Friday, August 5, 2011

Pale Luna

In the last decade and a half it's become infinitely easier to obtain exactly what you're looking for, by way of a couple of keystrokes. The Internet has made it all too simple to use a computer to change reality. An abundance of information is merely a search engine away, to the point where it's hard to imagine life as any different.

Yet, a generation ago, when the words 'streaming' and 'torrent' were meaningless save for conversations about water, people met face-to-face to conduct software swap parties, trading games and applications on Sharpie-labeled five-and-a-quarter inch floppies.

Of course, most of the time the meets were a way for frugal, community-minded individuals to trade popular games like King's Quest and Maniac Mansion amongst themselves. However, a few early programming talents designed their own computer games to share amongst their circle of acquaintances, who in turn would pass it on, until, if fun and well-designed enough, an independently-developed game had its place in the collection of aficionados across the country. Think of it as the 80's equivalent of a viral video.

Pale Luna, on the other hand, was never circulated outside of the San Fransisco Bay Area. All known copies have been long disposed of, all computers that have ever run the game now detritus buried under layers of filth and polystyrene. This fact is attributed to a number of rather abstruse design choices made by its programmer.

Pale Luna was a text adventure in the vein of Zork and The Lurking Horror, at a time when said genre was swiftly going out of fashion. Upon booting the program, the player was presented with a screen almost completely blank, except for the text:

-You are in a dark room. Moonlight shines through the window.

-There is GOLD in the corner, along with a SHOVEL and a ROPE.

-There is a DOOR to the EAST.


So began the game that one writer for a long-out-of-print fanzine decried as "enigmatic, nonsensical, and completely unplayable". As the only commands that the game would accept were PICK UP GOLD, PICK UP SHOVEL, PICK UP ROPE, OPEN DOOR, and GO EAST, the player was soon presented with the following:

-Reap your reward.


-You are in a forest.There are paths to the NORTH, WEST, and EAST.


What quickly infuriated the few who've played the game was the confusing and buggy nature of the second screen onward — only one of the directional decisions would be the correct one. For example, on this occasion, a command to go in a direction other than NORTH would lead to the system freezing, requiring the operator to hard reboot the entire computer.

Further, any subsequent screens seemed to merely repeat the above text, with the difference being only the directions available. Worse still, the standard text adventure commands appeared to be useless: The only accepted non-movement-related prompts were USE GOLD, which caused the game to display the message:

-Not here.

USE SHOVEL, which brought up:

-Not now.

And USE ROPE, which prompted the text:

-You've already used this.

Most who played the game progressed a couple of screens into it before becoming fed-up by having to constantly reboot and tossing the disk in disgust, writing off the experience as a shoddily programmed farce. However, there is one thing about the world of computers that remains true, no matter the era: some people who use them have way too much time on their hands.

A young man by the name of Michael Nevins decided to see if there was more to Pale Luna than what met the eye. Five hours and thirty-three screens worth of trial-and-error and unplugged computer cords later, he finally managed to make the game display different text. The text in this new area read:


-There are no paths


-The ground is soft




It was another hour still before Nevins stumbled upon the proper combination of phrases to make the game progress any further; DIG HOLE, DROP GOLD, then FILL HOLE. This caused the screen to display:


—— 40.24248 ——

—— -121.4434 ——

upon which the game ceased to accept commands, requiring the user to reboot one last time.

After some deliberation, Nevins came to the conclusion that the numbers referred to lines of latitude and longitude — the coordinates lead to a point in the sprawling forest that dominated the nearby Lassen Volcanic Park. As he possessed much more free time than sense, Nevins vowed to see Pale Luna through to its ending.

The next day, armed with a map, a compass, and a shovel, he navigated the park's trails, noting with amusement how each turn he made corresponded roughly to those that he took in-game. Though he initially regretted bringing the cumbersome digging tool on a mere hunch, the path's similarity all but confirmed his suspicions that the journey would end with him face-to-face with an eccentric's buried treasure.

Out of breath after a tricky struggle to the coordinates, he was pleasantly surprised by a literal stumble upon a patch of uneven dirt. Shoveling as excitedly as he was, it would be an understatement to say that he was taken aback when his heavy strokes unearthed the badly-decomposing head of a blonde-haired little girl.

Nevins promptly reported the situation to the authorities. The girl was identified as Karen Paulsen, 11, reported as missing to the San Diego Police Department a year and a half prior.

Efforts were made to track down the programmer of Pale Luna, but the nearly-anonymous legal gray area in which the software swapping community operated inescapably led to many dead ends.

Collectors have been known to offer upwards of six figures for an authentic copy of the game.

The rest of Karen's body was never found.

(This story is credited to a person called Ed.)


