He Claimed He Made a Guitar Out of His Uncle’s Skeleton, But Was It a Hoax?
The story might already be familiar, especially for metalheads who follow the odd and macabre. In February, a Florida musician known as Prince Midnight captured headlines with a guitar he'd reportedly constructed out of the skeleton of his dead uncle.
Word of the so-called "Skelecaster" didn't just make the rounds on music websites — news outlets as far-flung as CBC/Radio-Canada and The Indian Express even covered the creation. Midnight, who says his real name is Yaago Anax, spoke to Guitar World, HuffPost and other places about the electric guitar that, it seemed, harnessed the legit framework of the dead.
But was the whole thing just a hoax? That same month, per Vice, two local reporters embedded in Midnight's Tampa Bay home base, Christopher Spata of the Tampa Bay Times and Ray Roa of Creative Loafing Tampa, detailed their suspicions that the skeleton guitar maker was an alter ego of either one or two different people: Odilon Ozare, a Tampa man with purported Guinness World Records titles for the tallest hat and longest fingernail extensions, and Justin Arnold, a seemingly separate Florida musician who duped Tampa Bay's tbt* magazine into printing a fake photo of a two-headed alligator in 2014.
Nevertheless, behind the fabled skeleton guitar itself is a musician and self-made craftsman who, prankster or not, seems to have built the axe as a sincere tribute to the deceased uncle, Filip, who he says introduced him to heavy metal in the first place. Coincidentally, the guitar's creation followed the 2020 release of Prince Midnight's self-titled EP, a distinctive take on black metal led by the unusual-for-metal sounds of the vibraphone, an instrument that, over the last 36 months, has become particularly close to the rocker's heart.
Speaking to Loudwire, Midnight explains how, in 2019, he was in a terrible depression when he got a xylophone from his partner as a gift.
"I fell in love with it, eventually upgrading to a vibraphone and becoming a student of the [vibraphone playing] greats like Arthur Lyman, Martin Denny and Les Baxter," he says. “I've always been into heavy metal, punk and D-beat and realized no one had ever done a [metal] record incorporating it. I became a grindcore fan growing up in the Tampa hardcore and metal scene. My record has only a little guitar — almost all of that tonal space gets taken up by vibraphone."
Regarding the "Skelecaster," what readers have seen of the unusual guitar elsewhere aligns with what Midnight repeats to Loudwire: As the story goes, Filip, who died in a car accident in Greece in his 20s, was harvested as a medically prepared skeleton and used there in an educational capacity over the last 30 years. After being decommissioned, however, the bones had to be returned to the family. Due to circumstances surrounding Greek customs and not wanting to pay additional burial fees, the musician ended up receiving his uncle's remains in Florida.
"From what I understand, [in the United States], your name is scrubbed if your body is donated," Midnight explains. "So if you get made into a skeleton, then you're just like an ambiguous skeleton. But over there, it's super Greek Orthodox. And so that has a lot to do with how this all happened. Over there, how your remains get disposed of is super important; no one gets cremated there. When you donate your body to science, and it may still be this way, your name remains attached to it."
But getting Filip's bones wasn't a quick and easy process — it required "legal mumbo jumbo" and the help of experts. "You have to be a licensed funeral director to ship bones here," Midnight continues. "So I had to get a funeral director to go through like, the U.S. State Department — you know, people die overseas a hundred times a day, it's not an uncommon thing [to retrieve human remains from another country]. So I went through all that and paid this funeral home to do it. They accepted the remains for me."
After taking possession of the skeleton himself, Midnight's idea for the "Skelecaster" took shape. He says a guitar luthier friend provided some initial inspiration, although the buddy soon got turned off by the idea of making it from a real skeleton and jumped ship on the project. Going it on his own from there on out, the musician used trial-and-error and some elbow grease to strengthen the spine with steel plates. Ultimately, he added the guitar neck, bridge, pickup and other electronic guts one would normally see on a Fender Telecaster to the spinal column and rib cage of uncle Filip's remains to make a working electric guitar.
"The only structure this thing has is in the spine," Midnight says of the skeleton as he received it, "and where the spinal cord used to be was like a bar, a metal bar. And it's strong, but it's not going to keep consistent tension enough to keep something in tune for very long." The musician describes taking multiple trips to Lowe's, the home improvement store, often quizzing employees there, before arriving at the steel undergirding that would allow the guitar to function.
What part of the story so far would make it a hoax? Perhaps if the skeleton wasn't that of Midnight's uncle, sure — or maybe if it wasn't a real one at all. Of course, there's also the possibility that the musician isn't being honest about his true identity. That's what local journalists Spata and Roa presume. But the musician says they never reached out to him.
"Neither of those people ever contacted me," Midnight claims. "If you ask them, they'd say they didn't contact me. I don't know either of the guys that wrote those articles. I thought it was a little messed up — if you created something and it got arbitrarily attributed to somebody else, I think anyone would be a little frustrated with that."
But when Loudwire emailed Spata and Roa, each wrote back that they had indeed contacted the person they believe to be Midnight, Justin Arnold AKA Odilon Ozare. Spata even relayed that Arnold/Ozare "told me he didn't know what I was talking about with them being the same guy. … He also sent me some photos of Prince Midnight to use with the story. … The guy is incredibly funny and creative. It's a little bit like accusing Borat of not being a real person, it sort of sucks the fun out of it."
As he's written in the Tampa Bay Times, Spata thinks both Midnight and Ozare are Arnold due to the characters' shared proximity, similar appearance and the detailed nature of both of their backstories, combined with an apparent lack of info regarding their lives before they made the news. Roa shares the same skepticism. A September 2020 episode of a local podcast called Grand National Championships is the first appearance of Prince Midnight they've found.
The musician invites either writer to reach out to investigate the guitar further. "Dude, you can shave some of this [skeleton] off, take some of my hair, and do a DNA analysis if that makes you feel better," Midnight says. "But I have a feeling that when you get the results, you won't be writing an article about that."
The urge to prove the guitar's validity echoes a theme that carries over elsewhere in his life. "I'm in the same situation personally," the musician admits. "You know, the crux of what we're talking about is people not taking me seriously as a creative person. And I even have friends that have recently been like, 'I don't get it, man, like, why would you make a vibraphone metal record?'"
For Prince Midnight, the vibraphone was the musical totem that rejuvenated him after a dark period in his life. He appears to be quite open about that. The "Skelecaster," it seems, just happened to be a bonus— the unsettling, attention-grabbing icing on the cake.
If you can believe it.
"It's not like I bought a vibraphone and played it for three years every day as a joke," Midnight says. "When does it stop being a joke? When does something stop being a hoax?"
When, indeed? It's really anyone's guess.