New fear unlocked: artist creates 10 NFT night terrors using artificial neural networks

By Francesca Johnson

Published Mar 11, 2022 at 09:20 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes


Dreams have fascinated humankind, probably since the very first person’s ‘falling off a cliff’ dream—cut to waking up in bed in a pool of sweat. Nightmares are just as, if not more, able to pique our curiosity. Scrolling through Google at 5 am searching for the meaning of my latest dream is a weekly occurrence for me—right down to finding meaning in the time displayed on my bedside clock when I first wake up. Many of us are also particularly interested in sifting through the symbolism of ghosts, clowns and everything in between that goes bump in the night. But what if I told you that there’s an artist who managed to create an infinite number of nightmarish representations using AI?

If you didn’t think the concept of artificial intelligence could get any creepier, just know it has the ability to create a vampiric ghoul army of Stephen King Pennywises in order to give you the heebie-jeebies. From killer clowns to some of the scariest cartoon creatures, let me introduce you to Artificial Nightmares and 10 of the account’s most famous NFT nightmares generated by a neural network.

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Artificial Nightmares

With just over 500 followers on Instagram, Artificial Nightmares is paving the way for AI art to enter the deepest realm of our dreams. In their own YouTube channel’s description, the artist behind the account explained they make “generative animations and art created by artificial intelligence machine learning algorithms.”

The creator behind the unsettling AI-made images of clowns and creatures referenced what they call the “Dream Machine,” which is the technology responsible for producing the perturbing content.

Reporting on Artificial Nightmares, Futurism dubbed their work “art ripped straight from the pages of a Lovecraft novel.”

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Neural networks and Nightmare NFTs

Artificial neural networks, usually simply called neural networks, are computing systems inspired by the biological neural networks that constitute animal and human brains. They are now the architect of a number of different technological trends. From generating fake yet more trustworthy faces than real human ones to producing incredible images of iconic cartoon characters reimagined as human ones, the technology has taken an important place in today’s digital age. Nothing is safe, as even children’s cartoons are getting swept up in the NFT nightmare wave with deformed AI-rendered versions of The Simpsons characters crawling out of the internet woodworks. Even the show itself couldn’t predict something so gruesome, yikes.

According to Futurism, a lot of the now-infamous images are created using NightCafe, “an algorithm that allows you to turn words into AI-generated art.” What’s interesting about the production of images via NightCafe is that it relies on a text-to-image art creation algorithm known as VQGAN+CLIP which turns common words into surreal images. All of the content found on Artificial Nightmare’s page is original to the AI’s “interpretation of words and sentence structure,” according to the artist’s YouTube page.

Through their online store under @The_Void on OpenSea—an NFT sharing and auctioning marketplace—currently, there are three of Artificial Nightmares’ cosmic creature collections to buy from. One titled ‘Artificial Nightmares Vol.1’ hosts 131 NFTs. All three collections feature high-resolution “corrupted versions of characters and scenes from pop culture” for sale.

Over on TikTok, the account feels like stumbling through a secret trapdoor to a Narnia nightmare of clowns and chaos. Let’s get spooked, shall we?


#tiktok #fyp #foryourpage #foryou #viral #love #funny #memes #followme #cute #fun #music #happy #fashion #follow #comedy #bestvideo #art #painting

♬ original sound - Artificial Nightmares

1. Cthulhu

I’m sure even H.P. Lovecraft himself would be shaking in his boots seeing his mythical fictitious creature Cthulhu come to life. There are many NFT creations of the cosmic entity all shared on the subreddit r/MediaSynthesis, an almost 30,000 strong community dedicated to exhibiting the synthetic images and cosmic horror art of AI machines. While many are out there, Artificial Nightmares seems to have summoned the monster directly from the pages of The Call of Cthulhu.


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2. Krusty the Clown

If you’re scared of clowns, this is your cue to skip past this one. Artificial Nightmare has created your worst, well, nightmare, by generating infinite clowns for one video inspired by The Simpson’s very own Krusty The Clown. And I thought The Itchy & Scratchy Show was too scary growing up…

3. Shrek

You may run, you may hide, but dear zillenial, you will never truly escape the Shrekoning.

4. Pennywise

I’m sensing a theme here… Can’t quite put my finger on it though.

5. Pikachu

‘Pikachew’ I don’t choose you, like, at all.

6. Mad Hatter

That is one Mad Hatter if I ever did see one, am I right?

7. Ronald Mcdonald

Someone turn the clown car back around—it seems I have one more to fit in.

8. Rick Sanchez

As someone who is currently binge-watching Rick and Morty, I can safely say that this is the most horrifying thing I have ever seen to do with Rick Sanchez. I mean, even the video’s sound alone is panic-inducing.

9. Elmo

We’re a long way from Sesame Street, folks.

10. Skinwalkers


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A post shared by Dream Machine (@artificial.nightmares)

It’s not all cartoons and clowns for Artificial Nightmares though, they also feature art on historic mythical creatures like Navajo Skinwalkers, a type of harmful witch who has the ability to turn into, possess, or disguise themselves as an animal.

As with all the videos and images posted, the channel attached a warning that states, “The dream machine may result in corrupted memories.” Better proceed with caution then…

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