Incredibly Strange Events And The End Of Stardust Superkill
(before it ever began).
Looking back now I can't help but think- could it be that I had been living in an actual haunted house?
And, bizarre as it may seem, is it possible that the voices of the dead had somehow found their way into my home recordings?
Here is the entire true story…
Some time ago I decided I wanted to record and produce my own CD. It was going to be a very ambitious project and I was really excited about it. Not only was I going to write, perform and record all of the music myself, but I also wanted to try to take the cover art and CD insert a step further than most home produced CDs. I was going to illustrate and put together a 12 panel fold out containing all original art and lyrics done in a psychedelic comic book style, all pen and ink and photocopy cut and paste. I was also planning on making a completely separate 32 page, full color companion comic book. The comic would have the lyrical stories of some of the songs illustrated so that one could listen to the CD and follow along as the songs came to life on the pages. The comic book was also going to have puzzles and some black and white pages that people could color themselves. I was going to do all of this under the name Stardust Superkill and the album was going to be called "Strange Stories Of The Mad And Macabre".
Ultimately though, some strange and disturbing events led to the demise of this project before it was ever even finished.
What follows is a true account of these events.
Almost the entire CD "Strange Stories Of The Mad And Macabre" was recorded in the one bedroom apartment that I lived in located in the North Park area of San Diego, CA (with the exception of some of the vocal tracks which were recorded in my friend’s garage).
About 3 weeks after moving into this apartment I started to notice some strange activity. Random mysterious tapping noises on walls and windows at all hours of the day and night. The sounds of things being shuffled around in unoccupied rooms. Objects missing from their designated spots only to turn up later in odd places. Drawers and cupboard doors that were shut tight when leaving a room hanging wide open upon return.
These things didn't happen daily, maybe like every few weeks or so and certainly not enough to scare me out, although it was unnerving at times.
One afternoon about 5 months after I moved in, the maintenance man was over doing a minor repair on the kitchen sink. I jokingly made an off comment about how I sometimes hear strange noises around my apartment and maybe he could fix that after he was finished with the sink. For a moment he stopped what he was doing and looked over at me. "So you've heard the ghost?" was his reply.
This sent legitimate shivers down my spine.
Accentuating what he had just said was the fact that the maintenance man was pretty damn creepy himself.
He looked like the kind of guy you would see in some horror movie- the town crazy who claims to "know things" and comes out of nowhere with an ominous warning: "You kids don't want to go in there, it's got a death curse! I have warned thee!!" His hair was wild and his choice in clothing odd.
He had one lazy eye and a speech impediment that at times made him extremely hard to understand. Given the chance he would talk endlessly at you about light fixtures, plumbing, and carpet brands.
He was truly a piece of work.
Ignoring the known fact that this man had a penchant for long-windedness, I took a chance and said to him, "What do you mean 'the ghost'? What ghost?"
"The one that lives in this apartment." he said.
I laughed nervously and thought this guy can't be serious. Oh, he was serious. He put down his tools and went off on this crazy story.
(I'll give you the short version.)
He said that back in the 1890's my apartment was the only structure standing on this piece of land. Back then it was a small house owned by a woman who had a bad reputation. A reputation for hard drinking, carousing with men in the local saloons and bringing many of them home to her bed. Well eventually her sinful ways caught up with her when she contracted "The Great Scourge"- Syphilis. Now in those days there was no cure for syphilis. Penicillin hadn't even been invented yet. Some people infected with the disease could go years without symptoms while others were not so lucky. Because of her excessive drinking and generally unhealthy lifestyle, the disease took its toll on her quickly.
Then finally, after some years, half blind and partially insane as a result of her now terminal syphilitic infection, she took her own life.
Through the years many different owners did various renovations to what used to be her home. Windows and doorways were moved around and a second story was added. Then in the early 1960's it was remodeled into two separate, two-story apartments, with an adjacent complex consisting of 8 more apartments forming the buildings that still stand basically unchanged to this day.
