This has been tickling my mind for a while and I'm not sure if it's an actual story, if it's from a series of short stories, or if it's just something I think I remember.

I don't remember a storyline, only the setting. It's a pub or tavern, and I think the interior was more like the medieval era than anything else. It somehow transcended time. There was no explanation, but either the tavern or the tavern keeper (or some force) picked who could come there. Some people might come there multiple times and others might only come once if they weren't well received. People would enter from all different time periods.

On one night a person might go through a door (or find the door, if they knew what it looked like?), go through it, and end up talking with people from the 5th century B.C., from 1492 A.D., and a number of other time periods as well.

This would have been in a collection of short stories, but I don't remember a plot or storyline, which makes me think it might have been a sketch. I know it was something I read, not a movie or something someone told me about.

Does this setting of a tavern with guests from all eras of history ring a bell with anyone?

  • 1
    Not medieval but entertaining: Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel imdb.com/title/tt0910554 also set in a pub with time travel where the protagonists travel through time via the bathroom Commented May 9, 2015 at 20:18

7 Answers 7


It sounds like you've described the World's End Tavern from Sandman. There's a series of six stories in the middle of the Sandman series where a couple from our time take refuge from a storm and end up in the tavern, meeting people and beings from all times and places who have all happened to stumble into it to take refuge from the same storm.

Six of the people they meet in the tavern tell short stories, each forming one of the comics. It meets the description of a collection of short stories, but I suspect you may have remembered if it was a comic.

It appears to be a fairly well known trope - I wonder if you can find the example that you're thinking of on that page. I'm pretty sure that the other example I was thinking of was Honest John's in The Riftwar Cycle, as per the linked trope page.

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    I'm sure it was straight text - not comic form. Any chance it was ever written in just plain prose?
    – Tango
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 4:35
  • I honestly have no idea. I'm just in the middle of that series section of Sandman, which was why I thought of it.
    – dlanod
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 4:39
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    I suspect this is a trope that's been done a number of times.
    – geekosaur
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 4:40
  • @geekosaur: Actually, that's what I'm hoping to find out -- that it's not something from one author. (Or that the setting I'm thinking of hasn't been done and the place I read it was in my own notes!)
    – Tango
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 4:43
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    @dlanod - The cloest I could find is; tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/InnBetweenTheWorlds and tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MyLocal
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 10:33

There have been a lot of stories on that theme, but I believe the granddaddy of them all is Edmond Hamilton's 1945 Weird Tale "The Inn Outside the World", available at the Internet Archive (click here for download options).

Merrill stood and stared. Most of the inn was a big common-room, stone-flagged, with heavy, timbered walls. A huge fireplace at one side held a leaping blaze, and its flickering light joined the reddish glow of torches in wall-sockets to illuminate the room. There were long tables down the center. Grouped around the longest table, with their wine-cups standing unheeded upon it now, were the most motley group of men possible to imagine. A tall Roman in bronze sat beside a man in super-modern zipper garments, a grave, bearded man in Elizabethan ruff and hose beside a withered, ancient Chinese, a merry fellow in the gaudy clothes of 16th Century France beside a stout, sober man in the drab brown of an American Colonial. At the far end of the table, silent and brooding, sat a man wrapped in dark robe and cowl-like hood, a man with a pale, young-old face. [. . .] Merrill learned that the handsome Zyskyn was a great scientist of the 31st Century Antarctican civilization. The old Chinese was Lao-tse of the 6th Century B.C. and the swarthy, slender man beside him was the Dutch philosopher Spinoza. Stout, pawky Benjamin Franklin sat beside the great Buddhist emperor Asoka. Next to them was John Loring, a famous space-explorer of the 25th Century, and across from them the merry face of Francois Rabelais.

