Jennifer Wilber is a teacher and writer. She holds a B.A. in English and an Associate's in Computer Game Design. She is a life-long gamer.
Though Lavender Town is small compared to other towns in the game, it is one of the most memorable in-game locations in the first-generation Pokémon games (and remakes of these games). Lavender Town’s somber color pallet, creepy background music, and unsettling in-game lore all work together to inspire urban legends and myths about this iconic town in the Pokémon’s Kanto region. Since shortly after the release of Pokémon Red and Green in Japan, there have been rumors that this mysterious in-game location, and its associated music, have caused the deaths of countless children.
Perhaps it is no surprise that this spooky town in Pokémon was plagued by mysterious tragedies, give the in-game lore surrounding this location. Pokémon is known as a light-hearted game for all ages. Though the game revolves around your Pokémon companions battling one-another, there is no real sense of danger. If your Pokémon runs out of HP, it simply faints, and can be restored to full health at a Pokémon Center or by using certain items. Your Pokémon are never in any real danger of death. The world of Pokémon is a world free from the grim realities of death.
Of so it would seem, until you reach Lavender Town. The main attraction in Lavender Town is Pokémon Tower, which serves as a graveyard for Pokémon. This is the first time that players are hit with the reality that Pokémon can, in fact, die. Citizens of Lavender Town claim that Pokémon Tower is haunted by the ghosts of Pokémon that have passed. While exploring the tower, you will encounter several species of Ghost-type Pokémon, as well as the spirit of an orphaned Cubone’s dearly departed mother, Marowak.
Lavender Town’s Iconic Music
Perhaps even more unsettling than the story surrounding Lavender Town and the Pokémon Tower is the unnerving background music that plays every time you visit this town. The music track for this location was created by the developers to be unsettling and to create a sense of fear and dread in the player. The music is the key to creating the eerie atmosphere of Lavender Town.
This creepy song was blamed for the frightening phenomenon and urban legend that came to be known as “Lavender Town Syndrome.”
Lavender Town Background Music (Original Japanese Version from "Pokémon Red and Green")
Lavender Town Syndrome
According to an urban legend that has been circulating school playgrounds and the world wide web since the late '90s, around 100 Japanese children between the ages of 10 and 15 were driven to suicide within several days of Pokémon Red and Green’s release. According to the legend, these children either jumped to their deaths, hanged themselves, or caused self-inflicted mutilations. Supposedly, other children got off a bit easier, only succumbing to nausea, severe headaches, nosebleeds, or irrational bouts of anger after playing Pokémon.
Supposedly, Japanese officials eventually linked these horrible tragedies to children hearing the Lavender Town background music while playing the game. According to the legend, the original Japanese version of the Lavender Town theme features an annoying high-pitched tone that causes children to lose their minds. Because adults lose some of their ability to hear high-pitched sounds, only children are susceptible to these effects.
The legend explains the lack of media coverage about this Lavender Town Syndrome in the United States is due to Nintendo intentionally covering it up to preserve the innocent and child-friendly image of the game. Supposedly, according to this myth, the Lavender Town background music was changed slightly to be less “harsh” and “shrill” when the game was localized for the North American release of Pokémon Red and Blue to prevent the scandal from repeating itself overseas.
Is There Any Truth to This Myth?
Clearly, this urban legend isn’t true. There is no evidence to back up the claims that the Lavender Town background music can harm children in any way. These myths about Lavender Town have been circulating for years, alongside other urban legends and outrageous fan theories about the Pokémon series.
The Lavender Town urban legend was first posted online on Pastebin.com as a “creepypasta” in 2010, drawing from oral urban legends about this creepy location in the popular game series. Certain elements of this myth, however, do draw inspiration from an unfortunate event that really did happen in 1997, when over 600 children had seizures as a result of the flashing lights shown on screen in the Pokémon episode, “Dennō Senshi Porygon.” Most of these children were fine, and only two required hospitalization for an extended period of time.
The myths surrounding Lavender Town persist, in part, because of the creepy atmosphere and backstory of the location in the games. This urban legend taps into the common fear that seemingly innocent entertainment for children could somehow be dangerous. When something becomes as popular as Pokémon, its not uncommon for accusations to surface that it isn’t as wholesome as it seems, and that there should be something for parents to fear. There will always be rumors and urban legends about anything that becomes as popular and well-known as Pokémon. These myths can be a fun part of the fandom, but you should be careful about what you believe.
© 2019 Jennifer Wilber