From Beyond, Part 3 – Science Behind Lovecraft’s Machine

Over the next two articles we will be discussing the operation of the machine in HPL’s story From Beyond and the Resonator in Stuart Gordon’s movie From Beyond.  This article focuses on Crawford Tillinghast’s machine in the HPL story From Beyond.

Tillinghast_Hutchinson1860

Crawford Tillinghast – the inventor of the “machine” that generates the waves in HPL’s story From Beyond (from the H.P. Lovecraft Tarot Cards by D.L. Hutchinson, Eric Friedman and David Wynn)

In HPL’s story the “machine” used to generate the waves (for details see below) is not given a formal name.  Additionally, the description of the machine is not very detailed; in fact it’s fairly ambiguous.  At one point it was described as a “…detestable electrical machine, glowing with a sickly, sinister violet luminosity.”  HPL states that the machine was connected to a powerful chemical battery but did not appear to receive an electrical current.  In addition, an important point to make is that the violet glow was not electrical in nature.  Later when the machine is turned on, the machine is described as having a crowning cluster of glass bulbs that glow.  Other than that, little else is known about Tillinghast’s machine.  Even at the end, when the unnamed narrator shoots and destroys the machine, no additional descriptions are provided.

The unnamed narrator is about to shot the Tillinghast machine in From Beyond (artwork by Erik Kriek)

More important than a descrption of the machine is how it operates.  In the story Tillinghast states that the machine…”Generate[s] waves acting on unrecognized sense-organs that exist in us as atrophied or rudimentary vestiges.  Those waves will open up to us many vistas unknown to man, and several unknown to anything we consider organic life.”

Tillinghast cited that at least one of these dormant organs is the pineal gland.  A number of times in the story Tillinghast mentions that the machine generates waves that are waking a “thousand sleeping senses in us.”  More than likely these waves are electro-magnetic in nature and what the machine does is expand our abilities to perceive or experience things beyond our five senses.  For example, based on the story, the pineal gland would allow one to see beyond the visible spectrum, shown below as a thin sliver of the entire electro-magnetic band.

The electro-magnetic spectrum with the visible portion (for humans) shown in detail (from Wikipedia.com)

In fact, this is specifically identified in the story where Tillinghast states the machine made ultra-violet visible.  While we can not see ultra-violet, bees can as shown below.

The evolutionary value of seeing in the UV part of the spectrum is that you can see things other organisms can’t.  For example, many flowers have patterns that are only seen in the UV portion of the spectrum.  These patterns serve as “guideposts” for nectar and pollen for bees.  An example of this is provided below.  The upper left portion of the photo shows how we see the flowers, while the lower right half shows how bees see the flowers.  Note how the pattern provides a means of directing the bee to the pollen.

Shows how both humans and bees see flowers (color101.blogspot)

This demonstration of how a bee sees the world is to make the point that expanding our ability to “see” things beyond the visible portion of the electro-magnetic (EM) spectrum would allow us to see things that we normally can’t see.  The machine essentially opens a substantially larger portion of the Universe (and possibly other Universes) up to our perceptions.  One way it could do this is by allowing us to see or perceive reality through a larger portion of the EM spectrum.

The Tillinghast machine initially begins to affect the existing senses, which is why the unnamed protagonist first “sees” within the UV portion of the spectrum and then begins to “hear” a strange wind and after that “feel” a cold draught.   All of this occurs before the strange inter-dimensional creatures show up.  It is interesting to note that within the field of the generated waves not only do we see parts of the Universe unknown to us, but those entities that live in the “unknown” can now see us as well.  The influence of the waves works both ways.

Again, HPL was fairly ambiguous about what the creatures looked like, with the exception being he did mention some were jellyfish-like in appearance.  In a later article we will be discussing the biology of these beings From Beyond, but next time the article will focus on how the Resonator in Stuart Gordon’s movie From Beyond operates.  Thank you – Fred.

I would also like to thank Starry MoonBunny Wizdom from the Facebook page Lovecraft Eternal for providing some of the illustrations included in this article.

A representation of some of the creatures that can be seen when the machine is turned on in H.P. Lovecraft’s story From Beyond (artwork by Zarono)

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8 thoughts on “From Beyond, Part 3 – Science Behind Lovecraft’s Machine

  1. Ah yes, the ultraviolet light relation. I’ve heard that a lot. (Do you suppose that Keziah Mason’s witch light had anything to do with ultraviolet? Probably not.)

    Great article was usual!

    By the by (I just want to talk on an unrelated note for a moment), have you ever listened to an episode of Dark Adventure Radio Theatre from the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society?

    BRIAN

    1. Hey Brian – yes, I have heard some but not all of the Dark Adventure Radio stuff and it is fantastic! I have heard Innsmouth, Dunwich and Cthulhu – all were great! I have to get Colour Out of Space and Reanimator!

      Good stuff!

      Fred

      1. They are fantastic, right! Wait…[gasp] You haven’t heard “At the Mountains of Madness” or “The Shadow Out of Time”? Those were some of the best!

        I own all of them and I only need to listen to “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.”

        BRIAN

      2. Hey Brian – sorry I have heard At the Mountains of Madness (my favorite HPL story). I think I heard Shadow Out of Time once (my cousin has it and we remember listening to it on a road trip). As with all of HPLHS’s stuff and products all of their recordings are top notch! I have not listened to or purchased Charles Dexter Ward, Colour Out of Space and Reanimator. I wonder what they will tackle next?

        Fred

      3. I hope they go for “The Haunter of the Dark,” “The Rats in the Walls,” (both unlikely, too short), “The Whisperer in Darkness,” (likely) “The Dreams in the Witch House,” (good chance) “The Thing on the Doorstep,” (adaptable but probably not), or even “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath,” which isn’t really about cosmic horror, but would be interesting nonetheless.

        “Charles Dexter Ward,” “Color,” and “Reanimator” are all very good. “Ward” is the creepiest, “Color” is chiefly atmospheric and awesome, and “Reanimator” is a combo of shivery horror and black comedy.

        All great stuff!

        BRIAN

  2. The Ultraviolet theory is the most obvious one & there is a number of methods for humans to see within that range, for example people who have had their corneas removed & have artificial replacements sometimes report seeing within the near ultraviolet. Also their was a scientist Royal Raymond Rife who invented a microscope that used hetrodyning in essence frequency interference that allowed the visualization of the ultraviolet, as when two frequencies are interfered you get the sum & the difference produced as well. There’s also Patrick Richards who invented the Luminator (the System called Biolumanetics) who claims it sometimes produces pictures of the dead. Another theory might be left-handed light, which recently with metamaterials both microwave & optical can be detected. My personal favourite is Ma Wan Ho’s Interference Color Vital Imaging, which using a special method with a polarizing microscope has produced picture of colors emanating from nematode worms, as outline in her book “The Rainbow & the Worm”

    1. Wow! Thank you for the information – that is a lot to digest! I will be discussing EM radiation, color and spectroscopy in the next article and it will touch on some of these issues. Thanks again! Fred.

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