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The mysterious death of Iron Butterflies bassist Philip Taylor Kramer
Philip Taylor Kramer was born in 1952 in Youngstown, Ohio. In 1974, he joined Iron Butterfly as its bass player, playing on two of the group’s albums, Scorching Beauty and Sun and Steel, both released in 1975. After the breakup of Iron Butterfly, Kramer continued to play with founding member Ron Bushy in the groups Magic and Gold between 1977 and 1980.
After leaving the band, he dropped the Phillip from his name, went back to college and earned a degree in aerospace engineering, which led to a stint working for the U.S. Department of Defense. In the ’90s, Kramer created Total Multimedia Inc., a high-tech multimedia company that did pioneering work in video compression technology. Ultimately, his brief stint in Iron Butterfly was a mere footnote to his much more involved life’s work.
He also married and had two children. In 1994, he grew emotionally distraught as his companies went bankrupt and were reorganized. In the weeks prior to his disappearance, he told his wife, Jennifer, that he was working on an important computer and data compression project. He claimed that the program could take a missing child’s photograph and find that child in a group of thousands of people.
On February 11, 1995, Taylor and Jennifer went on a hike in Thousand Oaks. While hiking, she noticed that he had great amounts of energy. At one point, he pointed out a cross on a hill, telling her that their house was in its path. According to her, he was finding sacredness in everything. She now believes that his bizarre behavior was due to sleep deprivation.
On February 12, Taylor left home at around 9AM and went to visit his father-in-law. After leaving there, he went to Los Angeles International Airport to pick up a business associate and Jennifer. After arriving at the airport, he waited for twenty-five minutes and then left for no apparent reason. He drove north, towards his home. During this time, he made several phone calls. At one point, he left a message for Iron Butterfly’s drummer and close friend, Ron Bushy. According to Ron, he sounded stressed and scared. After that, he called Jennifer and told her to call his business associate. When she asked where he was going, he would not answer. He claimed that, when he saw her, he would have a “big surprise” for her.
One hour later, Taylor made a call to 911 from his Ford Aerostar. He claimed that he was going to kill himself. That was the last time he was heard from, and no trace of him or his van was found. However, since his disappearance, multiple eyewitnesses have come forward, claiming to have seen him alive. A pawn shop employee in Kenowga Park remembered seeing him in late February. At around the same time, a woman and her daughter saw him at a garage sale.
On February 28, two-and-a-half weeks after his disappearance, Taylor allegedly made one final call to his family. All he said was “Hello, hello”. He has never been located.
Four years later, on May 29, 1999, two photographers snapping pictures of old car wrecks at the bottom of Decker Canyon near Malibu, California found Taylor’s van. His skeletal remains were inside; the cause of death was blunt force trauma, consistent with him driving off of a cliff. His remains were identified through dental records. After an investigation, his death was ruled a probable suicide based on forensic evidence, financial problems, and phone calls made before he died, one of which stated he was going to kill himself.
“My brother would not have left his family,” Kramer’s sister said in an interview with VH-1. His widow told the L.A. Times that Kramer “would never, for any reason or under any circumstances, allow himself to completely abandon the family he loves more than life itself.”
Kramer had reportedly been working on a revolutionary method of transporting information and matter through space, and his father remained unconvinced his death was a suicide. “Taylor had told me a long time before, there was people giving him problems,” he said. “They wanted what he was doing, and several of them had threatened him. He told me ‘If I ever say I’m gonna kill myself, don’t you believe it. I’m gonna be needing help.'”