BULLSHIT! I thought. How could this freak of nature possibly know all of this?
"Wanna know how I know this stuff?" He said as if he had just read my mind.
"Yes of course you babbling fool!" was what I wanted to say to him. Instead I just nodded.
"I know 'cuz I've lived in this area my whole life, so did my parents and grandparents. I know lots of things that have gone on around here. Plus…" He paused for what appeared to be dramatic effect. "…I found her diary…right here… in this apartment." He pointed at the floor as my chin dropped. "NO WAY." was my reply. "Yep. 6 years ago I was doing a remodel job on the closet in the bedroom, I pulled back some boards and there it was, wrapped in some newspaper and jammed inside the wall." "You have to show me!" I said, curiosity driving me now. "I ain't got it." he said. "I read most of it but then I burned it. She was a sinner. You can't have something like that lyin' around, it's bad juju."
When he finally stopped talking and finished his work, he packed up his tools and was almost out the door when he suddenly paused and turned to me. "Oh, and in case you're wondering," he said, looking me straight in the eyes, "her name is Elizabeth." Chills then as the door shut behind him. Chills and silence.
For the most part I didn't take his little ghost story very seriously, even with all the strange things going on around my place. I mean come on, some woman got V.D. 100+ years ago then offed herself and now she's crawling around in the walls of my apartment? It sounded silly to me. I figured he was probably just loaded-up on whiskey and talking shit. He seemed like that type of dude.
It wasn't until I was knee deep in the recording of the tracks for "Strange Stories…” that I started to think there might be something very weird at work here.
It all started when I sat down one day to listen to some of the stuff I had recorded the previous night. I was shocked to find some sounds that I had not recorded!
I figured it must be some kind of malfunction so I rewound it back to the beginning to have a closer listen.
I played back the separate tracks one by one to see where these mysterious noises were coming from only to find that the sounds were actually EMBEDDED IN THE MUSIC ON CERTAIN TRACKS!
For example, one guitar track would contain the odd sounds and the others, for whatever reason, would remain untouched. And it was different from song to song! Where a guitar track was affected on one song, it would be a keyboard or drum track on another. The thing that was so alarming about this was the fact that these noises didn't sound like your average technical difficulties like electronic hum or buzzing, IT ACTUALLY SOUNDED LIKE SOMEONE TALKING OR WHISPERING SOMETHING! At first I told myself that this must have been caused by interference from a cell phone, BlueTooth speakers or some kind of radio. But sometimes it sounded like someone doing something like moving boxes around, shuffling things or knocking things over, not the kind of things that you would hear in a cell phone conversation. And the sounds wouldn't be there when I was recording. Instead I would notice them the next day or sometimes a week later.
Even though I was sure there was nothing wrong with my recording device, I took it to a certified repair specialist anyway. Sure enough, everything checked out and they said my machine was working perfectly.
After a month or so of frustration trying different recording and mixing methods to cover up the strange noises, I decided to quit fighting it and just left the tracks the way they were. Besides, the sounds only popped up in random places throughout the songs and were relatively quiet in relation to the music. I needed to get this CD finished so I just let them become part of the music, to be burned forever into the final masters. For the most part your average listener would never notice any of this stuff anyway, especially with all the dense track layering and sound effects going on. The speakers and E.Q. settings of the sound system you're playing it on also affects how many of these noises creep through. To really hear them you would have to listen to the CD through a pair of high quality headphones or professional studio monitors.
As a side note I should mention that the tracks that were recorded in my friend’s garage showed no sign of the eerie sounds. The same is true when I used my recording device anyplace other than in my apartment.
Around this time a friend told me about a movie called "White Noise" starring Michael Keaton. I nearly shit myself the first time I saw a trailer for it on YouTube. It tells the story of a man who stumbles upon a way to contact his recently deceased wife using something called Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP).
