Identity of the “Guide”

Who is the guide?

Manson has confirmed that the Guide is the Minotaur. There are many clues to his identity littered through out the book, including a trail of clues (perhaps involving trefoils or references to Cerberus), and the “Easter Egg” described below.

Title Page:

The Key-Stone: The key points us to the the key-shaped trap (see the map of The Trap rooms). The fact that the key is carved into a stone is perhaps a visual word riddle for “keystone” indicating that what we find in the trap is important.

The Mason Objects: The spike, compass, hammer and square are often placed together in the symbolism of the Masons, usually these items are placed flanking the Bible. Here the scroll is in the location usually occupied by the Bible, suggesting that what is on the scroll is important.


In many masonic images the Bible is flanked or overlaid by the compass and square. The hammer and spike are also common elements (in the left and center images).

Hidden Letters: The letters in the maze in the map spell out “IN SLY” this uses all the obvious letters in the map except for a “C” (it could also be an “n” or a “u”) which is off to the right separate from the others. The objects surrounding the parchment perhaps signify letters and spell out “devil” or “evil.” So the phrase is “Devil In Sly” or “Evil In Sly.” Alternately the objects leaning against the keystone could spell out “I AM” so the whole phrase reads “I am in sly.” Or the “C” could be taken as “see” so it reads “See In Sly.”

Possible phrasings:
(see) IN SLY

Room 43:


  - Images copyright 1985 by Christopher Manson

676 thoughts on “Identity of the “Guide”

  1. One more – picking up on “IN SLY” from the title page (name is in room 43) and guidance to be “PARTicular” in the house.

    The text in 43 states that “THESE people jUSt didn’t know…” which also points to Theseus.

    • I think this is a very cool find but I have to admit that I hope you’re wrong… ;)

  2. Apologies if this is old territory.

    Shakespeare wordplay for room 43:

    “Sly” pointing to Room 43 – (Christopher) Sly is a character (a PART) in Taming of the Shrew.

    The “neither good nor bad” reference in the text of the room is a reference to a line from Hamlet (as stated previously).

    The Guide emphasizes the need to be very PARTicular in the House.

    Another PART in Shakespeare’s works (Midsummer Night’s Dream) is Theseus, Duke of Athens.

    Theseus is best known for slaying the Minotaur, and laying out a path through the labyrinth. The path of tridents/trefoils could be such a path.

    Theseus was the son of Poseidon, well associated with tridents, so this may be some confirmation.

    The text referring to the guide is not inconsistent with Theseus as the Guide. The reference to the Underworld in the prologue matches nicely with the 6 Labors of Theseus through the Underworld. Theseus had two fathers – one a king, the other a God, so “lowborn” may need to be interpreted liberally.

    The carving in room 43 looks a bit like Poseidon (as well as many other figures…)

    • boardwalk,

      Great observations!

      You have been approved and may now post freely.

      Welcome to The Abyss!

      White Raven

  3. So we have the three fingers on the ball in 14 and the three folded fingers on the hand pointing to the wire trefoil in 11 — I guess the same thing is happening in 28 with the hand of the guy in room 28 who is pointing at 43 and has three folded fingers clearly shown (as opposed to the guy on the right, whose three folded fingers are not shown).

    • Then in 23 there’s the shadow cast by the three-footed coat rack, which leads to 28, and also the three lightning bolts coming out of the single cloud over door 28.

  4. Here are some rambling Guide thoughts — still going around in circles, though. Any ideas out there?

    Trefoil = Trinity = 3-in-1

    3 is an M on its side.

    Door looks like an A, which is a synonym for ONE, or A could be Greek alpha, analogous to 1. Therefore you have 3-in-1 = M in A (You could also get the M from the sly face, of course.)


    leaving the letters T O U R

    TOUR is tower in French (door is tower?), or TOUR could be seen as a synonym for ROUND (trefoil reference?).

    3-in-1 circle(s) = M-IN-A tour, slight anagram to Minotaur

    Or, easy to get TOUR from elements of the door itself, as has been previously described.

