Greetings once again mortals! Pokémon is a tricky subject to put in a Halloween context, I could talk about Creepy Pokedex entries but I have been over those several times already so it is time for something a bit different. A creepy story surrounding Pokémon. A Urban Legend if it were. A legend called “Lavender Town Syndrome”
A mysterious event
In the year 1995 Junichi Masuda was working on a track for a spooky town in the game of pokémon. However his hearing doesn’t pick up certain frequencies that are in this mix. Little did they know this would have serious consequences. February 1996 Pokémon Red and Green are released in Japan and everything is great, the game is a huge success. Yet in the spring of that same year the country is suddenly terrorised by a string of suicides of young children. They have no real connection or so it seems.Many of these suicides came completely out of the blue with some of the childerens having never even displayed somberness before.
A link with these children however is made when more and more children start showing up at the doctor’s office complaining about serious headaches. As it turns out, all these children have been playing Pokémon Red and Green! By the time a link is found over 200 Japanese children are said to have committed suicide. All of them have their game files saved in or near Lavender town. The theory was made that in a high frequency register there were a few tones that could only be heard by the untainted hearing of your youngest. On a binaural level their little brains were harmed. Nosebleeds headaches and various mood swings were detected in the children all across Japan, and Nintendo and Game Freak rushed out a fixed version where the tune had been changed into a lower register, cancelling the effects of this cursed song.
A risky test!
A creepypasta that came out in the year of 2010 dubbed “This the Lavender Town syndrome” While this disease was confirmed to be a hoax there might be more to this story. The song actually does seem to wors on a binaural level. As tested by several people, standing long enough in Lavender town with the original rendition of the song leaves people with a mild sense of dread. In some cases with more troubled listeners it is even said to have provoked anxiety attacks. This song has since leaked to YouTube so of course I decided to listen to this song for an extended period of time. I can feel rather somber, and I have over the past year on several occasions considered self harm or even beyond. So obviously I would be vulnerable if I had perfect hearing! Would it affect me?! I could post the link here, but just in case there are very sensitive person with a compulsion to click on every YouTube Video.. I rather not!
When I started this test I did not not believe the myth. It has been more or less busted already, yet something did not sit right about me about the theorie! But more on that later. I listened to the song while I was doing other research for this post. About twenty minutes in I started to experience something! No it was not melancholy or headache, in fact it might not even be dread, instead I began to feel rather vulnerable. I was super grateful for my can of diet coke.. glad I still had that and that it was properly cold! I also really loved my little snack I had with me. I did not experience a forced emotion but I felt slightly amplified in my own. That was still pretty weak though! I could just be under the influence of my own body craving something sweet. So I took a risk and I looked up an edited version which claimed to have an amplified effect.
Once more up until the twenty minute mark nothing really changed..except for the fact that since I appreciated my snacks so much they depleted rather fast and I was upset about it. Yet 21 one minutes in I began struggling with my internet research, I did not remember what search prompts to type anymore. I forgot the existence of some of the simplest words. I began to feel a vague feeling of dread but as it progressed it almost seemed as if I was experiencing sleep paralysis while I was awake. For some reason I felt I was going to die. The enhanced track is 11 minutes long and after the fear set in I finished the track but after that I had to turn it off. That certainly was an odd experience.
The explanation of Lavender Town Syndrome is rather wrong but the creepy pasta is cleverly developed. The Version of the Pokémon game we got in the west, is basically a 2.0 or 1.5 version from what Japan originally got. The first version they had was quite a big mess filled with even more glitches, ugly sprite work and other flaws. This let to an update being published that did include a slightly altered version of the original lavender town syndrome. This already creates a credibility that there was something wrong with that song. It was something that had to be fixed. Yet there is no real clear explanation of what happened with the real song. It seems some complaints were shared between the real reason and the fake one.. but we do not know for sure. Yet why would you release an entire new game that just has some slightly better sprite work?! In 1995 the Virtual Boy was a thing and those complaints about headache induction were also never fixed.
