I’m sure you all know the urban legend about Gloomy Sunday, but just in case it’s a story about this song made by the composer Rezső Seress and released in 1933. Some pages say that the track was originally named Vége a világnak (The world is ending), but I don’t know if that is true or not. The urban legend is pretty simple, it just says that everyone who listens to this song commits suicide.
Radios around the world actually banned the song for a while.
Personally I’d say that the reason people committed suicide in droves was more likely because of the great depression that hit the western world in those days.
Anyway I really like the idea behind the urban legend, I have heard several versions as to why this song should be so depressing, one being that Rezső Seress had been in an concentration camp and the lyrics were born of the sorrow of all those dead people. Only one problem there, it’s recorded in 1933, which means it’s probably written up to a year before that – and 1933 was the year Hitler became chancellor of Germany. The first concentration camp, Dachau, was built in 1933. The others were built from there till roughly 1939. So all in all that theory is pretty easy to debunk… but then what?!
The composer himself committed suicide by jumping off a building in Budapest, in 1968, and he never made another hit song besides Gloomy Sunday. Some pages say 17 some say 19 suicides is linked to the song, hard to prove though.
We can’t talk about killer music without mentioning the Lavender Town Syndrome, and that urban legend in short is about the original release of Pokemon red and green. Once the player reached a specific place in the game known as Lavender Town (everything is purple) the music played were said to drive people to insanity and death. The urban legend says that over 200 kids committed suicide after playing. The company later changed the music in Lavender Town, but it’s said that first edition Asian cassettes might still have the song as it was originally.
I’m sure you see where I’m going with this right? Everyone who is my generation will know of James Vance and the whole Judas Priest subliminal message court trial. So what makes these stories so creepy is the fact that it IS possible to hide messages, backmasking it’s called, it’s basically something that was born out of the era of Satanic panic, but hey – it can be done.
And with electronic music like the story of Lavender Town it’s easy to make a hidden pitch that will make the listener uncomfortable, because your brain hears so much more than you think you hear. I’m no tekkie, but I know that it’s possible to manipulate moods in people with specific combinations of sounds. I play the guitar and I remember my dad taught me that there is a reason songs played in minor will always sound more melancholy. So even something so “practical” as a folkish tune will manipulate you – on a minor scale of course, but my point is that it’s definitely real that specific tunes on the spectre speaks to specific human emotions and we don’t know why.
If I were to go into all the stories about visual backmasking or subliminal images I’d write you a 17 pages long entry, but think about it, if the brain is able to “see” an image that is presented so quickly that your conscious brain doesn’t see it. Who’s to say that it cannot be done with music. To some extend it’s done with I-dosing, and if you don’t know what that is, it’s “music” composed with that exact purpose, to make the listener hallucinate. Can’t claim I understand the geek stuff behind it, but it’s designed to hit some specific brainwaves with the listener.
So who is to say that it’s not what went on with Gloomy Sunday? That there was a specific combination of tones that speaks to something subconscious?
Creepypasta I-Doser // Wiki on I-Dosing // Wiki list of backmasked songs // Rolling Stones magazine: James Vance vs Judas Priest // Creepypasta Lavender Town Syndrome // Historical Mysteries on Gloomy Sunday // Wiki on Subliminal Stimuli //