STEAM for Halloween: New AI Writes Horror Stories in Collaboration with Humans

New AI, 'Shelley,' Works with Humans to Write Horror Stories 

A group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab has launched what it calls the world's first collaboration between humans and artificial intelligence to create a horror story.

Dubbed "Shelley," for the author of Frankenstein, and created by the Scalable Cooperation group at the Media Lab, the AI is based on deep learning and trained on more than 140,000 horror stories from the subreddit r/NoSleep at Reddit. Shelley has a twitter account, @shelley_ai, where she tweets once an hour with the first line of a new horror story and an invitation to human collaborators to continue. If another Twitter user responds, Shelley will then add a bit more.

The tool builds story prompts off its learning dataset but responds directly to the humans that run with them and uses their response to further add to its data set.

"The results are weird, fun, and unpredictable horror stories that represent both creativity and collaboration — traits that explore the limits of artificial intelligence and machine learning," according to MIT.

"Shelley is a combination of a multi-layer recurrent neural network and an online learning algorithm that learns from crowds' feedback over time," said Pinar Yanardhag, the project's lead researcher, in a prepared statement. "The more collaboration Shelley gets from people, the more and scarier stories she will write."

The AI was trained on a thread that contains adult content, and the creators have limited control over the content produced, so it may not be safe for work or children.

Visit the project's website to learn more or to read completed stories.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at