“Tales of Peter Hypnos” may have the distinction of being the most unusual series ever produced for EERIE. One of the discussions in the letters column of the mag was how that series should be categorized. It wasn’t true horror (though it did have some horror elements thrown into it here and there), and it certainly wasn’t sci-fi. It may be classified as fantasy, because this highly unique and terrific series contained stories that one would imagine Lewis Carroll would write if he was tripping on acid. In fact, reading these stories probably give all of us non-recreational drug users the closest we will ever come to experiencing such a trip. These tales just have that kind of effect on the mind, and also give us an idea of what it would be like to be shanghaied into realms inhabited by beings and governed by laws that had the same type of logic and non-sensical reality we find in our dreams.
This wasn’t a long running series, as it only ran for three self-contained stories that each followed a similar theme, but it deserved to run for much longer. The writing and artwork, which were highly complimentary to each other, were both handled by Jose Bea, so the tone of the series thankfully never changed throughout its short but distinguished run. I’m not certain if any other writer could possibly have done the series as much justice as Bea did, but it would be interesting to see others give it a try. The artwork was filled with truly bizarre and surrealistic imagery, much of them appearing to be images copied directly from photographs (though I am not certain this was the case), and it can confidently be said that no other EERIE hero or anti-hero had the type of adventures that young Peter Hypnos did.
As far as Warren characters go, Peter Hypnos didn’t seem to have any flagrantly bad traits, yet nevertheless exuded an everyman (or is that “everyboy”) type of quality because he was a young boy who seemed to have no special skills or abilities that was nevertheless periodically pulled into the strangest type of alternate realities that one could possibly imagine (I sometimes think even Dr. Strange would find himself bemused in the realities that Peter Hypnos strolled within). Though the series wasn’t really didactic in any way, it was filled to the brim with symbolism, and it did seem to carry an important message: people all too often give up an indescribably precious gift when they willfully abandon the traits characteristic of youth--idealism, unbridled optimism, the belief that life is one grand adventure where nearly anything is possible, and creative imagination. In fact, adults are often derisive of these traits, such as when they make pejorative comments to young people with condescendingly toned statements like, “Ah, the idealism of youth. I was naďve like that once.” Peter Hypnos’ youthful traits seem to be the key (the “silver key”, specifically) for allowing him to escape from those bizarre realms he found himself drawn into. Can youthful traits be the key to knowledge of that which is beyond our immediate understanding? It did seem like Bea brought these questions forward in this series, though mostly through implication and symbolic representation, not in an overt, “in your face” manner. Still, youth liberationists like myself would probably find these stories pleasing, and they are apolitical enough that those of all political affiliations can enjoy them.
So could Peter Hypnos truly be called a hero rather than one of Warren’s much more common anti-heroes? Well, he never saved anyone other than himself, but he didn’t seem to ever be motivated by selfish desires, nor did he ever display the slightest propensity for violence. His goal was always a simple one: to escape from the strange realms he found himself into and (one would imagine) actually get his mother to believe his stories of the amazing things that regularly happened to him. That is not a totally original theme, but it was certainly done well by Bea in this series. The stories were quite an assault on the senses, and anyone who is a fan of the bizarre and totally surreal in comic book stories should seek this series out. This serial had little actual violence in it, which was very rare for an EERIE series, but it more than made up for this in terms of its sheer weirdness. One may argue whether or not this series truly belonged in EERIE, but I think many would agree that they were happy to see it published nevertheless, and it’s hard to imagine any comic book company other than Warren producing stories of this nature, and creating a character like Peter Hypnos, during the great days of the 1970s.
Peter Hypnos never crossed over with other characters published by Warren, but I make a strong case in this index towards bringing the series into the Wold Newton Universe [WNU] by pointing out a possible Lovecraftian connection, as well as theorizing that those uber-otherwordly realms that Peter Hypnos regularly found himself drawn into were sections of the Dreamlands. If my theories are eventually accepted by several creative mythographers who work within Win Scott Eckert’s framework (i.e., the “consensus” WNU), and it becomes largely agreed that “Tales of Peter Hypnos” should be wolded, then this series more than deserves to be indexed on this site.
