Scary Stories of Classic Rock

Billy Bob Thornton says the spirit of Warren Zevon lives in his basement recording studio.

In 1995, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr went into the studio to add their voices to an old John Lennon demo of Free As A Bird. Afterward, the three surviving Beatles posed for a photo outside the studio. In the instant, before the photographer snapped the shutter, a white peacock wandered into the shot.

"That’s John," McCartney said. "Spooky, eh? It was like John was hanging around.

We felt that all through the recording."

McCartney also told Observer Music Monthly that the group put a backward recording at the end of the single as a joke, "to give all those Beatles nuts something to do." Listening to the finished recording in the studio one night, McCartney claims that in the middle of the otherwise indecipherable garble, the words "john lennnnon" could clearly be heard.

Lizard King returns? In your dreams

The Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek swears this is a true story. It's about how Jim Morrison, who had a well-known fascination with the spirit world, came to visit him and Doors guitarist Robbie Kreiger, in their dreams.

"I have a recurring dream," Manzarek told me in a 2008 interview. "Jim has just returned from France [where he died in 1971] and has accomplished what he went there for in the first place – to rest, get clean, change his rock star lifestyle. We talk about where he’s been and what he’s been doing.

I ask him if he’s been working on any new material, and just before he answers, I wake up. When I first told Robbie about it, he said, 'Yeah, me too!' He had had the same dream."

Elvis Is Still In The Building

A rambling old building just off of Nashville’s Music Row housed the corporate headquarters and recording studios of RCA in the 1950s.

It was in a small studio on the first floor of that building that Elvis Presley recorded his breakthrough 1956 single, Heartbreak Hotel.

After RCA moved to other quarters, the building became a TV production facility, housing studios which were used primarily to produce music-related programs. An audio booth and studio lighting panel occupied the space in which Elvis recorded.

Studio crew members swore that every time Elvis’ name was mentioned during a show production, something strange would happen: a light would blow out, a ladder would fall, some unexplained noise would suddenly be heard through the sound system.

The Haunted Cave

Billy Bob Thornton has a recording studio in his basement. Warren Zevon, The Ventures, and Slash, among others, have recorded there.

"Yes, it's haunted," says Thornton on his BillyBobalooza website. "The Cave used to be a speakeasy during the Roaring '20s. Now, it's a cozy recording studio, built originally by Slash of Velvet Revolver when he, Mrs. Slash, and several snakes lived in the house."

Specifically, says Thornton, it is Zevon's spirit that dwells in The Cave, the studio in which the late singer recorded his version of Bob Dylan's Knocking On Heaven's Door.

Cue The Ghosts

Rock music lore is full of eerie tales which, some would say, reflect the sex-drugs-rock ‘n’ roll culture more than they validate theories of the occult. True or not, they make for some entertaining Halloween tales.

In addition to being the title of a 1969 Cher album, 3614 Jackson Highway is the more commonly used name of Muscle Shoals (Alabama) Sound Studio, where the album was recorded. The studio is said to be haunted by the ghost of one Eddie Hinton, who wrote songs and played backup for artists such as Aretha Franklin, Boz Skaggs, and The Box Tops. Musicians waiting for their turn in the studio have reported seeing an unknown man in a blue suit (like the one the late Mr. Hinton was wearing when he was buried) wandering around the place.

The Millevolte Recording Studio in Hartland, Wisconsin is bordered by the town’s cemetery and a historic Indian trading post.

Studio owner Vinnie Millevolte tells the Waukesha Freeman newspaper, "Late at night, you can sometimes hear doors creaking, someone coming up the stairs or something in the kitchen. (I)f people aren't scared by them, they seem to get bored and leave." Millevolte says a single unexplainable sound, like a heartbeat, was once captured on tape during a recording session.

Inner Meanings

Did John Lennon really haunt that recording session? Did Elvis’ ghost really make things go bump in a TV studio? Does Jim Morrison really haunt his bandmates' dreams? Do spirits really dislike being recorded?

I'll let you decide.