Many children in the United States grew up with a Game Boy. Many of those children fell in love with Pokemon. However, there is an urban legend surrounding a particular area of the original Japanese release of Pokemon Red and Green in early 1996. I’m talking of course, of the infamous “Lavender Town Syndrome”.
Lavender Town Syndrome is an urban legend based on a area of Pokemon Red and Green known as Lavender Town. The town itself already has a somber, even unsettling atmosphere. Much darker than many other areas of the game, the music only serves to send a chill down your spine. The legend states that after the game’s release in Japan, a rash of suicides quickly overtook children that owned the game.
According to rumors, The Lavender Town theme contained unusually high frequencies. It particularly affected children, as adults, the theorists say, generally lose some aural acuity as they age, and are unable to hear the higher frequencies in the theme. At least 200 children are said to have died, with many more developing mental illnesses and complaining of severe headaches. Those who died were reported to have committed suicide through jumping from heights, or hanging.
After the Japan release and subsequent hysteria over the deaths, the game was recalled and a patched version was released instead, with the Lavender Town theme modified to remove the high frequencies that are postulated to have been responsible for the deaths. There are a multitude of videos purporting to have the original theme.
One video in particular claims to have run the original theme through a waveform visual analyzer and states that near the end of the video, the sounds appear to create the image of the Pokemon known as Unown. This is odd, as the Unown does not appear until the 2nd generation of games, Gold, Silver, and Crystal, which weren’t released until three years after the first games in the series.
Whether or not this urban legend has any truth to it is up for debate, however, it’s a finely crafted one. After doing some extensive research, there appears to be no news articles in local Japanese media during 1996 that hints at a rash of childhood suicides. In fact, the only relevant mass hysteria revolving around Pokemon is the reported mass seizures that just over 600 Japanese children suffered from during Episode 38 of the original Pokemon series aired during 1997 in Japan. The episode contained a small segment of flashing lights and color that triggered epileptic seizures in susceptible children who were watching. This is well reported, though no suicides were mentioned either in connection to the episode in question or the Lavender Town theme.
The legend is popular in various video game forums, but there’s a lack of factual evidence to suggest this is real. However, that hasn’t stopped the tale from capturing the imagination of paranormal enthusiasts and gamers alike. Dig around on the internet, draw your own conclusions.