Friday, February 11, 2011

Lavender Town Tone

Since I was already on the topic of Pokemon Red and Lavendar Town tonight, I thought I would go ahead and post this too. It's not really a ghost in a video game but it is a pretty cool story that has to do with video games, and it's an older story which makes it even better imo.

Let me just preface this post by saying "As the story goes..."

In February 1996 Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue were released in Japan, oddly enough, as "Pocket Monsters: Red" and "Pocket Monsters: Green". (Don't ask me why green got changed to blue for the American versions.) In these first editions of the games the music for Lavender Town, an area in the game, had a high pitched tone in it that had to be edited almost immediately after the game's release due to the health issues that the games was causing young children. Most of the information on this topic was leaked by ex-employees of Game Freak Inc. including Ms. Satou Harue who released a confidential directory compiled by her company that had on it a list of symptoms, dates, and the name of a child who had shown the following systems after playing the game:

April 12 1996: Obstructive sleep apnea, severe migraines, otorrhagia (bleeding from the ears), tinnitus (ringing, buzzing in the ears).
May 23 1996: General irritability, insomnia, addiction to videogame, nosebleeds. Developed into violent streaks against others and eventually himself.
April 27 1996: Cluster headaches, irritability. Eventually took mixed painkillers.
March 4 1996: Migraines, sluggish and slow behaviour, unresponsiveness. Developed into deafness, and went missing. Body discovered beside road April 20 1996.

Later, in the summer of 1966, many of the cases were finally linked to the games, almost always in cases of children between 7 and 15 who had worn headphones to play the game. The game developers, it seem, had specifically wanted Lavender Town to have a lasting effect on players. "The Pokémon Tower is a visible result of that," Seki Uchitada told ゲームの次元 ("Game's Dimensions" Magazine) in an interview. "That, and the fact that Lavender Town is so different from all the other cities in the game: it is smaller, it has fewer people occupying it, it didn't have a gym... and, of course, the music was very, very eerie. In fact, in the first version of the game, we were told to slightly change the song played in the background of Lavender Town ... because our manager told us it would make children upset. The music used in subsequent versions is different." So the music that was never put into any version of the game was even creepier? I remember being scared of Lavender Town when playing the game as a kid and I obviously had the version that was released after the 'Lavender Town Tone' copies were recalled, since it was in English.

In the Game's Demensions article, Seki never mentioned the Lavender Town music again. However, it was later discovered by other Japanese media sources that Game Freak Incorporated had been doing tests on sound patterns called "binaural beats" ( which can cause the listener, through stereo headphones (GameBoyColor only produces stereo sound through use of headphones, as it only had one external speaker), to feel different emotions based on the frequency; similar to Electromagnetic fields. Feelings of unease, anxiety, depression, and other psychological effects plagued upwards of 200 Japanese children before the official recall of game. Many children were involved in accidents or suicides before the rerelease of the game. For the most part, no adults were documented in these cases, possibly because they could not hear the tone (like the Mosquito ringtone that came out a few years ago) or because they simply didn't link the game to their symptoms.

Now, what I've written above is supposed to be the FACTS of this story, but it's very hard to find evidence since I don't really speak enough Japanese to go looking through old newpapers over in Japan. Apparently someone translated most of this information into English and posted it at in the late 90's, but that website is no longer in use. This next part has more to do with visual effects that could be found programmed into the Pokemon Tower in the first edition of the game, but it is staggeringly less likely.

In addition to the disturbing Lavender Town Tone, there were also 3 distinct visual animations programmed into the game which had a random chance to appear in the Pokemon Tower before the user find the Silph Scope. The animations were three different battle encounters where something would appear to fight the user, though it was not a pokemon.

First, there's the White Hand Sprite
Known as WhitHand.gif, it was coded to appear randomly on the 3rd floor of Pokemon tower and had 4 different animations; an introduction (when the enemy pokemon usually voices it's 'cry'), an idle phase, and two attacks. One attack was called Brutal, the other simply, Fist.

The second was the Ghost animation
It was named Haunting.swf and was programmed to be on many different floors of the tower. Players cannot directly interact with this ghost, but the animation is said to be composed of the picture above as well as blurred and staticy versions that produced a fading effect for the viewer. According to one article on the subject "...Interspersed with these bursts of static are several frames of screaming faces, along with images of a skeletal man in a cloak, and of several killed corpses. The meaning behind these are unknown- While under oath before the Video Games Commission Board, Lead Programmer Hisashi Sogabe testified as to having no knowledge as to where the images surfaced."

And lastly, there is the Buried Alive model
Known as the buryman script, this was both a dangerous animation as well as a new character in the game. It appeared to be a half buried corpse that took the place of the Marowak fight that ends the haunting of Lavender Town. Buryman would take the place of the final boss fight of Pokemon Tower. Supposedly, anyone who could reach the top of the tower would be confronted by this dialog;
Buryman: You're... Here.
I'm trapped...
And I'm lonely...
So very lonely...
Won't you join me?
And then the battle would begin. Buryman would have a Gengar, a Muk and two White Hands. There was no code written for the user winning the fight, and if you won the game would freeze up. If you lost, the scene would finish with a typical "Game Over" screen; however, in the background, an image of the Buried Alive character devouring the player was to have been shown. Especially strange are the protocols for after this scene. The cartridge was to download this image to the small internal memory contained in the Gameboy, overwriting the title screen that normally accompanied a Gameboy turning on. Instead, whenever it was started, the player would view this image as the sound file staticmesh.wav was played. The intended purpose for this effect was unknown.

Here's one of the youtube videos that claims to have the original tone left in it.

(Let me just add that by the end of writing this article, I had listened to the Lavender Town Tone around 10 times on youtube because there are a few different videos out there, and I have a pretty bad headache. Personally though, I'm just going to credit the headache to being awake at 7am...)

And here's the link to some of the main points of the story, as well as an additional version of the story that is much scarier and much less believable.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I'v read alot of different posts on LTS
    And also before I read this I read the link you posted because I was researching and it was one of the first results on Google, at the end of readong the whole artical it said by the creator "yes this is a fork of fiction ;P" so that post isn't true. As for the "White Hand Sprite", the "Ghost Animation", and the "Buried Alive Model" I'm not sure if those are true or false because I'v already seen them in alot of posts.

  3. P
    The beginning of each paragraph.

  4. The sound thing is probably true but buryman script is not if it did happen some one probably hacked their game one too many times and the game said "Oh yeah?". Or they hacked the game by computer and PUT the image in their themselves and re did the entire game. nintendo would not do that to gamers especially the ones that are getting them paid.
    Unfortunaelty they didnt learn to animate stuff on the old consules like that until crystal and so on.

    I have to say it would be AWESOME To actually see buryman though.this is unfortunetly just telling ghost stories the gamers way.

  5. Wow, I thought I had read most of the Lavender Town things.. But the Buryman and White Hands really surprised me. Great site!

  6. Also the Gameboy Part has to be made up. (Dunno where you got that from) As the Gameboy does not have any kind of editable or rewritable Memory.
    Everything that is stored on the Gameboy is stored on ROM's (Read Only Memory). No editing there :P