In H. P. Lovecraft's late (and surprisingly anticolonialist) story "In the Walls of Eryx," coauthored with Kenneth Stirling, two prospectors working in the Venusian jungle get successively trapped in a perfectly transparent maze.  Neither one of them makes it out alive, despite each of them dying very near the exit (which they cannot see).

The story seems straightforward to me, but I have read several other claims that there must have been a secret doors--moving panels that had closed the men in.  I can't see any indication that this might be the case (although I suppose it cannot be ruled out from the story).  So am I missing something that does suggest that there are secret doors In the Walls of Eryx?


Probably not.

The only thing that seems to suggest it is:

There is something damnable—something uncanny—about this labyrinth. I could swear that I had eliminated certain turns through charting, and yet each new trial belies some assumption I had thought established.

But by that point he was not in terribly good mental shape:

And all the while those relays of tentacled starers stand gloatingly around the barrier laughing at me and enjoying my misery. Another day and I shall go mad if I do not drop dead from exhaustion.


Last night, despite my terrific fatigue, I slept only fitfully, and tonight I fear will be no better. I live in an endless nightmare—poised between waking and sleeping, yet neither truly awake nor truly asleep. My hand shakes, I can write no more for the time being. That circle of feeble glow-torches is hideous.

It seems unlikely that there are any 'extra' tricks beyond the invisibility of the maze, since the people who came later and picked up the bodies were able to explore by marking their path, and mapped it out completely -

In the afternoon we studied the invisible building or trap with great care, exploring it with the aid of long guiding cords, and preparing a complete chart for our archives.

They didn't get trapped or find any evidence of moving walls/doors.


The answer is simple when you understand the maze. The walls are circular, so they can be rotated without changing the shape of the maze, only the locations of the holes. If the prisoner isn't touching the wall, he won't notice it moving. This is why the maze seems to keep changing.

The reason the bodies are found near the exit is not to taunt them (they're dead, after all), it's to lure the next victim inside. The rescue party left some of their members outside, so the ones inside were left unmolested. With so many observers, they could easily solve the puzzle. Also, if the Venusians had a prayer of fighting the Earthlings, they wouldn't have built the maze in the first place. It's meant for one person at a time.

  • 2
    It's an interestingly plausible theory, at least. – Buzz Jun 28 '17 at 20:19

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