Science & Technology

Read These (Legit Terrifying) Horror Stories by an Artificial Intelligence

"I stood there staring down the hill, and I saw the man in the black cloak standing there, holding a knife. He stood in silence, his head motionless but staring at me. 'I'm sorry. I found you. I want you to enjoy this curse. I love you, I'm so sorry.'"

We'd love to take credit for that little slice of abject terror, but we can't. And neither can anybody else — at least, not anybody living [cue thunder]. It was written by an artificial intelligence, and there's a lot more where that came from.

Once Upon a Hard Drive Dreary

Meet Shelley, the spookiest robot in the game right now. She's a deep-learning powered artificial intelligence who was raised on the r/nosleep subreddit, and she's got some issues as a result. Basically, her creators have designed her to absorb the most disturbing stories and use them as inspiration for her own macabre musings. She specializes in a kind of two- to three-line flash fiction that's surprisingly effective — most of the time. Take these, for example:

"It was a grisly body that had been in continuously decaying flesh and bones. Many of them were barely bits of glass pinching the ground below. The man was the snake. He stared at me, the mouth distorted into some sad smile."

"Even though it was hard to see, the spirit of the woman itself would appear under the wall, and started to speak so he could see his fear and sadness."

"I remember his face in a look of horror, and it was agony and malice. I was trapped. I was trapped in this hospital bed."

Then again, AI being AI, they can't always be exercises in snappily delivered horror:

"Room 10 was empty. I vomited and fell to the ground, I then took the kids and explained to them what happened."

Is it Man? Machine? Or Monster?

The seeds of Shelley's stories (generally) come from a subreddit, so in a sense, all of her work is the result of collaboration between humans and an artificial intelligence. But that's not the only way that she's learned to work alongside flesh-and-bone horror writers. Actually, anybody can visit her Twitter page for the beginning of a new horror story every hour. Once she kicks it off, she invites readers to contribute the next sentence, and then she'll trade off writing duties until the tale gets to its harrowing conclusion. And then it's time to start a new one.

Now's the time to bone up on Shelley's namesake. Get cozy in a dark room with a blankey to hug, and read the original gothic horror "Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus" by Mary Shelley. If you buy a book through this link, Curiosity will get a little kickback.

Telling a Scary Story: history of prose horror (with Critical Lit)

Written By
Reuben Westmaas
October 26, 2017