Called the Basement Tapes because each was filmed in a basement family room in the Harris house.
The families of the victims did not want the tapes to be released, but Time magazine was given access to them, albeit without the families’ okay. There were a reported five tapes, two of which would later be released; one called Hitmen for Hire, and the other tape of the two shooting at Ramparts Range.
The other three tapes, the Basement Tapes, were under a court-ordered seal. Time wrote about the videos and CNN has a voluminous record of Columbine reporting. The transcripts are also part of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office official Columbine report, so they are public.
In 2006, the court permitted the JCSO to release the tapes if it so chose. Sheriff Ted Mink chose no.
The Basement Tapes were recorded on a Columbine High School camera. The content of the three tapes is disturbing, shocking even. It’s at once hard to imagine this took place but can be imagined visually by reading the descriptive transcripts. But so too are the journals of the teenage killers.
The excerpts are from Peter Langman, PhD.
Here’s what you need to know:
‘Top Secret Rampart’ Evidence #265, March 15 and March 18, 1999
In this tape, Harris and Klebold are in the Harris’ basement-level family room. They’re drinking Jack Daniels and talking about their anticipated notoriety and their hopes their videos would be shown globally.
Dylan Klebold sits in a tan La-Z-Boy recliner in Eric’s basement bedroom, chewing on a toothpick while Eric Harris messes around with the now-stationary video recorder. When he’s done Eric moves to sit in another recliner with the bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey, and his sawed-off shotgun named “Arlene” on his lap. He takes a small drink and tries not to
wince at the taste.
Harris: [in reference to the Kentucky and Arkansas shootings] Do not think we’re trying to copy anyone. We had the idea before the first one ever happened. Our plan is better, not like those fucks in Kentucky with camouflage and .22s. Those kids were only trying to be accepted by others.
They go on to talk about how they hate all races: “ni**ers, spi*s, Jews, fuc*ing whites.” They also mention enemies that abused them and friends who didn’t do enough to defend them. In one segment, Eric and Dylan spend more than an hour discussing their hatred for humanity and their fellow students, whom they vowed to kill. They name some of the classmates they hope to murder. A couple of times during the rants Dylan warns Eric to talk more quietly so as not to wake Eric’s parents who are sleeping upstairs.
Harris: We need a fuc*ing kick start. If we have a fuc*ing religious war — or oil — or anything. We need to get a chain reaction going here. It’s gonna be like fucking Doom man — after the bombs explode. Tick, tick, tick, tick . . . Haa! That fuc*ing shotgun [he kisses his gun] straight out of Doom. …Go ahead and change the gun laws. How do you think we got ours?
‘Reb’s Tape’ Evidence #298, April 11, 1999
This tape, transcribed by Langman, has Harris, nickname Reb, driving with Klebold to get gear; two large fuel containers and three propane bottles. Klebold says, “We’ve been planning this for over eight months.”
Harris says, “At least.”
Then tape then cuts to Harris in his bedroom speaking into the camera. He addresses and apologizes to his parents, saying they’re “the best,” and what he’s about to do is his and Klebold’s fault and not theirs. He talks about specific people he will kill. The remainder of the tape is a description of the weapons, bombs and the “suicide plan.”
He says this is total “KMFDM’ and that “there are 7 and 1/3 days left.” He gets an odd look on his face, then says, “Fuc*ing bitches.” He then lists five names and says that he’s going to be “one tired motherfuc*er come Monday, then BOOM! I’ll get shot and die.”
The remainder of the tape is a description of his Writings of God, and the weapons, bombs and the “suicide plan.”
Eric then films his planning book, calling it the “Writings of God.” He says his beliefs have changed somewhat during the year, over the course of time he’s been writing. He turns to a page where there are figures drawn complete with ammo, bombs, and guns, all labeled. He says it’s a “drawing of gear, back when we thought we could get calicos.” He then points to a picture that depicts two backpacks labeled “napalm.” He calls this the “suicide plan.”
Thirty Minutes Before the Massacre Evidence #333, April 20, 1999
The final of the Basement Tape, reported to have been recorded around 30 minutes before their murderous rampage, is transcribed by Langman.
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are once more in the family room of the Harris home. Eric is filming. Dylan is wearing a black baseball cap on backward, exposing a “B” embroidered in white on the back of the hat — the Boston Red Sox logo. He’s wearing a plaid shirt, either dark blue or black with white; the shirt’s untucked. He’s wearing black BDUs (military-style pants) tucked into military-style boots. There are several bags on the floor, including a large maroon one.
Harris: Say it now.
Klebold: Hey mom. Gotta go. It’s about a half an hour before our little judgment day. I just wanted to apologize to you guys for any crap this might instigate as far as [inaudible] or something. Just know I’m going to a better place. I didn’t like life too much and I know I’ll be happy wherever the fuck I go. So I’m gone. Good-bye. Reb . ..
Dylan takes the camera then and begins filming Eric. Eric’s also wearing a plaid shirt that’s either dark blue or black with white, with a white t-shirt on underneath. His lower half can’t be seen.
Harris: Yea . . . Everyone I love, I’m really sorry about all this. I know my mom and dad will be just like … just fucking shocked beyond belief. I’m sorry, all right. I can’t help it.
Klebold: [interrupts] We did what we had to do.
Harris: Morris, Nate, if you guys live, I want you guys to have whatever you want from my room and the computer room.
Dylan adds that they can have his things as well.
Harris: Susan, [referring to his friend] sorry. Under different circumstances it would’ve been a lot different. I want you to have that Fly CD.
Harris: [eventually] That’s it. Sorry. Goodbye.
Klebold: [sticks his face in the camera] Goodbye.
The tape ends with a brief glimpse of a sign on the wall of Eric’s bedroom, someone’s arm partially blocking it from sight. It’s the letters CHS along with a drawing of a bomb with a lit fuse and, in bold black letters, the word “clue.”