Room 26

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…a dramatic room with four entrances and exits. “Not enough light in here,” they remarked. “Not very tidy either.”

“Which way now, children?” I asked in my most patronizing voice.

They objected to my tone, but it distracted them from the real clues. The game usually goes as I plan it, despite the intentions of my visitors, or perhaps because of their intentions.

“What the devil is this supposed to be?” one asked. They gathered around and I realized they were close to something. I quickly picked up the bell, ringing it loudly.

“Was this what you heard outside?”

Holding their ears they ran out the door to…

 - Images and text copyright 1985 by Christopher Manson
used with permission. [Purchase MAZE from Amazon]


Room Type:  PATH     Doors: 1  30  36  38


● The correct door is 30. [Credit: Unknown - during the 1985 contest]

● The part of the Riddle of the Path is “Atlas.” “SALT” (the salt shaker) + the letter “A” held by a devil rearranged = “ATLAS.” [Credit: Unknown - prior to 1990]

● Three real devils = 3. One fake devil = 0.  3 & 0 is 30 – the correct door is 30. [Credit: Beq S.]

● Door 1 is known to be the entrance. A devil’s tail points to door 36. A devil’s pitchfork points to door 38. The non-indicated door is 30 which is correct. [Independent Credit: Beq S. | White Raven]

● The moon and Saturn = One of the moons of Saturn is named Atlas. The devils emerge in three stages like a rocket and a fourth one is in flight. The loud ringing of the bell is illustrative of the roar of takeoff. The Guide asks, “Which way now?” to answer that, one might consult an atlas. [Credit: Dave G]

● The fake/metal devil represents the Voyager 1 probe which discovered the moon Atlas. The real devils represent fire/take off, the probe was launched with a three-stage Titan-Centaur rocket. The devil’s mouths are open to represent singing – one of the songs played by Voyager 1 is “Devil Bird” which was also a nickname for Voyager 1. The shushing is illustrative of the silence of space. The theater chairs are representative of the bleachers for viewing a launch. [Credit: White Raven]

● The bell is the same shape as the zero for room 30. The Guide rings this bell loudly. The only door with a zero is 30, which is the correct door. [Credit: vewatkin]

● The position of the doors in relation to the door frame in this room strongly suggest that the doors open inward. The doors to 36, 38 and 1 are all blocked to some degree from opening by the open trapdoors. The only door which could open freely is door 30, the correct door. [Credit: Eric]


100 thoughts on “Room 26

  1. We have Saturn and we also have ‘S’ and ‘A’.
    What’s left here is ‘Turn’ which could indicate we turn (or anagram) something. The ‘A’ is simply an ‘A’, but the ‘S’ represents Salt.
    Turning ‘A’ and ‘Salt’ is what we need to do to get ‘Atlas’.

    I have always thought it was unfair that we needed an anagram here, but this explanation might make it less so, if it was intentional.

    • Just realised, when I looked at what I’d written, that it is more literal than this.
      You don’t need to anagram it, but simply TURN it upside down, as the mechanical devil is doing with the salt shaker.
      ‘Salt A’ reversed gives ‘Atlas’.

    • People keep pointing out Atlas. But what has that got to do with the correct door?

    • It relates to the Riddle of the Maze, part of the contest solution, described elsewhere on this site.

    • IMP is 38

      A is 1

      SHH! is 36 (the implied exclamation point is a 1) (eyes and needles)

      MAZE is 45

      it all checks out

      I was going to try to make a serious post about alphanumeric encoding but then

    • While this is an interesting idea, I think the solution is too obscure. There is nothing in this room, pointing to an alphanumeric solution, let alone using chemical symbols.

    • I agree, although I do think it is useful to catalogue these sorts of coincidences, even when attenuated, as a basis for comparison with other solutions that seem implausible but make us ask “but what are the odds?”

  2. I don’t think this has been mentioned before regarding the overall aesthetics of room 26. I believe the imagery in this room is strongly influenced by 19th-century Féerie theater (fairy plays). This was a type of fantastical theater performed with elaborate mechanized stage productions, utilizing special effects and trap doors to quickly introduce characters and objects into scenes. Many of these plays centered around supernatural being such gnomes, fairies, and devils, culminating in a climactic scene with figures descending from the sky.

    Féerie theater later went on to influence early silent filmmakers like Georges Méliès, who created Le Voyage Dans La Lune (A Trip to the Moon) in 1902. I think Méliès films have a strong influence on Manson’s illustrations. You can watch many of his films on Youtube. What is interesting is that some of Méliès backdrops kinda resemble MAZE rooms. During a scene in a trip to the moon, there is a shot of the moon and Saturn in the same orientation as room 26. Other films by Méliès seem to be filled with MAZE objects…stars, moon, sun, keys, elaborate hats, travelers with umbrellas…etc. It seems more than a coincidence.

