Thursday, February 11, 2010

Henry Kuttner's "Ghost" (short story, free): Exorcising a computer center of its resident ghost!

There is a Hal Clement story in a somewhat similar vein - a "logical" explanation for existence of vampires! May be I'll dig it out one of these days.

I've an impression this is one of the better known stories of Kuttner; at least I'd heard of it long before I actually saw the story.

Story summary.

"Integrators" are thinking machines - very powerful computers, AIs, ... whatever you want to call them. They're super powerful "radioatom brains" that can solve any problem, & they don't have an ego.

Thirty of these machines are housed in a Station in Antarctica - a highly automated facility that needs manning only by a single human operator.

Recently, there has been trouble at the Station. An operator committed suicide, another had a madness attack, many quit, & current one is feeling very depressed.

Dr Elton Ford, "the greatest living psychologist", has an idea: the place is haunted. Man who committed suicide transmitted his depression telepathically ("by induction") to the Integrators; Integrators now continuously broadcast this pattern. So anyone in the facility is as good a living next to a maniac. Depression is contagious.

The psychologist will cure the machines. But this is a Kuttner story - so you know it cannot have a happy ending. Machines will get reinfected, with something even more dangerous, ...


This is one Kuttner story that could have turned out better with a happy ending; reinfection process sounded very contrived to me. Story before that is far more interesting.

Fact sheet.

First published: Astounding, May 1943.
Download full text.
Rating: B.
Related: Stories of Henry Kuttner; fiction from 1940s.