My grandpa used to be a hypnotist and while I never really had the audience or the patience to read trough the dry material that he had on how to practice that he told me that we can make people do just about everything if you can set up a suggestion well enough. For example he would do this act where he drew a circle on the floor and put people in. He would tell them they could not exit the circle. He experimented a bit with that and found out that a black or red circle.. or a white one worked more consistently than if he used other colours. Green and Blue were less efficient. Red means stop.. so it is much easier to convince the brain to stop! This to an extend can explain “validation” of the Lavender Town Syndrome as well. We KNOW something is wrong with the song.. so it’s not hard to be fooled into thinking it is more harmful than it actually is. Could we be hypnotising ourselves into these effects without knowing it? Or is someone else trying to hypnotise us?
The Science of Sound
The issue with the legend is that it only seems to apply to kids! This is where things go wrong. It is implied that in the high frequency range subliminal messages are hidden. Soundwaves CAN affect the body, however when it comes to sound the higher the frequency the easier it effect is “scattered” and lost. What is inaudible to us most of the time means you have to touch whatever is causing the sound. So already can see the chance of it having an effect being decreased. However Pokémon did appear on the Gameboy, a handheld device. Making range.. improbable but maybe still possible. If ever played a Gameboy in the dark you know how close you need to hold it to your face or how you have to play with it. The second problem is that in my research I never found a documented proof of high frequencies, being used as tools to induce depression. So the myth that kids here do something that tells them to kill themselves seems busted. It is most likely something to make the story a bit scarier! As it targets something so innocent as a kid! If we assume that Lavender Town Syndrome could affect to everyone though it strangely becomes more realistic.
There is a counterpart to Ultrasound sounds in the form Infrasounds. These are tones played at a frequency of below 20 hertz and are outside of our hearing range. However these tones have a big range and can reach you more easily. It seems that these sound waves can affect the gasses in your lungs and to a lesser extend the liquids in your body as well. Turbines or certain engine sounds are known to have these types of low tones and these can result in people getting headaches and experiencing nausea. Prolonged exposure can also produce feelings of anxiety and confusion. These symptoms are all very similar with the beginning stages of Lavender Town Syndrome. Could it be that the original Lavender Town song did not use high tones but instead got it’s effectiveness from it’s low tones? Could they have accidentally put in these sounds that make people anxious and can give headaches?! Well a little more research shows it might not even have been accidental. While an engine/generator or a Wind Turbine creates sound as a byproduct there is one fairly well known entertainment source that in fact uses Infrared for it’s anxiety inducing effects. Infrasound is fairly commonly used in haunted houses!
Lavender Town is the haunted town so it makes sense and even seems that they probably designed their song like one in a haunted house. It hits that brief for me as well. So maybe they just overdid it and a few sensitive kids got sickish. Yet could it drive people to suicide? Unlikely.. at best it might be able to push people over the edge. Which is much more likely to happen from something constant like a Turbine than a limited area song such as lavender town. Can sound make you depressed? Well .. I did not find any documented causes of a song or sound causing a full on depression however.. the counterpart of Infrasound.. the earlier mentioned Ultrasonics have gained results in combating depression. People exposed to high doses of Ultrasonic sound can get cheerier. With these two sounds basically being counterparts I think it is fairly plausible that in high enough doses the opposite can occur as well. It will probably require serious extended time that is unlikely to occur but it might be possible.
Over the Edge
Now for a possible hands on experience with what I shall refer to as “sound poisoning”. It occured about 11 years ago. Over my life I have experienced a few times where I wanted to end everything.. but never did I have difficulty to fight off that compulsion except for one time. I was on a vactation with friends! I knew I was prone to seasickness but my friends really wanted a boat trip and did not believe I would get super sick. They wanted to have a fun day with me.. so I took some travel medicine and hoped for the best.
We decided to sit in the middle of the boat as much as possible as a compromis so I would not get sick.. however since my motor skills are clunky I was slow in navigating the ship and the bow spots were taking So we had to move to the back. We were sitting close to the motor and this boat had the engine basically right beneath us. Just 10 minutes of shore I began to feel queesy and before we even began to talk about the stop at the “secret” beach.. I was sick as heck! I was so sick and nauseous that I just wanted to stop feeling like that .. at any cost. I REALLY wanted to jump headfirst into that screw so this horrible feeling would be over. It wasn’t THAT long of a boat ride either just about an hour…and by the time I was giving up the ghost we were already halfway there. Still even a minute seemed to long! I wanted to end it all right now just to stop feeling so increddibly sick! I have never been AS sick on a boat.