  3. I believed I found one more clue pointing to room 30. The two slacked ropes in the upper left corner would suggest the fake devil and planet Saturn are being lowered into the scene. So this is a performance with explicit action. The fake devil is actually “spilling the salt” in the scene, which is considered bad luck or ill omen. According to superstition, the way to resolve spilled salt is to throw salt over our LEFT shoulder. From the reader’s perspective, this would point in the direction of room 30.

  4. My interpretation of this room is that it has many references to musical tones in both the picture and text. I’ve always thought the 3 devils in the center represent musical notes. Even the stage with the three trapdoors somewhat resembles a keyboard. Then it dawned on me. The 3 devils could represent the tritone, also known as the “devil’s interval.” The 2nd and 3rd devil are singing or producing a tone, not in succession, but in parallel hence creating an interval. The tritone is famous for being dark (text..Not enough light in here) and unresolved (text..Not very tidy either). The guide also said, “They objected to my tone”, which could be an unsettling sound. To resolve a tritone, we must move either up or down the scale, so left or right. If we move right, this gets us back to room 1 where we just came from… so the correct answer is to move left onto room 30 and resolve the unsettling tone. I think further evidence for this idea of musical tones comes from the planets. We have Saturn here and either our moon or perhaps the planet Mercury? I thought this might be referencing Pythagoras’s “harmony of the spheres,” which is the idea that every planet produces a specific tone in relation to one another. Interestingly, according to legend, Pythagoras came up with this idea after hearing the ringing of a hammer on an anvil.

    • I love it when a proposed solution gets me googling and I learn something new. The NPR has a very nice article/short talk/playlist about the devil’s interval. (Just search on “npr” and “devil’s interval” to find it.) Anyway, I think this is a neat idea, certainly better than the Maxwell’s demon/trapdoor idea I had a while ago. Intended? There are a good number of overt references to music in MAZE — maybe there are others that are more hidden and this is one of them. Who knows. But just to piss off Vincent:
      The devil’s interval corresponds to three whole steps.
      three whole = three + (w)hole = 3 + 0

    • Oh my gosh you can have so much fun with this one. Chord/cord (ropes hanging from ceiling) — “Holding their ears” — the doors representing piano keys and you play the first and last — intentions = in-tension (this chord causes tension).


    • It’s an interesting idea. I think most of the interpretations for room 26 have merit. However, this is the problem with room 26! I think it has multiple overlapping themes. I still have a sneaking suspicion that there exists a more straightforward solution that unifies everything in this room. Hmmm.

  5. I just wanted to point out (me being the pointing machine that I am), that there are a total of 30 punctuation marks, which I’m sure (?) has nothing to do with finding the correct door to be 30.

    ? = 3
    … = 2
    , = 6
    “ = 5
    ” = 5
    . = 9

  6. @ritz – Room #1 and Room #40 don’t have the letter “ j “ or the letter “ x “ .

    • There are 2 single letter lipograms, with the first one located in “DIRECTIONS” ( q ) and the second one located in Room 22 ( z ) . B

    • Oh. They are there. However I sort of doubt they were intended because the avoided letters are already uncommon letters.

  7. In General Comments, WBM pointed out that the text in Room 26 includes all 26 letters of the alphabet at least once, and is the only room in MAZE with this characteristic.

    • If we accept this as intended and true, what is it trying to hint? It feels like this puzzle can’t reference anything but itself.

    • I guess it would be more helpful if it was in Room 1- like, theres ABCD, and all twenty six letters of the alphabet. Go to 26.

    • Again, I would resist the assumption that everything interesting about the book has to come back to a clue about what door to take. Some interesting things might just be there because interesting things are fun.

      I don’t have a strong view on whether it’s intentional. All of the language seems perfectly natural, and WBM’s analytics show that it generally only takes very few letters to swing the difference between a pangram and not. It would be one thing if it had sentences like, “‘That’s a jealous zebra!’” Quentin exclaimed,” but there’s nothing here suggestive that words or letters were shoehorned in.

      But in Room 26, coming from the alphabetical doors, it would be quite the mischievous coincidence if it happened by accident.

    • I’m not saying it has to reference a door. I don’t think it does, honestly. But everything else in this book points to *something.* It feels weird for this not to.

    • I’m not sure that everything in the book points to something. There’s stuff like the allusion to “know thyself” in Room 15, connecting the tripod to the Delphic oracle; or the suggestion of moving statues in Room 32, which were another invention of Daedalus; that, as far as we know (giant caveat there), don’t mean anything in the larger scope of the book.

      This is very different from those examples–I don’t mean to pretend it’s not–but I’m just saying, there may be neat things in the book just for the hell of it.

      (The biggest difference here is that if this has no puzzle significance, it’s not even very neat.)

  8. I think I went with 30 by elimination: 36 and 38 both have arrows pointing at them (making neither a clear choice), and 1 just takes me back where I came from, so off to 30 I went.

