Ghost in the Machines: A History of Hauntings in Video Games

Ghosts are one of the most commonly held abnormal beliefs, despite all scientific evidence contrary to the fact.

Ghosts have been known to haunt all manner of things, from highways to homes. It seems these days you can’t even take a picture in an abandoned graveyard without being photobombed by a spirit.

It’s no surprise then that these ghoulish spectres have even infiltrated popular media, finding there way into film and video games. There are many creepypastas surrounding supposed haunted versions of games that have circulated our virtual society. Some of them even purport to be veritably truly and we should know; because our cousin once owned a copy!

There are many versions of hauntings in video games, from cursed cartridges to ghostly players. Just how do these rumors prevail, and more importantly, could they be true?

BEN (Ben Drowned)

The first in a trio of spooky tales centres around a game that’s already pretty creepy: Majora’s Mask. As the legend goes, a college student brought a second-hand copy of the game from an old man. When he loaded the game up later he found a saved file titled ‘BEN’, not unusual for a second-hand game to have previous save files.

Ignoring this, he loaded a new game to find the game was riddled with glitches. Textures were missing from levels and the music was awkwardly arranged, in some cases appearing to play backwards. Aside from that, NPC’s often referred to themselves as BEN, repeating two chilling phrases. ‘You shouldn’t have done that’ and ‘You’ve met with a terrible fate, haven’t you?’.

The previous owner of the game was a young child named Ben who had tragically died in a drowning accident. Supposedly, his ghost now haunted the cartridge he once owned, manifesting as NPC’s and ensuring no one would ever enjoy it again.

There is footage uploaded on Youtube of supposed gameplay from the cursed game. Ben’s ghost is also said to have transcended to the internet where he continues to haunt game enthusiasts to this day. He communicates in particular through a website called Cleverbot.

There is, of course, no evidence of the cartridge ever existing and like many horror stories, different continuities suspend belief. Mods are fairly commonplace these days, and any footage is sure to be just this.

The Ghost of Herobrine

Herobrine is a ghost who exists within the Minecraft servers and is supposedly the dead brother of series creator Notch. The avatar appears as a default character skin but can be defined by his whited-out eyes. Herobrine builds ominous constructions in the world of Minecraft from floating pyramids to long narrow tunnels.

The legend first emerged as a post on 4Chan stating how an ominous character had appeared in a single player game. He achieved notoriety during a popular Brocraft ‘Let’s Play’ series hosted by a gamer known as ‘Copeland’.

The video was presented as a regular live stream where fans could watch Copeland playing Minecraft. During the playthrough he entered a room to find Herobrine standing there, he quickly panicked, ran and exited the live stream.

Later Herobrine appeared in a second stream from a player called Patimuss, who admitted he was trolling players. Copeland was supposedly disappointed with the legend being outed but admitted his stream was also a hoax.

Furthermore, Notch has gone on to state, not only did he not have a brother, there is no code in the game for Herobrine’s supposed actions.

He did add a little note to the 1.7.2 update confirming a patch for Herobrine removed. Some people still believe Herobrine is in the servers and that he sent the message dispelling his own existence. But all signs point to an elaborate hoax.

Polybius – A Haunted Arcade Cabinet

Beyond ghosts infiltrating games, how about an entire phantom arcade machine? Polybius was a puzzle shooter said to have appeared in various arcades around Portland, Oregon in 1981. The sinister arcade cabinet threw flashing images at players said to drive people to psychotic breaks and even suicide.

Naturally, there is no evidence of any such game having existed but the horror doesn’t stop there.

Reports of ‘men in black’ coming to collect data from the machines serve to suggest the cabinet was maybe not supernatural. The CIA is rumored to have researched all kinds of solutions during the Cold War including the paranormal and supernatural. It is entirely possible they could have created and tested a psychotropic computer program on the American suburb.

The cabinet was only said to have been commissioned for a month before vanishing without a trace so we may never know. Though If you had driven innocent citizens to suicide, you would probably want to keep that a secret.


There is no proof of there ever being a haunting within video games so why do these legends persist. Simply like all ghost stories, they are spooky and are great to have in the holster for any campfire story sessions.

There is an air of plausibility to each story but they are most likely false. We may never know for real if there is a paranormal world beyond our perception, but one can still squeeze some good fun out of them whenever the mood for terror strikes.

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