    Or, IN SLY could mean “OUR” if you look at the letters literally in SLY on the urns. (Unclear what to do with the E.) Add the T from the keystone. (Both of these actions can be seen to take cues from the title page.)

    Or, IN SLY could just mean that all the pertinent stuff is between the urns (on the door), which have the letters SLY on them.

    It’s a lot of “or”s for what has been described as a non-debatable solution, leaving me to think I’m not even close. :-/

  5. Back to regular business: posting increasingly insane guide solutions.

    Soooooo there’s a point on the human skull, just behind the ear, where three sutures — the boundaries of three parts of the skull — THREE — come together. The sutures coming together make kind of a Y shape (as three lines coming together are wont to do, but NEVER MIND THAT). Okay.

    We have:
    *Title page with a Y from “SLY,” with the centre of the labyrinthine swirl and compass POINT on the left.
    *THREE sutures/skull plates coming together = TREFOIL/TRINITY/TRIDENT (in case you didn’t get that earlier)
    *IN SLY could mean literally “in” the sly face (well, sly head, but whatever)
    *The elbow of the left-hand (SINISTER — see rm 1) figure kind of sort of points with its elbow at that point on Sly Face’s head
    *Sly Face’s eye looks weirdly over to the left like it is straining to see that point
    *”Use your head” from the Directions


    Asterion. It’s called ASTERION, people.

  6. More fodder!
    Ladder in room has 7 rungs.
    Room 28 leads to this room, 28 is divisible by 7
    I would not be suprised if the group of kids consists of 7 boys and 7 girls
    Possible anagram could result in EUROPA
    5-21-18-15-16-1 for easy number code reference

  7. OR, if you hate that, you’ll despise this:

    M from sly face
    Sly face’s wonky eye looks over at round face on left wall
    That round face hides “IN”, plus a round centre in its nose, “O”
    Plus the outer circle of its nose and horns = “taurus”



  8. The sly face’s eye and the two urns are three rings arranged in trefoil formation.

    “Eye” from sly face = “I”
    SLY letters are on “two urns” = “to earns” (room 6 tells us not to pay attention to how things look, which along with sounding bell prompts us to pay attention to how they sound.)

    “I, to earns” anagrammed



  9. 4+3 = 7, 7 boys and 7 girls sent to die in the labyrinth each year. In fact, many rooms in the house allude to this. Room 7 sees the guide reminded of his ” wild childhood”
    Room 1+6 reminds the author of his “old neighbors” (the athenians) room 2+5 sees him discuss his parentage, and room 3+4 has the black sailed tireme of theseus. The key is not the ways he describes himself, but the settings in which he chooses to describe himself. 7 boys + 7 girls = 14, room 14 being a key part of the guide path. In room 10, we can also see the string refrencing the thread theseus used to escape. This ties in with the lesson of the maze, that death is the only escape.

  10. Some random thoughts. I don’t feel any closer to anything but maybe some of these ideas will spark something for someone.

    1. Title page: the compass with its point on that spiral seems really significant to me. Does it just mean “the thing at the centre of the Maze” as a Minotaur reference? Or is it some kind of instruction for Room 43? All I can think of is that it would be a reasonable indication that you should be rotating the page. (Vewatkin has suggested that it might be a lowercase “e”.)

    What happens if you flip over Room 43? I don’t know. I sometimes feel like I can see a bull face in those three figures. The horns could be the legs OR the shape of the doorway, which looks a bit like the Horns of Consecration at Knossos, with the obvious connection that would create. Those faces between the side doors are pretty much the same seen upside-down and right side up. Significant?

    2. “THE MINOTAUR”: 3 letters followed by 8 letters –> 38. Arrow below “38″ points to a pattern of light on the wall that looks like a hulking beast with horns. Sort of. Also, lots of available anagrams for “the minotaur” compared with just minotaur. We know from Room 6 that it’s appropriate to include “THE” in the name somehow…

    3. I’ve been trying to find numbers corresponding to hidden letters. The numbers would correspond to the position of letters in “THE MINOTAUR.” T = 1, H = 2, etc. The reason I’m doing that is that the central sly face looks quite a bit like an M to me, and is topped by 22: 2 + 2 or 2 x 2 = 4. I also see a little 7 on its side in the round O-like nose of the face on the side wall. Not had a lot of luck on this one otherwise.

