According to writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton, “Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies.” Imagine all the souls touched and all the spirits created in the hearts of fans of famous musicians. And, while their corporal bodies may lie underground (or in the the winds of Joshua Tree), their music is still touching new generations of souls and their sightings are constantly on repeat. The following are famous musicians that supposedly still walk the earth. While some of the stories are nonsensical, they speak to our attachment to music and the immortality of musical legends.
On February 3, 1959, a plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson crashed into a cornfield near Mason City, Iowa. The three men and pilot died instantly. Visitors to the crash site today have reported shadowy figures in the distance and the sound of music. If you walk towards the music, the shadows disappear.
The ghost of Elvis is said to haunt various locations, including:
- Old RCA Recording Studios (Tennessee). People have reported weird noises coming out of sound equipment, lights blowing out, objects being moved, and the apparition of The King himself.
- Room 1016 of the Knickerbocker Hotel (Hollywood). Elvis stayed here when he filmed movies. Visitors and staff attribute the eerily cold temperature of the room to his spirit.
- Graceland (Memphis). There’s a couple photos circulating online that supposedly capture Elvis looking out the window.
- Las Vegas Hilton. People have seen his spirit in the penthouse, the basement where he hung out with his band, and the elevator he used to avoid screaming fans.
- The Ryman Auditorium (Nashville). Lisa Marie Presley claims she heard her father, Elvis, while there. After a performance at the theatre she went to her dressing room, but the door was stuck and she could not get it open. Suddenly, she heard the distinct laugh of her father and the door opened.
Mama Cass Elliot
Fictional ghostbuster Dan Aykroyd believes the ghost of Mama Cass, of The Mamas & the Papas, haunted his previous house. She owned the house at some point and it served as the rehearsal location for California Dreaming. He says a poltergeist got into bed with him, the Stairmaster turned on by itself, and jewelry moved around on the dresser.
Listen, a lot of people would love to kiss Kurt Cobain. A 20-something bar manager from Essex, England claims to have shared a digital kiss with Kurt Cobain in 2000. When she was browsing the internet late one night, Cobain materialized on her Compax Presario laptop and asked for a kiss. After an intimate kiss (y’all, I don’t know the logistics), her laptop broke and her otherworldly romance with Cobain ended. I’m calling a big “nah” on this story. It’s just some steamy fan fiction.
The ghost of Eddie Hinton is said to haunt the famous recording studio Muscle Shoals in Alabama. From 1967 to 1971, Hinton played in the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section on records for artists such as Aretha Franklin, Elvis, and Otis Redding. People have reported the apparition of a man in a blue suit. Many believe the ghost is Hinton, because he was buried in a blue suit. Musicians have also had unexplained equipment malfunctions.
The bond between child and parent can sometimes be complicated, but not broken, by death. Whitney Houston passed away when her daughter Bobbi Kristina was only 19. In an interview with Oprah, Bobbi Kristina said, “Throughout the house, lights turn on and off, and I’m like, ‘mum, what are you doing?’ I can still laugh with her and still talk to her. I can hear her voice telling me to ‘keep moving, baby, I’ve got you’. I can always feel her with me.”
John Lennon has been seen around The Dakota in Manhattan, his home and the site of his death in 1980. Three years after his death, Joey Harrow (musician) and Amanda Moores (writer) spotted Lennon near the location he was shot. He was surrounded by an eerie light. They were going to approach him, but the look on his face seemed to say “don’t come near me.” Yoko Ono also reported seeing Lennon sitting at a white piano at The Dakota. He said to her, “Don’t be afraid. I am still with you.” Side note: Before his death, John Lennon reported seeing a Crying Lady roaming the halls of The Dakota (it has quite the haunted history).
Another number of encounters happened with his old band mates. In 1995, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and Paul McCartney were in the studio recording “Free As A Bird.” McCartney commented that he felt Lennon’s presence in the room: “There were a lot of strange goings-on in the studio—noises that shouldn’t have been and equipment doing all manner of weird things.” Later during a photo shoot for the album, a white peacock appeared from a neighboring yard. McCartney felt this was the spirit of John Lennon coming to hang out and complete the album. He may have even made his presence known on the album itself. According to McCartney: “We put one of those spoof backwards recordings on the end of the single for a laugh, to give all those Beatles nuts something to do […] Then we were listening to the finished single in the studio one night, and it gets to the end, and it goes ‘zzzwrk ngggwaaahh jooohn lennnnon qwwwrk.’ I swear to God” (Source).
In the 80s, Liberace opened a restaurant off the Vegas strip called Liberace’s Tivoli Gardens (later changed to Carluccio’s Tivoli Gardens). Paranormal activity at the restaurant includes: cold spots near his piano, faucets turning on and off, unexplainable yellow mists in photographs, and bottles falling off shelves. Could this be the ghost of Liberace? I think this story needs more rhinestones before I can verify.
In 1997, rock historian Brett Meisner took a picture in front of Jim Morrison’s grave at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. It was not until 2002 that he noticed a figure standing behind him: Jim Morrison? The ghost photo has been deemed “unexplainable” by researchers. What do you think?
Meisner says he regrets visiting the cemetery, because things have been weird ever since. After the picture was taken, his marriage fell apart and his friend died of an overdose. He has also been approached by people who claim to be haunted by Morrison: “At first it was sort of interesting to see how many people felt a spiritual bond with Jim and the photo, but now the whole vibe seems negative” (Source).
The story of Gram Parsons’ death and burial is already pretty legendary. Parsons, of The Flying Burrito Brothers, overdosed while staying at Joshua Tree Inn in the California desert. His family wanted his body returned to Louisiana, but his manager and best friend Phil Kaufman knew otherwise. Kaufman said Parsons wanted his body burned on a funeral pyre in Joshua Tree. Kaufman and company stole Parsons’ body from LAX and performed the ritual he wanted (they were arrested, but fined only $750).
Parsons supposedly haunts Room 8 at Joshua Tree Inn, which is available for a spooky stay!
The historic Hotel Chelsea in New York has been a temporary home for many creative thinkers, artists, musicians, writers, designers since being build in the 1880s (Tennessee Williams, Mark Twain, Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohenx, Jack Kerouac, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, and Bob Dylan, and many more). There have been several notable deaths at this location too: poet Dylan Thomas (Room 206 in 1953), writer Charles R. Jackson (1968), and Nancy Spungen (Room 100 in 1978).
Nancy was a figure of the 1970s punk rock scene and the girlfriend of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious. Their relationship was full of excessive drug use and domestic abuse so, when she was found stabbed to death at The Chelsea, many believed Sid killed Nancy. He was arrested and charged with second degree murder, but died of an overdose while out on bail. Sid and Nancy are both said to haunt The Chelsea. In particular, people have seen Sid in the elevator.
Country legend Hank Williams haunts the famous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN. Staff have reported Williams hanging out backstage and a mysterious white mist on stage. Is Hank still playing music in the afterlife?
According to CMT, his spirit makes the rounds:
The legend of Williams’ ghost has also inspired two major country hits — David Allan Coe ’s “The Ride” (1983) and Alan Jackson ’s “Midnight in Montgomery” (1992) — so it’s not surprising that reported sightings are not limited to Nashville. Williams is also said to haunt the Andrew Johnson Hotel in Knoxville, Tenn., where he spent his last night prior to dying in the back seat of a car while being driven to Canton, Ohio for a concert on Jan. 1, 1953. Williams’ ghost has been reportedly seen in private homes in Tennessee and Alabama, as well as various honky-tonks throughout the South.
If you could see the ghost of a famous musician, which one would you want to see? Let me know in the comments!