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The 7 Creepiest Old School Robots

Robots are terrifying, we all know that. They murder our loved ones and assume their identities, and yet when we yell about it in the street, we're the ones who get put in a cell. The only upside is that the sin of robotics has only recently advanced to the worrying stages, and it might not be too late to stop it.

But that's just another filthy robot lie, meant to deceive you into a false sense of security. Creepily advanced robots have been around forever, and they have always, always wanted to destroy everything good on this Earth and then process your children for fuel.

#7. Evil Robot Children in the Age of Enlightenment

In the late 18th century, Swiss watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz needed a good way to publicize his products among the European nobility. And what better way to sell watches than by building horrible mechanical non-children?

Watch that video featuring three of Jaquet-Droz's creations and you'll finally understand what schizophrenic Amish people scream about in their padded cells. "The Draughtsman" and "The Writer" are two life-size automaton twins created by Jaquet-Droz between 1768 and 1774 to be toured across Europe and shown to aristocrats. One could draw four different pictures on a piece of paper (including the baffling image of a nude baby driving a chariot pulled by a butterfly), and the other could write any custom text up to 40 characters long.

Wikipedia
It's like Twitter, mixed with the embalmed corpse of a Victorian-era child.

Needless to say, this sort of technology was astounding for the 1700s. The Writer alone was made out of no less than 6,000 moving pieces, and still functions to this day. Since it was programmable (in that you could change the message it wrote), it's been called one of the earliest ancestors of modern computers. Though they were obviously recovered (seeing as how we have video of them now), these priceless automatons were actually "lost at several points" in history, where they presumably underwent Pinocchio-like adventures together.

Wikipedia
Fifty bucks says this thing killed Archduke Ferdinand.

#6. The Clockwork Monk

In 1977, the Smithsonian acquired a small statue of a medieval monk that was carved out of wood and capable of autonomous movement. Not much was known about this strange artifact at the time, except for the fact that it still functioned, and that it was very, very old. Clearly, that's the beginning of a horror film. Some teenagers are going to have sex in its display room, the fresh sin will awaken it and you'll spend the next 90 minutes watching the Clockwork Monk stab horny vixens with a sharpened crucifix. If you don't believe us, here, take a look at the monk in action:

When it first slowly starts to turn to you, at about 13 seconds in, you just know, intrinsically, in the unmapped part of your brain that tells you when a loved one has died seconds before you actually get the call, that this is the last thing you're going to see in this world and that there is naught beyond it but solitude and cold.

Blackbird.vcu.edu
Also he happens to be unclothed here, which is frankly just uncomfortable.

In actuality, the elaborate pantomime of terror the monk is pulling off was supposed to be prayer. The clockwork monk "walks in a square, striking his chest with his right arm, raising and lowering a small wooden cross and rosary in his left hand, turning and nodding his head, rolling his eyes and mouthing silent obsequies. From time to time, he raises his cross to his lips and kisses it."

Blackbird.vcu.edu
And when you sleep, it kisses you and whispers your name from the closet.

The Smithsonian estimated that the monk was made around 1560 in Germany or Spain. That's all they knew at first, and probably all they wish they knew still. But alas, they eventually discovered more information: In 1562, the heir to the throne of Spain sustained a serious head wound that caused him fever and blindness. His father, the king, thought all was lost, until the heir was reportedly cured by the miraculous corpse of a Spanish monk that had been dead for 100 years. You see, in his desperation, the king had allowed the monk's mummified remains to be placed in bed with his sick son -- a totally legit medical practice recommended by Dr. Corpseboner -- and he was so thankful when this dubious medical treatment actually worked that (according to some historians) he commissioned a moving replica of the dead monk.

Blackbird.vcu.edu
Wow yeah, Spain, that's uncanny. Uncanny is exactly the right word for what this is.

Apparently, the king wanted to repay the miracle of God with a miracle of his own. And what better way to thank the lord than spitting right in his face with a mockery of everything living, much less holy? Oh, and as a final middle finger to the big guy in the sky, the king ended up killing his son a few years later anyway.

Blackbird.vcu.edu
Something tells us it was a mercy killing.

#5. Laffing Sal

As you get older, the things that scared you as a kid slowly become tame, and even ridiculous. You grow up and suddenly realize you're not scared of Freddy Krueger anymore -- he's just a wacky burn victim who really likes puns. Big dogs, the dentist, clowns -- all these childhood traumas start to fade. And then Laffing Sal brings it all cackling madly back.

Laffing Sal is a mechanical monster that steals hope from the eyes of children. If you watch that video closely, you can pinpoint the exact moment when that boy's soul flees from his body to a place of safety. What remains of his life will be joyless and empty, thanks to Laffing Sal's dead gaze and horrible, monstrous giggling, but at least his eternal essence won't end up a meal for the unliving clownbeast.

laffinthedark
Even in restraints it still managed to strangle six people.

When activated, Laffing Sal swivels around in a manner that demons mistakenly think looks human, and a record player located under her feet plays a looped recording of her haunting, mirthless laughter, which does not signify joy so much as the complete and utter absence of it.

Originally created in the 1930s by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (presumably via Stygian alchemy), Sal was meant to be a decoration for fun houses, carnivals and fairs. Sal was so iconic that she's said to have been "a part of almost every fun house across the United States built in the 1930s and '40s."

Willy Volk
Most of the children who saw it then are now dead. Coincidence?

So how did one creepy machine make its way all across this country like that? The Philadelphia Toboggan Company made far more than just one. Dear lord, how many? Ten? Twenty? No, there were hundreds of copies of Laffing Sal. This wasn't a fluke invention that its creator would regret until his dying day (roughly only 15 minutes after Sal first came online). They actually mass produced that nightmare machine.

laffinthedark
Oh god, we never thought we'd say this, but put the clown suit back on!

#4. Satan Machines and Robot Jesus

For anyone in a position of power, fear is an effective means of control. And if you can create said fear by building and deploying robots that look and behave like Satan, several centuries before they should even exist, all the better.

B.G.D.
If you can make the crank look like a demon penis, more power to you.

That's exactly what many churches did in the 15th century: They adopted the now tried-and-true practice of scaring the Jesus into people, and did so primarily with demonic automatons that waved around, curled their tongues and howled like banshees. This one survives in a museum in Italy, where it just wants to run its tongue down your back as you slumber, that's all.

Wikipedia
"You taste like old sin and new shame."

An even more effective means of control than fear, however, is faith -- rather, the callous manipulation of faith. Churches often tried to draw new parishioners through the use of intricate automatons depicting various Biblical scenes, but that's not quite what the Rood of Grace did. It was a large crucifix kept at Boxley Abbey in England, and it didn't use brimstone, smoke or fire to scare people, nor did it appeal to their sense of wonder in hopes of getting them to drop a few coins in the collection plate. It just totally lied about being a robot: The Rood of Grace had a Jesus figurine on it that would move and change expressions based on the size of the donation.

Getty
"Better put some more coins in the slot if you don't want Jesus to be sad."

The machine drew in thousands of pilgrims each year, mainly because the Church itself promoted the thing as a miracle. They never acknowledged that the whole thing was an automaton. But when Henry VIII gave his historic middle finger to the Catholic church, the people tasked with cleaning out the abbey ultimately discovered that the whole affair was a big fake, controlled by wires and engines. Much like Scientology.

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