“The Incredible People-Making Machine”
Writer and Art: Jose Bea
Like every morning during the week, young Peter Hypnos left his home and began walking to school, dreading the mundane, monotonous, and routine workload that awaited him there. But just when he thought this would be a day like any other, he was suddenly transfixed by an incredibly beautiful and unearthly stream of music, the likes of which he had never heard before. Wondering what type of musical instrument could possibly produce such melodious sounds, he followed the tune to under the drawbridge…and into a strange foggy mist. It was then that he noticed the world he was familiar with changing all around him, giving way to truly remarkable and outright strange vistas.
Spurred on by the mystery before him and the promise of adventure that it suggested, he started to run in the direction that the lovely melody was issuing from, when suddenly a very strange looking man leapt in front of him (he had a clownish appearance with an odd-looking small, vaguely cone-shaped hat, as if from a child’s birthday party). It was then that Peter truly realized that the environment was “not quite right.” Looking around him, Peter noticed a variety of bizarre, nightmarish looking people surrounding him, some of whom had the heads of animals, others who had enormous and disproportionately large heads for their bodies, and some of which had exceedingly long legs and distorted bodies. He then noticed a particularly odd-looking man, who had three faces, one on each side of his head (and one of which had only a single eye in the middle of it), as well as seven arms and hands located at various places on the front and back of his upper torso. Some of those hands were skillfully juggling balls, and the face located in the front of his head had an arm in place of his nose, ending in a hand that was holding a larger ball (in many of the panels of this story, the oddball, surreal landscape of this otherworldly realm that Peter entered contained strange imagery and entities, including swirling shapes and strange individuals riding various types of bikes or vehicles, all of which seemed to come straight out of a dream borne of extreme inebriation or potent drugs; see Comments and WNU Connections below).
The wondrous music had by now stopped, but Peter still wanted to find its source, so he began exploring the bizarre realm he now found himself in. As the text lamented: “He walked over strange meadows…hiked up purple mountains, and descended towering walls that appeared from nowhere and led to nothing.” Peter soon came across “a great multitude of people, who greeted him politely.” These people were as strange as any he had seen previously in this realm (one of them had an extremely enormous nose and large, distorted ears, and before him stood a strange-looking artist who was painting features onto his face). One of these individuals Peter immediately recognized; it was a classmate of his he identified as Willy Whambanger (presumably, this wasn’t the actual boy by that name, and Peter may have exaggerated his surname; see WNU Connections below). Willy had the disproportionately large head for his body that Peter had seen in some of the other people he first met upon entering this bizarre tableau. Asking Willy what he was doing in this strange place, Peter’s classmate replied that he was having fun, as being here was much better than a typical day of school. Willy also said: “Everybody here’s so nice! And you can do exactly what you like!” When Peter asked Willy the obvious question as to how his head got so huge, Willy rambled on about how “beautiful” his new enormous head was, and he offered to take Peter to see exactly where people may acquire such large heads. He assured his classmate that acquiring such huge heads didn’t cost a cent.
As Peter followed Willy, he suddenly heard the same enchanting melody that led him into this realm, and he finally saw its apparent source: a great factory-like building. Willy described the edifice as “The Ridiculous People-Making Factory,” and he also mentioned that the music was “fabulous.” Peter thought a factory that produced music instead of smoke was “great.”
Upon entering the factory, Willy first took Peter to see the room where the giants were made. Within the room Peter saw an odd-looking man (with truly odd-looking ears) standing up with his hands chained to the ceiling and his feet tied in what the text described as “strange, plunger-like objects.” The plungers suddenly moved downwards, stretching the man’s legs to two yards in length. The man was quite excited that he was now so tall, and he started to dance in celebration, only to find himself awkward while doing so with his new anatomical structure and falling to the ground. Willy laughed in joy and asked Peter, “Isn’t he beautiful? Just like a giant froghopper.” Willy couldn’t stop mentioning how “marvelous” these people-altering rooms were, and he again reminded Peter that it was all free of charge.
