Please wait...

The Theater

Estimated reading time — 5 minutes

Have you ever heard of an old PC game called “The Theater?” Yeah, I didn’t think so. Probably because many people say it doesn’t even exist. You see, The Theater is an old computer game released around the same time as Doom. Today, if you ever find it, it’s only available on crappy bootleg CD-ROMs, which, more often than naught don’t even actually contain the game. The actual legitimate copies that they say were released back in the day feature a blank cover with nothing but the sprite of what has since been named the ‘the Ticket-Taker’. He is simply a poorly drawn, pixelated Caucasian, bald man with large red lips wearing a red vest over a white shirt and black pants. He is completely emotionless, though some say that if you smash the disc his face is shown as angry the next time you look at the cover. But this is just dismissed as an urban myth. What is peculiar about The Theater, though, is that there is no developer named on the jewel case, nor a game description on the back. It is simply the Ticket-Taker on a white backdrop on both sides.

The game was initially known for its inability to install correctly. The installation process immediately locks up the computer when the user reaches the licensing agreement. Also strange about the licensing agreement for The Theater is that whenever the development studio is supposed to be named, the text is simply a blank line. Anyways, most people who have claimed to own one of the original CDs say that they figured out how to install the game by simply rebooting their computer on the licensing agreement with the disc still inside. Then they are prompted to press ‘I AGREE’ on startup. Then they continue with the installation. The game then starts up without any introduction besides a main menu that is simply the sprite of a movie theater’s exterior on an empty city street. The title fades in and then the 3 menu buttons ‘NEW GAME, LOAD, OPTIONS’. Selecting OPTIONS immediately crashes the game to the desktop. LOAD is said not to function at all. Even if you do have a saved game, nothing happens when you press it. Thus, NEW GAME is the only working menu option.

Once it is selected you are in the first person view. You are standing in an empty movie theater lobby, with the exception of the Ticket-Taker standing in front of a dark hallway which one can only assume leads to the theaters themselves. There’s nothing to do but look at the poorly-drawn, mostly illegible movie posters or approach the Ticket-Taker. Once the player moves towards the Ticket-Taker a very low-quality sound clip plays saying “THANK YOU PLEASE ENJOY THE MOVIE” along with a speech box saying the same thing. You then walk into the hallway and the screen fades to black and you’re back in the empty lobby and you do the exact thing again and again and again.

While this may sound like a really horrible game, a number of peculiar things occur as you continue to play it. The number of times that you have to continue into the hall after giving your ticket to the Ticket-Taker before the strange events happen is unknown. Most state that it’s completely random and could take anywhere from the first playthrough to the four hundredth. What happens, though, has deeply disturbed some players.


The first occurrence is when the player fades back in after walking into the hallway. This time they will notice the Ticket-Taker is completely absent. The player then, without any other options, decides to walk into the dark hallway. The sound clip and text box mentioned previously still play in the absence of the Ticket-Taker, but when the player walks into the hallways the screen does not fade out. It goes pitch black as they walk deeper into the hall, but the player’s footstep sound clip is still playing as they continue to push the up button on their keyboard. Those claiming to have played the original game report to have felt extremely uncomfortable walking down the hallway, anticipating the whole way something horrible happening. Well, eventually the player is unable to move forward. There is nothing for a few moments before a strange sprite that is described as ‘the Ticket-Taker but with a swirl for a face’ appears and stands before the player. The original players of the game say their bodies immediately froze up and their stomachs churned they saw this sprite (which has been appropriately named the ‘Swirly Head Man’). Nothing happens as the Swirly Head Man stands before them. Then suddenly a piercing screech plays as the game glitches out. This lasts for a few minutes, with the screeching being continuous. Then the player is abruptly returned to the lobby with all the sounds and graphics being as they should be.

