A couple nights ago I was on a conference call with Nick Walters and he happened to casually mention that Jim Bayless had died years ago. You all remember Jim Bayless, right? He was the subject of PLA issue #009. He was mentioned in my Mildred Monday song. There’s an illustration of him in the PLA book and he used to really have it in for a guy named Alex Carbon.
I had a hard time believing Nick, so I started searching Google for any news about Jim’s death and eventually found his tribute page on findagrave.com. He died all the way back in 1997, just a couple of years after my last contact with him. His memorial page says, “James L. Bayless, 53, of Brownsburg, died at 9:09 am Friday in his home. Mr. Bayless had resided in Brownsburg for 22 years. He worked for Ameritech for 30 years, the last years in corporate security.” He died at the young age of 53.
I only wrote a couple of quick, short paragraphs about him in the PLA book, but as Nick, Adrian and aikison pointed out last night, I should have given him at least a few pages to tell the real story of Jim. So that’s what I’m going to attempt to do in this post.
In 1993, I worked with a guy named Jon Spencer at a movie theater in Indianapolis. Jon was the guy who pretended to be my supervisor in our initial prank call to Mildred Monday. We spent a lot of our free time at work playing on the pay phone in the lobby. Just days before I quit my job at the theater and moved to Celina, Ohio, Jon gave me the phone number of some kid from his school named Roger that he didn’t like and said I should harass him. This was long before the days of PLA, where I get asked to harass some random person every week, so I was happy to be given an assignment like this.
Once I was in Ohio, I began to harass Roger. I began making collect calls to his house for him, driving him and his parents nuts. Both his mother and his father angered easily so he was a fun subject. They constantly threatened me with phone traces and the police, but I just laughed at them and continued bothering them every evening.
While living in Indianapolis, I’d began playing with voicemail systems. Telephone voicemail was still kind of new for average telephone users since most people still used answering machines on their home phones. Voicemail companies were starting to pop up everywhere and I began guessing people’s passwords and playing around with different company voicemails. An alarmingly large number of people used the last 4 digits of their home phone number as their password. Other people I would call up at home and pretend to be with their voicemail company, tricking them into giving me their passwords. It kept me entertained for hours each day, changing people’s messages and prank calling the people who left messages for them. I would also make calls from one person’s voicemail box to another, imitating a user’s voice and leaving bizarre messages. The next day I would check back and hear angry and/or confused messages from each of them wondering why the other was calling them.
One voicemail service had a very cool feature – when the customer received a voicemail, the system would call their home and tell them to call their voicemail and check the new message. But just to ensure that this automated message reached the customer and not someone else in the family, the system would ask for the customer’s voicemail password. The system could be set to notify the customer every 10 minutes if I chose. And I could even change the customer’s home phone number to anything I chose.
So naturally, I put in Roger’s home phone number. I changed the customer’s password to lock them out of their voicemail and then and called their voicemail and left a single message. This caused the system to begin calling Roger’s home every 10 minutes, prompting him for a password. Because Roger’s family didn’t know the password, there was nothing they could do to stop this automated call from happening every 10 minutes. And because I started this process on a Friday evening after the voicemail company had closed, they couldn’t even call the company and make them turn it off. They were stuck with their phone ringing every 10 minutes all day and night, at least for the next 2 or 3 days.
But that’s not all. They didn’t even know what company was calling them. The automated system didn’t identify itself when it called them. It only informed them that they had a message and to please enter their 4 digit pin number. Since this was in 1993, it’s possible they didn’t even have caller I.D. yet. I called Roger’s father on Monday morning and he confirmed that their phone had been ringing approximately 144 times every day since Friday and hadn’t stopped yet. I pretended to be with his phone company to get him to talk to me about the problem, but soon let him know that I was the guy harassing them, just to hear him explode at me. On Tuesday, the owner of that voicemail box called his voicemail company and regained control of his box, locking me out. I still left him occasional messages, though, hoping that he hadn’t noticed that his notification calls were being sent to some poor kid across town.
Meanwhile, my old friend Jon in Indianapolis was getting into trouble for my harassment of Roger. He had probably let on to Roger at school that he was responsible, not realizing how out-of-control it would become. He had no way to contact me and tell me to quit, so him and his parents got to deal with Roger’s family, the phone company and the police. The police were actually at Roger’s house once when I prank called them and the cop tried to talk sense into me, but I just made lame donut jokes at him as he swore that I would be arrested.
Around this time is when I was introduced to Jim Bayless. I’d set up a voicemail box and changed the outgoing message to say that I was Roger and I wasn’t available, but they could call my home phone and talk to me there instead. I’d been leaving horrible messages for other voicemail users on the same system, which would tell them what voicemail number I was calling from. They would call back and hear my message, then they would call Roger’s house to yell at him about the messages. Some of the users must have passed along the voicemail number to Roger’s parents, because Jim left a message on it for me saying, “This is Jim Bayless with Ameritech Corporate Security here in Indianapolis. I’d like to ask you to give me a call, please, relative to your contact with the number you’ve referenced on your voicemail.”
