to stay up for 22 months after its initial publication date?

The site's Reviews Section isn't any fresher. All of the movies, musicians, and performers have long since departed "The City of Destiny". It's an eerie feeling - like touring a town whose population has been mysteriously wiped out by an evil plague.

We hope someday to get up to Tacoma to see if there's anybody left up there, but it isn't exactly a priority right now. We're too busy wrestling with the FTP Monkey that's always gnawing at our back, begging us to shoot up our Web site with a freshly intoxicating injection of fresh content. Some life, eh?

Thanks to LSkaggs for this Ghost Site tip.

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Site is Dead, Shows Advanced Decay

President '96

Hey, did you know that some guy named Hamilton has been running America for the last three years? That would explain a lot, wouldn't it?

The President '96 site is, of course, an elaborate, completely fake election "game" that was built at enormous expense by various digital visionaries at CNN, AOL, Time-Warner, and Crossover Technologies during the frantic early days of the Web, when hare-brained interactive schemes were rife and reality-challenged corporations spent megabucks producing them.

I imagine that the main reason President '96's creators have kept this site hanging around for so long is because they needed to prove to their subsequent employers how good they were at wasting money. Large parts of the ersatz 1996 campaign are still up, including a 10-part Timeline, a News Archive Page, and naturally, Candidate Profiles.

This whole silly mess will probably be up forever, which will provide historians of the Year 2099 with a lot of interesting revisionist possibilities for interpreting our political history.

You don't think this will happen? Just wait!

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Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum

The Cool Moose Party

As long as we're rewriting political history, let it be known that The Cool Moose Party, led by one Robert J. Healey, attempted to establish itself as a credible 3rd Party force in Rhode Island back in 1995, and launched a small Web site to promote its efforts. We don't know what happened to the Party, but the Web site is a wreck, which suggests that the Cool Mooses never effectively seized power.

Unless you're a fanatical historian of Libertarianism, I doubt you'll find much content of interest amid the Cool Moose Party's platform documents, its Charter and By-Laws, and its program for economic redevelopment in Rhode Island. But it seems, at least from outward appearances, that these people were serious about their political objectives - at least a lot more serious than they were about keeping their Web site up to date.

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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

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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