  1. Wow. Really interesting story. Original, and isn't just some "hurr durr then he died." I like it a lot.

  2. I wonder how long it will take until someone makes a flash game like that on the internet which also locks up everytime you do the wrong thing and requires a page reload, then i also wonder how many people will play it to the end.

  3. This is interesting, had a nice take on dead girl pastas and game pastas

  4. Thought this was going to be another "do some creepy things and you can find treasure", but was pleasantly surprised by the ending.

  5. Perhaps my favorite thing about this story is how believable it is, which makes it all the more creepy.

  6. i love king's quest!

  7. Ooh, I think I get it. Every copy of the game would lead you to a different part of her body!

  8. ^ huh never thought of that, i thought it was a endurance test to try to find the girls head, till one guy finally did it all

  9. Good pasta, well written and believable.
    This is how it should be done.

    Didn't expect this ending either. Feels like a good urban legend, which most of the best creepy pastas do.

    I also don't think it had anything to do with each copy of the game leading the player to a different body part. Much like the last poster said, I think it was just a game of patience and frustration. When someone finally managed to solve the puzzle and beat the game they cracked the case.


  10. just to be clear, when ever the game mentioned GOLD, was it talking about Karen? Because it was the colour of her hair(blonde) ?

  11. D:
    -Not Here

    Anon is right!

    Best I've read, especially considering believability, creepiness, and unexpected ending.
    Goosebumps, man, I got 'em.

  13. Really? You guys didn't see it coming?

    Really, all that


    Stuff didn't tip you off? In creepypasta, that is an automatic: "She is dead or a ghost".

    I do think the "gold" may have been her head. It makes sense, the player plays the murderer, who takes the her head(gold) out to the woods and buries it.

    Morbid, creepy, and just predictable enough that I knew the outcome and stilled was creeped out.


  14. Checked the coordinates in google maps. Leads to a road in Mill Creek, near a forest, which makes it a bit more believable :O

  15. ^That is AWESOME... and horrible.

    Although, the guy who made the story probably chose those coordinates on purpose. Spookier.

  16. I originally posted this piece as a note on Facebook, and then later to the Something Awful Forums under the username "MizuZero". I spent quite a few nights last spring reading creepypasta, and this story was kind of the culmination of that period.

    To address a few things mentioned in the comments, "GOLD" does indeed refer to her hair color, and I deliberately chose the coordinates in case somebody cared enough to plug them in. A little extra research for added scare value, and all. Also, I have no idea who Ed is.

    Great site, and I'm sorry for the potentially mystique-ruining/tl;dr author's commentary. Though I haven't had much time to write recently, I do occasionally post stuff like this on FB, so feel free to add me.

    (also, I know commenting as anon kind of defeats the purpose of doing so if I'm about to drop powerword:realname, but as I'm typing this at six thirty in the morning, forgive me for being a little lackadaisical)

    - Mikhail Honoridez

  17. Personally, Mikhail, I love read authors comments on stories they made. I like to see if I was right or not.

  18. What creeped me out the most after connecting the dots was the

    "And USE ROPE, which prompted the text:

    -You've already used this."

    The implications of a shovel, a rope and a disembodied head... eek.


  20. this is amazing.
    for some reasons i think this story is kinda sad
    as if the girl wanted sombody to find her remains

  21. 10/10 - Well done! One of my new favorites.

  22. Rope, gold (Head), shovel. Rope (All ready used) Head (disembodied).
    I think they murderer killed the girl a rope.
    is it correct?

  23. LOL at the labels Dead, *Holy Shit*, Story, Unexplained, Video Games


  25. Really really good pasta. Just my kind of thing 9.5/10 and my complements to the chef!

  26. -USE ROPE

    -You've already used this.

    Chills down my spine when I read that

  27. Yeah, wanna know what's creepier? Reading this while listening to Plush by STP, which is a song about a girl's body being found. Awks. Very well written and awesome pasta, though. Delicious.

  28. Well, well played.

    Also, literally played: Someone's already made a game of this. I might have to wait a bit before trying. I like getting scared by stories, so I tend to get too into them.

  29. This is one of my favorite creepypastas. The mystique of what exactly "Pale Luna" is really disturbs me. Some sort of god that the murderer was sacrificing the girl to? Really freaky. That, coupled with the fact that the only thing Luna does is smile really terrifies me. Fantastic, well-written story. Holds up well after multiple reads.

  30. The words "Pale Luna" could simply translate into white moon since LUNA is the name of our moon, or perhaps the girls name was Luna.
    I've also checked the Google maps for the coordinates and the location is right off a dirt used road that apparently Google doesn't even know is there consistent with how murderers dump bodies, or in this case a head.
    Since the coordinates don't specify the exact location down to the minute the person looking for something would've have to walk around quite a bit to find something

  31. The best part about this pasta was it's overall storyline. The details are believeable and good, and real information was included. Utmärkta arbete, måste jag säga!