The Mystery of Polybius

image Polybius, if you believe this website, was a video game developed by the CIA (or some other shadowy government organization) back in the early days of video games, 1981. But the game was really a secret experiment in behavior modification. Only a few of the game machines ever saw the light of day. They appeared in a few arcades in a suburb of Portland. Kids who played the game reportedly suffered disturbing side effects. They "woke up at night screaming, having horrible nightmares." Some later developed amnesia. Occasionally black-coat types would come to collect 'records' from the games. So did Polybius really exist, or is it all a hoax? Here is a rare photograph of one of the Polybius machines (or perhaps it's just a modern photoshop). Even if it is just a hoax (which, yeah, it probably is) it still makes a pretty good story. (Thanks, Rob).

Conspiracy Theories Technology

Posted on Wed May 12, 2004


I downloaded some game from online that was supposed to be the ROM of this. Aint, slept yet, but I haven't had any weird mental deals. Of course I don't believe this, and that game probly wasn't even really the original, but wow it was freaky. Things gradually slow down, the music is weird and it just randomly stops. I didn't but I could see how u could get a headache from that...weird. It's just another weird hoax to make ppl believe in freaky things.
Posted by Fuzzums Wuzzums  on  Fri Jun 11, 2004  at  01:25 PM
What a great story. I just love the mind-control and men-in-black type stories.
Posted by Isaac  on  Tue Sep 28, 2004  at  12:49 PM
As any relatively mild arcade geek might know, Tempest was originally a game where the tubes rotated and the player's "claw" stayed still. This was changed after it caused motion sickness to the tubes being stationary and the claw rotating, and apparently the Polybius name was just a prototype for Tempest. "Sense deleting" refers to a lead coders Herculean alcohol consumption. Someone clearly took the stories of a prototype game in Oregon causing motion sickness and added a load of Men in Black for good measure, before faking a ROM.
Posted by crazylou  on  Wed Apr 20, 2005  at  05:20 PM
The whole "woke up at night screaming" thing sound silly. I think some people watched too much movies about kids dialing into NORAD's supercomputer from home.

But video games developed by a government organization is a reality. Take for example the popular video game America's Army developed by the U.S. Army as a recruiting tool.
Posted by black helicopters  on  Tue May 31, 2005  at  06:33 AM
I am aware that the secret service worked on the mind altering program with former members of Atari. Polybius was the Tempest prototype commonly called Vortex. Vortex was secretly released under the name Polybius with the mind altering cpu attached.

The existing ROM has been altered to LOOP MODE. ACCESS IS DENIED.

I cannot provide anymore information out of fear of being traced.
Posted by BAAL  on  Wed Jun 22, 2005  at  09:36 PM
this game is definitely real, because i played it. right after i played it, i exploded. twice.
Posted by mr fun  on  Mon Jul 18, 2005  at  12:24 PM
Ah, the memories of Polybius...

I was tracking discussions in various forums a few years back, but I had fallen out of it due to a lack of intelligent conversation about the topic. I've brushed back on it from time to time, but it's just become a fun story, one I thought had stopped being told by now, but it seems it still has a following... Perhaps I'll resume my position.
Posted by Vornan Cuel  on  Wed Jul 27, 2005  at  11:38 PM
but if you want to hear something equally strange, check out this address...

look for a link to something called "The Conet Project - Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations"

I like to imagine that Polybius is related to these transmissions, but you don't really think... do you??? The collection is 133 MB, and very much worth the download, just go there and find it and get it, and then... I dunno, do whatever you want.
Posted by Vornan Cuel  on  Wed Jul 27, 2005  at  11:50 PM
Polybius is a stupid hoax made up by equally stupid people.
Posted by Rocket Master  on  Tue Oct 18, 2005  at  03:43 AM
Once, I played Polybius, then, Freddy Kreuger popped out, and ripped out my trachea. So then I started to play the game again and suddenly a life sized cutout of Jared the subway guy attacked my dog and beat it to death. The arcade man tried to stop it, but he couldn't, but he knew who could: Bond, James Bond. So he called James Bond and told him to get his spy gear and get ready to attack an arcade game that was killing innocent pets/babies/children/astronauts. Polybius was looming over my placenta, when James Bond smashed into the arcade in his Aston-Martin DB5, and enlisted the help of Roger Rabbit. Roger Rabbit then in turn whipped out UZIs and tried to blow it back to Atari headquarters (curse you Nolan Bushell). Afterward, the game ripped out Roger Rabbit's intestines, and hung the arcade manager with them. So then all of these ninjas came over and stabbed James Bond with a double bladed Insuto Fish commando sword with a Tsun-Tai combo move. So, it then occured to me that I could unplug the machine, so I did, and it let out a horrible scream, then it dematerialized. But then, Amish people started to attack the arcade.