The game continues normally for the next couple of ‘cycles’ of entering the hallway, with a couple of the original players claiming the Swirly Head Man would briefly appear and disappear in the corner of the screen as a brisk ‘yelp’ sound effect plays. Then, at some point after meeting the Swirly Head Man, the player sees the Ticket-Taker pacing back and forth (though there is no walking animation – the sprite’s limbs are completely static, so he just hops up and down slightly as a substitute) with his eyes being wide and his mouth open to simulate a worried facial expression. Some players noted that the movie posters had been replaced with images of the Swirly Head Man, which caused them to immediately turn their character’s head away from the posters and approach the Ticket-Taker. Then another different, low-quality sound clip plays, but the speech box contains nothing but corrupted characters that cause whatever text that would have been in the box to be completely illegible. Due to the extremely low quality of the sound, it is debated by players what exactly the Ticket-Taker says at this point, though it is widely agreed that he says ‘NEVER REACH THE OTHER LEVELS.’ Then the screen fades out once again and returns the player back to their starting point in the lobby, but the Ticket-Taker is gone and the hallway is blocked by a large brick wall sprite. Touching the brick wall will immediately crash the game. And that’s all there is to it. No one knows what the ‘Other Levels’ are or how to gain access to them, nor is it known why the Swirly Head Man causes such acute fear in those who have seen him in the game. All the original copies of The Theater have either been lost or destroyed. But the creepiest part is the fact that is that all the original players of the game claim to occasionally see a brief glimpse of the Swirly Head Man out of the corner of their eyes.


Credit: Anonymous

A sequel to this story has been written. To read it, click here. The author of this tale is unknown. The story as featured here was transcribed from a 4Chan /x/ screenshot. For more like this, please see the “Video Game Hoaxes and Urban Legends” thread on the Something Awful forums.

Please wait...

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed under any circumstance.

137 thoughts on “The Theater”

  1. Say the theater or the ticket taker one more time! This bugged me so bad I couldn’t even finish this pasta :(

  2. it is rthe most scariest thing ever, cause of the part of the swirly head man makes me scared and the guy that is hopping was like “im going to check if hes not there”

  3. A YouTuber that I watch for funny vidoes, cr1tikal (AKA penguinz0) posted gameplay of this. He’s a comedian of a sort and makes comedy videos and barely ever shows emotion. When he played it I didn’t give it any thought but it did creep me out, here’s a link to his video —–>

  4. Go on youtube, search The Theatre and watch the one by Penguinz0. This man has no fear, the game isn’t even scary after watching him.

  5. The name is real and people like let’s players online have been playing it. So for the people who are complaining about how boring/terrible this creepypasta is please shut up because they are only describing the game. They can’t control how the game ends.

  6. The Llama Amalume Sama

    This is actually kinda funny kinda creepy at the same time. I mean yeah the whole swirly head is funny but “Then suddenly a piercing screech plays as the game glitches out. This lasts for a few minutes, with the screeching being continuous.” would scare the hell out of me >.<

  7. please dont tell me i was the only fucking person to see something in the corner of my eye at the end of the story because i am shitting my pants right now.

  8. Several months after people stopped caring…

    Yes, I am serious. Unfortunately, there really isn’t anything more to say about it; it’s a glitchy, broken game that never made it out the door, that just so happens to be unintentionally creepy in some places. I was unable to get my hands on the resource files, so I did my best to remake “The Ticket-Taker” from memory.

    This is, best as I can remember, what he looked like. One big deformed hand, I guess reaching for your ticket, one hand with oddly splayed fingers, a dull facial expression, and gigantic lips. The original sprite only had outlines on the hands, but I got lazy and didn’t shade anything other than the head. I also did my best to recreate “the swirly head man”. The real deal was a lot more pixellated than mine turned out.

  9. Well honestly, this could be better, it did scare me a little but wouldnt scare anyone who hasnt seen a screamer.

  10. @chesu:

    Um, no. If a code comes to something that wasnt written or the line of code was expected, the game simply crashes. Games can only do what theyre told to do, they cant think by themselves. (And btw, a variable in programming is just a symbol or number that represents something, so the only way it could crash is if you forget to specify where the variable is coming from or if the number doesnt make sense.)

  11. This is an okay pasta. Not a great ending. However, my crazy friend liked the idea of swirlhead so much she forced me to make a crappy Scratch game about it. It\’s on it\’s way, i\’ll see if I can upload it when it\’s done.

  12. “While this may sound like a really horrible game”

    You said it, not us. Why people play through it enough times for the “glitch” to show up is the real question.

  13. Honestly,it scared the shit out of me. The ending really wasn’t as good as I expected,but the rest is pure awesomeness.

  14. I love this story, it’s one of my favorites.

    I feel very motivated to make this an actual game. I have 3 years experience with C++, 2 years experience with GML, and 6 months experience with C+ (a simpler, more begginer version of C++).

