Haunt (1979-1982)   14 comments

DEC mainframe. Picture from the Retro-Computing Society of Rhode Island.

The author of Haunt, John Laird, states it was developed at Carnegie Mellon around 1980-1981, so while the game itself claims the wide span in the title, it’s fair to call this one a “1980 game” (but not wrong if someone puts it at 1979 either).

The setup is strange enough I’m just going to quote verbatim:

Along time ago, a young couple was picnicing near the woods on the outskirts of town. They were celebrating the birth of their first child. Unfortunately, a crazed moose inhabited that area and attacked them. The child and husband were unharmed, but the wife was gored to death by the moose.

After the funeral, the man bought the land where the incident occurred and constructed a large mansion: CHEZ MOOSE. He filled it with the treasures of his family and claimed that his wife’s soul was still in the area. He vowed to remain in the mansion until he had returned her soul to human flesh. He tried to bridge the gap between life and death to reclaim her. Some say he was insane with grief, but others claimed that the madness was in his blood, and his wife’s death brought it to the surface. After he entered the house, he never returned, and was declared dead seven years later. Several people have entered the mansion looking for him but none of them have ever returned. There were rumors that he and his wife now haunt the house.

That would be the end of the story except that the house still stands and is filled with priceless treasures. The house and all its contents are willed to his only descendant. Oh yes, I forgot to tell you, the day the mother was killed, the child was stolen by Gypsies. The Will claims that only the descendant will know how to avoid going crazy and committing suicide while spending a night in the mansion. An obscure hereditary disease, Orkhisnoires sakioannes, is supposed to play some part in this.

So if your heritage is in doubt, you may be the descendant that can claim the treasure in the mansion. Many people, claiming to be descendants have died trying… or at least never returned.

The terms of the Will say you get to keep any treasure you get to the lawn, but of course you must also get off the premises alive. Because the house is haunted it must be destroyed, and nobody would be crazy enough to try and recover the rest of the treasure. If you do get out, the government has agreed to buy the land and destroy the house.

You start at a bus stop, hop in, and end up outside the house mentioned above. A bit of wandering leads to a button with a speaker. Pressing the button enough times leads to … a Monty Python skit reference?

‘Alright, I’ll let you in if you answer three questions.’
‘First, what is your name?’

‘Second, what is your quest?’
*Chez Moose

‘I always wanted to do that. I hope you don’t go insane trying.’

‘What was the first production system with more than 1500 productions?’

There’s supposedly multiple trivia questions, but this is the one I keep getting. I have no idea how to answer it. Any takers? I tried various movie studios but no dice. Getting the answer wrong sends me back to the bus stop.

Posted July 25, 2018 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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14 responses to “Haunt (1979-1982)

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  1. How are you playing the game? On the version I’ve (partially) played, on the emulator found at http://www.steubentech.com/~talon/pdp10/, the questions vary randomly and included “What will permanently rob Superman of his powers?” and “What is the shipping company that owned the Titanic?”

    About the question you got, however, I’m pretty sure this is a meta question. HAUNT was written in OPS-4, which was in the “production system” (rules-based) family of programming languages. The page by John Laird that you linked at the top of this post provides a clue:

    “Haunt was the first rule-based system to have over 1000 rules and it topped out at around 1500. Because of its size, it served as an important data point in early research on building large rule-based systems.”

    • That sounds right. I will test later.

      I am using the online server at twenex.org.

    • I got around to trying the emulated version, and the trivia does indeed generate a bit different. I don’t know if that’s literally different source code or if the random number generator / hardware somehow is changed.

      I did manage to get one different trivia question on the telnet version (what is the capital of Assyria?) but only on a second go-round.

    • I’ve been following along with this, and I’ve installed SIMH and got HAUNT running in TOPS-10 on a simulated PDP-10 using the pre-built image at steubentech.com, but what I’m curious about is this: when you enter “r haunt” to run the game, where is the file “haunt” that’s being run? It doesn’t seem to appear on DSKB or DSKC. I don’t really understand what I’m doing, clearly.

      • In case anyone’s interested, I’ve been told that ‘The “R” command says to run a program from virtual device “SYS:” which is “DSKB:[1,4]”. Use “DIR SYS:HAUNT.*” to see the executable.’

  2. The answer is Haunt! The game you are playing was written in ops4 a rule based system and consisted of over 1500 rules.

    Trixie Von Beep
  3. I am most curious about the “Orkhisnoires sakioannes”. It smells like anagram, but I don’t know where to go with it. (“SENIOR SHORKI INSANE OAKS” is not convincing.)

  4. Yes, I too tried reversing “Orkhisnoires sakioannes” as soon as I saw it. I’ll be interested if anyone gets to the bottom of this part.

  5. Pingback: Haunt: I Was Never Able to Resurrect Your Mother | Renga in Blue

  6. Pingback: Haunt: Descendants | Renga in Blue

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