To be continued...
Posted by Bo-Shiggity!  on  Tue Nov 29, 2005  at  05:29 PM
Polybius was a secret Government testing machine. Don't believe all of those wierdos who tell you otherwise. Besides, I'm really Government Agent A-113, and not some nerd sitting at a computer! MOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHO!
Posted by Government Agent A-113  on  Mon Dec 19, 2005  at  11:13 AM
Lizard Man knows what Lizard man says and Lizard Man believes because Lizard Man is aware of the time of reckoning, and Lizard Man know the truth to Polybius, and Lizard Man will appear when the time is right until then Lizard Man waits in his Lizard Man habitat waiting for the Apocalypse.
Posted by Lizard Man  on  Mon Dec 19, 2005  at  11:17 AM
One day, I was in Portland around 20 years ago. I was a Radical teen back then, so kids would always try to get me to do stupid things. But one day someone told me the story of Polybius , and I didn't believe it. So He offered me $20. So I tried it, but when I tried it I had nightmares. I cannot say any more because I fear I'm being traced.
Posted by The Truth  on  Mon Dec 19, 2005  at  11:49 AM
I don't care if its true or not (actually to be honest i don't think its true at all) but i do have to say the post that lizard man and bo-shiggity wrote were hilarious.

i like legends/myths/hoax or what not because you can usually find humor in it.

thanks for the laughs XD
Posted by Great Laughs  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  02:28 PM
So the Amish were ravaging the arcade. Their were guts, blood, car parts, etc. all over the place (Messy, messy, messy!). So I whipped out my convieniently placed salami log (And I mean the sandwhich meat, you dirty, dirty, dirty perverts!), and held their leader hostage. But they had responded by kidnapping one of our own: Albert Brooks. So I let their leader go. But they didn't realize that I had rigged their leader with a 6 Megaton Hydrogen Bomb! I grabbed Albert Brooks, and my trusty jetpack, and flew away, to the planet of Coruscant. But little did I know, that they were following me with a fleet of flying DeLoreans! They shot me down somewhere over Prague, Czechoslovakia. Upon crashing, I was shocked to see a bunch of Czechoslovakianeeseianish people, running away. But when I looked up, it all made sense. They were being attacked by a giant Gojira monster! I started to fight it, but I realized: It had a mind control device on the back of its head. I freed the Gojira monster from it's trance, and it became my best friend. We were married later that day, but an old aqquaintance showed up without an invitation: Polybius!

To be continued...
Posted by Bo-Shiggity!  on  Thu Jan 19, 2006  at  04:29 PM
you never know, some off-shoot military techs could have released some type of arcade cabinet and altered them to where the machines did creepy stuff that made kids scared and have nightmares. It's at least "possible." I believe that Polybius WAS real due to there being at least some evidence but we'll never know anything more about it as its probably locked in a dusty safe somewhere.
Posted by Government Agent S-666  on  Mon Jan 23, 2006  at  05:20 AM
Hidden somewhere in the Polybius story (which is intriguing, even if it is b.s. - just like those weird shortwave numbers stations mentioned by Vornan Cuel) is a seed of truth. Some arcade-style game somewhere (maybe not Portland) created some kind of adverse effect in players. Sort of like the Pokemon cartoon that supposedly induced seizures. This is a fun urban legend to track down to its source; that's why the mystery won't go away.
Posted by sme  on  Tue Feb 21, 2006  at  08:07 AM
Hello there.

My name is Steven Roach, one of five programmers based in the Czech Rupublic that put Polybius together almost twenty-five years ago.

I'm quietly enjoying all the Urban Myths and good-humoured Paranoia that has been spread liberally around the internet but I felt it was about time someone put the record straight, mainly because of the fake mock-ups and screenshots doing the rounds are a bit of a slap in the face to a game that should have been one of the guiding lights of the industry at the time.

My full statement is on Thanks for taking the time to read this and if you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Posted by Steven Roach  on  Wed Mar 22, 2006  at  10:38 AM
Um, I found the top-secret Internet version of Polybius and I am playing it right now! Who are you? I am just playing Pong, OK?

Uh, what's Polybius?
Where am I?

If you could tell me please let me know.
Posted by Who?  on  Sun May 14, 2006  at  12:17 AM
Loving the intelligent comments...

anyway, i came across the polybius story after a friend of mine, dave, tole me of his dream;

"I was in an asteroid field, but each asteroid was like a greek island, with villages etc on em. When i went past one, the villigers came out saying "We are being attacked by The Polybius". I went in, and i saw the most bizzare creature - it was simply your (my) head, with no body,. but with wings where the neck ended. It (I) flew past repetedly screaming "I am the polybius!". It flew so fast, that it could evade any arrows shot at it. So I (dave) got the Nexus Warrior, and he used the NExus Arrow which, when fired, split into an infinate arc of other arrows (barring a small cone around the nexus warrior). there were so many, that the polybius could not avoid them."