Unlike some of those other timeless taverns, this one is pretty exclusive. The main character explains the set-up to the aide whom he accidentally brought through the portal with him:

"But listen. This world, in its other space-time frame, is always close to Earth, contiguous. Held there—what did Zyskyn say?—by inter-dimensional gravitation. Meshed forever with Earth, yet forever invisible and untouchable to Earthmen. [. . .] This world, and the way into it, have been known for thousands of years. A scientist of ancient Atlantis found the way first. He passed the secret down to a chosen few in each generation. [. . .] A few of the greatest men in each age have been admitted into the secret and have been bequeathed the jeweled Signs which are the key to entrance here. [. . .] And all the members of our secret brotherhood, the greatest men of every age of Earth in past and future, come often into this world and gather at our meeting-place."

The story has appeared in various anthologies and collections over the years, such as My Best Science Fiction Story and What's It Like Out There? and Science Fact/Fiction and Lost Stars 2.

  • @Tango Did you ever get around to reading Hamilton's "The Inn Outside the World"? Apparently it's not the story you were looking for (identified as a Sandman comic book in the accepted answer), but it seems to be the earliest example of this theme, as such a likely influence on all subsequent stories about "timeless taverns", well worth reading if you're thinking of writing one of your own. By the way, have you written the story?
    – user14111
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 4:26
  • I updated my answer by adding a link to archive.org where you can re-read "The Inn Outside the World".
    – user14111
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 0:22

There is the bar The Floating Vagabond in the roleplaying game Tales from the Floating Vagabond. TFTFV is all about genre-hopping silly fantasy. It closely matches the description. Including the medieval through far future range, as well as the occasional Greek, Roman, or Norse deity.

In part, this is because it's modeled on the fan-version of Callahan's Cross-Time Saloon, especially in its USENet/WWIVnet incarnation.

The USENet/WWIVnet threads in alt.callahans were much more wide ranging than the ones in the novels. I'm not positive, but I think the two may have been separate networked subs... I only dealt with it in WWIVnet... in the early 1990's. A roommate was big on it.

And the alt.callahans version is directly lifted from the short story collection, Callahan's Cross Time Saloon, and its sequels Time Travellers Strictly Cash and [Callahan's Secret]http://callahans.wikia.com/wiki/Callahan%27s_Secret

So, these are all interrelated: The Floating Vagabond, Callahan's Cross Time Saloon (the book by Spider Robinson), and alt.callahans

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    Wow - someone else who remembers the old WWIV BBSes! Boy does seeing WWIV bring back memories!
    – Tango
    Commented Apr 13, 2012 at 0:21

If your memory has confused the storyline somewhat, the first thing that came to mind is Spider Robinson's Callahan's Place stories.

Callahan's Place is not set in medieval times. People just walk in and talk about strange happenings, and occasionally one turns out to be an alien or time traveler (from the future in particular). No one from the past seems to appear. Anyhow, just thought it was worth a shot.

  • Thanks, but I'm sure the tavern was a medieval setting.
    – Tango
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 13:42

Poul Anderson's Old Phoenix Tavern?


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    I would agree. Features Holger Danske/Carlsen from "Three Hearts and Three Lions" and Valeria Matuchek from "Operation Chaos" and "Operation Luna". It is just fragment of an idea that popped up a couple of times in his work. I always wished that he would make it into a full-length novella, at the least.
    – user160795
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 3:33

Brian Daley's "A Tapestry of Magics" also has this theme. The world where the stories take place is somewhere where different people from different times just show up. There's mention of cowboys, Nazi's, knights, etc.

Obligatory Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Daley


There is also "The Captain's Table" in Star Trek. It's a series of six books about a tavern. Every book stars a different captain. Not medieval but definitely the same characteristics. Only captains can enter the tavern, but from when and where no one knows. E.g. Sisko entered in Bajor in summer and meets a Klingon captain who says he came in during a snow storm on Kronos (sp?).

On a personal note: I particularly enjoyed Sisko's book. A very nice example of persons interacting. It had me laughing out loud more than once.

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