Willy next showed Peter the room where people can acquire the heads of animals. On their way there, they saw an apparent employee of the factory carrying an alligator towards the room, and the worker complained that it was becoming increasingly difficult to get crocodiles from the Nile for their machine, so they instead found themselves having to settle for working with alligators from the Mississippi (“It’s not the same! No sir! It’s not the same!”—don’t ask me what difference it makes, I don’t work there!). One of the other workers was carrying a large tortoise into the machine within the room, and he said they never produced a person with a tortoise head before, so he was curious to see what would come out of the other end of the device. As the text stated, “The machine made fox-men, monkey-men, rat-men and more. Any head imaginable could be grafted onto a human body. Through one side entered the man who wanted an animal’s head. And through the other was placed the animal which would oblige. In two minutes, an entire new being emerged!”
Peter was utterly astounded by the type of people who were created in that factory, and he couldn’t wait to tell his science teacher about it. As several people with animal heads emerged from the machine, one of the altered men asked Peter if he had decided what type of animal head he wanted to get. He told Peter that they didn’t have all day, so he had to make a decision quickly. Willy then pointed out another choice to Peter…the machine that created the huge heads, where his classmate acquired his own from (Peter, however, couldn’t understand why anyone would want a head so large, and likely why anyone would actually want to alter themselves in such grotesque ways; the bizarre logic exhibited by the inhabitants of this realm may provide a hint as to where the realm was located, as I delve into below in WNU Connections). Showing Peter how easy it was to make those large heads, young Hypnos watched as a man who wanted a large head stood in a large steel cauldron that tightly enclosed his body while another worker put a long tube into the man’s mouth. A large amount of air was pumped through the tube, and the man’s head swelled to an enormous size, stopping just before Peter imagined it would burst. A man with an elephant head then pointed to the “beautiful” large head the man now had and asked Peter if he would like one just the same.
Peter, however, was horrified by what he had witnessed, and he certainly didn’t want to be altered in such a way. One of the altered men couldn’t believe that Peter didn’t want to be “modified” like the rest of them had, and asked him what he was doing in the factory if he didn’t want to be re-made. As one man with a strange bird-like head (replete with wings in the back of it!) told Peter: “When anyone comes here, it’s because he wants to leave with long legs, a mammoth skull or an animal’s head! Choose whichever you like! But choose something!” Just then, a man with an anthropomorphic frog-like body and head (and playing a large drum that was slung over his shoulder!) realized that Peter didn’t want to choose any such modification, so he resolved that they would choose for him.
Determined not to be forced into a monstrous alteration, Peter fled the room (on the ground, amongst all the altered people, could be seen what looked like a small dragon-like creature, another example of the strange entities and imagery that pervaded every panel of Peter’s excursion into what I believe to be an area of the Dreamlands; see WNU Connections below). Willy urged Peter not to run, because the modification processes were not only free of charge, but no pain was involved. But Peter continued running, and replied, “Sorry, Willy! But I’d rather stay as I am…even if it does make me more common!”
Peter ran to the roof of the enormous factory, still pursued by all the strange modified people who sought to force an alteration upon him. Realizing that his only option to escape from the grotesqueries chasing him was to jump from the roof, Peter chose that option before the altered people could stop him, noting, “I would rather break my head than have one that belongs in a carnival!” The factory appeared to easily be at least ten stories high, and just before Peter jumped, one of the altered people urged him not to do it, because he would be killed. But instead, as Peter plummeted to the ground, “a strange cloth-like object began to emerge from [his] jacket…and an enormous parachute opened gently behind him.” Saved by this unexpected occurrence, Peter safely came to the ground in what appeared to be an area of the woods that was far removed from the people-making factory, and Peter mused to himself that he never planned to come there again (“This is indeed a strange place. One never knows what to expect.”—gee, do you think, Peter?).
Finally emerging from that strange realm upon reaching the ground in an area of the world he was familiar with that was several hours from his home by foot, Peter returned to his small house to find that “his mother was about her evening chores as if her son had never been missed.” An excited Peter sought to tell his mom about the amazing events that happened to him earlier in the day, but she refused to believe him, telling him that he must give up such “fantasizing” because he was getting too old for it, and she instead casually asked him to tell her what he learned in school that day.
