Tag Archives: rock n’ roll deaths

C Is For Curses: Ten Famous Pop Culture Maledictions

On See You On The Other Side, we deal with all kinds of paranormal and unusual phenomena. While we love ghosts, UFOs, and cryptids, which are really the big three of the paranormal, we really just can’t resist a good curse. (and who can? That’s the scary part, right?) Here are some of our favorite curses we’ve covered on the podcast, with a link to each episode.

1. The Kennedy Curse

The Kennedys are America’s royalty. They are a fabulously wealthy and beautiful clan whose children have spent generations in powerful elected positions from the East Coast. With a President, multiple Senators and House Representatives, you would think that these guys have the world wrapped around their little finger. But tragedy has followed their family for generations, from the assassinations of the two most powerful brothers to the airplane crash of JFK Jr. to the failed lobotomy of Rosemary Kennedy, somehow their incredible fotune seems tainted.

2. The Oscar Love Curse

Oh, Hollywood. Glamor, money, fame… and very little lasting love relationships. Big stars change spouses fast You’d think that if you win an Academy Award, the film industry’s biggest honor, that your loved one would want to stick by you more than ever, but it ain’t so. Best Actress winners particularly seem to have problems with their love life after winning the big award. Is the great esteem cursed somehow or might it be the jealousy of the entertainment industry causing the split (especially when the woman outshines the man)?

3. The Franklin Expedition Curse

In 1845, the British Navy launched their most ambitious mission to find the Northwest Passage to establish a trade route between the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. They sent their most technically advanced ships and two captains who were well-versed in Arctic exploration. Both ships became trapped in the ice and disappeared, prompting multiple searches for the Lost Franklin Expedition from Britain, America, and Canada over the years. Both ships were found in the late 2010s, but when the HMS Terror was discovered in 2016, the local Nunavut people felt that the spirits were disturbed on their island by bothering the sunken ship. Several untimely deaths occured in the community and they sent a team of guardians to perform a ritual to keep their community safe from the curse.

4. The Poltergeist Curse

No doubt about it, Poltergeist is a terrifying film. But the movie is fiction, what seemingly happened to the actors involved isn’t. Both of the actresses who played the daughters of the haunted family, Dominique Dunne and Heather O’Rourke died way too young. Dunne was murdered by her ex-boyfriend and O’Rourke died of a freak bowel obstruction. Julian Beck and Will Sampson, the evil and good spirits from Poltergeist II: The Other Side, died shortly after the movie’s release, hadrly unexpectedly, but unlucky at least. Some people say it was because they used real human skeletons on the set of the film, but Craig T. Nelson is still doing just fine…

5. The 27 Club

Jimi Hendrix. Janis Joplin. Jim Morrison. Kurt Cobain. Amy Winehouse. All immensely famous musicians who died at the peak of their fame and way before their time. But why did it all end for them before their 28th birthday?

6. Robert Johnson and the Curse of the Crossroads

Robert Johnson was one of the most influential blues guitarists of all time and was called the King of the Delta Blues. He also died at 27, but was never as famous in his lifetime as the other members of the club. His fame came after he died and has been called the best bluesman ever by the likes of Keith Richards and Eric Clapton. His songs have been covered by everyone from Led Zeppelin to The Blues Brothers. Some of them can be dark with titles like “Hellhound on My Trail” and his most famous song, “Crossroads” people say is about how he sold his soul to the Devil at a road crossing in Rosedale, Mississippi. It gave him amazing musical talent, but it ended up taking his life early.

The Mothman Death Curse

If you haven’t heard of the Mothman of Point Pleasant, a dark winged humanoid with red glowing eyes who was seen in the late 60s in West Virginia, you might consider yourself lucky. No less than the man behind the International Cryptozoology Museum himself, the legendary Loren Coleman, wrote Mothman: Evil Incarnate, a book where he describes the Mothman Death Curse. He devotes an appendix to one hundred mysterious and untimely deaths of people who have been involved in the Mothman mythos in some way, from the original victims of the Silver Bridge Collapse to people who worked on the Richard Gere film.

