The Mysterious: Lavender Town Syndrome
This month’s mystery is a bit of a grim entry into the pop culture mythos of the 90s. As a child of the 90s, Pokemon was a big part of my childhood. The first generation of games (Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow) took place in the Kanto Region. One of the towns in that region is Lavender Town, which is home to a large tower which holds the graves of pokemon. The town’s soundtrack is undoubtedly creepy – but was it originally creepy enough to spur children to complete suicide, or is this creepy tale just an urban legend? Let’s explore.
Children began falling ill shortly after the release of the first generation of Pokemon games in Japan, roughly around February 27, 1996. The illness allegedly was triggered when players reached Lavender Town in the game, and consisted of headaches, irrational behavior, and even led to children taking their own lives. The cause of the illness was believed to be the music in Lavender Town, and the frequency at which it played. After the panic this mass illness caused, the game developers at Game Freak changed the music in Lavender Town to play at a lower frequency while tweaking it in other ways as well.
Real or Not?
Sorry to swiftly and decisively burst this bubble, but of course this isn’t real. If it was real there would have been such a public relations and news media storm that it’s unlikely Pokemon would have made such a splash in the global gaming market, if it had ever made it outside of Japan after causing such a grim phenomenon. And yet, there are none. The closest thing to this level of tragedy that the Pokemon franchise played a part in was a 1997 episode of the anime, which used flashing imagery and caused hundreds of children to experience seizures.
The story grew with each retelling, with new details added and others taken away, growing in a truly collaborative fashion. Not only is this story considered one of the first true creepypastas by many, it is also one of the most far-reaching and well known. Why Pokemon, though? And why such a dark story? Many suggest that such a disturbing tale came from the desire to pervert the purity of a childhood interest. The fact that Lavender Town had creepy music and dealt with death was just enough of a seed to get the grim story going.