Who is Herobrine? He's a legend almost as old as Minecraft itself, dating back to its alpha days. Stories of the spooky ghost miner rose to prominence alongside Minecraft itself in the early 2010s, feeding into the game's early popularity in gameplay videos and livestreaming.
Your opinion on Herobrine likely has a lot to do with how old you were in 2010. If those were your childhood gaming years, you may remember passing around videos with friends and believing he might be real. If you were older, he may just be an old meme that you watched get out of hand.
Either way, the spooky legend of Herobrine refuses to be exorcised from Minecraft's lore even more than a decade later.
Who is Herobrine?
According to legend, Herobrine is a sort of Minecraft ghost who haunts singleplayer worlds. He may look like a standard Steve, Minecraft's original default player skin, but you'll know him by his white eyes. Even if you never spot him, you'll know he's inhabiting your save file if you see mysterious 2x2 tunnels in your mines. He might be the one digging them. If your world is missing glass or you spot tree trunks with all their leaves missing, that might be his work too. He can also appear in the form of a cow or sheep with white eyes.
Some say he's a ghost—the dead brother of Minecraft's original creator—while others say he's simply an unlucky miner who died and came back for revenge against living players.
Although Herobrine doesn't seem to be dangerous, most sightings end with players running away in fear. Those who manage to spot him from afar often see him standing totally still, looking into the distance.
When he was first sighted, it was unclear whether Herobrine was a ghost, a virus, or even a prank by the game's developers.
The first widely-known sighting of Herobrine is from a post almost as old as the game itself, back from Minecraft's alpha. One poster shared the above image, saying they spotted this other character in their singleplayer world who looked at them from the dense fog between the trees and then vanished. Wondering if anyone else had encountered the same strange character, they went to post about the sighting and found their post removed. They received a private message from a user called Herobrine simply saying "stop".
After talking with other players who'd spotted similar mysterious signs in their Minecraft worlds, they believed Herobrine to be the alias of a Swedish player, the brother of Minecraft's original creator Notch. They allegedly emailed Notch themselves, asking if he had a brother, and got the answer "I did, but he is no longer with us."
There were two other popular Herobrine sightings not long after that from livestreamers "Copeland" and "Patimuss". In Copeland's livestream, he was playing on a normal Minecraft world he'd been working on. About two hours in, he walks into a room he's planning to furnish and standing across the room, staring at him, is the white-eyed Herobrine. Copeland screamed, turned around, and ran away immediately.
In Copeland's now-archived post after the livestream players debated whether it could have been real. "Cope hasn't modified the game at all," one said. "His scream was genuine. I don't even know anymore. Also, his computer BSoD'd after trying to go live, twice." In a different livestream, player Patimuss saw Herobrine standing over a pool of lava. Patimuss too immediately ran away and shut off the game.
This was back in the days before Twitch or streaming on YouTube, so the original videos are apparently lost to the wind. Like a documentary film crew recreating bigfoot sightings, other players have made a recreation of the moment Copeland saw Herobrine.
Copeland also shared this creepy page featuring the face of Minecraft's character Steve but with human eyes behind his pixelated face. The text at the bottom of the page reveals yet another creepypasta post, a repurposed spooky story implying to the reader that they are living in a fantasy world inside their mind and need to wake up. The page's title "him.html" granted Herobrine the new nickname Him.
If he didn't have a life of his own before, Herobrine absolutely did after that.
The spread of Herobrine
Herobrine may not be a virus in reality, but his legend spread like one. He became the topic of numerous threads on the Minecraft Forums, receiving a mix of alleged player sightings and comments from other posters that he was obviously fake.
He started invading YouTube videos as well, with plenty of players posting footage of alleged Herobrine sightings. Others were jumpscare videos based on him. Even if the legend of Herobrine himself doesn't make you feel nostalgic, listening to young players recount their sightings annotated with red text and music likely will.
Years later you can still find newly made Herobrine sighting videos. His story has been told in a printed book, The Legend of Herobrine. You can find him in our list of best Minecraft skins if you want to make your own appearance as the famous spook.
Even Mojang got in on the joke. As an homage to the meme, Minecraft patch notes to this day often include the line "Removed Herobrine."
There's even a Herobrine mod that allows you to summon the legendary miner by creating a totem of gold, bones, and soul sand. Unlike early legends of Herobrine, this one is in fact dangerous. He can chase after players, summon animals, speak demonic-looking phrases in chat, and other good fodder for a let's play video full of terrified screaming and running.
It's not just old mods, either. Around the 10th anniversary of Herobrine's first big splash, another modder created the Herobrine Horror Mod that adds creepy pyramids Herobrine is known to build, a cursed forest biome, and other creepy occurrences to prove that the dead miner is always watching you.
The Herobrine seed
A decade later, the Minecraft At Home project has managed to uncover the seed where the original creepy picture of Herobrine was taken. You can now visit the world yourself, and the very spot where he was sighted. But will Herobrine be standing there when you arrive?
So... was Herobrine real?
Well, he certainly lives on in the minds of plenty of Minecraft players who have memories of being spooked by his legend in their younger years. But was he ever really in Minecraft?
Minecraft Wiki editors have asked Copeland about what he eventually admitted was a Herobrine hoax on his livestream. He said that he liked the original creepy text post about Herobrine and started off by posting a few edited Minecraft screenshots of his own showing the ghostly miner, which got a reaction from his viewers. For the livestream, Copeland says that he retextured a painting to look like Herobrine, which looked good enough at a glance to fool people.
"Unlike Slenderman or anything else, it was Minecraft specific," he said. "I think that's what it had going for it, really. It just wouldn't be the same if it was just an old meme thrown into the Minecraft world. Nobody would care about a Slenderman sighting in Minecraft."
Herobrine did turn into a craze, but he had his skeptics. Even from Copeland's forum post after his livestream some shrewd players already noting that it looks like the character is some kind of edited texture. Others suspect it being a prank by Notch, not the livestreamer.
Notch has tweeted about Herobrine several times over the years, saying in 2012 that "I don't have a dead brother, and he never was in the game. Not real. Never was."
Herobrine may have never officially appeared in Minecraft, but after a decade of legends and stories he's likely surpassed the need for a corporeal form anyhow.