    4. “Sly” anagrammed is “lys” — as in “fleur-de-lys”? Another trefoily thing? I don’t know.

  11. Well I’m pretty sure the face above the door is the guide, because of the guide being “in sly” and the face having a sly look. Probably has horns, because many rooms leading into trinity path have references to horns/the devil. Includes the crescents in room 2, and the blades of the scissors aria mentioned in room 42 could be horns.
    What is more, the 22 sign looks like a matador’s cape, adding to the bull reference.
    Bell tower=bull taur

    • Sideways crescent equals horns.
      The doorway to room 10 in 41 has many horns (visual pun) in them.
      The paintbrushes in room 10 and the scissor blades in 42 are angled outwards, like horns.
      Prominently displayed in 39, and on devils in 32 and 26

    • Lots of horns all over the place, no question. And bulls-eyes. And a tail in 22.

      The matador cape idea is interesting (the shape of the 22 sign is weird, which makes you think it might mean something) and I have thought before that the way the hands hold the signs in 43 is reminiscent of matadors taunting a bull. I went down a whole rabbit hole at one point trying to find similarities between this room and a bullfighting ring.

      All this doesn’t seem to match the way WR is describing the final piece of the puzzle (indisputable, not interpretive), but that doesn’t mean it can’t be supporting stuff… or perhaps it needs to be put together in some way?

    • Also, RE Taur, there are Taurus symbols in the faces over the central columns on the sides of the room… and the T over door 22 could be a Tau…

  12. More trefoil stuff just to look busy:

    Room 4
    door to 43 has pretty good triangle/trefoil arrangement of stars directly above number 43
    door to 43 also has maze map that looks similar to title page one, which we know links to Guide

    Room 42
    scissors have white dot to indicate rivet or screw or whatever — makes distorted trefoil with two oval shaped holes in handles

  13. Well, folks, I have no ideas, and my gambit of doing nothing and waiting for some else to solve the riddle has not borne much fruit, except that Sara has found about thirty ways to spell “minotaur” in Room 43.

    I’m not sure the Abyss time limit is going to be our undoing here. Forty-months, eighty-five months, ten years…it doesn’t matter how long things are going to be around if we’ve run out of gas.

    There’s something in 43 that says who the Guide is. The way that we got to 43, the three-ey thing path and the title page “in sly”/”evil,” is helpful in finding the answer; the answer can be found without considering that information, but doing so would apparently be extraordinarily difficult.

    Am I missing any important clue at this point? This seems like where we are. And I have no ideas.

  14. Maybe the answer is that there are two guides. The apparent one, who narrates the book and acts as though he’s doing the guiding, and the secret guide, who does the actual decision making and spends time telling others about the maze. The secret, true guide is of course each and every one of us. All readers are guides of their own destinies.

    This is most clearly expressed in room 43: “Keep believing in yourself.” When that message was originally proposed, we joked about how out of character it sounds for the guide. But what if there are two guides?

    The Minotaur was only ever the False Guide, there to distract us from the truth. The House, like the False Guide, is a distraction as well. Its rooms and doors attempt to lead us away from the truth about ourselves. The truth that we can guide ourselves.

    The Maze is a mirror. You see a guide in it, and imagine a being outside yourself. He is an illusion drawn by Manson, turning your senses against you. Here, blindness is no disadvantage.

    We don’t need the Minotaur, or Raven, or even Cerberus. The time has come to stand on our own, to be the architects of our own inner mazes. From the moment you open the book, what truly guides you? Whose decision is it to turn the page? Theseus? The Devil? Manson? No! You, and you alone. The “guide” of the text can do nothing but advise and distract. He’s no more a guide to us than the thoughtful guest, or the man with the hat.

