Death of Joybubbles (Joe Engressia)

Death of Joybubbles (Joe Engressia)

I saw this on another telecom forum today. Reposted for those who don't belong to them. This was written by Mark Cuccia.

It appears that Joybubbles (born Joe Engressia), the famous blind telephone "phreak" died of a heart attack on or around August 7, 2007. He was 58 years old.


I have sad news of yet another death, that of "Joybubbles", born Joe Engressia. "Joybubbles" wasn't just a "handle", but rather what he legally changed his name to around 1990. He was also known by some as "The Whistler".

Joe Engressia was one of the better known blind "phone phreaks" of the 1960s/70s-era. He even got a job with Mountain Bell Telephone in the 1970s-era, and worked for a while as a TSPS Operator in Denver as well in other areas of Mountain Bell.

More recently he lived in Minneapolis MN.

I had heard of him from books and articles on the telephone network, but in 1995, I was introduced to him over the phone by another mutual telephone enthusiast, Les Reeves of Atlanta GA, who also used to post to Townson's Telecom Digest. Sadly, Les Reeves also died back in early 2003.

"Joybubbles" was still interested in the telephone network, such as new area codes, cutovers of older switches into new digital equipment, removals of AT&T 4Es from the Long Lines network as more advanced DMS and 5Es have taken over, etc.

He was NEVER one who was trying to "steal" from the phone company nor was he ever one to want to cause damage to the network. He was just someone who through his keen audio abilities, more keen than most due to his blindness, was able to determine "how" the phone network actually worked, back in the analog days of Crossbar and SXS, inband audio signaling of MF tones and various single frequency supervisory tones, etc.

Even in his later years after having left Mountain Bell, which was BEFORE the 1984 divestiture -- I don't think he worked for them as "US West" -- he would find things not working properly in translations and such, and try to report these errors to the right people at US West/Qwest, Sprint, MCI, AT&T, etc.

He apparantly died of a heart attack in his aparatment, sometime between Friday 3-August and Tuesday 7-August. I tried calling him several times on Friday and Saturday 03/04 August, but all I would get was his voicemail. I did leave a message, but he never called back. If you call his voice- mail today, as of Sunday morning, it says "Mailbox for...." (in the generic female voice), "Joybubbles" (in his own voice), "is full" (back to the generic female voice).

I know that he was eccentric in his own ways, and would go into his own form of "hibernation" every so often. Sometimes, it might be weeks before I'd have a chance to talk to him. But we usually had at least one or two phone calls a month.

The last time I actually spoke with him on the phone was on the night of Wednesday 01-August-2007, after the bridge in the Minneapolis/ St.Paul area had collapsed. I called him up and when he answered, I told him how glad I was to have gotten him on the phone, that he hadn't been out doing errands with the handicapped/senior's van possibly crossing the bridge at the moment it collapsed. He told me that the handicapped/senior's van service did sometimes cross that bridge! He hadn't had the radio on at the moment, so he hadn't yet heard about the bridge collapse, but he would be hearing about it all the next day when listening to the news.

We had another interest in common as well, that being radio broadcasting and nostalgia. I remember that he frequently told me of an episode of CBS Radio's "SUSPENSE" from 1960 that he never heard the end of, because he was in the car with his parents, and they were driving out of town, and eventually drove out of range of that particular CBS Radio affiliate. 40 years later, he heard the episode in full, all the way to the conclusion, when I played him a tape I found that I had of that episode, playing it over the phone for him.

He was 58.

Some discussion on his death can be found at:

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and also at:
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There is a Wikipedia page for him:
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does go into some of his many eccentricities...

It also mentions that he died on Tuesday 7 August 2007, but I think he might have died a few days earlier, or else maybe he had an initial heart attack the weekend just before?

They say things come in "threes" --

First there was the death of Mike Ravis of Chicago/Las Vegas, back in May, of pancreatic cancer...

then last month, Stan Cline of Chattanooga/Atlanta -- he was the Cellular guru...

and now Joe "Joybubbles/The Whistler" Engressia.

On another matter, someone has taken over the Usenet comp.dcom.telecom aspect of Pat Townson's Telecom Digest, about a week ago. But there are only about three posts made, as of last weekend. I assume that Townson is still in a nursing home, following his stroke from four weeks ago.

Mark J. Cuccia Lafayette LA, formerly of New Orleans LA, pre-Katrina

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Diamond Dave
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