Lavender Town Syndrome

Author: Unknown
Year: Unknown


The phenomenon of the Lavender Town Tone is a legend that involves a bizarre spate of medical cases and deaths from around Japan that have been connected to the Pocket Monsters (Pokemon) series of games. In particular, the first two games of the series: Red and Green. Though the event is largely unheard of due to disclosure laws for companies based in the Kyoto Prefecture, there is a large amount of information that has been brought into the open by a number of individuals, including Seki Uchitada, Ise Mitsumoto, and Satou Harue (to whom this page is dedicated). Thanks also goes out to Andou Kagetada for providing images and animated GIFs of the visual phenomena.

This analysis will discuss the other phenomena that is often confused with the Lavender Town Tone. These are the White Hand Sprite, Ghost Animation, and the Buried Alive Model, as well as the semi-related developer tag that was inserted into the game. There will also be information on how to safely perform these "Easter Eggs" in post-first wave cartridges.

History of the Game

The first cases related to the Lavender Town Tone and associated events were reported a few months after the release of Pocket Monsters Red and Green for the handheld Game Boy video game console. These video games were wildly popular with children between the ages of 7 and 12 (the core demographic), which was no doubt one of the reasons why the Lavender Town Tone had reactions at the level of severity that it did. In the game, the player takes on the role of a Trainer, whose task it is to capture, tame, and train wild creatures known as Pokemon for battle. These games are the two newest additions to the series, Pocket Monsters Gold and Silver, an anime, manga, figurine set, collectible card game, and home console games have resulted in Pocket Monsters becoming a multi-billion dollar franchise.

In one part of the game, the player comes to a small, out of the way place called Lavender Town. This town is one of the smallest hamlets in the game, aside from the town the player starts in, and possesses very few of the services available to Trainers in every other city of the game. Indeed, the location would be unremarkable were it not for the Pokemon Tower located there. It's a colossal building that holds the graves of hundreds of deceased Pokemon. It's theorized that because of this location in the game, at least two hundred children lost their lives and many more developed sudden illnesses and afflictions. In fact, this doesn't even consider the vast waves of unreported illnesses or deaths whose causes went unnoticed.

History of the Pathology

It was not until the late spring/early summer of 1996 that cases that would eventually become linked to the Lavender Town Tone began to surface. The earliest record of acknowledgement of the effects that the author could find came from an internal report made in June 1996 by the company Game Freak Inc., which was then leaked by one of its former employees, Ms. Satou Harue. In it, the employees give a list of names, dates, and symptoms – records of children between the ages of 7 and 12 that had suffered various medical problems as a result of playing Pocket Monsters Red and Green. Some of these records are listed below, with the full listing in Appendix A.

(It should be noted that entires in the Appendix also include symptoms not borne of the Lavender Town Tone, but also from the so-called White Hand Sprite, Ghost Animation, and Buried Alive Model, all of which were visual phenomena that provoked similar but distinct symptoms. More details in part two.)

The document that was circulated internally was the first time these incidents had been connected with the Pocket Monsters video games. Until then, the cause had not been discovered or diagnosed by medical professionals. Indeed, it is uncertain how the company themselves had managed to find the cases related to the event without seeking advice from health services.

Pathology Detail - Lavender Town Tone

The predominant symptoms related to what would become known as the Lavender Town Tone included headaches and migraines, bleeding from eyes and ears, mood swings (irritability the most common), addiction to the games, unprovoked silence, withdrawal and unresponsiveness, and (in approximately 67% of cases) suicidal tendencies. However, these symptoms only manifested in children between the ages of 7 and 12 years old who had reached the area in the game known as Lavender Town. Most of them were revealed to have been wearing headphones while playing the game at the time (see Appendix A). As it turns out, the developers of the area had sought to make an area that would "leave an impression on the player," according to Seki Uchitada, a member of the development team. Seki claimed that at the time of the games' development, a number of the team were interested in making Lavender Town a little different from the rest of the game.

"The Pokemon Tower is a visible result of that," Seki told Game Dimensions Magazine in an interview earlier this year. "That and the fact that Lavender Town is so different from all other cities in the game. It is smaller, has fewer people, no gym, and...of course, the music is 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, as it would make children upset. The music used in subsequent releases is different."

Either Seki was unaware of the full impact of the Lavender Town Tone, or he was vastly under-exaggerating how "upset" children would get. No more is said of the music in the article, but there are mentions of Lavender Town's other macabre features (see below). What Sekif ailed to disclose to Game Dimensions Magazine was that the music used in the first wave release of Pocket Monsters Red and Green was formulated out of an experiment in "binaural beats." Usuing slightly different frequencies of sound, each frequency plays in one ear or the other through headphones and various psychological effects can be induced upon the listener. In most versions of the first wave releases, this resulted in the player feeling uneasy, apprehensive, and mildly disturbed.

