Erich Zann and the Thing Beyond the Threshold

The Music of Erich Zann by Cyril Van der Haegen (

We have been discussing how Erich Zann’s music may have prevented the annihilation of our universe.  While we will never know the true reason for Zann’s compulsion to play in front of the high window, for the explanation he documented on paper was blown away, it has been hypothesized that the high window at the Rue d’ Auseil was a threshold or gateway to another universe, possibly filled with antimatter.   This last article reviews and discusses the end of this tale within an emphasis on the “thing” or entity on the other side.

While Erich Zann is writing the explanation for playing his insane music at night, both he and the protagonist begin to hear “…not a horrible sound, but rather an exquisitely low and infinitely distant musical note, suggesting a player in one of the neighboring houses…”.  While the protagonist thought nothing of this, Zann has a look of terror on his face and immediately grabs his viol and begins to play his strange, wild music.


The Music of Erich Zann by Aric S. (

Using music as a direct form of communication or converting it into another form of energy that can be understood is similar to the circumstances experienced in Steven Spielberg’s 1977 Movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  In that film humans and visitors from another world communicate directly through the tones and frequencies associated with music.  Was a similar mode of communication occurring in The Music of Erich Zann?  Possibly but given the frantic playing of Zann, I think there is some sort of translation going on, possible through a membrane; converting sound energy into another form of energy that can be directly perceived and understood on the other side, as opposed to direct communication with music.  I previously mentioned that the high window may possess an inter-dimensional membrane that converts the music into another form of energy that the “others” on the other side can understand.

Alien contact from Steven Spielberg’s Movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind (

As Zann continues to play, he begins to imagine (or hallucinate?) strange images such as shadowy satyrs and bacchanals dancing in clouds, smoke and lightning.  Was this the initiation of possible contact between two different universes?  The shutters and high window begin to rattle in a howling night wind, which seem to respond to Zann’s playing.  The shutters become unfastened and the glass is shattered.  A strange wind blows into the room capturing the Zann manuscript and throwing it out into the night.  Unfortunately the protagonist fails to save any of the papers before they are lost.

As Zann continue to play is frantic and insane music, the protagonist approaches the high window and expects to see city lights.  However, what he sees is “…the blackness of space illimitable; unimagined space alive with motion and music, and having no semblance of anything on earth.”  Was it possible that he was looking into another universe, possibly composed of antimatter?

As the protagonist staggers back, he feels some chilled “thing” brush against his body.  Was this “thing” from the other side?  If it was composed of antimatter, then probably not since it’s direct physical contact with the protagonist would have meant the annihilation of it and an equal amount of matter, which would have included the protagonist.


The Music of Erich Zann by Jeff Powers

The protagonist continues to stumble back and reaches Zann.  He tells Zann they must leave the building now and while Zann continues to play he feels cold to the touch.  The protagonist then notices that Zann is stiffened, not breathing and has glassy bulging eyes.  In spite of continuing to play, Zann appears to be dead.  The protagonist then flees and runs down the stairs; in spite of experiencing the severe night winds in Zann’s room, once out of the building the air was still, no clouds are in the sky and the moon is out.  The high winds in room but calm evening weather outside again supports the hypothesis that some inter-universal contact was occurring in Zann’s room.

Again, the exact reason for Zann’s playing to the gabled window may never be known since the explanation was blown into the inter-stellar  winds.  However, the chilled thing grazing against the protagonist, followed by the corpse-like appearance of Zann and then eventually the complete erasure of the Rue d’ Auseil from our space-time, indicates that Zann may have either made contact with the other universe or some type of replacement between Zann and the other was occurring.  Additionally, an “antimatter Erich Zann” may have been trying to communicate with the “matter Erich Zann” and something went wrong.  An alternative hypothesis is the antimatter Zann was trying to somehow switch bodies with the matter Zann in a non-corporal capacity.  Such a transfer would be extremely difficult to accomplish and the direct contact of only a few atoms of matter with that of animatter, may have been enough to result in an intense reaction.

The contact between the matter and antimatter would explain why the Rue d’ Auseil is not longer present in out space-time.  Additionally, the membrane between the two dimensions may also explain why both universes were not annihilated by having antimatter spill into our reality.  The fact that the protagonist is the only one who remembers the Rue d’ Auseil indicates that he was within the field generated during the contact but his matter did not have physical contact with antimatter.

To conclude, it appears that Erich Zann may have prevented the complete annihilation of our universe by sacrificing himself to prevent more antimatter from entering through the threshold and the chilled thing may actually have been Zann moving his consciousness through the threshold.  So the answer to the question – what was the “thing” beyond the threshold – may be Erich Zann himself.

Next time we will talk about HPL’s thoughts and uses of evolution in his stories.  Thank you – Fred.


H.P. Lovecraft’s The Music of Erich Zann by Chad O’Dell Roberts






7 thoughts on “Erich Zann and the Thing Beyond the Threshold

  1. My thoughts on your last three articles: first of all, let me say I really like your hypothesis on the music of Erich Zann, very much indeed.
    Very sci-fi style, very believable, very accurate… not very Lovecraftian though.
    I think HPL’ s goal was to suggest a sense of fear (“the most powerful of all emotions”) in his readers. The best way to do this was to only hint at the motivations of Zann and at the “things” beyond the threshold without accurately describing them. Later, his portraits became more pictorial (chtulhu, the great race, Mi-go) and in the end he made a move towards sci-fi (1931), but in 1925 he was more keen on supernatural and “weird”.
    You have a very good point on the impossibility to find the street after that fateful night: Though I didn’t think about it, mutual annihilation of sections in two opposite universes makes perfect sense. But when I read about mirror universes, I can’t help thinking about J.T. Kirk. Not very Lovecraftian to me.
    Another thing to say is that your premise on the power of music would just have been perfect for a cycle of short stories by William Hope Hodgson, where a small group of fearless investigators learn (experiencing) a scientific way to communicate and deal with “the other players” that have to exist beyond the threshold. Very profitable to write, by the way. I love Carnacki, but HPL despised the “psychic investigators”. To him, messing with the occult means calling doom upon us, for ignorance is blissful and truth leads to madness. So, he drops the premise and focuses on Zann who keeps on playing being already dead (why? We dont’ have to know).
    Again, let me say your interpretation is great, and perfectly fits your blog’s purpose. We readers all have our own HPL, each one slightly different from the others, and from the real one of course. You grabbed a very good one. Sorry if I’m too long, and thanks. Roberto

    1. Hey Roberto – thank you for your comments and no your comments were not too long! I enjoy doing these investigations and I agree a large part of great weird fiction is not having questions answered. While I like to propose hypotheses on what the answers may be, they may certainly not be the correct answers. Also, I enjoy doing this to stimulate my imagination for future stories and I hope it stimulates others in the development of their fiction. I have always appreciated HPL’s love for science. Like writing, HPL thought science should be conducted for the love of it, not for a living. Thus, he appreciated astronomy and more academic science but was very cautious and at times loathed the technology that was produced as a result of science. Finally, as a scientist myself I definitely gravitate more toward HPL’s later work that had more science and less supernatural, however, I still do enjoy reviewing those earlier stories. Once again, thank you for the comments and I am glad you enjoy the blog! Fred.

  2. Well, so this is where Charles Stross got his violin from!

    One of the characters in his Laundry Files, Dominique ‘Mo’ Howard, plays a violin that is referred to as ‘an Erich Zahn original’. It is made of human bone and produces terrifying necromantic effects when played. Mo has placed a label on it, stating ‘This weapon kills Demons’, which it does! It is also alive, in a horrifying way, and causes her fingertips to bleed when she plays.

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