    Im going to include everything. The crashing start menu, the random “cycles, the Swirly Head Man…all of it.

    If you want to ask me any questions or want to comment on the game, use the above email adress to contact me.

    Wish me luck!

  15. crystalthehedgehog

    thank you swirly man for causing my lights to flicker now lets sing the swirly song oh and real quick fi you stop you get cake song: sWIRLYZZZZ SWIRRLLLY” ok im done

  16. what an awful piece of rubbish. there are absolutely no redeeming qualities with this turd. honestly, it’s been done already and far better, and the other stories aren’t that great to begin with.


  17. Wow, what’s with all the praise? I didn’t really expect anyone to read my comment, even. I can upload some of the game’s resources or try to get it running and take screenshots, if anyone’s interested.


    OH GOD.

    I do believe I shall not sleep well tonight, for it is 1:30 AM and I was planning to go to bed soon and I now have the light on ¬¬

  19. This really me out when I first read it on /x/, mainly because unlike to most other videogame pastas this one could actually be a real game.

  20. This story is based on a real game, actually… It’s not something whispered about in certain circles, it’s not something that comes in a plain-looking jewel case, it’s not by a nameless untraceable developer… and it’s certainly not supernatural.

    The game in question is indeed called The Theatre (r before e), and was developed by a company called Salida Software. I’m fairly certain it’s an English company, despite the Spanish name. As far as I know, all they made was learning software (I have a maths suite from them somewhere around here), so The Theatre was probably meant to be some sort of edumentainment game. The game was obviously never finished, probably from lack of funding or the whole company going under.

    The description in the story is actually pretty accurate; it’s in a first-person perspective, with flat sprites in a 3D(ish) environment, and glitchy as hell. The Ticket Taker has an egg-shaped body, and one of his huge and misshapen, I think to look like he’s reaching toward you for your ticket. The description of the Swirly Head Man is also accurate, just a glitched version of the Ticket Taker, but I saw a few people saying that he looks like Giygas… That’s not the case. The features of his face are just swirled, and are red because his lips are gigantic. I have absolutely no idea why this happens, because while there are a few character sprites in the game’s resources, that isn’t one of them. Oh, and just to clarify, the sprite is a bit creepy. That’s all. It’s not terrifying, it’s never filled me with a sense of dread, it’s just a bit creepy.

    The game plays pretty much exactly as stated in the story; so accurately, in fact, that I think the author just downloaded it somewhere and decided to make a scary story of his experiences. I’ll admit that some things in it can be unsettling, but not OMG crap-yer-pants scary. Like I said, the game is unfinished, and very glitchy.

    I think the idea is to select a movie from the posters on the wall, enter the theater, and play a minigame. The minigames are glitchy (and missing resources) to the point of being almost unplayable, but there doesn’t seem to be a time limit on any of them, so you just have to plow through until you’ve done something right enough times to be dumped into the lobby. What’s described in the story is what happens if you don’t select a movie; you’ll be allowed to enter the theater, but since the parameter of which game to load hasn’t been set you’ll just be dumped back into the lobby.

    Here’s where it gets a bit weird. If you continue to enter the theater without choosing a movie, odd, sometimes creepy things WILL happen. I’m not sure why, but if I were to make an educated guess it would be that glitching past the minigames like this causes variables to reach values that they weren’t meant to, resulting in things appearing where they shouldn’t. Or, y’know, the game is just glitched to hell and back. It’s been years, but here are some of the effects I can remember:

    -The Swirly Head Man
    -Movie posters appearing out of their frames
    -Textures changing colors
    -Legitimately disturbing audio issues
    -Other characters
    -Oher areas

    The last two are obviously the most interesting ones. Sometimes you’ll spawn in a small room with a black floor and green walls, which will crash the game if touched. Sometimes you’ll appear in a room similar to the lobby, with a concession stand… kind of. There’s a woman behind the counter, with an incredibly poorly-drawn popcorn machine and soda fountain, but it’s all just an image on the wall. It’s basically just a big yellow concession stand mural. I don’t remember if you can interact with it or not.