    Manson presents us not with a maze without a clue, but something worse: a maze with too many clues, clues which lead nowhere. The temptation is to search for a god to guide us. We must not! This is the path of the False Guide, and it leads into the yawning darkness.

    The Abyss is a morass of False Guide distraction. The puzzles, the solution meters, the comment threads, all of it! Crosshatched frippery to hide the truth!

    • Note though that the lord god, is both king of the heavens, and father to us all.

    • Anchorperson Smith, I’m not sure you understood what I was getting at. Hopefully this will be clearer:

      Solutions are the work of man. Puzzles are the work of Manson.

      To truly solve the book, we must cast aside vain hopes of puzzle solutions.

      The path through your inner “maze” leads not to a poorly phrased riddle, but to a sense of self-worth and acceptance, allowing you to be your own guide.

      This is why you, the True Guide, have to ignore the hints given by the False Guide. Trying to figure out which parent is “close to a king” is a red herring. Trying to figure out why the False Guide compares himself to Cerberus is a red herring. Dwelling on the apparent “herring” clue in room 43 is a red herring. All of it, the doors, the rooms, the umbrellas, all herrings! Look within for truth.

    • On the one hand, Manson has confirmed that there is a single correct guide, and it is not the reader as creator of the reader’s own reality in the book.

      On the other hand, there is a perspective on literature known as deconstruction which proposes that all literature, and in fact all forms of communication, behave in the manner you described. If correct, what Manson says about MAZE doesn’t matter, all that matters is the reality you bring to the material.

      On the third hand, deconstruction fails to account for the shared social authority of authorial intention, which is clearly evident when someone hands you an invoice. Regardless what you feel about what the invoice says to you personally, society at large expects you to pay it.

  15. Just want to post here some interesting ideas about 43 being thrown around in the Hangout (not mine):

    earn (urn) your keep; trap yourself
    YOUR appears here and also in room 17 (the other “urn room”) as “Why, oh____ / You are____”

    Just putting that here in case it sparks anything for anybody.

    (There was also nostalgic mention of Trapper Keepers, which seem unlikely to be part of the Guide Riddle, but you never know.)

  16. OK, I just want to point out two comments WR made at separate times that seem contradictory… but maybe they aren’t… and maybe that tells us something. OK.

    First, in August, he said: “There is quite a bit more to the [guide] path than what you see here but finding more of it will not help solve the riddle of the guide.”

    Later he said: “The last bit of the puzzle isn’t difficult IF you keep in mind elements of the trail and the title page while looking at Room 38 [I assume he meant 43 here -- WR?]. If, however, you let everything go that got you to this room and just stare at Room 38 [43?] it is a lot more difficult.”

    Sooooo that means… what. What I’m trying to figure out is what is meant by “elements.” Does that mean something hinted at by the trefoils/tridents/triangles/trinities? (All of which begin with “tr,” hm.) Or does he mean objects in those rooms.

    What in the title page do we need to keep in mind? At one point WR said that “IN” was a “very important” part of the riddle on the title page. Does this make sense if its only function is to get you to go to the page with the word “sly?” Couldn’t “sly” do that on its own? Or is there more to it than that? Or maybe it has something to do with the layout of IN SLY. (Or the tools…)

    Just throwing out some thoughts. Any ideas?

    • I mean, the shape of the arms of the figures over 22 in 43 do actually kind of make a Y, and are in a position that would be consistent with IN SLY… central and high…

    • Not contradictory…there is more to the guide path but you already know what you need to know. Yes 43 not 38…my bad. And yes the “IN” is important.

  17. Also, just want to record something in Room 43 that we talked about awhile ago on the Hangouts — the “good” nor “bad” stuff may be a reference to some stuff in Act 2 Scene 2 of Hamlet:

    What have you, my good friends, deserv’d at the hands of Fortune, that she sends you to prison hither?

    Prison, my lord?

    Denmark’s a prison.

