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The Elevator Game – South Korea’s creepy urban legend

Have you ever heard of The Elevator Game? It’s one of Korea’s spookiest urban legends. If played correctly, it’s said to transport you to another eerie dimension.

The Elevator Game is one of South Korea's creepiest, most popular urban legends. Do you dare to play?

This urban legend has gained a lot of popularity over the years. Where did it come from? And how do you play?

The origins of The South Korean Elevator Game

Tracking down the origins of The Elevator Game is not an easy task. There is a lot of debate about where it all began. Most people believe it originated in South Korea or Japan.

Either way, it’s definitely linked to South Korea often. And it has grown in popularity there as well.

Dating back to the early 2010 years, this game’s fame expanded thanks to internet forums like Reddit and horror-based websites. As social media grew, the urban legend spread even more.

The story of The Elevator Game is deeply unsettling and creepy. Because of that, it’s easy to understand why it went viral.

How do you play The Elevator Game?

It’s important to be very clear that The Elevator Game is just an urban legend. It would be quite unlikely that an elevator to another world exists.

And of course, it’s just as unlikely that anything horrible would happen to someone who played it.

That being said, this story is very spooky. It is tied to mysterious and supernatural events. It comes with a lot of very specific warnings.

At the same time, it does not provide particularly clear instructions on how to return from the alternate world.

So exercise caution if you decide to try this. Play only if you dare!

Do you dare to play The Elevator Game?

Basic rules for playing the game

  1. You MUST play alone. This is not a group effort. You can not bring your best buddy or your partner for backup.
  2. The building you choose MUST be at least 10 stories high. The elevator must reach all 10 floors consecutively. In other words, you can’t change from one elevator to another to reach the 10th floor.
  3. Speak to no one. NO ONE.
  4. If anyone joins you, do not complete the game. Stop immediately and leave the building. There is one exception – the 5th floor, but more on that later.
  5. If you feel uncomfortable at any point, stop. Leave the building without speaking to anyone. Make this decision before you arrive at the 10th floor or it may be too late.
  6. Be very sure of where you are at all times.

Things to consider before playing

You can begin this game at any time. It really doesn’t matter if it’s day or night. However, because you need to do this alone, night is often preferred

It just helps cut down on the chances that someone will get on at any of the floors.

Keep accurate track of where you are. Memorize the steps of the game. Consider writing them down on a piece of paper to keep in your pocket in case you become disoriented.

Don’t write the instructions in the notes app on your phone. There is some belief that electronics don’t work properly – or at all – once you reach the alternate world.

I can’t say these next two things often or strongly enough:

Do not speak to anyone. At all. And be sure you want to do this.

If you’re ready, let’s get started with the details you need to know.

The step-by-step guide to playing The Elevator Game

Please remember this is an urban legend. It’s not real. Still, if you are suffering from any mental health issues (anxiety, depression, OCD, etc) it may be best to refrain from playing!

1. Go into the building you have chosen. Remember it needs to be at least 10 stories tall with an elevator that reaches all 10 floors consecutively.

2. Press the UP button to bring the elevator to you. Avoid pressing a down button.

3. Before getting on make sure no one else is in the elevator with you. If someone is already on it (perhaps coming up from the basement levels), don’t get on. Step back and wait for the next one.

4. The same goes for anyone in the lobby. Do not get on with anyone, even a stranger. This is why the ritual is frequently done at night when it’s quieter.

5. Once you get on, press the button to go up to the 4th floor.

Press the right buttons to play The Elevator Game - if you dare

6. Do not get off on the 4th floor. Stay on the elevator. Press the button to go down to the 2nd floor.

7. Do not get off on the 2nd floor. Stay on the elevator. Press the button to go up to the 6th floor.

8. Do not get off on the 6th floor. Stay on the elevator. Press the button to go down to the 2nd floor again.

9. Do not get off on the 2nd floor. Stay on the elevator. Press the button to go up to the 10th floor.

10. Do not get off on the 10th floor – yet. Stay on the elevator. Press the button to go down to the 5th floor.

The young woman on the 5th floor

11. After you arrive on the 5th floor, a young woman MAY or may not get on the elevator with you. If no one does, don’t worry, the elevator game is still occurring.

However, if a young woman DOES get on the elevator with you DO NOT LOOK AT HER. DO NOT SPEAK TO HER. Under no circumstances should you make any eye or verbal contact with her.

Do not talk to the woman on the 5th floor if you play The Elevator Game

She is not human.

12. Despite that, do not get off on the 5th floor. Stay on, even if the woman is with you. Press the button to go down to the 1st floor.

Once you press the button for the 1st floor there are two possible outcomes.

If the elevator begins to go down to the 1st floor, then The Elevator Game ritual has failed.

There is no specific reason as to why it will fail or succeed, even if you followed all the rules. If it fails, do not attempt the game again right now.

Get off on the 1st floor. Do not look back regardless of whether the woman embarked on the 5th floor. Do not speak to anyone around you.

Exit the building immediately and leave the area. Go home or out, but don’t go back in. Wait for another day to try again.

If, however, the elevator ignores you and rises to the 10th floor, The Elevator Game ritual has succeeded.

