Tag Archives: The Silver Key

Through the Gates of the Silver Key: Discovering What Happened to Randolph Carter

“I will say this – this is some kinda slam-bang story. There’s more wonderful loose ends, trippy metaphysics, and crazy fizzy-pop ideas in this story than in virtually any other Lovecraft tale of like length.” Kenneth Hite from Tour De Lovecraft: The Tales (2011).


Over a large part of 2017 Lovecraftian Science will focus on the science associated with H.P. Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle of stories and the Dreamlands in general. This will include discussions on the theory of multiverse, the structure and nature of matter, quantum mechanics, the ecology of the various ecosystems of the Dreamlands and other topics.  Thus, “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” written by H.P. Lovecraft and E. Hoffmann Price will be the start of these investigations as we move through 2017.  I included Kenneth Hite’s quote above to emphasize the point that “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” is filled with a variety of metaphysical and scientific ideas and concepts.  To delve into these, I will be conducting this analysis on a chapter by chapter basis. This article will cover Chapters 1 and 2 of “Through the Gates of the Silver Key.”

The story begins with four people at the home of Etienne Laurent De Marigny of New Orleans to discuss the estate of Randolph Carter who has been missing for four years.  While the attorney Ernest B. Aspinwall is anxious to declare Carter dead and divide his estate up among his heirs, a strange individual named Swami Chandraputra opposes this action since he claims he knows that Carter is alive and what has happened to him over the last four years. The rest of the tale documents Carter’s adventures.


Randolph Carter by Andrew Johansen

It should be noted that “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” is sort of a sequel to “The Silver Key,” which we have discussed in previous articles and Chapters 1 and 2 summarize the occurrences in “The Silver Key.” Carter takes the key to back to the wooded hills and into a “strange cave in the forest slope, the dreaded, “snake-den” which country folk shunned…” In the farthermost corner, deep in the cave, Carter approaches a granite wall and pulls the silver key out of his pocket. As a result, present day, adult Carter disappears but young Carter in the past has acquired the ability to predict future events and discoveries.

Initially, these circumstances appeared to result in a “time loop” of Carter forever going back into the past with the aid of the Silver Key only to reach that point when he uses it to again go back in time. However, I hypothesized that the first Carter loops back to give his younger self the Silver Key to alter his own timeline so that he can eventually break out of our Space-Time and “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” supports this hypothesis.  This more quantum view of time is sometime referred to as the “river model,” where our Space-Time is not just one of many Universes but is also one of many Times. Indeed, in “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” a friend and distant cousin of Carter, Mr. Ward Phillips, claims that Carter “…was still alive in another time-dimension and might well return some day.” This “time-dimension” may be a reference to an alternative time-line.

As the individuals were discussing Carter, De Marigny presents the group a strange piece of parchment that was found in Carter’s car on the day of his disappearance. While no one can translate the characters on the parchment, they are similar to characters that have been observed in an old book Harley Warren once had. Remember Warren was the person in “The Statement of Randolph Carter” (another tale of Lovecraft’s previously reviewed) who entered an underground crypt in Florida, encountered some creatures and did not return to the surface. It was hypothesized that this crypt was actually a portal to the Dreamlands that ghouls were using to enter our Space-Time.

the_silver_key_and_dream_parchment_fragment_by_jasonmckittrick-d83xfq0                                                                     The Silver Key and the Dream Parchment Fragment by Jason McKittrick (www.cryptocurium.com)

Thus, to summarize so far, Carter used a key and parchment (which he memorized but left in the car) to leave our Space-Time. The parchment had similar characters used by Warren to enter a place that may have been a portal to our Space-Time by ghouls. Additionally, the “snake-den” portal was near Kingsport, a location also known to have a Universal connection with the Dreamlands Universe. In “The Festival” this known portal or connection may actually be underneath the town itself; is it possible that there are a series of catacombs and grottos underneath Kingsport and the surrounding lands that can be used to leave our Space-Time?

In Chapter 2 of “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” we get more information in what was in the “snake-den” when Carter disappeared from our Space-Time. Turns out the simple snake-den was an unknown, inner grotto with a rock wall shaped like a large pylon. A keystone appeared on the wall and above it was a large, sculptured hand. Carter then used the silver key with some motions and intonations to “…cross the barrier to the untrammeled land of his dreams and the gulfs where all dimensions dissolved in the absolute.”

snakeden_glinda_chen               Is the Snake-Den near Kingsport a portal to another Space-Time? Artwork by Glinda Chen

Finally, recently it has been reported that scientists have actually created time crystals, which are essentially a unique and possibly new form of matter. These crystals have an atomic structure that repeats not just in space but also in time. Essentially, their atomic lattice matrix structure is in perpetual motion without the introduction of an external source of energy. This unique form of matter is not in equilibrium. Thus, these crystals oscillate in their ground state, keeping them in a constant condition of non-equilibrium in the absence of any applied energy. Keep in mind this is fairly new and largely theoretical research; while two teams and generated results, such research needs to be repeated and confirmed by other labs. However, if proven true, the ability to oscillate or repeatedly flip their atomic spin without the application of energy will provide valuable insight into additional applications of quantum mechanics. Are similar forms of non-equilibrium matter needed for inter-dimensional travel to other Space-Times? Is the Silver Key composed of some unique form of non-equilibrium matter, similar to a time crystals? Without examining the key, we may never know.

view-into-ion-trap-apparatus       Physicists plan to create a “time crystal” — a theoretical object that moves in a repeating pattern without using energy — inside a device called an ion trap. Image: Hartmut Häffner (www.wired.com)

Next time we will review Chapter 3 of “Through the Gates of the Silver Key.” Thank you – Fred.

