John Watermann – Calcutta Gas Chamber


In 2006, Cold Spring records has re-released a record from 1993. It only recently came to my attention, so I would not have written about it on this weblog (for it would be ‘old news’) – if it’s thematic content wouldn’t be so shocking.
John Watermann‘s album is called ‘Calcutta Gas Chamber’ – and that about says all.  Story goes that the recording artist has visited India in the early 90’s and came across nightmare-ish giant gas chambers that the Indian government used for ‘population control’.

“There had never been permission given to take pictures in the compounds of the gas chambers itself, despite the fact that tourists had been allowed to view the smallest details during the six years of operation”
“Only a few photographs with hidden cameras have been smuggled out of the country (see the 19th  of February report in Time magazine). But the constant arrival of truck loads and later the infamous daily helicopter parade , transporting the victims like game in huge nets hanging under the machines, was documented quite often”
The Gas Chamber plant was shut down in 1989 because “commercial success could not be achieved”.

This single statement is so shocking that I can hardly believe it. Why can’t I remember any serious discussion about this issue? I was alive and well in those days but I really cannot remember reading anything about this. Could it be possible that international media would simply neglect something so incomprehensible?

The sleeve notes continue:
“The Indian government has always been on the forefront of population control. Lower caste women, for instance, were constantly encouraged to bathe in or drink from the tailing ponds of Jaduguda, where the radioactive waste is dumped in (thorium is used as nuclear fuel).”

Watermann created this record using field recordings from an abandoned electrical power station in Brisbane in 1992. So what you hear is not the actual gas chamber sound, but an artist impression of the nightmare he could not shake loose.

There are no ‘tracks’ on this cd, but ‘shudder projects’. In fact, any discussion about the musical quality of this project is totally irrelevant.
One question remains: is this story really true, or is it just a nightmare?

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  1. Peter

    Coldspring representatives have confirmed that the concept, album and information is all fiction. That’s good to know. I wouldn’t be too happy with the subject of this release if I were the Indian government…!

  2. Francis

    The quote on the sleeve notes about ‘lower caste women encouraged to bathe in contaminated radioactive water’ should have raised some politcal eyebrows, I guess..

    As you say, there are no references found but those pointing to the Watermann record. That fact alone could be enough for any conspiracy theorist to assume that Watermann’s theory is true..but the ‘stray dogs and animals’ theory sounds much more plausible.

  3. The existence of such an atrocity as Wasserman described would be a very popular topic of discussion among both humanitarians and conspiracy theorists.

    A cursory amount of research finds that all allusions to the alleged Cacutta gas chambers point back to the Wasserman album, thus Wasserman seems to be the sole source of this tale.

    As far as I’ve been able to ascertain, Calcutta’s “population control” program applied strictly to nuisance animals such as stray dogs and animals suspected of spreading disease, and it is doubtful they would have used gas.

    Large gas chambers are an inefficient, inhumane and dangerous method of killing, and they present a serious health threat to those outside the chamber. Thus they tend to be very small, only large enough to kill single death-row convicts.