What is Lavender town syndrome?
Otherwise known as Lavender Town conspiracy, it is an allegation that the initial run of Pokemon Red and Green Gameboy game theme song of Lavender town caused mass child suicides. The theme was said to make children sick, and in severe cases drove them to committing suicide .
Pokemon Lavender Town
Lavender town is a small village in the Pokemon Red/Green game, which serves as a graveyard for Pokemon and is full of ghosts. This place is unsettling for many reasons.
First of all, players usually don´t think about the mortality of game characters, but entering this village makes them realize, that the usually cute critters have actually dyed during fights. Lavender town also has a Pokemon Tower, which is haunted by a ghost. Finally, the theme music which is the basis of Lavender Town syndrome is creepy and can cause discomfort .
The Pokemon Red/Green game was releases in Japan in 1996. The myth arose after around 100 Japanese children in ages 10 to 15 committed suicides by jumping from heights, hanging or mutilating themselves, shortly after the release of the game.
Some children were afflicted by severe headaches and nausea. Other symptoms reported were: sleep disturbances, like insomnia, migraines, irritability, and tinnitus. The officials had discovered that these children became aggressive towards others and eventually hurt themselves after listening to Lavender Town theme song.
The song, composed by Junichi Masuda has high pitched notes, which allegedly made children lose their minds. It was also rumored that the director of the Game, Satoshi Tajiri deliberately asked the high pitched tones to be set in the Red version, to infuriate children who picked Red version over Green. The company who created the game, Nintendo has been accused of hiding the truth behind this syndrome in order to protect the game [1,2].
Science behind Lavender town syndrome
It is possible, that the theme song from Lavender town or any other high pitched sound can cause symptoms:
- Tinnitus, more widely known as ringing in the ears, can be caused by exposure to noise, but it is also associated with many other syndromes, like Meniere´s disease, jaw misalignment, Lyme disease and many others . There have been cases of tinnitus patients committing suicides. Usually these patients have had tinnitus form many years and have a preexisting psychiatric condition.
- People suffering from Hyperacusis (severe hypersensitivity to sounds) can experience severe discomfort, headaches, loss of balance and depression. Possible causes for Hyperacusis include ear damage due to toxins and medication, head injury and post concussion syndrome, viral infections, epilepsy. It is also associated with Down syndrome and Autism .
The symptoms of Lavender town have been also said to present because children can hear high pitched notes better, but lose this ability after the age of 15. It is true that younger people hear better, but usually the gradual loss of hearing occurs later in life. Ability to hear higher tones varies in population.
Is Lavender Town syndrome real?
Although there might be some symptoms caused by exposure to the Lavender town theme song, it is mostly an effect of suggestion. This syndrome is not scientifically proven and is believed to be an urban myth.