However, for upwards of 200 children, it provoked a variety of disturbances in the brain that went undetective purely because it was undetectable by fully developed human ears. Instead, only children fell victim to the tones, resulting in psychological and physiological problems that, in some cases, led to death (many of which were suicides).

Part 2

Pathology Detail - Visual Overview

These visual effects are known among programming circles as the White Hand Sprite, the Ghost Animation, and the Buried Alive Model. Each has been found to cause headaches, nausea, and (in severe cases) hemorrhaging of the brain and lungs. While around 70% of Lavender Town Syndrome (LTS) is due to the Lavender Town Tone, the remaining percentage is split among the visual phenomena. This is partly due to the visual stimuli occuring after the player is introduced to the Lavender Town Tone.

It has been theorized that those unaffected by the audio stimulation, such as the deaf or hard of hearing, make up the remaining 30%. While viewing these models can cause these effects, there are certain methods that allow a view to safely examine them in detail.

The White Hand Sprite

Known in the code as WhitHand.GIF, this was scripted to appear as a Pokemon on the third floor of the Lavender Tower. It is divided into four separate animations: an introduction (the "cry" a Pokemon unleashes before a battle), an idle animation, and two attacks. The full effect of these attacks are unknown, as they are listed simply as "Fist" and "Brutal." In the first attack, the hand balls into a fist and swings forward. However, "Brutal" is missing several frames in the attack animation ripped from the game's data itself. The hand opens up, and then disappears. After a few seconds, it reappears, closed again. No record has been found of these missing frames.

While viewing the animation has proven to be hazardous, viewing the individual frames of the model (flipping through them slowly) has been proven to have no adverse effects. The White Hand is depicted as a shriveled, slightly decayed hand with a surprising attention to the detail. Flesh is peeling back from the bone and several tendons dangle realistically out of the wrist.

The Ghost Animation

The Ghost Animation, known in the code as Haunting.GIF, was intended to be placed in several areas throughout the tower, including the center of a path on the second floor. However, players cannot interact with it, leaving many to believe it was intended as a "background feature." The Ghost Animation, like the White Hand Sprite, must be viewed as individual frames. It is comprised of 59 frames total. However, after extracting the data from the game, around half of the frames are the standard ghost model used in all versions of the Pocket Monsters games that allow travel to Lavender Town.

While under oath before the Video Games Commission Board, lead programmer Hisashi Sogabe testified as to having "no knowledge as to where these images surfaced."

Out of all the phenomena associated with LTS, this animation is the most speculated one. In his thesis "Video Games and the Manipulation of the Human Mind" [viewable in Appendix C], Dr. Jackson Turner argued that the images were intentionally placed in. Due to their brief time appearing on the screena nd the graphic nature of these images, Turner theorizes that these were meant to subliminally influence players into becoming more frightened by the disturbing surroundings.

The Buried Alive Model

Often referred to as its codename in development, the Buryman Script, the Buried Alive Model was to be found on the final floor of the Pokemon Tower, in a spot that the Marowak ghost was later placed. According to the scripts assigned to it, the Buried Alive Model was intended to be the "boss" of the tower. Upon reaching the top floor, the following conversation would have taken place.

Buried Alive: You'
Buried Alive: I'm trapped...
Buried Alive: ...and I'm lonely...
Buried Alive: very lonely...
Buried Alive: Won't you join me?

After this, the battle would have initiated. Once in "battle view," the Buried Alive Model appeared to be a decaying human corpse attempting to crawl out of the ground. It was programmed to have two White Hands, a Gengar, and a Muk. Strangely enough, a protocol for Buried Alive's actions after defeat wasn't written. In the case of the player defeating him, the game would freeze. However, there is a rumor a programmer wrote a specific ending that played once Buried Alive was defeated. In this ending, Buried Alive was to have stated, "Finally, fresh meat!" followed by several lines of gibberish. He was to have then dragged the player into the ground surrounding him. The scene would finish with a typical "Game Over" screen. However, the background would have shown an image of Buried Alive devouring the player.

Especially strange are the protocols for everything that happens after this scene. The cartridge was to download this image to the small internal memory contained in the Game Boy, overwriting the initial boot logo that normally showed upon turning a Game Boy on. Afterward, whenever the system was started, the player would view this same image of Buried Alive devouring the player character from the Pokemon games. It would be accompanied by a sound file known as StaticMesh.wav. The intended purpose of this, unlike many of the other factors leading toward LTS, is unknown.

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