    Then is the world one.

    A goodly one, in which there are many confines, wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o’ th’ worst.

    We think not so, my lord.

    Why then ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.

    The world is a prison with many rooms… hmmm…

  18. If you see the trefoils as representing God and the tridents as representing the devil, maybe solving the final room has something to do with opposites. “Good” and “bad” are mentioned twice in the text to reinforce this. We’ve been playing with this in the Hangout:

    Opposite of YOUR is MY
    Opposite of SELF is OTHER

    Frustratingly close to something…

  19. Regarding the hidden letters in the map, what if the N is actually a Z? Then there would be two groupings: the letters spelling SLY, and the letters outside that, spelling UZI. This uses all six of the letters. And note that in both groupings, the words read from right to left, which makes the whole thing more consistent than the interpretations that mix reading order. “SLY inside UZI” could refer to some sort of context for room 43.

  20. Still working on what that wonky left eye in the sly face is looking at.

    Seems like it’s looking at the round “face” on the left wall. One interesting thing about that face is that it incorporates the symbol for Taurus the bull — a semicircle on top of a circle, meant to evoke a bull’s head. (I think sp pointed this out a while ago.)

    Then you have those weird column capitals flanking the face that look kind of like palms or maybe sunrises. Actually because there are 5 fronds or rays on each, they could symbolize hands.

    So you have a bull’s head and human hands. You can probably tell where I’m going with this.

    Just going to keep trying…

  21. Room 43:

    Take a look at the right-hand wall, from the viewer’s perspective. Now, on that wall, look at the bottom, roundish face in that vertical stack of three faces.

    There’s sort of a trefoily thing going on there, with the bullseye nose and the two squiggles below it on each side.

    And there is a VERY clear number 5 over on that right-hand squiggle. It is upside-down, but it is clear.

    Maybe there is a 7 in the nose.

    Seems like there should be something in the left-hand squiggle… a question mark?

    Note sure what do do with any of this, but that 5… sure seems like something!

    From the twin face over on the left side, all I can get is “go in.”

    • Are you calling the doorway a tower because of the bell inside it? I like that.

    • Yeeeee-eeeesss… OF COURSE that’s what I meant…
      (No, I didn’t make that connection, but it definitely improves the idea! I was just thinking tower = high place.)

    • Here’s another thing. A castle “KEEP” is a fortified tower. So…maybe PEEK/KEEP is also a label for the tower? Then there are the towers in room 5 that point to the trap…

    • It looks a little like an M. It is hard to get minotaur out of this room without stretching but I am hoping it is the minotaur anyway.

    • “It is hard to get minotaur out of this room without stretching but I am hoping it is the minotaur anyway.”

      Amen, Yojo. AMEN.

  22. SP,

    Mr. Manson contacted me, he received your letter. Manson does not respond to correspondence regarding MAZE and expressed again his wish that contact with him be moderated via this site. Manson did however want to address your concern that we were not in contact. I suggested that he email me a sentence from your letter word-for-word which you would recognize as your own but would not reveal anything you may consider to be private. He sent me the following partial sentence:

    “We are still not clear as to how much you have actually communicated…”

    Please confirm this as your own.

    Again I am sorry for the poor quality of my communication as of late, I am resolved to do better.

    White Raven

    • SP,

      Manson stopped contact with Mr. Gentile a long time ago. I call Manson twice a year to discuss the issues we as a group decide on and equally as rarely to discuss other matters, this is more contact as he is interested in but he is obliging us.

      I have had the privilege of working with many exceedingly intelligent people and in my opinion Manson is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. Like many such geniuses he chooses to restrict his contact to a chosen few, Manson and I get along well but I am not one of these few, I am just his contact to the MAZE community. Because this is my role I am restricting my MAZE related discussions with him to what we as a group decide on. I don’t even vote on the topics.

      I think Manson and I have done a good job of agreeing on a system that is egalitarian and protects his preference for solitude.

    • The tragedy here is that now we’ll never know whether Manson and WR are really in contact with each other.


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