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Who is Joybubbles?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 August 2016
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Known primarily as a phone phreak and founder of the We Won’t Grow Up non-profit support organization, Joybubbles is often identified as a phenomenal person who was gifted with perfect pitch. Here is some background on the life of Joybubbles, including some of his most memorable accomplishments.

Born in Richmond Virginia on 25 May 1949, Josef Carl Engressia, Jr. entered the world without the gift of sight. While the boy did not have the ability to see, he did have an extraordinary ability to produce a whistle that provided the ideal pitch to interact with telephone frequencies. During his time as a student at the University of South Florida during the late 1960s, Josef Carl Engressia earned the nickname of “Whistler.” The nickname came about due to his uncanny ability to produce tones that allowed him to place long distance phone calls that circumvented the identification of the point of origin and thus made it impossible to bill the calls to one exchange. However, he was eventually caught and disciplined by the University. Still, Engressia remained at the University, eventually completing his studies in the area of philosophy. After moving to Tennessee, he continued his phone phreaking activities until the legal authorities charged him with malicious mischief. The resulting publicity from his activities and arrest earned him a reputation of being a blind genius.

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During the 1980’s, Engressia began to adopt the name of Joybubbles, and made a decision to leave adult life and responsibilities behind. After a move to Minneapolis in 1982, Engressia took steps to establish his own church, the Church of Eternal Childhood, became an ordained minister for the organization, and set up a simple non-profit organization devoted to helping adults rediscover the joys of childhood. Joybubbles supported himself with a disability pension and occasional work as a subject in scent intensity research. Locally, he spent time giving readings at a local library for the blind and setting up phone calls for terminally ill children.

In 1991, Engressia legally changed his name to Joybubbles. Citing childhood abuse among the issues that led to the decision, the name change was one of the ways that Joybubbles created delineation between his unhappy past and the world he had created for himself. During the remainder of the decade, Joybubbles continued to work with organizations in the local community to benefit children and to help adults recapture some of the wonder of seeing the world through the eyes of a child.

On 8 August 2007, Joybubbles passed away in his home in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As part of his legacy, Joybubbles left behind a lot of positive memories that will continue to enrich the lives of persons who knew him.

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