A history of Ghost House

This history is being written because histories of Goth nights are rare, and because it shows that what starts as a small fun thing can branch out into an event with unimagined impact across years, places, and lives.

In 2004, C. Bila and DJ Refugium move to Eugene. They are shocked to find that there is no place to go dance, other than 80s Night at John Henry’s, which is not dark enough for their tastes. Several years pass during which they resign themselves to the occasional 2-hour commute to Portland clubs.

Around 2008, Refugium hears John The Revelator play the Revolting Cocks on the radio. She calls him at the station and grills him about where and what he DJs, and an unlikely friendship forms. That same year, in March, C. Bila and Refugium are invited to a Pisces Party at Cece Borrego’s house. The music is great. Cece suggests that a dark dance night would totally take off, if someone organized were to find a venue and do it. Cece and Refugium make a dinner date for further discussion and Oak Street Speakeasy is suggested as a venue. The first of several warehouse parties are organized in 2009. These are known as Bog Parties, a double reference to the swampy location of the warehouse and Bigod 20’s single The Bog. The infamous Heaven Vs. Hell Halloween party ends up with something like 45 people in attendance. It is even now remembered fondly by those who were there. DJs are John The Revelator and The Curmudgeon.

Oak Street Speakeasy agrees to give Ghost House 1 weeknight a month. We were given the first Wednesday. We expect that no one will show up. The first night is November 4th, 2009. There is no Facebook started and posters have been up for only a week, but we invite a lot of people through word of mouth. We are pleasantly surprised, and so is Mac. During this night it becomes clear that John The Revelator thought that Refugium knew how to DJ, when in fact she did not. He tells her he’s going to walk offstage and she will start playing. Much to her own surprise, she enjoys it. She is known for the first year as DJ Thete. No one can pronounce it.

Change is in the air. Through the subsequent year the concept gels, spawning artwork, music, video backdrops, and an overall aesthetic that is unique to Eugene, but very much in keeping with the global Gothic aesthetic. We claim responsibility for introduction of new/obscure music, while giving the old bands (the “Ghosts”) a place to be heard. We also play quite a bit of industrial. It is through our loyalty to English noise (Coil, Psychic TV) and Soviet-border creativity (Einsturzende Neubauten and the NSK) that we forge greatly valued connections with the Eugene Noise scene, an amity we continue to enjoy.

The poster for the first year anniversary of Ghost House is an homage to the cover of the This Mortal Coil album 16 Days/Gathering Dust, which also features Song To The Siren. Much of our poster art is referential to the bands we play, so that it is recognizable to people who also enjoy them. This is intentional and done with much respect. Some bands whose artwork we have shared: Joy Division, Skinny Puppy, Bauhaus, This Ascension, The Cure. Pictures of musicians on our flyers include: Siouxsie Sioux, Mick Karn, Skinny Puppy. Many flyers also include vintage 1920’s and 1930’s photography, or fashion photography from the Goth and Modern Industrial scenes.

In the second year, Ghost House continues to expand and draw in more people. C. Bila’s excellent taste in video art causes him to search for film that makes a great backdrop as well as lighting to finish the space. Metropolis and Blade Runner and The Hunger are favorites, as are old Bela Lugosi films and 1930’s expressionist classics such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Golem. It’s through the noise and radio scenes that DJ Abulikah joins the crew and brings his amazing record collection and superb taste.

During this year, a friend who is organizing nights at Diablo’s starts Nemesis Underground. He predicts that a weekend Goth night will draw over 100 people, and hires security and starts charging at the door. John The Revelator and Refugium along with DJ Parabal, Spidersound and others are recruited to play. Probably due to the unpopularity of the bar itself, the night proves to be dead, and not in a good way. One of the best things to come out of Nemesis was a series of gigs at the Diablo’s Fetish Balls for Refugium and John The Revelator, who regularly played both upstairs and downstairs slots for more than a year before the bar closed. RIP Nemesis, RIP Diablo’s.