Time Travel and the Silver Key


“The Sliver Key” is one of H.P. Lovecraft’s more personal tales.  In it Lovecraft shares his longing and nostalgia for the past; mostly for his own past but also for the past of a by gone day. For this article we will not conduct a psychological interpretation of “The Silver Key” relative to the events in his life, specifically his return to Providence from New York City. If you are interested in such discussions I strongly recommend S.T. Joshi’s   I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft (2013) and Kenneth Hite’s Tour de Lovecraft: The Tales (2011).  Additionally, I would also strongly recommend the Chris Lackey and Chad Fifer’s H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast (www.hppodcraft.com) episode on the “The Silver Key” where Kenneth Hite was a guest discussing this tale. However, here we are focusing on the science of time travel in “The Silver Key.”


In the tale Randolph Carter lost the “key of the gate of dreams” and could no longer enter the Dreamlands, which we have hypothesized is an alternative or parallel Universe with its own set of natural laws. In The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath it is mentioned that only three humans ever crossed and re-crossed the black impious gulfs to other dreamlands (a reference to other Universes?) and two of three came back insane. Weary of the world Carter withdraws into his own world surrounding himself with relics of his youth. One evening, in a dream, his grandfather reminds him of the silver key that has been handed down by his ancestors from generation to generation. Before he awakes, Carter’s grandfather tells him where to find the key, which was in a carved oak box. Carter finds the key in his attic, indeed in a strangely Gothic carved box. Somehow this was supposed to be a key to the lost gate of dreams.

With this key in his possession Carter’s dreams increase in vividness, possibly getting glimpses of Dreamlands. He then knows he needs to return to the place of his youth, haunted Arkham. As he passes over the Miskatonic River and approaches the woods of his youth, he pulls his car to the side and with the key in his coat pocket gets out and starts to walk. As he is walking in the woods and enters a clearing he sees “across leagues of twilight meadow and spied the old Congregational steeple on Central Hill in Kingsport.” However, this perplexed him since he knew the old white church was torn down years ago to make room for the Congregational Hospital. While he does not fully realize it at the time, Carter’s consciousness was transported into his younger self at this moment. The exact mechanism causing this travel into the past is not known as this time.  However, it appears that Carter had to both possess the key and be at this specific location in the Arkham woods, the same location he frequented when he was 10 years old.

The_Miskatonic_River_www.evil.wikia.com.jpg The Miskatonic River (www.evil.wikia.com)

As described in previous articles, Lovecraft avoids some time travel paradoxes by having the consciousness and not the physical body traveling into the past. At this point in time young Carter seems to be confused; however, the next day he takes the silver key back to the wooded hills and into a “strange cave in the forest slope, the dreaded, “snake-den” which country folk shunned…” In the farthermost corner, deep in the cave, Carter approaches a granite wall and pulls the silver key out of his pocket. After that event young Carter seemed different; Carter seems to have the ability to predict events of the future. He would talk about new inventions and events, which would subsequently come true. He even knew about situations that occurred during the Great War. And then one day, Carter just disappeared. His car was found along the side of the road half way up Elm Mountain. The silver key was gone but the strange wooden box was found in the car.

Initially, this may appear to be a paradoxically “time loop” where the individual is doomed to repeat the same actions over and over; traveling to the past, re-living a portion of his life only to reach that point in time when he travels back to the past and the cycle repeats.  However, “The Sliver Key” provides evidence for the quantum view of time – that is, the “river” model and not the “arrow in the air” model of time, where being part of Space-Time, the multiverse is composed of many Universes as well as many “Times.”

randolph_carter_www-vsbattles-wikia-com                     Randolph Carter (www.vsbattles.wikia.com)

The disenchanted Carter at the beginning of “The Silver Key” is very different than the one who can predict future events. Thus, each of these “Carters” may represent a different Time-Line Universe. One may indeed may be stuck in a time loop, reverting back into the 10-year-old once he acquires the silver key as an adult. Although the young Carter who possesses the silver key has a slightly different time-line, his “fate” appears to be the same – disappearing in the Arkham woods. However, I hypothesize that the first Carter loops back to give his younger self the silver key to alter his own timeline so that he can eventually go back to the Dreamlands. Thus, I further hypothesize that the second Carter does not loop back in time but instead goes back to the Dreamlands (support for this hypothesis will be provided in future discussions of “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”). Additionally, this strange convoluted means by getting to the Dreamlands may have been necessary to avoid going insane once re-crossing from our Universe to the Dreamlands, as referenced in the beginning of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.

silkey_www.redhorsewebdesign.com.png                                                     The Silver Key (www.redhorsewebdesgin.com)

Did one time-line Carter sacrifice another to be stuck in a time-loop so another could re-enter the Dreamlands? Or did both consciousnesses re-merge back into one “self” once Carter re-entered the Dreamlands? We will probably never know. However, it does appear that the “key” to Carter re-entering the Dreamlands, after the events of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, is the ancestral silver key. Again, we will continue these investigations when we analyze the tale of “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” written by H.P. Lovecraft and E. Hoffmann Price.

For the rest of October, we will be reviewing the Bloch – Lovecraft “Haunter Trilogy” of tales starting with Robert Bloch’s “The Shambler from the Stars.” Thank you – Fred.