Posted by Butler  on  Thu May 25, 2006  at  07:00 PM
Statement from a member of their creative team (taken from

by stevenroach. Comment: "I think it's about time I laid this to rest, however entertaining the speculation. My name is Steven Roach who is primarily based in the Czech Republic. Sinneschlossen was a company set up by myself and several oter mainly amateur programmers in 1978 that worked on component parts for Printed Circuit Boards that saw programming as a limited but very profitable sideline. We were approached around 1980 by a Southern American company that shall remain nameless for legal purposes to develop an idea they had for producing an Arcade Game with a puzzle element that centred around a new approach to Video Game Graphics.
The inspiried graphics combined with the puzzle elements and scintilating gameplay was something to behold - we playtested it for hours and hours and it certainly was an addictive game that was well loved professionally and recreationally by all that played it. The company couldn't have been happier and we all thought we were on the verge of something very special indeed. We then received a phonecall stating that the intense and engrossing gameplay of this new step was very much an unknown quantity so the game was put back several months due to divided opinion within their board of directors, much to our consternation for breaking our backs to finish it on time. We received heartening collated playtesting figures and were then told that the game would receive a temporary limited release which bouyed us significantly but shortly after, we received terrible news - a thirteen year old boy from the Lloyd District of Portland, Oregon had suffered an Epileptic Fit while playing the game, only six days after the machines had literally been installed. One of the senior employees that I knew very well contacted me to tell me that it caused immense ripples of panic throughout the company who were of the opinion that they had "created a monster" as such. It may sound laughable now but please bear in mind that this was 25 years ago when the Video Game Industry was in it's infancy. Every effort was made to withdraw the game from the public domain as quickly as possible but the scaremongering was already out in force and a lot of the children were queueing up or daring their friends to play this supposedly nightmarish game. Company Directors descended on the town to assess the situation which may account for these reports of "Strange Men in Black Suits hanging around" and the machines were often taken in daylight, causing minor but noticable incidents. As far as I was made aware, only seven machines were distributed around the area and no other health-related incidents were reported.
I'm sure people will doubt the sincerity of this so feel free to drop me a line at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) as I'm happy to answer any questions. Steven. " (2006-03-20 14:21:27Z)

He's also posted here, above.
Posted by SoxSweepAgain  on  Tue Aug 22, 2006  at  01:21 PM
Don't be silly the game did exist it was called Astroglobs not Polybus. It was invented by a programmer who's kid promptly got addicted and nearly starved himself to death spending to much time playing and not enough eating. All known copies were wisked away and delivered to the Govts secret Warehouse 23. (if you didn't know warehouse 23 is the super secret warehouse that contains every thing from the Holy Grail to the martian war machines its where the arc went at the end of Raiders). See Gurps Warehouse 23 for the real scoop 😊
Posted by KevinM  on  Mon Feb 05, 2007  at  12:10 PM
Here you'll find some polybius-t-shirts:;[text]=Polybius
Posted by nexus6  on  Wed Sep 05, 2007  at  10:40 AM

thats the rom supposedly
Posted by unknown  on  Sun Sep 23, 2007  at  06:27 PM
I have played the orignal arcade game once. I experienced no desires to do anything except to play the game more. There is some subliminal messaging in but soley to make you want to play the game more. The new remake is designd to freak your freinds and after the subliminal messaging option in higher commands all the other options are fake.
The code for the higher options is 35-34-31-54-12-24-45-43 which is Polybius TM on a polybius square cipher. The orignial is real! Dreams of the game but zero nightmares. Slight paranoia remains...
Posted by Fountain of knowledge  on  Wed Oct 03, 2007  at  02:51 PM
the polybius-shirt is also available in the usa, now.;[text]=Polybius
Posted by nexus6  on  Thu Oct 04, 2007  at  02:19 AM
actually i have jus downloaded the game from a reliable source and i dnt want to play it lol
Posted by yes  on  Mon Jan 21, 2008  at  08:32 PM
So, just as the Gojira monster and I had finished exchanging vows, Polybius stood up in the audience, whipped out two gold-plated, 9mm lugers, and began shooting at me and my new bride. I hit the deck, but the Gojira monster was fatally wounded. Now it had become personal. I lunged at Polybius, but before I had made it 3 feet, it unleashed a squadron of 13 Jesse Jacksons at me, and quickly escaped to its conveniently parked dirrigible. The Jesse Jacksons swarmed in on me, kicking me, and threatening to blackmail me if I didn't hire 100 black workers for my non-existant company. One swift kick to the head from one of the Jacksons, and my vision began to fade...

