Story about Florida man's skeleton guitar appears to be a hoax, say local reporters
Musician dubbed Prince Midnight stands by his claim that he turned his uncle's bones into a 'Skelecaster'
A Florida musician who claims to have built a guitar from his uncle's skeleton bears "a striking resemblance" to a known local prankster, say two reporters covering the story.
Last week, a Tampa rocker calling himself Prince Midnight told As It Happens that he'd made a guitar using the medically prepared skeleton of his late Uncle Filip, a "super metal head" who died in a car accident in the mid-'90s.
Since then, two Tampa reporters — Christopher Spata at the Tampa Bay Times and Ray Roa at the alt-weekly Creative Loafing — have questioned the story's veracity, noting Midnight looks an awful lot like a local punk rocker/performance artist with a penchant for fooling newspapers.
"I don't want to be the person that says Santa Claus isn't real, but I do believe you've been duped," Roa, editor-in-chief of Creative Loafing, told As It Happens host Carol Off on Monday.
"Do I want it to be true? One hundred per cent, no doubt. It's one of the greatest backstories and most metal things ever in the capital of death metal — Tampa, Florida."
Midnight has not returned phone calls from As It Happens since his interview on Thursday, but said in an email that his story was not a hoax. Any reports insinuating otherwise, he said, are "reckless" and "libelous."
He would not answer questions asking for information that could corroborate his account. When pressed further, he asked that CBC cease contacting him because his lawyer "agrees that these threats to publicly call me a liar, and otherwise defame me, constitute unpleasant harassment and an abuse of the freedom of the press."
A man who wears many hats
In the Tampa Bay Times, Spata reported that the man purporting to be Prince Midnight "bears a striking resemblance" to an eccentric Tampa hat maker who calls himself Odilon Ozare. Ray Roa, who has long been covering Ozare's media antics, agrees.
Since breaking the hat record in 2018, he has done a slew of interviews with media outlets around the world detailing his lifelong passion for hat making — something he said he picked up from his grandmother when he was just a boy.
There's just one problem. According to an investigation by Spata for the Tampa Bay Times, there's no record of an Odilon Ozare ever existing in Florida.
"Ozare claims to be a longtime Tampa resident who went to Hillsborough High School, but there is no voter registration, driver's license, phone or address records for anyone by that name. He said he doesn't vote, and property ownership is an 'imperialist system' in which he refuses to participate. He won't let me come to his home ... or see his work space," Spata reported.
"Guinness World Records officials said record applicants are prompted to provide a full name on their application, but can give a stage name if they want. Ozare said it's his legal name."
When As It Happens reached out to Ozare on his Twitter account for comment, he said: "No, I am not Prince Midnight, nor do I have any association with this person."
He also suggested that those involved with this story should "go back to journalism school" before excusing himself to make more hats.
2-headed crocodile hoax
Both Roa and Spata said Ozare himself bears a resemblance to a local musician named Justin Arnold, frontman of the punk band Feral Babies.
Arnold tricked the Tampa Bay Times in 2014 into publishing a photo of a two-headed crocodile on its cover. The paper later reported the photograph was "a total crock."
Both Ozare's hat and Arnold's taxidermied crocodile are now on display at a coffee shop in Tampa's Seminole Heights neighbourhood.
Roa said he highly suspects Arnold is behind both the Prince Midnight and Odilon Ozare personas, but he can't prove it definitively.
"If you email Odilon, Odilon has no clue who Justin is, and vice-versa," he said. "No one can confirm it, right? You'd have to do a DNA test."
Calling him a prankster seems cheap because he's a performance artist, a genius in a way.- Ray Roa, editor-in-chief of Creative Loafing
When As It Happens reached out to Arnold's band Feral Babies for comment via Facebook, they simply replied: "Go f--k yourself."
As It Happens has sent several emails to Midnight asking for his full name, his uncle's full name, a copy of his uncle's obituary, and the names of the medical school and funeral home involved in storing his uncle's remains.
'All the moving parts'
Long before Prince Midnight appeared on As It Happens, he was making a splash online and in the Florida music scene.
He also documented the process of building the bone guitar, which he dubbed the "Skelecaster," on his Instagram page over the course of several months.
"This one, he just pulled off perfectly," Roa said. "He had all the moving parts."
In fact, Roa said he has a certain admiration for the man.
"Calling him a prankster seems cheap because he's a performance artist, a genius in a way," he said.
Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Sarah Jackson. Interview with Ray Roa produced by Sarah Jackson.