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Literature / From Beyond

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"From Beyond" is a horror short story by H. P. Lovecraft, first published in 1934.

The story tells of a high-strung scientist named Crawford Tillinghast who has invented a machine that — partly by stimulating the pineal gland — allows its users to see the vast and terrible layers of reality that coexist with the world perceived by the five senses. He forces the unnamed narrator to undergo this soul-destroying experience, as revenge for previously dismissing Crawford's theories.

A film adaptation was made in 1986, starring Jeffrey Combs.


This story contains examples of:

  • Acid-Trip Dimension: The "reality" seen under the effects of the machine.
  • Another Dimension: There's another dimension that's a scary place.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The narrator survives, but is institutionalized. Even though he is eventually released, he is permanently scarred by the knowledge of the invisible creatures that roam the planet.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A literal gun, being carried by the protagonist as protection against muggers, plays a role in the denouement.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: When an overambitious scientist builds a machine that connects our world with the Outer Darkness — and tests it on himself — you know nothing good is going to happen.
  • Don't Look Back: At the climax of the story, Tillinghast tauntingly tells the protagonist that the thing which disintegrated the servants is right behind him, and if he turns to look at it, it will get him too.
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  • Eldritch Abomination: The things that appear when the resonator is turned on.
  • Empty Piles of Clothing: All that's left of Tillinghast's servants after they're disintegrated by a creature from Beyond. (Lovecraft doesn't explain why the clothes weren't disintegrated as well.)
  • Layered World: Tillinghast invents a machine that makes it possible to see the creatures that live in the different layers, but unfortunately, it works both ways. And given this is a Cosmic Horror universe, this is a very bad thing.
  • Living Motion Detector: Tillinghast tells the narrator that the only way to stay safe while the machine is switched on is to keep still — the more you move, the more quickly you'll attract their attention.
  • Mad Scientist: Crawford Tillinghast messes with the nature of reality and doesn't seem bothered when it leads to his servants being eaten by an Eldritch Abomination.
  • Named by the Adaptation: The narrator is given the name Theodore Waite in the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre version. This is for the sake of a rather groan-worthy Pun, as the episode contains a Framing Story in which he is describing the events of the story in a science lecture.
  • Percussive Shutdown: At the climax of the story, about to be eaten by a Thing from Beyond, the protagonist instinctively pulls out his gun — and, realizing that the Thing is likely to be Immune to Bullets, shoots the machine instead, shutting it down and sealing the Thing's reality away from the everyday one.
  • Pineal Weirdness: The mad scientist stimulates his pineal gland, allowing him to perceive reality with more senses than the usual five.
  • Take Our Word for It: The creature that kills the servants is horrifying enough that they scream at the mere sight of it. We never get a description, because the narrator doesn't see it himself; if he had, he wouldn't have lived to tell the tale.
  • They Called Me Mad!: Tillinghast, having succeeded in his experiments, is irrationally vengeful toward everyone who warned him they might not be a good idea.
  • Weirdness Censor: We're surrounded, every second of every day, by bizarre entities doing bizarre things. Our senses are simply not made to perceive them. Normally, theirs aren't either. It's better that way.