The Curse of King Tut

There were supposedly nine victims of King Tut’s curse, people who were related to the excavation of the Egyptian Pharaoh’s tomb. Sir Arthutr Conan Doyle, the writer behind Sherlock Holmes, even toured that there was some kind of supernatural vengeance that was being wreaked on these Western interlopers. It was featured in all the newspapers at the time, but also Egypt was a very popular topic to write about, and the financier of the King Tut Expedition gave a single paper the exclusive rights to the story. So, was the curse blown out of proportion in the interest of paper sales or was there really a curse on the wall of the tomb of Egypt’s Boy King?

William Henry Harrison and the Tippecanoe Curse

Before he became President, William Henry Harrison was governor of the Indiana Territory and was behind a shady deal that screwed the American Indians there out of a good deal of their land. A great battle was fought at Tippecanoe and Harrison’s forces emerged triumphant. The brother of defeated Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, Tenskwatawa, was considered a great prophet and he supposedly cursed Harrison to die in office and the presidents that every twenty years after. And they did, Harrison was elected in 1840 and dies in 1841, Lincoln dies in 1865, Garfield in 1881, McKinley in 1901, Harding in 1923, Roosevelt in 1944, and Kennedy in 1963. Seems like being elected in a year that ends in a zero is bad luck until Reagan survives his assassination attempt in 1981.

The Curse of the Billy Goat

How ’bout them Cubbies, right? They’re the most famous Chicago sports institution and are beloved by celebrities from Bill Murray to Vince Vaughn. And years afer his death, most baseball fans can still hear Harry Carey’s famous call of “Holy Cow!” perfectly in their heads. But another Chicago institution is the Billy Goat Tavern (the inspiration behind the Saturday Night Live classic “Cheeseburger Cheeseburger” sketch) and then the owner was kicked out of a Cubs game in 1945 because his pet goat smelled too bad, the rumor is that he cursed the team to never win the National League Pennant again. They didn’t get in the World Series again for 71 years and coincidentally clinched the title on the 46th anniversary of the owner’s death.

215 – Avril Is Dead: The Strange Cases of Pop Culture Doppelgängers

Avril Lavigne’s latest single, “Head Above Water” is off her first album in five years. After battling Lyme Disease, Lavigne said that it was thinking of her own mortality and going through the living Hell of a night where she believed that she was going to die that inspired the music off of her new album. But some people on the Internet believe that the real Avril Lavigne died over fifteen years ago and it’s her lookalike that has been living her life instead.  Is the Avril Lavigne who is singing “Head Above Water” really a doppelgänger originally named Melissa Vandella? Is it really Melissa who married the guy from Nickelback AND the guy from Sum 41 (well, at least she keeps it Canadian!)? Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated, huh?

Well, not really. A Brazilian fan site revealed the fact that they made the whole thing up as a hoax in 2012 as a social media experiment. Could they start a rumor that other eoieoke would report on? Well, here we are, good Jon guys. Avril of course is not the first musician that people said died was replaced surreptitiously, she’s just the latest. Paul McCartney obviously is the most famous with the “Paul Is Dead” business from the late 1960s.

If you haven’t heard the story, it goes that Paul McCartney got into a car accident and died in 1966 and the British government asked the Beatles to stay together so there wouldn’t be a rash of teenage suicides in the wake of the band breaking up. And I almost believe that. No band was bigger than the Beatles, ever.  We had  a Beatles week in my Sixth Grade class because my Baby Boomer teacher was so excited to talk about them. Books after books have been written about them, they’re the biggest, richest, and most famous musicians ever. They have a song royalty and merchandise machine that will last long after I’m dead. 

People heard “I buried Paul” at the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever” or “Turn me on, Deadman” when they played “Revolution #9” backwards and they said that John was leaving them clues about what really happened. They said that there were hints in Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to the name of the impostor and that the fact that they stopped performing live at the end of 1966 meant that they didn’t want the new Paul to get exposed. People even say that the cover of Abbey Road is supposed to represent a “funeral” for Paul, with John as the clergyman, Ringo as the mourner, and George as the gravedigger. Sorry, I think that’s reaching. If the real Paul McCartney actually died, this new guy will have been Paul for almost three times as long as the original Paul was alive. Plus if this guy wrote “Let It Be”, then I like the doppelgänger better!

