Ghost in the iMachine: Spooky Tech Stories

As much as we love technology, we have always been suspicious of it. You only need to look to our horror stories to understand that: from 2001: A Space Odyssey to The Ring to M3GAN, we are captivated by the idea of what happens when technology turns on us. Even Frankenstein, considered by many the first true science-fiction story, is about the dangers inherent in toying with technology whose consequences we can’t fully understand.

Luckily, none of you reported your iPhones running amok and murdering anyone, but some of your devices do seem dangerously close to self-awareness. Let’s dig into your best haunted tech stories!

I have one that even the good folks at Apple Support couldn’t explain. I had not used Siri for at least two or three days. Then, out of the blue, when I first got up one morning, I picked up my iPhone 13 and a voice that sounded like Siri said, “I’m working on it…just a minute…oops, something went wrong…try it again later.” Then silence!

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Not too bad, huh? Wait! The very next day, the exact same thing happened! Not one variation in the timing, the words, the inflection—all identical!

Two consecutive days, identical! THEN… NOTHING! NEVERMORE! NEVERMORE!

– Billy T

Most of your stories centered on AI assistants like Siri and Alexa. This is unsurprising, when you consider that AI assistants are the things that talk to us and respond to our verbal commands. It’s almost inevitable that they are prone to random bouts of spookiness.

However, though I may be a ghost-story devotee, I am also a lifelong skeptic, and I have a whole host of Apple experts as my disposal to help us get to the bottom of these potentially paranormal mysteries. My guess here would be that Billy summoned Siri by accidentally holding the side button down as he picked up his phone, and Siri was trying to answer a “question” he may have incidentally typed. But I have to admit, when I tried to recreate this scenario with my phone, I had trouble “accidentally” typing anything, let alone getting that specific response.

Billy certainly isn’t the only one whose Siri speaks out of turn:

I’m a counselor. Years ago, I was in a session with a woman who was grieving the death of her significant other. My cell phone was in my desk drawer, not being touched. As she was expressing the depths of her grief, my phone says, “You will get through this,” or something very similar. We both stared at each other, and I told her that I’ve never had that happen before. Never since either.

– Anonymous counselor

This one could be down to Siri misinterpreting something else said in the room as a summons for it. I know my Siri is wont to hear its name being called when I say things like, “I’m sleepy,” so perhaps Siri responded to that and then decided to give its own counseling advice upon hearing of the client’s grief. When I tested this out by telling Siri I was sad, it expressed its condolences that I was feeling that way and suggested I do some stretches or listen to my favorite music. Perhaps not the best advice for someone grieving a loved one’s death, Siri, but I hope the client appreciated the sentiment!

My sister & I were having a conversation in her kitchen when she received a text from a family member saying she needed clarification on the text my sister had sent her. Apparently “Google” had transcribed our conversation and sent it to the family member. No harm done, but it could have been really embarrassing depending on the conversation.

– Evelyn E

This is the first truly ominous entry, in my opinion. Not because ghosts are responsible, but for the implications: if this story had gone a little bit differently, it could have ended up in our embarrassing tech stories or “IsYour iPhone Spying on You?” article instead. I’m not sure how Evelyn’s sister’s phone thought it got a command to send their relative a transcription of their conversation, but it does make you think you should be careful what you say around your phone—and maybe try to stay on your AI assistant’s good side!

My husband and I were housesitting for my sister out in the boonies in South Carolina. They have Alexa, and although we do not have anything like that in our own home, we did ask Alexa a few questions each day. One night while we were sleeping, we were awakened to classical music playing! Apparently, Alexa felt in the mood for classical! I think we had once previously asked her for some classical music, but why in the middle of the night with no prompt?

– Ruth M

While I can’t account for Alexa—Amazon product!—in this situation, perhaps it just took the AI assistant a very long time to select the right music? You know how when you used to make mixtapes, you’d have to sit there thinking about song selection for hours because it had to be just right to express the depth of your feelings for your crush? I’m not sure that Alexa having a crush on you is good news, though. I would assume I was about to be attacked by Dracula or Hannibal Lecter if I woke up in the middle of the night in a strange location with classical music playing.

After I gave Siri two directions, there was a pause and no action. Then Siri came on and said, “Please call me later, I am having a breakdown right now and cannot cope–I just cannot cope now.”

Of course, I went straight to the Apple Store to report the crisis and was assured Siri was all right.

– Betty S

Aren’t we all, Siri, aren’t we all? My guess here would be that Siri was reading out a text message Betty received, but if she was able to rule that out, I’m stumped. I’ve never heard Siri admit such weakness. Normally it just settles for ignoring any questions I ask that don’t please it. Betty, I think it’s time for an exorcist—or maybe just a therapist for Siri. Perhaps Siri can talk to the anonymous counselor from the story above!

We have several Alexa devices in the house. The one in my home office is the “haunted” one.

Every morning between 4 and 5:30 it starts talking and answering questions. It will quit the moment I walk in there. I put a voice recorder next to it, and it won’t talk. Once I move the recorder and leave the room it starts again.

– Victoria D

Now this one stands my hair on end. What is Alexa plotting in there alone in the wee hours of the morning? How does it know to stop when Victoria walks in? It’s even onto her recording machine trick! The most innocent explanation I can think of is that Alexa is talking in its sleep. Does Alexa dream of electric sheep? Victoria, my only suggestion is to begin ingratiating yourself to your AI overlord in the hopes that it spares you in the coming organic-being purge.

Top image credit: Graphic_GT / 

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Author Details

Elisabeth Garry's picture

Author Details

Elisabeth Garry

Elisabeth Garry is an Associate Editor for iPhone Life. Formerly of Gartner and Software Advice, they have six years of experience writing about technology for everyday users, specializing in iPhones, HomePods, and Apple TV. As a former college writing instructor, they are passionate about effective, accessible communication, which is perhaps why they love helping readers master the strongest communication tools they have available: their iPhones. They have a degree in Russian Literature and Language from Reed College.

When they’re not writing for iPhone Life, they’re reading about maritime disasters, writing fiction, rock climbing, or walking their adorable dog, Moosh.