Wasted Lives and Wasted Dreams–The Truth of “Forever 27”

Talk about a club where people are dying to get in….(yeah, that WAS pretty lame).

The 27 club or “Forever 27 curse” is a rather morbid curiosity in rock and roll folklore.  While it technically was many years in the making, it is actually more a product of the entertainment TV/Internet age.  According to rock and roll biographer Charles Cross in an article published at Seattle PI  (February 22, 2007), a comment made by Kurt Cobain’s mother shortly after his death sparked much of the concept.  In her grief, she spoke of telling him not to “join that f***king club” which in turn sparked several websites, stories, and further fascination to this fabled group.  The only requirement to join was to be a somewhat influential musician and dead at 27.

It makes for a fascinating story.  The lives of popular musicians are often romanticized up to and including their deaths.  The members of this “club” are in and of themselves interesting albeit self-destructive characters in their fans idealized tragedies.  From that, it is not hard to see how an apparent bump in rock star deaths at 27 would lead to speculations of a curse.  After all, what more fitting way to glamorize self-defeating behavior–give it a pre-destined ending.

The club is often referenced as though it is common factual rock and roll knowledge.  However, the results of a study published in the British Medical Journal (December 20, 2011) by statistician Adrian Barnett illustrate popular music artists may have a propensity for a shorter life span, but it isn’t exclusive to age 27.

The study, conducted by Barnett and several colleagues from Queensland University of Technology, collected data for U.K. popular musicians that died between the years 1956-2007.  A slight spike for age 27 was noted as well as comparable spikes for ages 25 and 32.  What was observed from the data collected; popular musicians were 2-3 times more likely to die in their late twenties to early thirties.  Those spikes correlated with self-destructive behavior and reckless lifestyles, not a “curse” or a club.  “Death by misadventure” appears often.

The air of mystery that surrounds the passing of several “Forever 27” musicians compounds the plot of this tale.  Certainly there were prominent ones whose deaths are short on definitive answers and long on speculation.  The Doors front man, Jim Morrison’s death certificate is extremely vague, his manner of death still a question for many.  Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones seemingly drowned in his swimming pool, but so many questions remained due to persistence of certain witnesses that the Sussex police did consider reopening the case in 2009. Members of Jimi Hendrix’s band, especially Noel Redding, had questions about Jimi’s official cause of death (overdose).  Conspiracy theories still run rampant with Kurt Cobain’s suicide.

Sadly, the only real connection lies with what people want to see.  Morrison’s and Jones’s deaths are mysterious because the witnesses were in altered states of mind.  Hendrix was a known heroin addict and addicts run the risk of pushing it too far no matter how experienced they may be.  Kobain surrounded himself with people who enabled his habits and were not equipped to help him with his pain.  In absence of real evidence to the contrary, the mysteries are in what people want to create.

There can be no doubt that the death of anyone with their whole life ahead of them is a tragedy, especially when there is so much promise.  We as a culture love our celebrities, and many people identify with their favorite stars as though there is a personal connection.  This, along with our brain’s tendency to see patterns (and a wider definition of an ‘influential’ musician) has gotten quite a list together of artists that will remain ‘forever 27’.

The deaths of people in the prime of their lives should not be fodder for an imagined curse or some  pre-destined club.  We should instead remember the magic they brought us with their talent.

For list of those who have been placed in the “27 Club”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/27_Club#People_identified_as_being_in_the_27_Club

For further reading:

http://www.forteantimes.com/features/articles/6250/the_forever_27_club.html  (Fortean Times article)

http://www.history.com/news/curse-of-27-or-is-it-only-rock-n-roll (History.com article)

http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/P-I-s-Writer-in-Residence-Charles-R-Cross-1229072.php  (Charles Cross article)

http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d7799  (link to Barnett study)

Mysterious New Mexico: Miracles, Magic, and Monsters in the Land of Enchantment

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Author: Benjamin Radford

New Mexico’s twin traditions of the scientific and the supernatural meet for the first time in this long-overdue book by a journalist known for investigating the unexplained. Strange tales of ghosts, monsters, miracles, lost treasure, UFOs, and much more can be found not far from the birthplace of the atomic bomb. Huge radio astronomy dishes search desert skies for alien life, and the world’s first spaceport can be found in this enchanted land; in many ways New Mexico truly is a portal to other worlds.

Mysterious New Mexico is the first book to apply scientific investigation methods to explain some of New Mexico’s most bizarre lore and legends. Using folklore, sociology, history, psychology, and forensic science–as well as good old-fashioned detective work–Radford reveals the truths and myths behind New Mexico’s greatest mysteries.

Review:

Let me start by saying I recommend this book highly no matter what level of interest one may have in paranormal legends and claimed experiences. Ben Radford’s writing style is conversational, taking the reader along for the ride as he researches the mysteries and cultures of this historically rich state.

I enjoyed all the accounts in this book, such as when a miracle staircase and its story are investigated with a critical eye. Analysis of the legends and scandals surrounding the “crystal skulls” is fascinating enough to be the start of another book. Those are just a couple of examples, as even more stories of UFO’s mystery birds, and alleged haunted locations are examined. New Mexico through Radford’s eyes is a land where mysteries are simply a window that, when opened, lead to facts that will hold a reader’s interest until the end.

For the skeptic, this will be a fresh look at analyzing claims of the extraordinary without succumbing to easy sensationalism. For the believer that is open to critical yet respectful examination of popular myths and hauntings, there is much to learn and appreciate. For this reader, my borderline cynicism about researching this area of interest has softened a bit. After reading this book, I now see that there are still true investigators into legends and perceived experiences. It is an excellent example of how research into such topics should be conducted–with an open, analytical mindset that references facts rather than “specialists” in fields that don’t exist. A genuine thumbs up.

Ghost Bridge (Salt Creek Bridge), Lincoln, IL

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The advent of the 1920’s brought about many changes in post WWI America, one of which was the rapidly growing fascination with automobiles. As more people became car owners, the need for roads linking major cities became apparent, and two men conceived the idea to build a ‘super highway’ that would connect all the way from Chicago Illinois to Los Angeles California. Construction on the road began in 1926, and there was some indecision at first as to what to number the route. Eventually it was decided after the initial names of Rt 60 and 62 that the highway would be termed Route 66.

The historic route has certainly had its interesting stops along the way, and much of it in Illinois can still be enjoyed along its remains. One of these places is in the small town of Lincoln and it has a history that goes back further than the inception of the “mother road” which runs through this area.
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Colfax Ghost Town

Remains of the schoolhouse/church

When one talks of ghost towns, they usually aren’t referring to a town that’s haunted, but rather an abandoned town somewhere in the West. A town whose glory and population peaked with the gold and silver rushes of the late 19th century, though there were many whose rise and fall had little to do with these precious metals. Colfax, New Mexico happens to be a town which actually fits both descriptions.
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The Rosenheim Poltergeist: Hoax or Haunting?

A fascinating concept in the research and study of psychic and paranormal phenomenon is that of the ‘poltergeist’. Poltergeist in its literal translation from the German means ‘noisy ghost’. Quite simply, it is kinetic energy that is manifesting from a source that makes itself physically known. Witnesses of such activity have spoken of items flying around the room, furniture moving, sounds of knocking from an unknown presence, and even actual attacks.
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