David Bagsby immortalizes a historic haunted church.

Stull Tactics 

David Bagsby immortalizes a historic haunted church.

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Just a few of the tall tales surrounding the town:

·A stairway somewhere near the church either leads directly to hell or, at the very least, causes a time warp that converts each second to a two-week interval, an inconvenience that could lead to late fees and dead pets.

·Though the church was a roofless ruin for years, no rain ever fell into the gaping hole. Instead, the drops rolled off the walls without ever hitting the unholy ground.

·If you arrange two bottles into an upside-down cross and then toss one at the church's inner wall, it will never break, no matter how hard it's thrown. (Though this myth has never been officially debunked, it's easy to see how the persistent testing of this theory might have annoyed local residents.)

Perhaps if Stull's leaders were receptive to attention, Bagsby could've been the one to put these rumors to the test, like Geraldo Rivera opening Al Capone's vaults. Jethro Stull could've been released on Halloween night, with a money-hungry chamber of commerce selling mugs and T-shirts, charging for admission and promoting the burned-out church as Kansas' second-scariest spot -- after wherever Fred Phelps is standing. Instead, Stull's police and concerned citizens have sought to dissuade tourism, albeit ineptly. (On October 31, 1999, Lawrence broadcast and print reporters were allowed to stay on the site for hours but were ushered away thirty minutes before midnight, thus perpetuating suspicion instead of permanently alleviating it.) This spring, property owners had the church unceremoniously reduced to rubble.

"The legend will probably die hard, even though the church is gone," Bagsby predicts. "People will always be sneaking in and doing weird things."

Although Bagsby couldn't get Stull's seal of approval, he did get an indirect nod from Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson. Before moving to Lawrence in 2000, Bagsby released a number of albums dedicated to his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, including one titled Jethro Tulsa. Through "a strange series of coincidences," Anderson tracked down the album, then sent Bagsby an autographed photo on which he wrote, "I enjoyed your original take on contemporary progressive music. Keep up the good work." Given this positive response, Bagsby had few qualms about engaging in further Jethro Tull wordplay. (Genesis members have yet to respond to his disc The Lamb Fries Down on Broadway.)

While in Tulsa, Bagsby released his first "terror music" experiment, which took its title, Scream in the Dark, from an area haunted house. At the time, Halloween night at the Bagsby home was quite a production. Nooses dangled from trees, and axes and other weapons littered the yard, but the biggest attraction was an enormous serpent.

"I used to hook up this compressed air tank to this gigantic fake snake," Bagsby recalls. "You'd push the button, and it would shoot across the porch. This one guy almost dropped his baby trying to jump over the hedge." Bagsby now treats his guest to few tricks, with a distorted microphone providing his only special effects. But though his celebrations have become less elaborate and his yearlong experiment in producing free-form compositions in a red-lit room on pagan holidays produced "five minutes of usable music," Bagsby still refuses to dismiss the supernatural -- particularly where Stull is involved.

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