I encountered this story a couple of times when I was younger (back in the '70s or '80s), but I can't find it now. My impression is that the story is pretty old, written in sort of a Lovecraftian style and dripping with atmosphere.

A scientist is invited to visit another scientist who has dropped out of society for several years at the recluse's home, a moldy old mansion in the (New?) England countryside. After a creepy dinner where the food tastes funny, the recluse shows the scientist a machine which the recluse invented.

The machine mainly consists of a chamber with floor, ceiling, and a wide open window in one side. When the machine is turned on, the floor and ceiling of the chamber disappear, replaced with what seem to be repeating copies of the chamber, forming sort of a tube. The upper and lower parts of the tube bend away as if forming a giant ring.

The recluse demonstrates the machine by throwing let's say a right-hand glove into the chamber. It slowly sinks into the lower tube and disappears around the bend, then eventually reappears from above. Only now it's a left-hand glove.

The recluse goes on to explain that sending the glove around the tube again would turn it inside out, and if sent around a third time, it wouldn't come back.

We learn that the recluse accidentally made a trip through the machine several years ago, and can't leave home because all of his food has to be sent through the machine. He reveals a crazy plan to send the other scientist through the tube, then join him in studying the phenomenon. There's a struggle, the recluse falls into the machine again, and we're treated to a graphic description of his final one and a half trips through the machine.

In searching for this story, I came across this website listing fiction stories with mathematical themes. The site has entries for other stories about people being turned into a mirror image (such as Clarke's Technical Error), but I couldn't find an entry for the story that I remember.

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    @Valorum Thanks. I hadn't seen that page. But none of the stories on that page seem to be the right one.
    – Kenster
    Sep 3, 2016 at 16:31
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    Hmm. Sounds vaguely familiar, and makes me think of something written by Harlan Ellison. I'll see if I can find anything.
    – flith
    Dec 13, 2016 at 13:31
  • The wikipedia article was deleted. It's archived here
    – Kenster
    Nov 17, 2023 at 20:18

1 Answer 1


I doubt this is it, but Doorways in the Sand, by Roger Zelazny, included a machine that turned things and people into their mirror images. The protagonist discovers this after going through it, to find that everything seems reversed. It's not. Just him. Going through a second time reversed things back the way they were.

In that state, beer had a smoky taste that he liked. So at the end, after he was returned to normal, he put a case of beer through the machine.

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