Following on from GTA IV and the mystery of the Ratman, which I covered last week, I’ve decided it’s time to delve into World of Warcraft’s most enduring, and terrifying, mystery. The Forgotten Crypt can be found behind the Tower of Karazhan and, up until semi-recently, was supposed to be inaccessible to players of the game. As of patch 7.3.0 the area is now open to those who can solve the lengthy Riddle of the Lucid Nightmare, used to obtain the Lucid Nightmare mount, but it is what came before this that we are most interested in.

Originally, players managed to get into the Karazhan Crypt (as it was known then) sub-zone by dying right by the entrance and getting in as a ghost or wall glitching through. Once inside it is clear that the area is an unfinished zone seemingly abandoned by Blizzard for an unknown reason. What you find inside is uniquely unnerving for a game that is pretty light on intensely creepy areas. The rooms within the abandoned instance all have foreboding names like “The Slough of Despair” and “The Pit of Criminals”, and overall the whole place is a huge departure from the usual themes we see in the game. The creepiest area, however, is the room of The Upside-Down Sinners, populated entirely by the underwater corpses of those who found themselves unlucky enough to be suspended from meat hooks in the crypt. The idea behind who put them there has perplexed visitors since its discovery, as people tried to work out who could be behind the virtual atrocity.

So why is it there? And why did it spend so long as a portion of the game players were not supposed to be able to get in to? Details are hazy but one of the overriding and most popular theories was that the dungeon was abandoned because the themes contained therein were considered too adult for the game, and that there were further fears that the zone would cause the game to be upgraded to an M for Mature rating. Whilst this does make a lot of sense, this theory was addressed back in 2014 by Blizzard community manager Bashiok who had this to say on the matter:

Oh yeah, I remember that! Haven’t seen a screenshot in quite a while. Not sure I know the story on it but knowing our development processes back then there tended to be a lot more stuff made that we just didn’t use. I can’t imagine the game rating rumour is accurate, because if it was content we wanted to use we’d just take out the upside-down sinners or whatever the issue was and use it for whatever it was we wanted to do with that space. It’s not like they’re permanent fixtures. Fun rumour though! 🙂 More likely we just changed our minds.

Despite this seemingly firm rebuttal of the swirling conspiracy mill, it was not enough to stop others coming up with their own ideas of where the dungeon would fit into the lore. One theory, which was posted on Reddit three years ago, links the dungeon to Medivh, the last guardian of Tirisfal. Supposedly, it could be the final resting place of all of Medivh’s apprentices that came before Khadgar, driven to madness as they were not strong enough to deal with the Archmage’s experiments.

Whilst theories like this are nice to read, it sadly seems as though this is just an abandoned developer playground for the boys and girls at Blizzard. It looks as though this one can be very much consigned to the “thoroughly explainable” pile of mysteries. That’s not to say they all are though, so make sure to stay tuned for the next time we dive into the darkest corners of the video game world.