Even before Pokemon GO came out and we got people in pig masks terrorizing teenagers and other weird stories, Pokemon had some strange lore attached to it. Some of these stories are actually true, while others are not…or are they? At any rate, let’s look at the strange events and urban legends that surround the Pokemon franchise.
The most famous Pokemon urban legend is the curse of Lavender Town. It centered around the somewhat discomforting music that plays when you visit Lavender Town in the first Pokemon game. Take a listen yourself as you read the grisly tale.
The story goes that when Pokemon Red and Green was first released in Japan in 1996. When certain children got to the part of the game that deals with the Pokemon graveyard, Lavender Town, they had strange reactions to the eerie tune that played. Many children committed suicide, “usually from hanging themselves or jumping from heights”. However some odd cases had children doing things like “sawing off their own limbs”. Children who were saved before killing themselves were not the same afterwards, only answering in screams and attempts to scratch out their eyes when asked why they wanted to hurt themselves. Some became violent when the game was taken away from them.
The detectives discovered that Lavender Town song contained harmful, high frequencies that only certain children could hear. The frequencies scrambled the kid’s brains and drove them to hurt themselves. Over 200 children died. The whole thing was covered up by Game Freak and the Japanese Government and the Games were quietly recalled and the song replaced. It was all covered up, until this (very fake) leaked report came out:
京极 勝女; April 12 1996 (11). Obstructive sleep apnea, severe migraines, otorrhagia, tinnitus.
千葉 広幸: May 23 1996 (12). General irritability, insomnia, addiction to videogame, nosebleeds. Developed into violent streaks against others and eventually himself. [自殺]
桃井 久江: April 27 1996 (11). Cluster headaches, irritability. Eventually took mixed painkillers. [自殺]
吉長 為真: March 4 1996 (7). Migraines, sluggish and slow behaviour, unresponsiveness. Developed into deafness, and went missing. Body discovered beside road April 20 1996. [死出]
The tale was later expanded on as a very lengthy creepypasta story, which includes a bunch of fake Game Freak employees getting involved in the carnage. You can see it in pastebin here.
There are other versions of the story too, which take a more supernatural bent, saying the game somehow allows children to communicate with the dead and children who recently lost a loved one become eager to join the realm of the dead after seeing the spirits of the departed...and so they commit suicide.
It’s all untrue of course, but a shocking number of people believed it back in the day. The tale taking place in Japan lent it mystery, since not a lot of people knew enough Japanese to check if the death reports were real. There was even a video claiming to show that there were demons in the Lavender Town song frequencies or whatever:
The whole Lavender Town myth was likely inspired by a real life unsettling incident involving harm to children that had to do with Pokemon: Pokemon Shock. In 1997, an episode of the Pokemon anime “Denno Senshi Porygon” (Cyber Soldier Porygon) aired. It resulted in 685 people getting an ambulance ride. A scene in the episode has Pikachu stop some vaccine missiles with a thunderbolt attack. The result is a huge explosion that flashes red and blue very rapidly.
This image has serious effects on some of the people viewing. Some suffered headaches, nausea and dizziness. Others had it far worse, experiencing epileptic seizures, temporary blindness, convulsions and some even passed out. Of the 685 viewers, most recovered on the ambulance ride to the hospital- but about 150 were admitted and two were hospitalized for over two weeks.
Strangely, only some of these children had photosensitive epilepsy and a later study showed most of them had no further seizures. Apparently, even non-epileptic photosensitive people can be susceptible to certain images, a study shows. About 12,000 children showed milder symptoms, but this was thought to be mass hysteria bought on by the news reports of the incident.
The Pokemon episode was never aired anywhere ever again after this incident. The show itself went off air for four months and a special called “Problem Inspection Report on the Pocket Monster Animated Broadcast” aired before it resumed, where a host went over what happened, gave advisory warnings and explained the steps that had been taken so it would never happen again. Japanese television came together and established image guidelines for future cartoons so it would not be repeated. Also, even though the Pokemon was not in the offending part, Porygon never appeared in the anime again.
You can see why such an unexpected thing causing children to be ill would lead to people thinking song frequencies could also hurt them. However, the incident should also tell you mass child death could not be “covered up” by Japan and would make it to American news- this incident was all over news everywhere, even without any deaths.