Another year, another ‘Ween

It’s a day of tricks and treats; pumpkins and sweets; racy costumes and Tweets. So, let’s take a peek at some of our favorite Halloween stories this season.

Bigger, better, fatter, stronger

According to market research firm IHS Markit, 2017 is shaping up to be a record year for Halloween festivities.

An estimated 179m Americans — 55% of the country’s population — are expected to participate in the holiday to some extent, up 5% from 2016. Candy sales, at $4.1B, are projected to be up 4.1%, and total spending (including things like this) is set to increase from $8.4B to $9.1B.

IHS says you can thank our relatively healthy economy for this. Though, judging by the increase in candy sales, “healthy” is relative.

Halloween is booming in Japan

20 years ago, the only people celebrating Halloween in Japan were drunk Americans. But today, it’s a booming, $1.2B+ industry.

Japan has long-since had its own holiday to commemorate death (Obon), but Halloween, which is strictly commercial and for fun in Japan, has experienced rapid growth in the wake of social networks (which sparked cross-cultural curiosity) and ecommerce sites like Amazon (which made Halloween costumes more widely available).

Now Japan has the works: pumpkins, haunted houses — even themed Starbucks drinks. And on All Hallow’s Eve, they make subway commuters’ lives even more of a living hell.

And now, for something truly spooky: AI

Researchers at MIT Media Lab have programmed a Twitter bot that uses artificial intelligence to Tweet horror stories.

Dubbed ‘Shelly’ (a la Frankenstein author, Mary Shelley), the bot combed more than 140k stories from Reddit’s r/nosleep forum to get a sense of story themes and structures.

Every hour, she tweets out a new story based on the information she absorbed. Some, like “She fell to the floor from her cries and muttered a soft ‘Come to meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee,’” aren’t too inspiring — but users can interact with her, or build on what she started.

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