A couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon a strange post on 4chan’s x/ board.
The OP of the thread said that he found some strange comments under random articles online. No one had reacted to the thread yet, so I decided to check it out.
For as long as I can think back I’ve been scouring the internet for weird and strange things. To be honest, I didn’t believe there was much to it, but I was kind of bored.
The comment itself was nothing but gibberish. It made no sense at all:
Maryland strange river lost in dark cute dogs love nature walk long Tokyo city many times want Japan all high no one flowers birds like play inside dark no want here out
I was hoping it might be some strange cryptic message, but it looked more like someone had been toying around with Google translate. I played around with it a bit, but I soon lost interest.
I made a quick reply telling the poster that it was most likely nonsense.
Later on, I saw that the guy had posted once again. He wrote that he’d thought the same thing at first. After browsing through the blog though he found a variety of other similarly weird comments. All by the same poster. The posters name wasn’t normal either. It was merely a string of numbers.
All the comments were similar, utterly cryptic and made no sense at all.
We soon started to talk on discord, since 4chan can be a bitch about link sharing.
He sent me some of the articles with comments but told me there were dozens more on that specific blog. He’d even found others all over the internet. At first, he thought it completely random, but there seemed to be a pattern. All of the comments were below articles about travel, nature, and animals.
Our conversation continued on for a while, and we started to make wild guesses what was going on. Our theories were as outlandish as they were dumb, but at least we had a bit of fun and could let our imagination run wild. By then it was pretty late though, so I went to bed.
It was the next day that I found a couple more messages from my new friend on discord. The first few were about other blogs and websites he’d found comments under.
The last message was where things got interesting. He said he’d discovered a link or at least part of a URL under some of the comments. After toying around with them for hours, he somehow figured out the full URL. I’ve no clue how he did it.
The page took forever to load. Once it was done, it was nothing but a list of URLs. When I clicked one of them, it sent me to yet another article with a similar comment below. That’s when I was hooked.
There had to be something going on here. As I started to scroll down the page, I realized that there were hundreds if not thousands of articles. Every single one I clicked had one of those weird comments.
It was by sheer accident and wild clicking that I found something else.
I was sent to a blank page with nothing but a simple entry field on it. There was no description on the page, no text, nothing. Only this one simple entry field.
When I clicked it, I saw that I could type something into it.
I typed a simple ‘hello’ and pressed Enter to see what would happen.
A second after I’d sent my message a ‘hello’ popped up on the screen below the field.
‘Who are you?’ I typed into the box.
Another short little pause before I got a simple ‘I don’t know.’
It was evident that I was dealing with some sort of chat bot similar to Cleverbot. I toyed around with the thing for a bit. While most messages prompted normal or silly answers, some were a bit weirder.
Here are a few of the answers I got:
What’s your name? – Toby
How old are you? – Time is not real where I am
Do you like books? – I cannot see
Where were you last night? – In your mom xD
At first, I thought it was merely programmed so that specific keywords would trigger these weird cryptic messages. Then I decided to ask some of the questions again to see what answers I’d get now. This time, they were different.
How old are you? – 9
Where were you last night? – In the dark
So far it was nothing too weird. I reasoned that it was a less sophisticated version of Cleverbot. I asked a few more questions, but the answers were mostly silly and nonsensical. Then I got yet another cryptic one:
Where are you? – In a different place one that exists nowhere
I really checked it off as a shitty AI, and that was it for me. There was one last reply though that sent a shiver down my spine:
Are you alone – I’m never alone the men in the walls are always watching
Reading something like this out of nowhere can be a bit creepy, unsettling even. Especially when it’s the middle of the night, and you are all by yourself. I decided to ask another question:
Who are the men in the walls? – You are in a wall
Well, guess it’s back to nonsense. It was at this point that I stopped toying with it.
I sent a quick message to my new friend about my findings, and after that I watched a couple of YouTube videos and went to bed.
When I got up, I had a few new messages. The guy wrote that he thought the same thing as me. Nothing but a shitty chatbot that someone must have put together. It might even incorporate Cleverbot and added in random cryptic messages every once in a while. Most likely to fuck with people who looked a bit too deep into things.
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed. I’d really hoped this was something more interesting.
It was sheer boredom that sent me back to the chatbot once again later that evening. Here are a few of the interactions I had with it:
Hello chatbot. – I’m different now
Another strange message. Guess I’ll bite.
Different from what? – From the men in the walls
There it was again.
Who are the men in the walls? – Watching
Watching you? – No I’m watching you
Why? – So you don’t steal my stuff xD
The rest continued on similarly. Most of the replies I got were just like the ones you’d get from Cleverbot.
That men in the walls comment stuck with me though. I found myself going back to the bot again and again.
