Gaming's creepiest urban legends

"The call is coming from inside the game!!"

Over the past decade or so, as the gaming community has become more connected, a peculiar set of stories and rumors have bubbled to the surface. Most are pretty silly - tall tales of finding the Secret Cow level in Diablo, collecting the Triforce in Ocarina of Time, or resurrecting Aeris in Final Fantasy VII - but sometimes theyre not so much "silly" as they are "absolutely terrifying."

Some of these yarns are so farfetched they debunk themselves, but every so often one turns out to be true - and in doing so lends a sliver of credibly to all the others. It makes you wonder "What if?" What if one of the following stories is more than just one person's imagination? Set aside your doubts and open your mind the macabre possibilities these stories posit, because you never know. I've provided a little music below to help set the mood, now crank those tunes and let's get on with the creepiness!

JVK1166z.esp is more than a corrupted Morrowind mod

"With this character's death, the thread of prophecy is severed."

Deep in some long-forgotten hard drive lurks a mod for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind with an insidious secret. At first glance, the mod - Jvk1166z.esp - is nothing but a broken, save-corrupting mess. However, one intrepid user was able to run it properly, and gradually became obsessed with understanding the mysteries hidden within. Most of our information about Jvk1166z.esp comes from this lone source.

In this altered version of Morrowind, nearly every mission-critical NPC is dead, and your character is endlessly hounded by an enigmatic creature referred to as "The Assassin." There's a sealed door at the bottom of an excessively difficult dungeon, and every remaining NPC states "Watch the sky" when approached. Our lone user eventually discovered the night sky in this mod mirrors our own (circa 2005) and was convinced some celestial event would unlock the sealed door. They were also certain The Assassin wasn't just stalking their character.

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A text adventure exposed a California murder

"PALE LUNA SMILES WIDE"

Pale Luna is an enigmatic, text-based adventure game in the vein of Zork and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's also nigh impenetrable. Your quest begins innocently enough: "You are in a dark room. Moonlight shines through the window." There's some gold, a shovel, and some rope nearby, along with a door to the east. If this was your typical adventure game you'd probably have to escape the room using an esoteric combination of gold and shovels, but Pale Luna is hardly typical.

Attempting to use the shovel results in "Not now" while using the rope gives you an ominous "You've already used that." Gradually, players head east into the woods, where they endlessly cycle between the four cardinal directions. Your only companion is Pale Luna, whose message repeats "PALE LUNA SMILES WIDE." After a great deal of trial and error one player managed to solve this maze, and received a set of longitude and latitude coordinates for his trouble. But when he traveled to that point - located in northern California - Pale Luna's sinister intentions were revealed.

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Secret of Evermore originally had a much darker tone

"How can you live with what you've done? Those poor children..."

When your game stars a Marty McFly lookalike, a transforming dog, and is filled with cheesy B-movie references, it's hard to take things too seriously. Such is the backdrop of Secret of Evermore, a 1995 role-playing game for the SNES that married JRPG action with a distinctly American sense of humor. But was this always the case? Games can change a lot during development and - according to one source - Evermore changed drastically before its final release.

Supposedly, the game had a much darker story and tone, remnants of which can still be found in the final game - most notably in the foreboding opening title crawl. But the best evidence of an alternate Evermore comes from a single screenshot with the dialogue box, "How can you live with what you've done? Those poor children..." This line doesn't appear in the final game, and there's no context for what it could be referencing. And that's just the beginning. Replay this cult classic with an eye for the abnormal and you might be surprised.

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The haunted NES Godzilla game is more real than you realize

"In their place was a single bit of text in the middle of the screen that said "RUN."

This epic is easily the longest entry on this list - a sprawling, eight-chapter sojurne into one man's seemingly possessed copy of Godzilla for the NES. In this twisted version of the game, enemies take on strange new appearances, bizarre personality questions are posed to the player, and gradually the author becomes convinced the game is speaking directly to him. A massive screen shot gallery corroborates his claims, showing off the game's corrupt, pixelated horror.

But this is just some flight of fancy, right; pure fiction? Not anymore thanks to developer Iuri Nery, who is working on turning this internet horror story into a reality. More than just a ROM hack, NES Godzilla Creepypasta is a complete rebuild of the original game that incorporates the same plot points and imagery of the original story. Of course, whether or not the game will channel the spirits of your deceased loved ones remains to be seen.