Remember, if you have changed your mind you must act now. You can end the ritual by pressing any other button except 1 or 10. Do not panic by repeatedly pressing 1 to descend – it won’t work.

You need to cancel the elevator’s rise before you pass the 9th floor. Once you’ve passed the 9th floor it is too late.

At that point you’ll just have to see it through.

And hope for the best.

The Elevator Game’s 10th floor other world

Once you arrive at the 10th floor, the doors will open. Unlike all the other floors, you have a choice here. You can either stay on the elevator OR you can get off.

If the young woman got on at the 5th floor, she may ask you where you are going when you exit.

Again. I must re-iterate. Do not answer her questions. Do not turn and look at her.

In fact, do not acknowledge her in any way.

If you have gotten off the elevator you are free to look around but do not lose track of which elevator you used if there is more than one.

Surviving The Elevator Game requires you to know which elevator is yours

The urban legend says that you will know you are truly in another world based on a few details.

How to know if The Elevator Game brought you to another dimension

The biggest clue that it worked is this:

You are the only person there.

Everything else will likely look normal. But no one else will be there. Not even the woman from the elevator.

Two other factors will indicate you are in another world.

  1. It will be dark; no lights will be on at all, even if they should be. There will be nothing more than a faint red glow.
  2. You will see a red cross glowing in the distance when you look out the windows. You will see nothing else but the cross out there.

If you play The Elevator Game correctly you might see a glowing red cross in the distance

If you brought your phone – and I’d assume you would – it may or may not work. Some tellings of the legend say that electronic devices won’t function here. So if you try to take photos, video, or make a call, it may not work.

Others will say that they do work. If so, you may go ahead and try taking some photos of your surroundings.

Besides the darkness and the lack of other humans, other strange things may happen. Time may move at an unusual pace in this world. You may also become disoriented.

It’s very important to not forget which elevator you took. The only way back to your own real world is to return in the same elevator that brought you here.

The halls will be dark except for an eerie red glow

Some tales of this legend indicate that you may find it difficult to get back to the elevator. You may experience a sense of distortion where the hallway seems to extend. This could make it seem like the elevator is getting further away instead of closer.

Keep trying. Don’t give up.

You can’t stay here.

How to return home from The Elevator Game

After spending a bit of time exploring the other world – if you dared! – you will need to return home. You need to get back to the real world.

1. If you have not exited the elevator, you can simply begin following the steps to return home from step 3.

2. If you DID leave the elevator, make your way back carefully. Be sure to get on the right one. No one really knows what may happen if you choose the wrong one.

But you probably won’t get home.

3. Once you’re in the right elevator, press the button to go down to the 4th floor.

4. From here you will re-trace the same steps you took to visit the alternate world.

How to return home after playing The Elevator Game

5. Press the button for the 2nd floor, then the 6th, then the 2nd again, then the 10th, then the 5th, and then finally the 1st floor.

6. More than likely, the elevator will begin to rise instead of descending. Cancel this IMMEDIATELY by pressing any other floor besides the 1st or the 10th. Do this before it rises past the 9th floor.

7. Now you should be going down to the 1st floor.

Take precautions before leaving the elevator

8. Upon arriving on the 1st floor, you may be tense and have the urge to race out of the building.

Resist this urge.

Before you get off, observe the area outside the elevator. Make sure that everything seems normal.

Is everything looking the way it should?

9. If anything seems even the slightest bit strange, do not get off the elevator. You may not be where you think you are.

10. Repeat the previous steps again by pressing the button for the 4th floor and continuing from there.

11. Continue to repeat this cycle again and again, as often as you must if things appear to be wrong when you arrive at the 1st floor.

12. Only exit the elevator on the 1st floor if you are absolutely positive that things look right. Be sure you are actually in your own world.

Because if you exit on the 1st floor and you’re not home, well…

You’re out of luck. You’ll probably never return home ever again.

Other things to consider when playing The Elevator Game

Remember that the building must be at least 10 stories high but it can certainly be higher. It can be 15 or 20 or 30 floors.

But it can not be less that 10 stories, and all 10 must be ground level and up. Basements and parking garages aren’t included. Two underground parking garages and 8 stories do not count as 10 floors in this game.

The ground floor should be the 1st floor. If it is not – say it is floor G and the next floor is counted as 1, I would recommend not using this building.

Make sure you know the right buttons to press

There are ways people have compensated by making adjustments to the game. This feels risky and open to missteps. Find another building.

Other variations in the game

One variation involves the mysterious woman from the 5th floor. Some say that if she gets on with you, then you MUST exit if you go to the 10th floor. You can only stay inside the elevator and then return if you are truly alone.

The other big variation involves the sequence of the buttons. Many stories about the urban legend describe the sequence as being identical to the one you used to get to the other world.

However, others say you actually need to press the buttons in reverse if you want to successfully return home.

And some versions really only tell you how to get to the other world. They don’t include instructions for returning at all.

So if you decide to play, you’ll have to take a deep breath and choose the method you think is correct.

And hope for the best.