TO BE CONTINUED (Don't worry folks, the wait won't be NEARLY as long this time)
Posted by Bo-Shiggity  on  Sat Feb 02, 2008  at  07:43 PM
Wow what a good story... Someone should make this into a film based on "real life" Wish I was a writer.

Just gose to show that computer games and the internet itself is creating there own Myths that are fact or fiction.

Sorry just going to look for Bigfoot
Posted by Chris  on  Thu Apr 03, 2008  at  02:16 PM
hi internet. my name is robert and i grew up in portland and im here to share to you my story with polybius.

it was in spring toward then end of my ninth grade year in 1981. i wasnt really an avid arcade player but i would go with some of my friends occasionally (one of whom was REALLY into videogames). anways we usually would ride our bikes down to the arcade. one day i remember going and seeing the arcade really busy. it was suprising especially since there was rarely many people in there. i remember being pissed off and telling my friend we should leave. he wanted to see what the fuss was about and so we checked it out.

the amount of people around of that machine was unbelievable. i cant remember how the arcade cabinet looked but i remember seeing this kid about 12 years old just staring wide eyed into the screen. every so often he would turn his head as to look away from the screen (i assume it hurt his eyes). he was pressing a button and moving a joystick. the sound was wierd and it was almost piercing (the beeps). i remember someone shouting to the kid that he wouldnt make it through the level. the line that followed was riduculous and me and my friend decided that we would come back the next day (early) to try it out. unfortunately i was grounded later that day and couldnt go back to the arcade for another week. by that time the machine was gone. my friend claims he tried it while i was grounded, but his stories are inconsistent. it was only years later that i heard stories about this game. ever since then i wish i had played it
Posted by Robert R.  on  Thu Feb 12, 2009  at  03:41 PM
Probably the creator of the hoax was a fan of David Lynch.

In his movies, Lynch often used stroboscopic effects, and the sentence "Portland, Oregon!".
Furthermore, his first film was titled "Eraserhead" (1977), that in German is Sinneloschen.
Posted by Erasmus  on  Thu Apr 09, 2009  at  05:40 AM
this game couldnt have been that scary i ahve plyed games with people i mask trying to kill you with a knife and you rip there head off this didnt give me any side effect i say this was just a game the was removed for some stupid reason and people made up so many things about it now its suppost to scary
Posted by coolguy  on  Wed Oct 28, 2009  at  04:34 PM
Well, since nobody has any real proof that the game actually exists, and the only people who played it cannot give us a straight answer, what does that mean? It means that polybius never existed! I think...
Posted by Lavender  on  Fri Mar 25, 2011  at  01:30 PM
Hey im an avid believer in at least the basics of the polybius 'myth'. Theres a picture of a computer board that has the word polybius on it (). now if its legit or not im not sure but it does have some similarities to other circuit boards from arcade games of that time. Also the realities are that people have been using visual and audio stimulants to hypnotize and get to peoples subconsious especially those who are suseptable to such things. Also they were not fully aware of the epileptic effects of games back then and those effects could have been spun in a long game of broken telephone to the craziness it is now.
Posted by Rich S  on  Wed May 04, 2011  at  07:44 PM
Guys, how long has this search for info been going on? Years now? And we've fond out what? Nothing. Some mock-up screenshots and .exe files, but, no more. Some fake cabinets and boards. If this was real, you would have more info than you do now. More CONVINCING info than some pictures from the middle of God-knows-where, in Joe-Schmoe's basement, some people CLAIMING to have worked on the game, and a mock-up .exe that looks like Beatlesmania on more LSD than it already was. This is just fake. Some troll started it and some n00b believed it. I figured this out in 5 hours; I just found out about the game 5 hours ago.
Posted by RyuuHayabusaNinjaGaiden  on  Thu May 26, 2011  at  02:55 PM
How would anyone even know what the game was like to make a mock-up of it? It farther proves "RyuuHayabusaNinjaGaiden"'s point (It's on the comments on this page).
Besides, how could some game in the 80's even do effects like that? Hypnotizing effects, psychological affecting effects, et cetera? The games were, like, 8-Bit. This is just the stupidest story I've ever heard.
Posted by Marley  on  Thu May 26, 2011  at  03:03 PM
Why are you all talking about polybius like it was some kind of urban legend or something? My brother came home from the states with polybius. I still got the game disensembled somewhere in the garage.

My brother was working for the gouverment in the states for 18 years. He came back to sweden, where he was born, in a private jet with the american flag. Thats all I can remember. Anyways, he had the game on the plane. I'll see if I can find it somewhere. I know I still got it in the garage, but its not ensembled. I'll put up some pics if you like?
Posted by Emil  on  Fri Jun 22, 2012  at  03:37 PM
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