In actuality , I should be in a rather favourable spot! I had taken medicine to alleviate travel sickness and I knew I was prone to this so the night before I even went light on the drinks and the partying. Yet for some reason.. I felt so horrible to the core that I still remember that feeling as the most misserable I have ever been..and I’ve been trough a few other things.
It got to a point that I asked my friends to go deeper in the boat with me and not sit by the screws or things I could harm myself with because I needed a way to stop myself. My friends told me to fuck off because they wanted to look over the water and did not feel like moving to a spot with less view, one friend saw how bad I was and decided to come along though. We looked for some crew and in my best Spanish I tried to explain what happend..he helped me to an English sailor who took me to an off limits cabin in beneath the bow that the crew would use to get away from the annoying drunk people on their boat and have a little moment of quite. It also doubled as a lot of other things… but there was at least a table and some chairs in there.
My friend went back and I had a brief talk with the sailor who got me some water, as by then I was full on crying and so colour shifted that small kids on the boat were scared of me. I spend the most of the remainder of the trip there alone, and later on the way back I was completely alone.. but within a minute or 2 of being in the room and sipping my water I began to fell better. The secret day at the beach was wasted for me.. there was free barbecue and booze but I may have drank two small bottle of water and other than that spend the day recovering from my feeling horrible.
On the way back I thought. .. I am gonna die again.. but while in the cabin I felt was less sick. Sure I just lay on the floor of that room with my eyes closed waiting for the trip to be over.. but when I emerged as we were docking.. all my friends were sick. Except for one. They came to check up on me and after they took a stroll across the boat, spending some time in the front. My friends who sat above the engine all felt sick and one even glum. Could it be that our negative feelings were amplified by the Infrasound?! I can’t confirm it.. but while I have been forced on a boat after that.. I never felt THAT horrible! I did not even feel the same on return trip when I was “less” exposed to a source of Infrasound. So while I did not end up jumping to my death.. I am fairly certain that IF it was “Sound Poisoning” that day.. prolonged exposure can definitely push you off that edge. There are also sound devices that make you sick .. as some sort of prank device.. and my friends who never get sick plus some other people in the back got sick as well…so I always assumed it was plausible.
In an extrapolation of that let’s take a look at the Lavender Town Syndrome again and make it sound a bit more probable. From experience I have experienced anxiety and a crippling effect to my mental fortitude by a prolonged exposure to the original and enhanced Lavender Town Song. It triggered a need to escape from it and after which within minutes my fortitude returned to me. It also was nothing strong enough to compel me to any acts.. it just made me feel significantly worse. More so an amplifying effect for the negatives than creationary.
However from first hand experience I have also been pushed very close to that edge with similar complaints with or close to a possible source of Infrared sounds. So the myth is not without ANY merit. While playing through the game however the song isn’t played long enough to really receive a high enough dosage of sound to notice any effect as they only become apparent after the 20 minute mark. The way the town is structured no one will be out that long and exaggerated effects only trigger after 40 minutes.. which makes it near impossible.
However if we apply a simple modifier to this story things begin to make sense again. You see Pokémon released in February of 1996.. and in the early spring of that month the suicides have been registered. So these suicides happened somewhere in between February and the end of April. So I wondered.. could people feel bad in that period?! A little research does show that those months are within the Japanese flu season. It would account for the increased amounts of doctor visits as it already is flue season more people will go to the doctor. “Sound Poisoning” enlarging your complaints seems possible so that kids felt sicker than with normal flu sort of makes sense. My dad told me switching a device on and off uses more battery power than letting it run for a bit so if I took a five minute break I would often leave my gameboy running. When your sick you play more sluggishly and eat soup in between and maybe watch some tv as well… shiver in a blanket who knows. So if we assume these are just sick children staying at home playing video games and idling about a bit .. I can see their symptoms get worse. For those very susceptible to these things I can see them get VERY sick and hopeless.