EVP, the commercial went on to say, is "...the process by which the dead, through sound and image, communicate with the living through the static and white noise of modern electronic devices.”
I immediately looked up EVP and was shocked to discover that there are thousands of web sites about this stuff including an organization called The Association TransCommunication (ATransC) that has been dedicated to the study of EVP since 1982!
At this point the entire recording process had started to become very tedious and aggravating to me. These strange noises were beginning to drive me a bit crazy and working around them was becoming a real chore. When I wasn't recording I was illustrating this huge 12 panel fold out and insert that was to go with the disc (pictured below). Twice pages I had spent many hours illustrating went missing and I had to re-draw them all over again (it wasn't until I moved out of the apartment that I found both of the missing pages together, mysteriously stuffed behind some dishes in the very back of a high kitchen cabinet). It was all becoming quite maddening and I was really beginning to hate the whole project but eventually I finished the CD and had 1000 copies pressed. A friend helped me put together a website and a Paypal account so I could sell CDs online.
Then I began illustrating the full color comic book which was to be a companion to the CD. My plan was to finish the companion comic book (some of the finished pages are pictured below), have it printed up and then offer them both together as a set. Once I had the set finished I could update the website, create social media pages and everything else needed to start promoting the whole thing.
Well none of that ever happened and I never even finished the comic book. I was about 90% done when I simply could not take anymore. Illustrated pages would disappear then turn up in weird places, art files that I had put hours of work into would come up corrupt on my computer and strange noises would wake me in the middle of the night. The whole thing was making me absolutely nuts! I hated the entire CD I had created and now I hated the comic book I was making too, so I dumped the whole project.
I didn't even care about all the money I had spent on pressing and printing. I pulled down the website, boxed up the remaining CDs and put them into storage in a friend’s garage with the intention of picking them up later and bringing them to the dump (at this point I had sold and given to friends around 400 copies).
I moved out of that cursed apartment and pretty much forgot about the whole mess. I never went back to take the remaining CDs to the dump and so there they sit to this very day, collecting cobwebs in a dilapidated garage in San Diego.
Years later, back in Washington State, when I started writing and recording the songs for my virtual / webcomic band, The Toxik Idols, there was one song from the SDSK recordings that I kept thinking would make a perfect addition to the project.
The track was called “Deth Hippies on LSD” and even though a good portion had initially been recorded using an analog multitrack cassette recorder, the song was completed on my old digital audio workstation in the “haunted” apartment. I hadn’t turned it on since leaving that place so I had no idea if the hard drive would even still work.
I dug the old recorder out of storage and fired it up. Luckily, it seemed to be working fine and all of the songs from the SDSK recordings were still intact.
I added some minor touches to “Deth Hippies on LSD”, removed some unauthorized movie dialog and did a few different final mixes. After a week or so of listening to the mixes, I’d settled on what I felt was the best version but wanted to do one last little tweak. Only this time when I went to turn on the recorder: nothing. Totally dead. No amount of reboot attempts could revive it and I had never made any backup discs.
The hard drive was now completely dead, and along with it all of the original SDSK tracks containing the bizarre sounds. All except the one final mix of “Deth Hippies on LSD”, which did end up on The Toxik Idols album Death Pop Electric.
So what were these sounds embedded in the tracks of my aborted recording project?
Were they the result of some kind of electronic interference? Malfunctions caused by changes in temperature or atmospheric conditions? Faulty wiring? Equipment misuse? Improper connections? A bad guitar cable?
Or is it possible that these are transmissions from beyond the grave? A lost soul who had stumbled upon a way to send messages, however indecipherable, via the electronic pulses which traveled through my recording devices?
I don't claim to know the answers to any of these questions.
But if you should happen to come across the maintenance man, the one with the wild hair and lazy eye, I'm sure he would have some answers for you.
He would probably tell you that a sinner named Elizabeth is crying out in eternal unrest, delivering a warning from the forgotten darkness of her time-rotted tomb!