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Fallout 3 predicts the future

"The world mourns, as on days like these we are all Brits."

GamesRadar actually covered this Fallout legend when it first popped up a few years back. It revolves around the in-game radio in Fallout 3, which, apparently, predicts the future. If you kill the host of Galaxy News Radio and then destroy Raven Rock, GNR begins to transmit heavily coded transmissions. These transmissions feature Three Dog sadly reading off numbers before tapping off some morse code.

First, it predicts the time and date of Gary Coleman's death. Then it rattles off the following gems: "The Queen has died today. The world mourns, as on days like these we are all Brits." 4:02 March 19, 2014: "I cant believe Britneys actually won an Oscar!" 21:33 February 27, 2023: "I cant believe theyve actually done it. Not long left. They were warned, but they just had to keep pushing the boundaries of science. The noise. I cant take the noise anymore. And the light, dear God! The universe is slowly unraveling around us. Im not going to wait for death. I have a pistol in the attic." Perhaps disappointingly (but very happily on the other hand) it's turned out to be a hoax, because clearly March 19, 2014 has passed, and HM The Queen is still with us. Still, it was a fun story and the later ones are still chilling. I mean... imagine Britney winning an Oscar...

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Killswitch doesn't even exist any more

"Like reality, it is unrepeatable, unretrievable, and illogical."

Experimental gaming is all the rage these days, but such was not the case in 1989 when the Karvina Corporation released Killswitch. The story goes that the adventure game had a fairly limited run in the late '80s, releasing between 5,000-10,000 copies, and had players choosing between two different characters: a wounded, shape-changing woman, or a powerful, invisible demon. The story followed an uprising of miners, weird ancient evils, and other super strange stuff. Oh, and the game has a tendency to erase itself. Completely. Details are scattered over what triggers this (completion or death), but either way, there are no playable copies left. And no one ever beat it as the demon.

That, alone, is fairly creepy, but it's the recent developments surrounding Killswitch that propels it from "mildly strange story about a weird Russian game" to "rocking back and forth and crying." Apparently, one sealed copy of the game was found in 2005 and sold for $733,000 to a Japanese man named Yamamoto Ryuichi. He intended to post gameplay footage of the game in order to finally bring it to the world, but only one clip has reportedly surfaced: a video of a ragged-looking Ryuichi sitting in front of his computer and crying. That footage, too, has since vanished... or never really existed at all.

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Minecraft is being haunted by a ghost named Herobrine

"PLEASE WAKE UP"

Minecraft's massive community have cooked up dozens of urban legends. None, however, are as popular or weird as the "existence" of Herobrine, the creepy, eyeless version of Minecraft's protagonist. There are different theories surrounding Herobrine, defining him as a virus, a glitch, or a manifestation of Notchs dead brother, who travels around single-player games building small tunnels and pyramids.

One of his first appearances was in a livestream, where a player saw him in the middle of a lava field. His stream crashed, and redirected viewers to a picture of Herobrine. The page's source read, "It has been reported that some victims of torture, during the act, would retreat into a fantasy world from which they could not WAKE UP. In this catatonic state, the victim lived in a world just like their normal one, except they weren't being tortured. The only way that they realized they needed to WAKE UP was a note they found in their fantasy world. It would tell them about their condition, and tell them to WAKE UP. Even then, it would often take months until they were ready to discard their fantasy world and PLEASE WAKE UP."

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Arcade cabinet Polybius was a government test

[REDACTED]

The year was (supposedly) 1981 when Polybius appeared in a few arcades around Portland, Oregon. The Tempest-like game was said to be extremely entertaining and highly addictive, causing lines of people waiting to play, and occasional fights over who got to play next. Since it was a rural area in Oregon and arcade games were kind of a new thing, this wouldn't seem all that crazy or unbelievable. But the Polybius legend doesnt end there.