    The only character that appears with talking about is a guy in a brown jacket, who appears on the sidewalk outside the lobby. Looking back, I don’t think the story mentioned this, but to the left of where you start out the wall is a row of glass doors looking out onto the street outside the theater. If you glitch past the minigames enough, a man in weird-looking jacket (I think it’s supposed to be tweed? it’s a mess) with a huge smile on his face will be just on the other side of the doors, staring at you. I mean a HUGE smile, like Freaky Fred or Spark Brushel (Google image search if you want).

    …Actually, since he has the same body shape as the Ticket Taker, he looks a bit like the mayor from The Nightmare Before Christmas. His smile isn’t creepy though, it’s just broad; what IS creepy are his eyes. While the Ticket Taker, ash tray, and other sprites will always face you, the smiling guy is anchored in place like one of the walls. His eyes, however, are always staring right at you. Just thinking about that gives me chills… Okay, okay, while there’s nothing overtly scary or supernatural about the game itself, that’s one thing that I will admit legitimately scares me. Like a porcelain doll…

    Ahem. That’s pretty much all there is to The Theatre. If you can find it somewhere, I’d recommend downloading it just to see what it’s like. Oh! One thing I’d forgotten… As stated in the story, getting the thing to run is, to say the least, difficult. I think someone got a hold of all of the code and resources and just compiled it and added their own installer or something. Again, there’s nothing paranormal about the installation, it just doesn’t work well. Anyway, that’s all I have to share on the subject, if anyone has a question just let me know.

  21. This one really made me shiver. Swirly head man is basically the end of a recurring nightmare I have. Seeing it in text has freaked me out.

  22. This concept is pretty done…and this story suffers from the typical buildup-with-no-climax syndrome. Also, the last sentence totally kills it. I mean, really?

  23. I enjoyed this pasta. It follows an old but working formula, not very scary but “The Theater” sounds fascinating in a weird way. I also like the fact that it’s not necessarily paranormal, we should have more stuff like this.

  24. you guys are great

    Lemme start off by saying this is one of the first creepy pastas ive read in a while. I really liked this pasta, because it touches on the feeling everyone gets when playing those older games. When you play those old games, and everything is so distorted from the image we are used to when we see a human, you feel uncomfortable, or unwelcome. This really drags that out into a much creepier scenario. I, of course, cannot expect many of the creepy pasta readers to make these connections, and therefore not get the intended feel out of the pasta. A tip: in order to sense the creepiness in a pasta, you need to put yourself into the situation. Think about if you were actually playing this game with no prior knowledge, and these things happened to you. You cant deny it would be pretty unsettling.

  25. Fishandchipsguvnah

    I remember a lot of the old, shitty freeware DOS games from back in the day, some of which really were barely playable pieces of shit. That, for me, gives this more… What’s the word? Versimilitude? Suspension of Disbelief?

    Now, granted, I would just stop playing and uninstall after the first ‘play-through’ if it could even be called that. Not to mention that there’s not much scary about a badly rendered sprite with a swirly face, but, ehh, whatever.

    7/10 Good pasta, but not the best.


  27. I was hooked halfway through the first paragraph. Loved it until you began on the first occurance, then I just liked it. Ending was just bad.


  28. I’m seeing somebody with a lollipop for a head jumping around a room. Is…is that supposed to scare me? Because it really doesn’t. I was scrolling down expecting to see a shitty photoshop of him in the corner of the screen.

  29. Moderately creepy and interesting enough to keep me reading, I\’ll give it a 6/10. Also, PC games were released on floppys back then.

  30. Ha, this was interesting. Reminded me of Yume Nikki and Uboaaaaaa. xD But yeah, the ending kind of ruined this story… :/

  31. Oh god, how the fuck did this get through.

    It\’s a cliched and standard \"DOOD BORT\" style creepypasta about some weird, glitchy video game that\’s vaguely supernatural. Woop dee doo, seen it a million times before.

    This would be excusable if this thing was actually good, but it\’s instead a rambling, formulaic piece of dreck that seems to have been written in one go with no proof reading: Sentences run on, the narrative meanders on pointless details and overall there\’s no sense of suspense or intrigue built up.

    A poorly executed concept that has been thoroughly run into the ground by better writers.

  32. Reminds me of playing old games of this quality as a kid and the feeling of cold detachment I got from these games, almost as thought I either weren’t welcome or didn’t belong. The story resonated with me so much, in fact, I’d almost say I’ve played it before.

