Monday, October 14, 2013

Just in time for Halloween, a look back at Pokemon's Lavender Town

Anyone who's played through the original Generation I Pokémon titles (Red and Green, represent!) will recall the creepy area known as Lavender Town.

From the very outset, there was just something *wrong* about the place.  The seven-story Pokémon Tower housed the graves of hundreds of dead Pokémon, ghost-type Pokémon ran rampant around the area, and residents regularly refer to Lavender Town as a graveyard for adorable little monsters.

But it was the music of Lavender Town that unsettled players the most, and inspired a terrifying - but completely fake - urban legend involving the suicides of hundreds of children.

Like most great things on the internet, the so-called "Lavender Town Syndrome" got its start on Creepypasta and goes a little something like this:
  • After the initial release of Pokémon Red and Green in Japan, a huge uptick of suicides was noted in children between the ages of 7 and 12.
  • The suicides were caused by "The Lavender Tone", a note in the Lavender Town BGM that was too high in pitch for adults to hear but caused irreparable brain damage to children who heard it.
  • Eager to be rid of the headaches and disorientation caused by The Lavender Tone, affected children would hurl themselves out of windows or hang themselves.
  • Game Freak programmers rushed to fix the Lavender Town music to revmove the Lavender Tone, which is why the music sounds different in later games.
Sounds compelling, right?   Well, like all urban legends it has its origins in a good deal of truth - the Lavender Town Syndrome draws heavily on the "Pokémon Shock" seizure incident from 1997 which hospitalized 685 Japanese children due to the jarring visual effects launched by Pikachu in a now-infamous episode.

Also, it's true that the ears of children are more sensitive to high-frequency tones and there are plenty of sounds that youngin's can hear that us old folk can't - but there's absolutely no truth to the Lavender Town music leading to death of anyone.

But hey, with Halloween around the corner and a brand new generation of Pokémon games in the hands of millions of players across the world, this might just be the best time to add an MP3 of the Lavender Town music to your Halloween playlist to unsettle trick or treaters.