One last consideration

It has been said that you may pass out at some point while playing the game. Whether it’s because of stress (are you hyperventilating? Breathe slowly!) or because of the game itself is unclear.

Home sweet home? Or are you still stuck in another dimension?

However, if you DO lose consciousness, you will probably wake up in your own home. You will have no recollection of how you got there. You’ll just be home.

BUT. The first thing you should do is look around and make sure everything looks familiar. Make sure everything looks “right” to you.

Because it’s entirely possible this is not your actual home. It may not be your world at all.

Unfortunately there are no known instructions for what to do if you wake up and are not actually at home.

If that’s the case, well…

Good luck.

Strange things happening AFTER The Elevator Game

There are several things people believe may happen after you play The Elevator Game. None of them are good.

For example, you may bring home a malevolent spirit that attaches itself to you in the other world. You may not have even noticed its presence, but now it’s here in your world with you.

You might find yourself suffering from strange, inexplicable illnesses after you return.

Will Shadow People follow you home? Maybe!

Some say you could find yourself seeing Shadow People. Shadow People are entities that you spot out of the corner of your eye but are gone when you look directly towards them.

Nightmares or sleep paralysis could affect you after returning home from playing The Elevator Game.  You might also feel like someone – or something – is always watching you.

Or there may be nothing wrong at all. It’s all part of the risk.

What happens if you speak to the young woman from the 5th floor?

Please. Don’t speak to her. Don’t even glance at her.

There are several different beliefs as to what happens if you ignore this rule. None of them are good outcomes.

Some say that she will keep you in the other world with her forever. It’s not spelled out, but I’d say it’s a safe bet to assume it’s not because she wants a friend.

Others say you will return home if you follow the rest of the steps. But you just might find that she haunts your dreams every night. Or your waking life too.

Did you just see her in a crowd? It’s probably not your imagination.

She will never leave you in peace. She may not even leave you alive.

Don’t interact with her. In fact, keep your eyes on the buttons and your mouth closed.

You will regret it if you do otherwise.

Why is The Elevator Game so scary?

Urban legends are amazing stories that captivate our imagination over and over again. They tend to play off of our fears and our fascinations with the unknown. The story of The Elevator Game creates a perfect blend of intrigue and fright.

What makes it so scary?

There is no verifiable known origin. We have watched it grow in popularity. And the nature of the Internet allowed the story to spread.

But when you can’t pinpoint where an urban legend came from, it opens up the question: Could this be real? Could this really happen?

It is also frightening because of its simplicity. It requires no special knowledge nor do you need specific tools.

This building is tall enough to play The Elevator Game if you're feeling brave

All you need is the right sized building, an elevator, and some time alone.

Anyone can press buttons in an elevator. That makes it accessible in a scary way.

And of course, the rules themselves add to the fear factor of The Elevator Game.

Don’t play with anyone else. Don’t talk to the woman on the 5th floor. Be very sure you don’t get lost and that you are where you think you are.

The unspoken threat of what could happen if you break the rules can really ramp up the terror of this urban legend.

Is The Elevator Game real?

While this Korean urban legend is frightening, it’s very important to remember that there is no scientific basis for the story. Keep in mind that urban legends are designed to prey on your fears.

And urban legends, like folktales, help us use our imaginations to explore the uncertainties of what lies past the veil over our everyday lives. They give us a fun tool to consider what else might be out there, just on the other side.

But just because it’s scary, just because it’s a popular theory, just because it’s simple does not make it true.

The Elevator Game is a fun tale to tell. It may make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. But remember that it is only a story.

It IS just a story… Right?

I don’t know about you, but even just writing this got my heart racing. I am a long time fan of horror movies. It takes a lot to truly scare me these days because I’ve seen so many.

But I will be completely honest with you. The Elevator Game scares the hell out of me.

The first time I ever read it was probably back in 2015. It freaked me out then. It gave me goosebumps and an elevated heart rate.

This many years later, and it still terrifies me just as much.

I know it’s not real. I know it’s not true.

But I also know I would never play it. I’ve always sworn I would never call Bloody Mary in front of a mirror in a dark room. And I won’t call Candyman’s name either.

Well, you can add The Elevator Game to my short list of “not in a million years” thank you very much.

So I’ll just stick with this world. If you play, you can let me know how it goes.

Have you heard of The Elevator Game before? Would you ever play it?

Leave me a comment and let me know!

Want to scare yourself even more? Check out my list of 37+ Scary Korean Horror Movies!

They include:

  • The Train to Busan trilogy (Train to Busan, Peninsula, Seoul Station)
  • Unlocked
  • #Alive
  • Parasite
  • Gonjiam: Haunted Asylym

Peninsula, sequel to Train to Busan


Click on over to see the full list!

And speaking of movies, did you know that a new Elevator Game movie was released in July 2023? It’s American, not Korean, but I’m definitely going to check it out!


3 thoughts on “The Elevator Game – South Korea’s creepy urban legend”

  1. Fun Article! I remember reading this a while back In forms. I found my self alone in a elevator and was going to try it, but got scared because I forgot all the rules and combinations. I am a skeptic and it still is a freaks me out. I know I would accidently talk to the women on the 5th floor. Thanks

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