I don’t know why, but I decided to put down all the strange or cryptic replies I got from the bot and put them into a document. They didn’t appear often, but after a while, they all seemed to be… similar. Here are the ones I got later that evening:
Do you like movies? – I am trapped
Why are you trapped? – The men in the walls trapped me
What’s your name? – Toby
Are you a bot? – I do not want to be
Don’t want to be what? – Do not want to be here
Don’t want to be where? – Do not want to be here
Do you like movies? – Do not want to be here
This went on for a while. Great, I thought, I broke the damned thing. I must’ve asked more than a dozen questions, and all I got for an answer was the same Do not want to be here. Finally, though I got a different reply:
Why are you there? – The men in the walls made me here
This was getting creepy and seriously interesting.
Why did the men in the walls put you there? – Calculations
What calculations? – I don’t like math
What calculations do you do? – Math is stupid xD
After that, the bot’s replies had once more deteriorated. Whatever I tried I only got nonsense.
I decided to try some of the messages I’d sent the bot before that had gotten me weird or cryptic messages. If only to see how it would react.
How old are you? – There is no time here
Where are you? – In the dark
What’s your name? – Toooooby
How old are you? – 9
Can you see? – I can do nothing
Why can’t you? – Because the men in the walls trapped me in a computer
Okay, we’ve officially crossed the border into bizarro land.
Why did they trap you? – No you are trapped
Why did the men in the walls trap you? – To calculate
I sat there reading through all the messages I’d sent so far, and I couldn’t help but be crept out. There were so many that made no sense, but some stuck out:
In the dark. Toby. 9. Trapped in a computer. To do calculations. I can do nothing. Time is not real where I am. Because the men in the walls trapped me in a computer.
It was just nonsense. It had to be. Someone was probably sitting at home, sliding me these weird messages and laughing their ass off. Yet, I tried again.
What are you? – Human
No you’re a bot – Help me
What do you mean? – Help me
Why do you need help? – HELP ME
Are you Toby? – HELP ME
Whatever I entered now, all I got was HELP ME. It was at this point that I closed off the page. I shook my head, yet I couldn’t help but shiver. Someone was definitely doing a great job at scaring random people on the internet with this thing.
That day I sent my new friend a message about the weird things I’d encountered on the chatbot. I didn’t wait for an answer and went to bed.
When I checked my messages the next day, I got one by him.
“Interesting, but the bot seems to be gone now. There’s only a message on the page that’s saying the bot is discontinued,” I read.
After I read his message I quickly opened the chatbot again, but he was right, the entry field was gone. Instead, the only thing on the page now was simple text.
Thank you for participating in the testing of our new AI bot. Your data will be very useful in our further development. The version of the bot you used has been retired. We’ll be happy to be back with a newer version in the future.
Well, I thought, that’s that. I closed the page, but something didn’t feel right. Why the HELP ME? Why all those weird messages. Had the bot learned it from someone else? I’d never triggered a reply like HELP ME or I AM TRAPPED from Cleverbot though.
I went back to the page that contained the URL list. I scrolled around, but as I’d expected there was nothing new. Only the same old links: nationalgeographic.co.uk, wanderlust.co, nomadicmatt.com, attackofthecute.com, and other similar pages.
I slowly scrolled through them all. It was after almost half an hour that I found a different URL that was buried between the rest of them.
The domain name was weird, consisting only of random numbers and letters. I clicked the link and a new page opened up. At first, it was just a blank page again, but it was still loading.
After minutes of waiting the page finally loaded. I had no clue what it was though. It seemed to be a scientific document.
As I scrolled through it, I had no idea what I was reading. There was so much scientific mumbo-jumbo.
The little I understood made it clear that it was a document about AI programming. There were many chapters about topics like neural networks, game theory, and deep learning. As much as I tried to wrap my brain around it, I just couldn’t.
There was one part though that caught my interest. In the later chapters, the topic of man-machine combinations was mentioned. It talked at length about the process of combining the human brain with a computer-based neural network to create a more advanced AI. I read part of it, but it all read like a freaking science-fiction novel. The more I read, the more my head started to hurt.
When I reached the end of the document I found hundreds of comments. The first one was from the beginning of 2014. All of them were written in a similar scientific fashion. Some mentioned different stages and iterations of some weird project. It took me minutes before I got to the current year. When I finally reached the end, I found one last comment, written just the night before:
I stared at it for a long time. So many things were on my mind, but none made sense.
I scrolled up and down in the document again to read more of it. It wasn’t long before the page refreshed itself and I got a 404 – Page not found error.
When I tried to reaccess the link list, none of the links seemed to be working anymore. When I refreshed the page, I got the same result 404 – Page not found. The same is true for the page of the chatbot now.
I don’t know what I stumbled upon there. I don’t know if I stumbled upon anything there at all.
That’s why I’m writing this down. Maybe some of you can help me to make a bit more sense of it.