Skip to content

Mike Morasky, “The Ghost of Rattman”


Mike Morasky, a composer at Valve Software, wrote the music for the Portal 1 and Portal 2 videogames. The music is dynamic, in that different music plays depending on the player’s position and movement through the mazes. The soundtrack is available for free, here.

One of the pieces is “The Ghost of Rattman,” which refers to Doug Rattman, a character who is never seen in the games. He is a scientist working at Aperture Laboratories (owned by eccentric billionaire Cave Johnson), and Rattman is helping to build the GlaDOS artificial intelligence, which is incurably insane. Eventually GlaDOS wakes up and kills everyone in the Aperture Laboratories underground facility except Rattman and a female test subject named Chell (whose persona you inhabit as you play the Portal games).

Rattman hides in the walls and ceilings of the testing facility (like a rat), going mad without his anti-schizophrenia medication, and he draws many murals and mad scribblings on the walls. Eventually Chell destroys GlaDOS at the end of Portal 1, but Chell is injured in the explosions and is dragged back into the damaged facility by a surviving robot. At that point, Portal 1 ends, but the Valve online comic book “Lab Rat” explains that Chell was placed back in cryogenic suspension. Power in the damaged facility is failing without GlaDOS to maintain it, and Chell will die in cryogenic suspension unless Rattman rigs the equipment to ensure that her cryopod retains power. Rattman is shot by defense turrets, and presumably dies, but Chell and his insane drawings survive into Portal 2.

This song plays when you find one of Rattman’s hiding places in Portal 2.

His insane ramblings are backwards. Diligent people have tried to decipher them. Skip to 11:24 in the video below.

He pleads for help from Cave Johnson and from Chell. He talks about being taken to Black Mesa, a competing company which created a wormhole that led to an alien invasion in the Valve games Half-Life and Half-Life 2. He also talks about a stolen ship, the Borealis, which went missing in Half-Life 2 due to a teleportation accident, and whose empty drydock is seen in an abandoned 1970s testing area deep underground in Portal 2.

I just like Rattman’s chant-like ravings.

I think it’s interesting that he refers to Cave Johnson, the owner of Aperture Laboratories, as “Uncle.” According to the Portal backstory, Johnson and his assistant Caroline are Chell’s parents (and the mad GlaDOS artificial intelligence is an electronic copy of Caroline’s brain). If Johnson is Rattman’s uncle, then perhaps Chell is Rattman’s cousin?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: