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Scary robot vacuum horror stories that’ll make your skin crawl for Halloween

You know how the story goes: There will come a time when our robot servants will rise up and take over the world, turning us humans into batteries for their use. We could fear for that day, but it’s not happening any time soon. That doesn’t mean there’s a lack of scary stories involving the robots that currently clean our homes.

Robot vacuums are no doubt marvelous servants for us humans, doing the trivial, dirty work so we don’t have to. While they promise us the idea of saving previous time for other activities, they actually may have ulterior motives. Despite the advances we’ve seen that make them smarter, sometimes they show us that they still need some supervision after all!

Don’t rat out your friends

Ah, New York City. It’s a concrete jungle filled with apartments that are perfect homes for robot vacuums. But we know New York City is also (in)famous for other things, including rats. Have you seen pizza rat working diligently to bring a slice back home?

Our mobile editor, Ajay Kumar, has a horror story like no other that indicates robot vacuums don’t care what they suck up — nothing stands in their way! If you thought the occasional sock or loose piece of clothing getting stuck is bad, you have no idea what you’re in store with this rat-meets-robot vacuum story.

Neato XV Signature Bare Floor

Picture this: A rat gets captured by one of those industrial-strength glue traps, the kind that immobilizes its unsuspecting victim with a nearly impossible to remove adhesive. There’s also the dumb robot vacuum that charges forward without regard or concern about what’s in front of it. Eventually, the two collide and the end result is one of the most terrifying horror stories I’ve heard. Quite simply, Ajay’s first robot vacuum, the Neato Robotics XV, came across the trapped rat and the result wasn’t pretty. I’ll spare you the details, but you could say it got pureed by the combination of its suction and rolling brush. Imagine coming home to the aftermath!

How could this have happened? In defense of Ajay, this was an unavoidable situation because the bot was set on a daily cleaning schedule while he was away on vacation. There’s also the fact that the Neato Robotics XV doesn’t have the same level of obstacle-avoidance tech as today’s robot vacuums — so it wouldn’t surprise me if it just moved forward without abandon. I imagine this isn’t an isolated thing in such a sprawling city.

Jiminy spricket, here they come

Crickets play their tune at night to help rock us to sleep, but one particular type of the species, the cave cricket, will put you through instant terror if you happen to come across one at night — as you’re half asleep, going to the bathroom or something else. Also referred to as sprickets, an accurate description given how they look like long-legged spiders, here’s a story about how a couple of them had a fateful encounter with a robot vacuum. This one comes from my own personal experience.

Now, I typically set my robot vacuums to clean in the evening, so it’s not disrupting anyone at home during working hours. Once it finishes up its cleaning, the Roborock S6 MaxV, even with its sophisticated obstacle-avoidance tech, gobbled up not one, but two of these sprickets while it was working in the bathroom. I didn’t realize it until it docked and I had to empty out its dustbin.

Roborock S6 MaxV brushes and underside.
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Call them tough little buggers, but the moment I removed the dustbin from the bot, the two sprickets jumped in my direction. Obviously, that’s the last thing anyone would suspect from such a trivial task, yet I was shocked that the pair survived the suction and underside roller. Even more perplexing was the fact that they were caught in the first place, since they’re pretty reactive in jumping out of the way.

Ever since that occurrence, I’m always a bit more careful when removing a robot vacuum’s dustbin. Although, now that I’ve graduated to a self-emptying robot vacuum, it’s not as worrisome anymore.

Leaving a messy trail behind

Robot vacuums don’t have the ability to reason, they just do what they’re commanded by their operators. Once they’re set on a path, they go on their merry way without regard. So, this brings us to the final, ghastly story — one that involves a messy trail in the dead of the night.

One of our writers, Bruce Brown, shared with with me a story not long ago about his robot vacuum, a Deebot N79S, which, left unsupervised and running throughout the night, left a messy surprise come daybreak. Apparently, there was a drainage tube from the dishwasher to the disposal that was not plugged up correctly by floor installers who were replacing a dishwasher. You can imagine all the gunk, mushy foods, and other chunky bits that ended up on the floor due to this.

Ecovacs Deebot N79S on hardwoord floor.

Since the robot vacuum was set to clean at night, it wasn’t until later on when Bruce realized that a streak of water was trailing the bot as it kept on cleaning. Instead of finding solid dirt and debris in its dustbin, it was full of some of the dirty water used to hand wash the dishes. Don’t get us wrong, getting your fingers covered in some dust and the occasional hair when emptying the dustbin is expected, but certainly not chunks of leftovers. The watery mixture covered more than just the dustbin, so I bet you really wouldn’t expect it to function normally again.

However, with some work and by drying out some of the components, Bruce managed to bring the Deebot back to life.

Supervision is still recommended

The lesson in all of these horror stories is that robot vacuums shouldn’t be left to their own devices. Yes, robot vacuum manufacturers will tell you that it’s perfectly alright to set your bot to work on a schedule, but I can’t stress enough about the need for supervision whenever they’re working — more so if you happen to have pets or little kids around. There are horror stories and even videos that show how a dog’s tail can get caught up in a robot vacuum’s brush, so it’s imperative to be mindful about these things.

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John Velasco
John is the Smart Home editor at Digital Trends covering all of the latest tech in this emerging market. From uncovering some…
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