Perhaps they semi doze off with their handheld besides them and take on longer concentrations of sound. The need for peace and quite in Japan is already a bit higher so there being little to compensate might be possible and given how stressful the japanese school system can be they are already more inclined to depressive thoughts, as a known statistic. It requires some unlikely change of events to occur but the myth might not be fully impossible. If we take the super gameboy into account for example, the SNES peripheral that allowed you to play Pokémon in semi colour..with pokemon having their correct base colour all of the sudden.. it makes a lot more sense on why you would not briefly turn off the device when you eat a bowl of soup. That is also THE way to play at home without draining your batteries. In a set up like that Lavender Town Syndrome would be more likely to occur. One does not simply get up when feeling super sick to turn that off.. you just go limp and wait for the strength to turn that off. as for how effective sound can be.. there are prank devices that use Infrared sound that are pretty crippeling. There are devices using it that are as effective as a bottle of Epikek and I have experienced how depressing intense nausea can be.
So while it is unlikely that there is a Pokémon induced string of suicides.. it is not impossible. It would be improbable enough that this could easily be covered up or discredited as a hoax. By simply helping spread the rumour that it is from high tones and making it exclusive to kids it becomes an impossible story. However! Pokémon back in the first generation was almost exclusively played by kids, whom are both under a fair amount of pressure with the school system an are much more prone to become sick due to flue season. Back in those days, consoles had no sign of stand by mode and often a game could not even save as amazing as Pokémon could! You would lose a lot of progress so by instinct we already let our game run if we could not play for a tick. Prolonged exposure is quite possible in the mindset of the time.
So if we explain the myth that way, let’s look at actual change it would have caused in Japan. If we look at the suicide rates in 1996 in Japan about 3500 people in the age of 10-19 (deemed kids) commited suicide in Japan. That equals 291 each month. Now it is hard to exclude teens here as those take the biggest chair. .but children suicide is a HUGE problem in japan. Let’s say teens take 75% of that figure that still would mean that somewhere between 140-and 210 kids would end their life in the period Lavender Town Syndrome was said to occur. This is within range of the myth’s 200! This doesn’t even include younger people still so even if teens take a bigger slice of the pie (and when I say teens I count 16 to 19 year olds) the number of 200 never fully seems out of reach. It’s on the high end of the estimate but if we consider that Lavender Town Syndrome simply makes you more likely to take your life rather then forcing you to do so.. it doesn’t seem that odd that suicide rates would be at that specific number. The numbers of the myth DO work out.
Lavender Town in the first game requires you to get a certain device to make progress, however this is the most cryptic part of your journey so far so I can see it as a bit of a bottleneck. It makes sense that children get stuck there for a bit. Especially in the first wave of players with no guides out yet. So among those unfortunate souls that were lost it would make sense in a way that they are in our around that part. Except for maybe victory road it is the most cryptic and tricky part of the game after all. So perhaps Lavender Town Syndrome could simply be a statistic that got interpreted the wrong way. Perhaps it is a mere case of unrelated events happening at the same time… yet perhaps everything did influence each other , more then we can ever know. In that case Lavender Town Syndrome would be less about killer cartridges and more about a freaky.. Final Destination like event…which would go mostly unnoticed.
So could it be that Lavender Town Syndrome is in fact real?! No.. most likely not. Yet there are situations surrounding it that make it simply less impossible than one might think! Given that a suicide in Japan is 3x more likely to be caused by a health induced concern than anything else only adds to this story for example! We might have misunderstood or told the story wrong but there might me more to this myth than we might think! Nintendo or the Pokémon Company if I have discovered something I am fine with deleting this discovery.. in return for a trip to Tokyo and visiting the Pokémon Café and Poké Center at your costs! .. After the world has returned to normal of course! Because I also want to hug Chef Pikachu or server Pikachu!
Of course if you want me to investigate more Ghost Stories about Pokémon my dearest Nintendo I am also very willing to that.. same price!