Who was Joybubbles?

Born blind, Joe Engressia, Jr. developed a love for the telephone at an early age. His acute sense of pitch allowed him to whistle tones used internally by the telephone system with great precision. As a young man in the 1960s, he used this ability to perform all sorts of hijinks with the phone, including making free long-distance calls. He became an early part of the "phone phreaking" scene, which is a community of phone enthusiasts who discover and use quirks of the phone system (they are similar to the "hacker" culture in computers). In 1968 he was noticed by the phone company for selling long-distance calls at his university, got in trouble with the law, and gave up phreaking.

After his phreaking phase, he began to wish for a more childlike experience; his biological childhood had been unhappy and marred by abuse. In 1988, he decided to be "the age of 5 forever." A few years later, he legally changed his name to Joybubbles. He played with toys, spent lots of time around children, and was a Mister Rogers enthusiast. He had a frank kindness rarely found in adults.

Sadly, Joybubbles passed away in August 2007.

What was Stories and Stuff?

Stories and Stuff was a phone line updated weekly with recordings of Joybubbles telling stories (and stuff). It ran for the last thirteen years of his life. In these recordings, Joybubbles talks about overcoming his past, gives advice, and tells anecdotes from life as a perpetual 5-year-old. All of it will make you smile.

What is this website?

This website intends to make it a lot easier to listen to Stories and Stuff (and maybe eventually other things Joybubbles made as well). The episodes can be streamed right in your browser, and it's possible to search through episode titles and descriptions as well. Eventually, it would be great to transcribe the audio to make Joybubbles accessible to whole new audiences. If you are interested in helping with anything, from hacking on the website to listening to and categorizing episodes, please email me at zmbc@uw.edu. Especially grateful for anyone who has more recordings of Joybubbles to store in the archive!