The King Lives?

Paul might be the most famous, but the idea that Elvis Presley traded places with his doppelgänger is the plot to Joe Lansdale’s wonderful short story (and modern horror cinema classic) Bubba Ho-Tep. And fascinatingly enough, an Elvis impersonator named Jimmy Ellis used the idea of the King faking his own death and returning to sing under another name to catapult himself to some minor hits and touring success in the late 1970s. Never underestimate the ability of American marketing ingenuity to turn a tragedy into a way to make money.

Live in Madison in 2005

Perhaps the weirdest case of synchronicity is something that just happened with one of our favorite musicians, Andrew W.K. If you haven’t heard him, it’s kind of like a Norman Vincent Peale book set to industrial heavy metal. There’s lots of screaming, lots of talk about partying, lots of dancing stupidly. Basically his music is amazing and as a band, we’ve been huge fans of him since right around 2002 where we would blast I Get Wet to keep us awake as we drove three abreast in a little truck going from gig to gig. We’ve gone to see him a dozen times, we opened for him when he played in Madison in 2015, and we just saw him again in Austin this year. 

Wendy and I just decided to talk about rock star doppelgängers on Friday, so when Stereogum released an article this weekend about an obscure controversy that erupted around Andrew W.K. years ago and that he might not be the person who recorded the first album and that he was replaced, well, we knew it was kismet!

First things first, Andrew W.K. is ridiculous. He wears a dirty white t-shirt and filthy acid-washed jeans, that’s his uniform.  His twitter is constant positivity about the power of partying. He had a column in the Village Voice completely dedicated to making people feel better about themselves through partying, pizza, and music. His show on VH1 was called Your Friend, Andrew W.K. It’s a non-stop performance art piece that has been going on since his first album, and that dedication has made his music mean even that much more to his fans. Sometimes at his shows you’ll see people dressed in the AWK uniform (unlike Wendy who makes her own Andrew W.K. wear!)

When he first visited England, even the BBC joked that it was rumored that Andrew W.K. wasn’t a real person but just a hoax conceived by Dave Grohl (from Nirvana and Foo Fighters) of all people. But in the liner notes for Andrew W.K.’s first album, it mentions that it’s executive produced by someone named Steev Mike (obviously a pseudonym). There is an article about Steev Mike in the early press for Andrew W.K. (before he’s signed to a major label) that uses Andrew’s picture for Steev. So what’s that about?

In 2004, a concert in New Jersey is abruptly canceled mid-show and people say that the Andrew W.K. that was onstage that night wasn’t the real one, it was just a guy dressed up as the original. Then, his official website is hacked  by Steev Mike himself, telling Andrew not to “squeeze him out”. Andrew makes a few cryptic statements, but on the Internet people start theorizing that Andrew W.K. is a fictional creation and this is just an actor playing him. Kind of like Pierce Brosnan in Remington Steele. People even say that the face of the Andrews looks different from the first album to the second album, that it’s a new long-haired white shirted wild man playing the character.

What’s the truth? Well, that’s what the Stereogum writer tries to get at in the article, but even Andrew W.K. officially says something on Facebook in a personal message to everyone that likes his page:

We urge you to dismiss the claim that Andrew isn’t real, or any similar assertions that paint him as something he is not. Andrew has never worked behind the scenes with any individual or group in order to make it appear as though he doesn’t exist.

So, the debate returns. What do I think? It’s just a performance art piece that was meant to dial up the mystery when Alternate Reality Games were hot in the early 2000s and they got a lot more traction out of the power of positive thinking then by creating some anti-Andrew W.K. The plan changed when they lost their label deal for their next album. But is it a different person playing the character? His face really thickened between I Get Wet and The Wolf

Younger Andrew
Older Andrew

I have to admit, that I kinda thought the same thing. It might just be getting older because he was so young in the first pic.

