Has anyone played David Laird's HAUNT?

This forum is the only place I know of where there’s even a slight chance of getting an answer to this.

HAUNT was a strange game from the very early days of text adventures (the author hadn’t seen Zork). It was written by John Laird, then a graduate student at CMU, on a PDP-10 in a long-forgotten language called OPS-4.

A page linked by the Wikipedia article has this comment:

It’s not very easy to find a playable version: the only way I know of to play it is to run this PDP-10 emulator. When you finally get it running, you’re greeted with a long story about a man whose wife was killed by a rampaging moose, who then built a mansion on the spot, filled it with treasure, and never came out. The mansion is supposedly cursed so that only the man’s child (who was, as an afterthought, “stolen by gypsies”) will be able to spend the night there without going insane.

You begin in a forest, at a bus stop. You have to wait for a bus to arrive. The bus takes you to a gate in a wall around the haunted property, and you then follow the wall until you come to a place with a speaker and microphone, which allow you to communicate with a crusty fellow who won’t let you in until you answer his questions (things like “What will permanently rob Superman of his powers” and “What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow”).

I bogged down here for a while, but I just managed to answer one of the questions and will try to explore the rest of the game. In the meantime, I wonder if anyone here has played this, or heard about it…?

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I haven’t played it but it looks like Jason Dyer, who plays early adventure games, should be coming up on it sometime–he counts it as a 1980 game and he’s working on 1980 right now.

WOW, that site is fascinating. It looks like a more specialized, and, within that specialization, much more comprehensive version of Jimmy Maher’s excellent Digital Antiquarian project. For example, this is the first time I ever heard that there existed a pre-Crowther text parser game. So thanks for the link, and I’ll watch to see what he has to say about HAUNT.

It shouldn’t be too long. I’m going to be getting back to Quarterstaff, then two other 1980 games (one longish, one shortish), and then HAUNT is next after those two, although I’ve also got a wild card I might toss in depending.

I’m guessing most of the people who care about this have already been following, but I just wanted to mention Haunt is in progress.

Link to Haunt posts in chronological order

Just as a final heads-up, I am done with my Haunt series.

Thanks for writing this up. I’m trying to avoid reading too many of your blog entries about HAUNT because I hope to play the game myself at some point (although the best laid plans, etc.). From the glimpses I’ve allowed myself of what you’ve written, it sounds like a fascinating and innovative game. Would you care to jot down some final thoughts here in a non-spoilery kind of way…? No problem if you’d rather not.


It suffers a bit from some dated references where not only does it make the references, but it requires you to understand them as part of some puzzles.

Also, the five-word parser is kind of unfortunate in a way, because even though it allows for “TIE ROPE TO STOOL” and some other natural constructions, there is one bit of arguable parser abuse and one bit of definite parser abuse.

Other than that … I appreciate it feels like something different, I suppose? The author went a bit gonzo with it in a way I can’t really think of anything from the same era that compares.

I can’t really expand on much else without spoilers at the same level as the blog posts.

I have started playing it via a SiMH emulator but after emailing the author it doesn’t seem like you can SAVE the games. I remember eating my way out of a a Cheese Room but then going mad. I hope to return to it if (and when) I manage to finish WARP.

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