he elevator in the Chelsea Hotel. Extraterrestrial life and Mick Jagger. The curse of 27. If the rock world wasn't bizarre enough on its own, there have been incidents (for lack of a better term) that aren't exactly the easiest to explain. Recent headlines haven't eased up on the wackiness/weirdness, with the supposed ghosts of Michael Jackson and Jim Morrison allegedly appearing on film. Whether or not you believe in the paranormal, some of the eerie stories swirling around do give one pause. Besides, when the usual Nine Inch Nails, Aphex Twin, or Marilyn Manson videos fail to deliver goosebumps, it helps to have a little extra creepy ammo for Halloween.
Ever since the infamous rumor spawned that 1920's bluesman Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil, the dark side of rock has been an alluring subject of gossip and there's plenty to talk about. From haunted studio sessions to deaths under mysterious circumstances, Ultimate-Guitar has found some of the music world's most intriguing stories to discuss this Halloween. It will be up to you, of course, to decide whether they deserve the description of bone-chilling or blasphemous. And if you happen to be in the neighborhood of any of the mentioned haunted sites, don't be afraid to channel your inner Ghostbuster.
The Chelsea Hotel, New York
This is one hotel that already had plenty of history before Sid Vicious ever stepped foot in it. The spirits of writers Dylan Thomas and Thomas Wolfe have reportedly wandered the famed Manhattan hotel, while resident Janis Joplin once uttered, A lot of funky things happen in Chelsea. And then there was Sid. The Sex Pistols' scandalous bass player allegedly stabbed girlfriend Nancy Spungen in Room 100 during one of their many stays at The Chelsea, only to die months later by a heroin overdose (which his mother claimed to have administered). It was a tragic end to an individual, who although may not have been the most proficient at his instrument, still is a testament to the early days of punk by his image alone. If witnesses at the Chelsea Hotel are correct, his spirit is far from settled. Since Vicious' death, residents have claimed that his spirit, still torn over the murder of Spungen, is said to haunt Chelsea's elevator.
Lalaurie House, New Orleans
Do you plan on making a pilgrimage to New Orleans for Mardi Gras this year? You might consider dropping by the Lalaurie Mansion, a hotspot on the Rampart side of the French Quarter that is apparently teeming with rock legends.
If the tales are true, witnesses claim Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham's ghost plays a game of pool now again, and The Who's Keith Moon has been sighted relaxing in a wrought iron chair on the balcony. Check out New Orleans' wide assortment of Haunted History Tours while in The Big Easy, and you'll be able to get your fix of voodoo and vampires along with your Bonham sighting.
The Beatles' Free As A Bird Single
Back in 2006, a team of the world's top psychics were asked to relay any messages from the deceased John Lennon live on Pay-Per-View. It's up for debate if anything that is financially motivated can be taken seriously, but it's truly unsettling when a friend and former band member claims to be haunted. In 2005 Paul McCartney said he believed that Lennon not only haunted the recording of Free As A Bird, he also left a message on the B-Side.
McCartney said, We were listening to the finished single in the studio one night, and it gets to the end and it goes, Zzzwrkngggwaaahh Jooohn Lennnnnnon qwwwrk.' I swear to God. We were like, It's John! He likes it!
The Mansion, Los Angeles
As one of the most sought-after sites to record albums, Harry Houdini's estate (more commonly known as The Mansion) was already said to have been haunted by the time the famed magician moved into the mansion. The story passed down says that that the son of a furniture store owner pushed his lover off the balcony in 1918, and the residence is now inhabited by a discontented spirit. Regardless of the possible problems that lost souls might cause, some of the top names in rock have flocked there and they've got a few stories to tell since their stays at the Mansion. Mars Volta's Cedric Bixler Zavala claimed he and his bandmates avoided one particularly creepy bell tower altogether, while also mentioning that he witnessed doors close on their own. Slipknot's Corey Taylor photographed mysterious floating orbs, and Red Hot Chili Peppers' Chad Smith refused to sleep there overnight. If you want to visit the Laurel Canyon hideaway it will cost around $1,500 to rent per night, but between the ghosts and the musical history accompanying it, it might just be worth it.
Miloco Studios, London
The Arctic Monkeys' frontman Alex Turner claimed his 2007 album Favourite Worst Nightmare was also recorded under mysterious circumstances. The band's second offering was recorded at London's Miloco Studios, a location that has welcomed everyone from Oasis to Nick Cave to Trivium over the years. Although Turner did not relay any specific firsthand encounters with the supposed child ghost, Elsie, he did say that whispers have mysteriously shown up on past recordings.
The Devil's Interval
The tritone in music, otherwise known as the Devil's Interval, isn't necessarily an open-ended mystery like a haunting or unexplained death, but it's certainly a conversation piece. The musical interval that spans three whole notes (an augmented fourth) has been said to create a sound that beckons the beast. It's true that Black Sabbath has been known to use the tritone (as many a heavy metal musicians has over the years as well), but it has also found its way into other more immaculate genres.
Case in point? The highly sterile musical West Side Story is guilty of using the Devil's Interval. When it was found in the score for TV's beloved animated Simpsons, this theory was dead in the water.
Highland Gardens Hotel, Los Angeles
After Janis Joplin's tragic end from a heroin overdose in 1970, it's no surprise that the site of her death began to spark stories of ghostly hauntings. Although Joplin technically passed away in Room 105, that is not the specific location mentioned in relation to the paranormal activity. Residents claim that if you mention Joplin's name in the Highland Gardens' lobby, pictures fly off of the wall, doors slam, and the phones ring off the hook.
If you're an amateur Ghost Hunter who happens to be in the Los Angeles area, this is one claim that can be verified or debunked fairly quickly. If you're not fully convinced, an overnight stay in Room 105 is recommended.
Mick Jagger's UFO Sighting
For each haunted house or studio, there's a tale of a UFO. It's not every day that a member of The Rolling Stones is mentioned in the same breath as the words flying saucer, but Mick Jagger allegedly did at one time have a strange fascination with the phenomena.
In the book Alien Rock: The Rock n' Roll Extraterrestrial Connection, author Michael C. Luckman claims that during a 1968 camping trip to Glastonbury, Jagger did encounter an unidentified flying object.
The experience left such a dramatic impression on the singer that he allegedly installed a UFO detector at his estate.
The Club of 27
We can hear about ghosts until we're blue in the face, but many of us will remain skeptics. Sometimes the eerie circumstances around death can be more frightening than any apparition. Take, for example, what has been deemed The Club of 27 one clique you don't want to join.
The musicians that make up this so-called Club of 27 all share one unsettling trait: dying at the age of 27. Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and most recently, Kurt Cobain. To bring it back full circle, blueseman Robert Johnson also is a tragic member of the Club of 27. I don't know how all of the other musicians out there feel, but the 30's are looking quite good.
Article by Amy Kelly Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2009