Was Andrew W.K. created by committee? Maybe. Do I care? Not really. The music and live show are my favorite parts and that seems to be the same guy since we first saw him in concert in 2004 in Milwaukee.

Bu people in general, demand honesty and authenticity in particular from musicians more than other artists it seems. The fake Paul wrote “Live and Let Die”, the new AWK wrote “Music Is Worth Living For”, the fake Elvis gave us Bubba Ho-Tep, the fake Avril gave us, well… I don’t know what she gave us, but I’m okay with all of these things.

There’s something particular about musicians, we like them dangerous, we like them real. It’s Robert Johnson selling his soul to the Devil, it’s Ozzy Osbourne as the Prince of Darkness (and not a doddering old addict). it’s Alice Cooper as a horror movie character and not a golfing Christian. We take that artifice seriously, maybe too seriously. When we think that they need to use a lookalike in order to deal with fame, maybe it’s fame we should be rethinking.

The Sunspot song this week plays around with the idea of the evil twin. Someone that looks like you that’s doing all the things that you don’t dare to. Are they acting out your worse impulses are they living your life better than you are? Is your doppelgänger the one who deserves your life because he won’t waste it? That’s part of the inspiration behind this week’s paranormal Sunspot track, “Doppelgänger”.

There’s a fetch who’s got my face
Doing things I’d never do
Saying the things I cannot say
Vandalizing the truth

Who’s the real
and who’s the fake
I gotta know before this psyche breaks


There’s an impostor
playing tricks on me
A psychopath
with my identity
There’s a counterfeit
walking round in my skin
My personality splits
Who is the Evil Twin?

Who’s My double, my alter ego
just a carbon copy
But in the end there’s only one
it’s either him or me

Who’s the real
and who’s the fake
I gotta know before this psyche breaks


There’s an impostor
playing tricks on me
A psychopath
with my identity
There’s a counterfeit
walking round in my skin
My personality splits
Who is the Evil Twin?

Bon Scott Ghost Stories

It’s the anniversary of Bon Scott’s passing today. He crossed over on February 19th, 1980 at only thirty-three years old from alcohol poisoning in London. The last album he recorded with AC/DC was the classic Highway To Hell. That album was one of the first seized on as an example of the excesses of rock n’ roll music during the Satanic Panic,  but the band always denied there was anything “devil worship”-y in the message, it was just an ode to the rebellious spirit that the band had lived their lives by.

Rock journalist and paranormal researcher Susan Masino spent a lot of time with Bon and the guys from AC/DC back in the day and we have an in-depth interview with her in Episode 5 of our podcast. She talks about how she still feels the spirit of the legendary singer playing tricks on her sometimes. And Bon Scott ghost stories are the best ghost stories.

bon scott stories with susan masino
When they’re held for pleasure, they’re the balls I like the best…

In 1997, AC/DC released a special live album called Bonfire near Halloween and in the publicity even held a séance to try and contact the singer from beyond the grave. Brian Johnson (the lead singer who replaced Bon in AC/DC said that Bon had probably a lot better things to do in the afterlife than talk to us mere mortals.

“I think we’re talking about if Bon was there, he’d be too busy shaggin’ something. He’d have all the good lookin’ women up there. He wouldn’t be bothered coming down here.”

Here’s the audio of the radio special séance where psychic Peter James tries to contact Bon Scott’s ghost.

You gotta love a band that’s not afraid to indulge in a little bit of fun after a tragedy, especially because Bon was noted to be such a mischievous character.

While Ozzy Osbourne would write “Suicide Solution” about Bon’s death (the meaning of “solution” in the song means liquid, as in alcohol), the band would hire Brian Johnson as their new singer in April of 1980.

The next album that they recorded was dedicated to their departed friend and it’s cover was just black with no album art as a show of mourning. And it seems if Bon could look down and see his former bandmates, he must have blessed what they did. Back In Black would go on to become the second biggest selling album in history.