Dear Esther

Dear Esther

721 ratings
Dear Esther: Secrets and More
By mrmusicallion
Although this game might be (far) less interactive than many - garnering criticisms that it is 'merely a walking simulator', there is more to Dear Esther than what many seem to recognise.

Approached as a game, and in comparison to 'traditional' gaming conventions, Dear Esther may indeed seem very weak. But it is not a game; it is a poem, realised within three dimensions, with various audible and visual decorations. Through this lens, what might be seen as contrived and pretentious, might become mesmerising and even marvelous. That is how I see Dear Esther, and it is also how I suspect many others to see it, too.

Perhaps you agree - perhaps you do not. Regardless, let us explore the depths..
Chapter 1: The Lighthouse

  • When you wander too far into the water, you see a vision of an antenna and are then teleported back to the edge of the water. You then hear the phrase 'Come back'.

  • Playing Cards
  • Obscure Book with two figures on front cover
  • Pamphlet from 19** [date obscured]
  • Book titled 'Hebridean History'
  • Sheet Music
  • Map of the UK, written on
  • Cans of Luminous Paint
  • Polaroid of a young girl standing in front of a car
  • Certificate of Qualification in Electrics
  • Car Parts
  • Fibonacci Spiral
  • Lobster Traps
  • Whiskey Bottle
  • Two Fish
  • Six Slices of Mouldy Bread
  • Bible
  • Chemistry Textbook
  • Folded Clothing
  • Surgical equipment


  • "...I sometimes feel as if I’ve given birth to this island."
    (Narrator has constructed the island)

  • "... I have lost track of how long I have been here, and how many visits I have made overall."
    (Narrator is trapped, lost in this misery or madness)

  • "There’s nothing better to do here than indulge in contradictions..."
    (Implying all you see is a contradiction)

  • " cried to fill whatever vacuum you found. I began to manufacture vacuums, just to enable you to deploy your talent."
    (The sadness he feels, is what populates the island: the island is a construction from some sort of depression or madness, created by an overactive mind within a 'vacuum' of emotion/meaning. Also, some of the 'vacuums' are manufactured, even - i.e, tragedies may have been made up to enable the mind to construct more fantasies. The narrator is mad and finds peace through recurring delusion.)

  • "...I find myself easily slipping into the delusional state of ascribing purpose, deliberate motive to everything here."
    (The narrator doesn't know anything, and has rather made it all up, to create a sense of purpose or give reasons for how he feels as he does. Severe tragedy may have created a loss that could not be overcome and thus delusion is employed to surmount psychological anguish.)

  • "...The infection is not simply of the flesh."
    (i.e, a psychological affliction is apparent, in addition to a physical ailment.)

  • "We are not like Lot’s wife, you and I; we feel no particular need to turn back."
    (References to the Bible story of Lot, his wife turned back and was turned to salt, implies that turning back and inspecting the past would destroy him, also implies that he wants to move forward.)

  • "I met Paul. I made my own little pilgrimage. My Damascus a small semi-detached on the outskirts of Wolverhampton. We drank coffee in his kitchen and tried to connect to one another."
    (This references to the bible story of Saul, who then became Paul after having his sight restored by Jesus, en route to Damascus. The narrator here has perhaps gone mad, and is recognising that he no longer has one ego, and has gained additional personalities/identities)

  • "I find myself increasingly unable to find that point where the hermit ends and Paul and I begin."
    (The hermit is who the narrator was in the distant past, before whatever tragedy occured: Paul and 'Saul' refer to the narrator as he is now, with multiple personalities. Paul was also diametrically opposite in behaviour to Saul; after being healed, he stopped persecuting the Christians and preached of Jesus. The narrators personalities may also be opposed.)

  • "I have become convinced I am not alone here, even though I am equally sure it is simply a delusion brought upon by circumstance."
    (Narrator is aware of others, also certain that they are a delusion created by some tragedy/event.)

Ghost Sighting #1

As you walk up the slope at the start, you'll see a ghost whizz past the first window when you get close enough. It's pretty fast so you'll have to keep your eyes peeled - blink and you'll miss it.

Ghost Sighting #2

When you're in that first building which connects to the Lighthouse, if you walk over to the room with the broken staircase, and look up, you should see a ghost poking his head over the stairwell for a few moments before it retracts out of view.