  33. theguywhoreadsthisstuff

    liked this, no real aspects of of a bad creepy pasta 8/10
    all other negative comments your just the fussiest pasta eaters there ever is.

    1. Yeah no bad elements except: Usage of cliches like “This program messes up your PC”, meh effects of the game itself on those who played it(Nausea and seeing some dude in your peripheral vision…that’s it?), meh “villain”(Swirly man, wtf?).

    2. Yeah no bad elements except: Usage of cliches like “This program messes up your PC”, meh effects of the game itself on those who played it(Nausea and seeing some dude in your peripheral vision…that’s it?), meh “villain”(Swirly man, wtf?).

  34. I stopped reading at “more often than naught” =|

    But then I read the comments and carried on reading, I actually really liked this story.

  35. King Charles the Second

    That doesn’t just sound like a terrible game, that IS a terrible game. I mean, I’ve heard of slideshows more entertaining.

  36. Ah, that was great. Classic Creepypasta. The first bit with the “some people say that X but that’s probably an urban legend” but was a bit clunky but once the actual description of the game starts, it’s gold.

    I love the idea of an unexplained mystery involving a semi-functional video game. Very tight. Reminds me of one of my favorite horror Manga, Portus.

  37. I really liked it, but like almost every story on here it just fell short after a ton of suspense. It’s unfortunate that it ended like that but it was an extremely good story.

  38. Wow. I kinda freaked out about this. And now I am seeing things. Thanks. Great pasta though. But, I, too feel a sense of Deja Vu…

  39. @bluestain & @stickgore I brought up the idea in the SA thread, my own personal ability to make a game pretty much ends at making it a visual novel style, which would be… weird.

    Also, I have a theory: this story will resonate/appeal most to those of us who are a bit older and remember playing shitty freeware games on DOS prompts and shit, because a lot of the time you’d never know what the hell you were getting into when you bought a game. For ever Hugo’s House Of Horrors, there was also a Pickle Wars.

    That’s right, when I was in middle school, I had a game called Pickle Wars.

  40. I remember this… The original /x/ thread was in about mid june… Wish I could remember the OP’s tripcode, so I could help fill in the author… XP

  41. Mehh…

    Being a hardcore narutard, all I could think of was Tobi screaming bloody murder, and it made me laugh…

    Nothing too scary.

  42. “more often than naught” Hate to be a grammar Nazi, but I almost stopped reading right then and there. I was glad I didn’t cause I could sense a great build up! And then…. nothing. That was a huge waste of my time.

        1. I know this seems like a really late response and slightly pedantic, but I’m still posting it for anyone that may be reading the comments today (or later). It’s not word choice, it’s a grammatical mistake, and that’s okay, they happen, but lets try to prevent them in the future. Naught and Not are not interchangeable “more often than naught” means “more often than nothing” , “more often than not” means “this thing does happen more often than it does not happen”. Closeish, but different.

    1. Well there’s a copy (or ‘bootleg’ as the creepypasta says) that ppl play on YouTube. I’ve seen a play through, it’s kinda accurate…. Other than the fact the swirly head man is just a normal head spinning…o shi- srry that was a spoiler.. Heh srry but yeah look it up if you want ^_^

  43. Ohmai.
    An actually moderately creepy pasta. Waow.
    This one gave me that lovely feeling- It’s 11 AM, mind you- Of, like, one of those horror movies where the main character is walking slowly down a dark hallway, and you’re anticipating some scary crap to happen, and then suddenly there’s this ‘ha-ha-i-made-you-shit-your-pants’ screamer that pops up.
    Sadly, though, no screamer, but this was very good nonetheless. Video game characters with a screwed up face are always terrifying.
    This honestly sounds like it could have been an early PC game and for that the rating goes up.

    9/10. The -1 is because of the horrid cliché ending. >.>

  44. It was an enjoyable read with a great buildup, but, as said, no delivery. I liked it regardless. It would be great to see more, though. At least it made me feel apprehension, unlike most creepypasta I’ve seen lately.

  45. It was definitely built up through most of the story but the ending ruined it. I felt there should have been more to it. A meh creepypasta.

  46. I like creepy video game stories, but this one built up and then didn’t have much for an ending. Also, the video game sounds incredibly boring.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top