Men in black suits were seen hanging around areas with Polybius machines, and theyd occasionally collect some sort of data from them. Even weirder is that players were said to suffer from a suite of medical problems after playing the game, ranging from amnesia to insomnia to suicide. Some reported that the game featured subliminal messages, alluding to the idea that it was some sort of government test. Since then, there hasnt been a single cabinet of Polybius found, and while some have said they worked on the game and others have attempted to recreate it, no one has been able to prove it even existed.

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Earthbound's final mission has you perform an alien abortion

"It's not right... not... right..."

Earthbound is an incredibly good game, but it's also an incredibly strange one. There's a puzzle that requires you to stand still for three minutes, a race of sentient noses, and a monkey that travels around by blowing bubbles. But for as silly as it can be, one thing is consistently serious: Giygas. The evil alien entity is hell-bent on destroying the world, and the game's heroes are sent in a time machine to defeat Giygas when "it is at its weakest." This is never fully explained, but a lot of people think you're sent back to perform an alien abortion.

Back in time, the team is now represented by robots, who fight their way to a weird, pink level that looks eerily organic. Giygas is represented by a miasmic blur that looks like a flashing, red ultrasound, and it babbles incoherently as you damage it. Oh, and Earthbound's creator Shigesato Itoi has confirmed that the battle was inspired by a traumatic childhood experience, when he walked into the wrong movie theater and witnessed a disturbing scene.

Lavender Town's music caused Pokemon players to kill themselves

Supposedly, in 1996, there was a sudden string of illnesses and suicides in children ages 7-12 in Japan, and Pokemon was to blame. No, it wasnt because they were upset that they didnt get the version they wanted - apparently things went bad when the players arrived in Lavender Town, the games haunted, ghost-filled area. The music here included strange, high-pitched noises (that went on to be referred to as the "Lavender Town Tone") that werent audible to adult ears, and only affected children. Since Nintendo employed only adult playtesters, no one noticed until children started killing themselves.

Its reported that at least 200 kids killed themselves after hearing the Lavender Town Tone, with countless more reporting headaches. In 2010, someone who analyzed the tone revealed Unowns (a second-generation Pokemon) that spelled out "LEAVE NOW," because, apparently, children killing themselves over an incredibly creepy song wasnt disturbing enough. Oh, and adding fuel to the fire: The music was changed in the US version, with no reason given by Nintendo.

Squall dies mid-way through Final Fantasy VIII

"Reflect on your... childhood..."

Of all of the games in the series, Final Fantasy VIII carries with it the most absurdly disturbing urban legend. This one revolves around an event that takes place at the end of disc one, where Squalls team fights Edea on a parade float. After the battle, Edea fires an ice shard through Squalls chest, causing the emotional hero to tumble off the platform. Many believe that its here that Squall dies (theres even an entire website devoted to the theory), and that the rest of the game is his near-death dream as he plummets to the ground.

After being impaled, he wakes up in a prison, shocked by his lack of wound, but its never again addressed. For the rest of the game, things go from mildly realistic to silly and nonsensical. Squall is thrown into a world-saving mission full of moon creatures and power fantasies. Even weirder is the final boss battle, which sure looks like someone slowly dying. We see flashes of scenes from earlier in the game, blurred images of his love interest, and eventually a random shot of Squall with a giant hole where his face should be. Check, please.

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Ben drowned and this Majora's Mask copy is HAUNTED

"You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you."

No urban legend received as many votes for the community choice award as "BEN Drowned." The actual story, following the tale of a haunted Majora's Mask cartridge, is extremely long and we dont have nearly enough time to explain it, but we'll give you the unbelievable abridged version:

A kid bought a beat-up copy of Majora's Mask from a strange old man at a yard sale and was told it belonged to a child that "didn't live there anymore." He put the game in and saw that the first slot was named "Ben." He made his "Link" in spot two and played, but the NPCs would randomly refer to him, still, as Ben. He deleted the first slot, and the game freaked the hell out. What followed was an unbelievably creepy tale of a haunting, with several long descriptions and YouTube videos showing the game freaking out, and telling him, "You shouldn't have done that" and "Your turn." This story has everything: a creepy statue (above), an awful story about a drowned child, dozens of pages of text, and enough scary nonsense to send you into a coma. Wake up.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maxwell grew up on a sleepy creekbank deep in the South. His love for video games has taken him all the way to the West Coast and beyond.
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