Ghost Sighting #3

There's a cave which you'll encounter, which is usually accompanied by a bit of narration about a hermit. When you go to the end of the cave, if you look over and into the opposite cave, you can see a flashing light.. this has been dubbed the 'Morse Code' Ghost, as the flashes apparently spell out 'Damascus'.
Chapter 2: The Buoy

  • Depending on the playthrough, you may see multiple items of the same type, all loaded into a fireplace.

  • Car Parts
  • Warrant of Repossession
  • Surgical equipment
  • Ultrasound Scans
  • Broken Eggshells
  • Chemistry Compound Mug
  • A case of clothes, broken open
  • A heap of identical books


  • "Dear Esther. This will be my last letter. Do they pile up even now on the doormat of our empty house?"
  • "Dear Esther. Whilst they catalogued the damage, I found myself afraid you’d suddenly sit up, stretch, and fail to recognise me"
  • "Why cling so hard to the rock? Because it is the only thing that stops us from sliding into the ocean. Into oblivion."
  • "Perhaps when the helicopter came to lift them home, their ascent scared the birds away"
  • "I have spent days cataloguing the garbage that washes ashore here and I have begun to assemble a collection in the deepest recess I could find. What a strange museum it would make. And what of the corpse of its curator? Shall I find a glass coffin and pretend to make snow white of us both?"
  • "I had kidney stones, and you visited me in the hospital. After the operation, when I was still half submerged in anaesthetic, your outline and your speech both blurred. Now my stones have grown into an island and made their escape and you have been rendered opaque by the car of a drunk."
  • "I am drawn by the aerial and the cliff edge: there is some form of rebirth waiting for me there."
  • "I must look downwards, follow the path under the island to a new beginning."
  • "In the hold of the wrecked trawler I have found what must amount to several tons of gloss paint. Perhaps they were importing it. Instead, I will put it to use, and decorate this island in the icons and symbols of our disaster."
  • "The first habitual shepherd was a man called Jacobson, from a lineage of migratory Scandinavians. He was not considered a man of breeding by the mainlanders. He came here every summer whilst building the bothy, hoping, eventually, that becoming a man of property would secure him a wife and a lineage."
  • "Donnelly was going insane as syphilis tore through his system like a drunk driver. He is not to be trusted"
  • "Jakobson’s ribcage, they told Donnelly, was deformed, the result of some birth defect or perhaps a traumatic injury as a child."
  • "It will take a number of expeditions to traverse this microcontinent; it will take the death of a million neurons, a cornucopia of prime numbers, countless service stations and bypasses to arrive at the point of final departure."

Ghost Sighting #4

When you walk towards the shipwreck, out of the corner of your eye (or field of view), you'll see a ghost walk along the pathway that weaves around the hillface. It'll stop and stand at the very end for a while, until you move closer to it, at which point it fades away..

Ghost Sighting #5

As you approach the Bothy (the house on the hill), you'll see a hooded figure outside of it, which will immediately go into the house once you get close enough.

Ghost Sighting #6

Behind the Bothy, there is a cave across from the incline that you are on. In it, there is a ghost holding a lantern.

Chapter 3: The Caves

  • You are able to stay underwater indefinitely.

  • Coins
  • Hospital Bed
  • One or Two Cars
  • Underwater Inscription
  • Stream clogged with Paper Boats


  • "I first saw him sat by the side of the road. I was waiting for you to be cut out of the wreckage."
  • "This is a drowned man’s face reflected in the moonlit waters. It can only be a dead shepherd who has come to drunk drive you home."
  • "There is no other direction, no other exit from this motorway. Speeding past this junction, I saw you waiting at the roadside, a one last drink in your trembled hands."
  • "Perhaps, the whole island is actually underwater."

Ghost Sighting #7

Behind the waterfall at the place where you jump before you have the motorway vision, there is a ghost.

Chapter 4: The Beacon

  • As you fall from the antenna, a silhouette of a bird is beneath you.
  • Each playthrough, a different number of rings can be seen in the bunker. It varies between 0, 1 and 2 rings.