I was beyond thrilled to have a phone company security guy take an interest in me and overjoyed when I noticed that one of the extensions in his office was 265-ALEX. To talk to Jim I only had to dial my own name! I was in the process of leaving my small apartment in Celina because I’d run up a $15,000 phone bill and was sure that GTE was going to send someone out to arrest me for that huge of an amount, especially since I used a fake name and social security number to set up the account. I headed south and began exploring Cincinnati. One day I was wandering around Cincinnati’s Skywalk and found a few pay phones next to a bank, so I powered up my red box and placed a call to Jim Bayless.
I knew that it would be awesome, saying ridiculous things to Jim as he tried to reason with me, and then being interrupted by AT&T asking me to deposit another $1.25. When it happened I informed Jim that I was using a red box and had to deposit fake money, then I beeped in the money with my tone dialer. He seemed completely unfazed by my law-breaking interlude and continued lecturing me about my prank calls and stealing voicemail service. While it was fantastic having a real phone company security guy rant at me about these things, I was still disappointed that he didn’t seem to catch on that I was red boxing.
Earlier in our call, when I told Jim that I was Alex and that I was returning his call, he talked to me for about a minute before asking me to hold on for just a second, saying, “I need to do something here.” A series of weird clicks and then having him pick up a completely different phone (the background noise changed) made me feel like I was having my call recorded and traced just like in an old 70′s TV show with the giant reel-to-reel. He’d just need to keep me on the line for a few minutes longer for the trace to complete! He immediately began asking me questions about Roger and I happily admitted everything to him. Soon after I red boxed in my money and he didn’t explode in anger at me, I told him I really had to get going and I quickly left the Skywalk just in case a crack-team of Cincinnati Bell linemen were on their way up to take me down.
Months later I was enjoying Spring Break with my friend Shane in San Diego. Shane had worked with Jon and I at the theater, and we laughed about all the craziness that I caused in Roger’s life and how Jon had to deal with all the fallout and, of course, we talked about Jim Bayless from Ameritech Corporate Security. Shane told me how Jim showed up at the movie theater I used to work at and convinced my old manager to give him a copy of my W2 tax form. I’m not sure if he had the police help convince him to hand over the forms or not, but it didn’t really matter since I was living and working under a fake name. Jim received a W2 form which listed my name as Glen Alexander Carbon with a post office box address that I’d closed months ago and the social security number of an old man in Seattle named Alex Carbon. (Yes, THIS Alex Carbon.) By the time Jim got my tax forms I was living under the name Michael Kelly, thosands of miles away from him. As we sat in a cafe, Shane drew this picture of Jim on a napkin.
More months passed and I was living in Portland, Oregon. I’d just purchased my very first cell phone from a shady guy who often came into the AM/PM store that I worked at. He was always trying to sell me stolen merchandise and drugs. I think he even tried to get me to buy a gun from him once. It wasn’t until he offered me an NEC cellular phone for $50 that I finally did business with him. I handed him $50 from the register and the phone was mine. It didn’t come with a charger since he probably stole it out of a car or mugged some guy for it, so I had to make my own out of an old power supply and paper clips. I was constantly overcharging it and heating the battery up to scary levels. But this cellular phone lasted me for nearly a year until I upgraded to a new one.
Of course, I wasn’t paying for the service on this phone. I was using stolen credit cards to make calls on it. At the time, it felt amazing to be able to carry around a phone at all times, making free calls on it that were untraceable. I soon put this fancy new technology to work by making a prank call to Jim Bayless in the middle of the night. It was around 3 o’clock in the morning when I called his office and was connected to a lady named Sylvia. I convinced Sylvia that a huge emergency involving phone phreaks was occurring and Jim Bayless needed to come into the office immediately! Sylvia patched a call through to his home, waking him up and explaining the situation to him as I listened.
When Sylvia finally left the line, I told Jim that it was Alex. After a little initial confusion and Jim sleepily realizing who I was, he tried to scare me by letting me know he’d traced my phone call before.
“Are you calling me from that pay phone by the bank in Cincinnati again?” he asked.
“No, I’m calling you from Oregon. I mugged some guy and stole his cell phone and I’m using a stolen calling card to call you! Is that okay, Jim?”
“No, I don’t think that’s okay, Alex…”
Those quotes are about all I remember from this conversation with Jim. He wasn’t happy to be woken from his sleep, but he played along until we finally said our goodbyes. When I first talked to Sylvia and told her that Jim needed to come in, she told me that he was at home in Brownsburg. So the next morning I called information to find Jim had a listed phone number in Brownsburg. Throughout the next year, I prank called him once or twice at home and a few times at work, but left him alone after that. I would always work some crazy phreaking story into my calls to him. I’d claim that I’d opened up a phone box and had been making overseas calls on other peoples’ phone lines all night or that I was blue boxing calls so that he could never trace me again. He never seemed that angry with me, but I could tell that my calls were more irritating than amusing to him.
A couple of years later, a guy named kcochran would begin researching all the names that he read about in the PLA ‘zine and Jim Bayless would be one of the people that he called to ask about me. Kcochran recently told me that Jim seemed very unhappy about my contact with him and that he took it very personally that I called him at home. It would be less than a year later that Jim Bayless would die.
And I guess that’s it. That’s the story as well as I can remember it. There may or may not be things about the whole thing that I’ve forgotten that nobody will ever know about since we can’t exactly call up Jim and ask him about it. Rest in peace, Jim! Soon you’ll have your very own spot on PLA’s Memorial!