Years 3 and 4 continue to bring acclaim to Ghost House. In the latter part of year 3 we were part of spawning another spinoff. It is suggested by DJ Parabal that a metal/industrial/harsh EBM night would be a hit. We are not sure about this, as much of the new industrial we’ve been playing has not gone over well, but cautiously lend our support. After a long beer meeting at the Flying Squirrel, Rivet House is christened with the idea that the inclusion of the word “House” makes it consonant or cohesive with Ghost House so that people will identify the two nights with each other, being at the same bar. However, the nights have always been separate efforts. Rivet House takes up third Wednesdays at Oak Street. Ghost House DJs are featured in early iterations of this night, but we find that we are too busy with other work (one of us is starting graduate school and another is in demand all over town including Blairally, Cowfish, and other bars) and so we bow out and end any affiliation we have had with Rivet House as DJs. 

During this time we are also doing Electric Dreams alternate Saturdays at Blairally, a synth driven night played entirely from vinyl. Electric Dreams ends when John Henry’s is sold, and Church of 80s at Blairally starts up every Friday night, which continues. RIP Electric Dreams.

We dj sets for The Spiritual Bat, a great Italian death rock band that plays at Cozmic. At the end of year 4, Oak Street Speakeasy closes. It is the victim of a change in landlords and Mac decides to close it of her own volition. We are informed of this with less than a few weeks’ notice, leaving us scrambling for a place at which to continue. The last Ghost House at Oak Street Speakeasy is a huge success, with the last song bringing actual tears to those still on the dance floor (it is Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want by The Smiths). RIP Oak Street. We miss you terribly.

Popular demand drives us forward and DJ Parabal connects us with The Green Room just in time for us to continue our history without missing a single night. Our next home, The Green Room, features a classic disco/sports bar ambiance which often seems to clash with the music we play- yet dancers continue to come spend their evenings with us, to the tune of 50+ people over the course of a night. We incorporate more modern industrial and minimal wave into our sets. We continually evaluate and upgrade our equipment and add to our already fantastic record collections. The Green Room is the scene of our 5th anniversary. Huge thanks to Dan Craig and George Turpin for the management and use of a great sound system, and to our awesome bartender Nicole. 

A new venue comes on the scene in the spring of year 5. We are excited because it is a bona fide live venue with a great booker who is open to live bands as part of Ghost House. This was not possible at the Green Room due to space and sound limitations. C. Bila labors behind the scene to aid in the successful opening of Old Nick’s. Refugium paints and primes as she can on her days off. A collective effort pays off when Ghost House moves to Old Nick’s in May of 2015. We’re honored to support several bands in this year including Trance To The Sun, Mercury’s Antennae, [product], Black Magdalene, and Ugly Sex God.

Many guest DJs have been featured through the years. Among them are DJ Ultrajet, an old friend from Portland who can play any Cure song on guitar; DJ Abulikah, who is known as I Died in the noise scene, owner of an epic record collection; DJ Spidersound, whose requests were so good that we pressured him to start DJing, and he did; DJ Parabal, now known best for Electronic Swing nights, but at the time playing a gritty combination of metal and industrial; DJ Ian Dustrial, host of the infamous Whitaker Halloween parties; DJ Zahra, with her ear for a good beat; DJ Echo, who wasn’t old enough to come to Ghost House until year 2 or 3, but came in wanting to DJ (so we gave him a spot); DJ Owen, still a god among Goths, now playing multiple nights in San Francisco to great acclaim; DJ Mark Panic, currently carrying the Witchhouse flag in Portland at the Lovecraft; DJ Jon Smith, who needs no introduction in Eugene, and can mix anything into anything; Ghrimm, a mild-mannered geneticist by day and a fierce proponent of new industrial by night; DJ Perfidia, now on the stage instead of the radio; Christie Hill, whose sets are creative and interesting; DJ Wednesday, the fantastic force behind Brickbat Mansion; DDDJJJ666 and Vampirella from Portland who are the Joneses that we can NOT keep up with as they do radio, clubs, and run a record store.

Thanks to all of you who have labored for making this night happen!

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