  • Three photos of a car crash
  • Photo of a young girl
  • Defibrilator
  • Surgical equipment
  • A roadsign
  • A minecart
  • Three eggs in a nest
  • Rings


  • He was not drunk Esther, he was not drunk at all. He had not drunk with Donnelly or spat Jakobson back at the sea; he had not careered across the lost shores and terminal beaches of this nascent archipelago. He did not intend his bonnet to be crumpled like a spent tissue by the impact. His windscreen was not star-studded all over like a map of the heavens. His paintwork etched with circuit diagrams, strange fish to call the gulls away. The phosphorescence of the skid marks lighting the M5 all the way from Exeter to Damascus.

  • A gull perched on a spent bonnet, sideways, whilst the sirens fell through the middle distance and the metal moaned in grief about us. I am about this night in walking, old bread and gull bones, old Donnelly at the bar gripping his drink, old Esther walking with our children, old Paul, as ever, old Paul he shakes and he shivers and he turns off his lights alone.

Ghost Sighting #8

On top of a tall cliff you'll see a candle. Next to the candle there is a ghost that can be seen, twice, from two different angles.

Ghost Sighting #9

Upon approaching a certain candle on the beach, you will be able to see a ghost reflected in the puddles that are nearby.

Ghost Sighting #10

There is a ghost standing at one of the corners of the platform that the aerial is constructed upon.

There is a morse code message woven into the music at one point; it spells out 'ESTHER'
Narrative and various reflections.

There are several narrative threads that weave through Dear Esther. These are:
  • A car crash caused by alcohol, which led to either severe injury, death, or both.
  • A potential love interest or partner, i.e, 'Esther'.
  • A story of a hermit who wanders the island
  • A story of an old shepherd
  • A story of a historian documenting the island
  • A story of someone who the Narrator seems to have known directly, i.e 'Paul'

Bible Stories

The narrator could be considered to be 'Saul'. In the bible story, Saul became Paul after he saw a bright light. In the same manner, Paul came to be as a result of a car crash - the last thing 'Saul' would have seen, would have been the headlights of an incoming car.


Esther sounds like 'Ester', one of the products of a chemical reaction between an organic acid and alcohol. The other product is water. This may then become the following equation: Narrator (a person, 'organic') + Alcohol = Ester + Water. In other words, the narrator became 'drunk', and has thus created both Esther (a lost hope/love, the island itself?) and the surrounding waters.

These quotes lead me to believe that Esther is quite likely to be a hallucination, too:
"I have heard it said that human ashes make great fertilizer, that we could sow a great forest from all that is left of your hips and ribcage"

(meaning that Esther only had parts of her ribcage remaining after the crash)

"Jakobson’s ribcage, they told Donnelly, was deformed, the result of some birth defect or perhaps a traumatic injury as a child. Brittle and overblown it was, and desperately light."

(note the repeated reference to a ribcage, the facts have become muddled.)

Gulls and Robes

As you traverse through the isle, you may notice that you are not quite alone. As you walk up to the lighthouse in the beginning, you see a ghost rush past the window. Further on, you see the spectre looking down at you from his 'perch'. As you then go to leave the lighthouse, a bird flies out ahead of you.

This sequence similarly repeats throughout the game; watch out for moments when the bird flies past, and notice their proximity to various ghost sightings.

"I will look to my left and see Esther Donnelly, flying beside me. I will look to my right and see Paul Jacobson, flying beside me."

Alter Ego

The various characters of Dear Esther all represent aspects of the Narrator's mind.

  • Paul represents the aftermath of a trauma
  • The Hermit represents the distant past, how the Narrator used to be and still is, deep down.
  • Jakobson may represent the physical state of the narrator.
  • Donnelly is a reflection of how the narrator is aware of himself, assembling aspects of the past.

    Esther appears more to represent a focal point of the Narrator's hopes and dreams (and misery), and is an embodiment of a 'solution'.


  • Whatever tragedy did occur - if any at all - was responsible for the narrator having become fractured in his mind. This fracture could have been caused either by physical damage (brain damage, organ failure, etc) or by intense grief from a loss, or both.

  • Note how Jakobson's body did not degrade until several months after he had died. Perhaps the narrator fell into a coma, or was preserved once dead, for later study? Or, at the very least, this is what the narrator has come to believe, or interpret.

  • The whole game is a repeating cycle, symbolic of a neverending labyrinth of the mind. The narrator never successfully finds his way, forever finding himself drawn back to the island, in one way or another, because it is all that he has left to find. It is like he becomes drunk with pain, and upon becoming sober, he finds himself upon the shores, yet again, to continue wrestling with himself forever more.