  9. May I explain an alternative explanation for the answer being room 30?
    If we look at the people sitting in the audience. If we assume the seats are numbered from seat ‘0’ being on the extreme right, and the numbers incrementing towards the right. Then according to these rules, on the right side of the auditorium the person is sitting in seat number ‘0’. On the left hand side of the auditorium, the person is sitting in seat number ‘3’ ( assuming the seating numbering on the left hand side follows the same rules and starts at ‘0’ on the extreme right ) as he is sitting in the middle row. So the seating thus gives us the answer 30. All other clues with regards to devils and salt and atlas are just very red herrings, as often the simplest solutions are the correct ones.

  10. I thought the Devil holding the A represented an Angel and Devil sitting over your shoulders. (Always depicted with the Angel on your right and the Devil on your left which fits if you are facing out from the stage with them behind you.) So the salt shaker to me was referring to throwing salt over your LEFT shoulder at the Devil, indicating that the correct door is on the left.

    • I think you’re onto something. You throw salt over your LEFT shoulder for spilled salt…which is what the fake devil in doing here.

  11. What I had mentioned before about how room 45 leads to room 23, so to(o) does this room (26) which leads to room 30: “What the devil is this supposed to be?” one asked. They gathered around and I realized they were close to something. I quickly picked up the bell, ringing it loudly.“ – One can only ponder if it IS this…that there could be any more coincidental tidbits such as what MANSON has already stated. Do you agree?

  12. The “devil” is most fully seen to the right of the stage, and gradually decreases from right to left. The choice of a “saint” would be door “30″, the door furthest from the devil. (Note: The author uses an almost identical tactic in decorating room 25 where the faces range from most frightened on the right to most relaxed on the left. The left-most door there is also the correct door and fastest way to escape “The Loop”)

  13. One thing I have noticed which I don’t think has been mentioned here is the phrase “four entrances and exits”. I always found this confusing but now believe it is a reference to the solution as you have to go through room 4 to get to the centre and then again on the way back out. So [room] four entrances and exits [the maze].

    • It’s a part of the answer to the riddle becuase of where the quote is from. Shakespeare’s “As you like it” has Jaques famously soliloquizing, “All the world is but a stage, and all the men and women in it merely players… that have their entrances and exits…” the phrase instantly called to mind that speech for me. And this book has otehr Shakespeare references. It references the “stage” in this room, but also gives away the answer to the room 45 riddle once you have gotten that far…

  14. One thing we’ve been working on is finding solutions on the Path that involve all wrong doors being indicated, in part because of a comment by Manson that implied this is the dominant mechanism. So how about this in Room 26:
    Door 38 = three + 8 = the + 8 + er = theater (the room itself)
    Door 36 = three sixes = 666 = number of the beast (devils)
    Door 1 = fingers of shushers
    (Credit: VW)

    • “I don’t give a damn about puzzle points. Let’s find some solutions.”
      -vewatkin, 3 August, 2016, at 12:02 pm

    • Less facetiously: when you notice a connection (for lack of a better term) in MAZE, it is enough to share that observation without trying to hogtie it into a “solution” that tells you which door is the correct one. The questions I was trying to answer were why Room 26 is in a theater and why it has devils. We haven’t seen any reasonable explanations for it. That “three 8″ can be arranged into “the8ter,” and “three 6″ suggests “666,” seem like solid explanations. When you go a step further and say, ‘Well, we have to find something that suggests “one” then, to make this a real solution,’ you’re going down the same road that led us to seek out and accept so much nonsense over the last few years. And that’s so even if you’re correct! It’s the method I object to, not this specific suggestion; maybe the single fingers held up do in fact suggest “1.” Nevertheless, that’s not necessary to interject at this point, and it shouldn’t weigh on evaluation of “the8er” and “666.”

  15. You know, for some reason I’d always automatically assumed that the group of people traveling through the Maze were children, possibly because I was a child myself when reading this.
    Now, though, I realize that the indignant response our Guide receives when he calls the group ‘children’ may be because the group is a group of adults. Or perhaps the group is of all different ages, or they are whatever age the reader is, or perhaps it doesn’t matter at all. It’s just interesting to speculate about the group of people going through the Maze, because so little is known about them.

    • Well, maybe they actually were children, and were simply reacting to his tone…

    • I thought they were children as well! Then again, I guess anyone is a child to a potentially immortal minotaur. According to most mythology concerning the minotaur, he eats children, so that might have something to do with why he continually refers to them as such.

  16. E. points out that the last page (1) contains text that “the silences are as eloquent as the sounds” in these rooms. Could this hint at the silence of space mentioned by a previous comment?

    I must note that the “not very tidy” reference has, surprisingly, not been fully vetted in these notes.

  17. I attempted to connect all of the theories here with door 30. The atlas idea seems solid and I think we can connect it this way:

    Atlas orbits closest to Saturn ring A. There is also an obvious “A” held by one of the demons. The bell on the floor is metaphorically the “ring”. Ring A was the 3rd ring to be discovered, and is the 3rd (outermost) ring on the planet when counting the bright rings. So there are plenty of clues leading the reader to the “3rd ring”. Pictorially, a ring is just a hoop or a “0″. Putting that together we get “3rd 0″ or simply “30″.


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