My take on it

The island is a complete delusion/illusion. The only thing that is verifiably 'real', is the misery and extended mourning of the narrator himself. All else could be attributed to being a falsification of knowledge, facts, or of interpretation.

Indeed, nothing in Dear Esther can generally be trusted - except that very fact itself. However, there is one piece of evidence which gives a clear source of some sort of inspiration for the game/story: a hidden inscription on the last level reads 'In loving memory of Jacqueline and Steven'.
The Narrator
The narrator is not named or seen, so we do not know who he is, for certain.

Esther appears twice in the last level; once at the ghost candle, and once at the base of the pylon/antenna. She is a translucent spectre.

"I had kidney stones, and you visited me in the hospital. After the operation, when I was still half submerged in anaesthetic, your outline and your speech both blurred. Now my stones have grown into an island and made their escape and you have been rendered opaque by the car of a drunk."

The Hermit
The Hermit is a robed man. He can be seen throughout the game, at various points. In fact he appears in every level, if you know where to look.

"Donnelly reported the legend of the hermit; a holy man who sought solitude in its most pure form."

Donnelly is an author that wrote about the island. The narrator often makes references to him.
He is never seen.

"In a footnote, the editor comments that at this point, Donnelly was going insane as syphilis tore through his system like a drunk driver."

Paul works for a pharmaceutical company and lives in Wolverhampton.
He is never seen.

"Dear Esther. I met Paul. I made my own little pilgrimage. My Damascus a small semi-detached on the outskirts of Wolverhampton. We drank coffee in his kitchen and tried to connect to one another."

Jakobson is a shepherd that lived on the island. Donnelly wrote of him.
He can be seen at the ghost candle and the aerial, too.

"The first habitual shepherd was a man called Jakobson, from a lineage of migratory Scandinavians."
Symbolism and Clues

The Paper Boats

The graphic that was used for the paper boats, is made out of a letter written by former chess world-chamption Bobby Fischer, which he wrote while he was imprisoned in Japan. The full text is available here:

The Diagrams

"This chemical shows an organic molecule (known as Perylene-3,4,9,10-tetracarboxylic Acid Diimide) that has variable "R" groups that can be altered to change the fluorescent properties of the dye . This molecular set up is known as a molecular bridge as the set up of the carbon rings allow charges to transfer across the molecule. By varying the subsituents "R", different fluorescent properties emerge owing to the charge transfer across this bridge."


Whenever you attempt to leave the island, you hear the words 'Come Back' whispered by the voice of the narrator; the filename for that specific recording is 'hermitwhisper.mp3'.
Using the Console [Cheats]
To use cheats in Dear Esther, you will need to activate the Developer Console first. The setting to do this is located in the 'Keyboard/Mouse' settings menu. There is a little tick box which says 'Enable Developer Console'. Make sure that it is ticked.

Once you have done that, you'll be able to open the console. But to open the console itself, you'll need to find out what button does it. Usually, it is either 'c' (for console), or ` or ~.

Once the console has been opened, type sv_cheats 1 - this will turn 'cheats' on, and allow you to use other codes.

These codes can be used to activate various functions:
  • noclip (allows you to fly and go through objects)
  • de_examinezoomamount 0.1 (increases the zoom amount - the number can be adjusted to whatever you like, experiment and see what works best for you)
  • de_playerspeed 200 (makes you go twice as fast - change the number to suit your preference)
Online Links and References

Full Length Recorded Play-Through

First up, we have a brilliant recording made by JorisCeoen. It's also been posted around the forums, but for sake of convenience I'll list it here.

Ghost Sightings

Here's a recording of all the known ghost sightings so far, by SkullSyker.


You can find the soundtrack within the Dear Esther game folder. Go to Steam/steamapps/common/dear esther and search for .mp3 files. Also, here is a youtube video of the entire soundtrack.

Dear Esther Wiki

Check out the Wiki, here:


The complete script can be found here:

Useful Forum Topics

More here:

Easter Eggs and Hidden Objects
Note: Is this game for you?
If any of these points apply to you, then perhaps you ought to turn elsewhere:

Are you dismissive and arrogantly opposed to new artforms?
Do you dislike things being done differently?
If a game doesn't have a gun, is it a game?
Why walk around a game, when you can walk outside - and why walk at all?

Etc Etc.

In all seriousness - this game is not for everyone. If you prefer to combat towards an objective, rather than interpret vague tealeaf-like signs and constructions, then perhaps walking around a '3D poem' might not be for you. And if you do have an appreciation for the obscure, yet prefer to explore such through mediums other than gaming - then also, this game might not be for you.

If, instead, you simply do not like it - then good! Make something better, impress us all. Disagreement and dissatisfaction is often fodder for greater things...

Dear.. Me?
Well, now that you know about Dear Esther - what about me?

I'm Brad. I have a habit of wandering in and about various creative pursuits. Photography, art, music, writing, film-making - I enjoy it all. My music has also been used in various games and skits, including 'Goodbye my Love' and 'Legends of Kong'.

I'm currently studying Computer Games Design at university; perhaps someday I'll give something back to an artform that has given so much.

< >
mrmusicallion  [author] Oct 22 @ 4:08am 
Well, huh. How fitting, perhaps the game itself is spilling out further into reality? Are we also consumed by this 'Esther'? Lol..

Thanks for sharing and commenting - very interesting. Yes, this game is incredibly underated. It's a work of art, truly. I've not seen many others like it, the poetic lucidity of Dear Esther is something I'm not sure I'll encounter again soon - but hope to!

Many Thanks,
Josh90b (LiquidSky) Oct 21 @ 5:35pm 
Brilliant take on the game and a wonderful read. We hold similar views and I share the passion for the game.

I first played this game in 2012 with OnLive promoting their service by making this free to play. I was so stunned this is set in the Hebrides, as I for one have lived and worked on one of those Islands. Island of Coll.

I am personally involved and work in the leading Archaelogical projects that are run by Professor Steve Mithen on these Islands.. We use the carbon enriched earth to find preserved materials over 5000 years old.. & guess who recently started paying interest a few years ago?..
The Chinese.

Significant funding has been added to our budget thanks to the Chinese University's. I guess my whole comment is about the connection between the Chinese and this game being 'The Chinese Room' I figured it was a fun little factoid to spill in this fantastic guide you have produced.

This game really is underated.
letterboxmusic Jul 23 @ 4:50am 
I would love to expereience a game that was a poem... and I appreciate the fact that Dear Ester is attempting to be one. The landscape experienece is gorgeous, but I'm not impressed by the writing, I'm afraid. When Margaret Atwood teams up with a gaming developer I might be interested.
monkomon May 11 @ 12:10pm 
Awesome read!
top guide! In all yjhe time ive played thuis ive never been able to see gosts 2 and 7. Maybee my timings off, one day i catch the blighters!
El Eternauta Jan 24 @ 9:16pm 
Amazing review!!! Many thanks for helping us exploring so many hidden aspects of the story
LKDL Dec 24, 2015 @ 3:10am 
Отличный разбор,спасибо!
We Got Married Dec 19, 2015 @ 2:44pm 
Thanks for the Analysis :P Was extremely interesting reading what you wrote, and gave me more ideas about the game :P
Hark! Scrumpy! Sep 8, 2015 @ 3:22am 
Not sure if anyone is still watching this space, this might not tell you more about the game.... but i found something a little wierd...
C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Dear Esther\dearesther\sound\island
get VLC media player, highlight all the files and wack them into the playlist, some of them have cover art, mainly the ones with titles: voc[number]

the pictures in the cover art are wierd and random...
i dont know how to get a bigger picture to read the text in said picures.

please somone look into this.
jjm May 13, 2015 @ 2:20pm 
However, there are also the trapped paper boats in the caves, which breaks the pattern, even if the letters were written by another person. This bears the question of who authored the other letters. Did the narrator actually write any of them, or are they all copies of what other people wrote (and if the latter, does this represent the sort of fractured personality the narrator seems to convey)? Furthermore, if the narrator and the hermit both arrived on the island in a paper boat, why are these paper boats destined to sink (and is the sinking literal or is it a metaphor for being drawn deep into the island and trapped as the boats in the cave were)? Where is the boat the narrator arrived on? There are 9 actual shipwrecks visible throughout the game, yet the game fades in to the narrator standing on a boat ramp, neither on nor immediately next to one of the wrecks, nor washed up on the beach.