Comments: This first of three wonderfully bizarre and utterly surreal Peter Hypnos tales was, like the other two (both indexed below), quite an experience to read. Each story in this series had the same structure: Peter was casually out and about his regular business in the world he was familiar with, until he suddenly found an object or person that thrust him into what I believe to be an area of the Dreamlands (see WNU Connections below) where he encountered individuals and sights that appeared to be directly out of one of the strangest, most illogical, but symbolism-laden dreams that one could ever have, most likely if they had first taken some form of hallucinatory drug that was known to instill visions in those who partook of it. The stories then progressed with Peter striving to find his way out of that area of the Dreamlands and back to the dimension he was born in, where logic ruled and the physical laws actually made sense to him, and upon finally escaping he would attempt to tell the tale to his mother in the final panel of the story, only to find that she never believed him (nor did anyone else). Though each of the three tales had the identical formula, they were wondrous to behold because never did one truly know what the youthful Peter Hypnos would see or experience next, and the fact that no one (including his mother) believed his excursions into that dream-like realm was part of the charm of the story. It also made it clear that the Dreamlands was only accessible to a lucky few, and no human being who was used to a logical and orderly world could comprehend the sheer wonder of a sojourn in a realm where imagination and high strangeness was the law of the land.
Though Peter’s age was never revealed in this story, he appeared to be somewhere between 12 and 13 years old. Since Peter’s appearance didn’t change much in any of the three tales, it can be surmised that they all occurred within a period of no more than two years, which further underscores my theory that youth is a major factor in whatever force allows certain individuals to have a natural rapport or psychic/metaphysical connection to the Dreamlands (see WNU Connections below).
I do not know much about Jose Bea, the author and artist of this series, and he seems not to have found a niche in the comic book industry following the demise of Warren. I do not recall coming across any other series penned or drawn by him anywhere in the Warren chronicles. That was a horrid shame, because Bea’s sheer creative imagination and ability to churn out a story that gave one the equivalent of a heavy drug trip was highly impressive. He was clearly inspired by the writings and strange realms of Frank L. Baum and Lewis Carroll (something actually mentioned in the second story of the series), but he took what they did to the nth degree with his Peter Hypnos tales. His artwork terrifically complimented the bizarre stories he wrote for this series, as they were filled with photo-like imagery that truly brought to mind the idea that Peter was walking in a realm whose physical laws—if any such laws truly existed—were so topsy-turvy and alien to the world outside our window that it was almost beyond comprehension.
It was never revealed precisely where in the world Peter’s home village was located, but it was likely someplace in Eastern Europe based on a theory formulated by my colleague Crazy Ivan Schablotski (see the WNU Connections section in the third story below for more info on this). Not much about his village was revealed in the stories, and besides Peter Hypnos, the feature character of the series, only his mother appeared in more than one story. The village appeared to be nestled within a pleasant rural area that was dotted with small, one story homes from an earlier era of time. I theorize the time period when Peter lived in the Time Frame below.
WNU Connections: Though Peter Hypnos never crossed over with any other Warren character who were definitive members of the Warrenverse, which was part of the greater WNU, I do believe there is good cause to wold this serial. It is my theory that Peter was one of the very few individuals, most often young people, who had some sort of natural metaphysical and/or psychic rapport with the Dreamlands, a realm where human imagination rules, and strange lands and strange beings dwell. There may be a near-infinite level of sections and realms within the Dreamlands, some of which seem to have definite physical laws based upon magick (such as Oz; see below), whereas others appear to be based upon rules of logic that totally defy human understanding and incorporate aspects of technology along with magick (though these technological aspects may be entirely symbolic; these are the Dreamland realms that Peter Hypnos was routinely pulled into); some individuals may simply resonate with the differing types of sections within the Dreamlands.
It's possible that the realm of All-World, described in Stephen King’s DARK TOWER book series, may have bordered on the Dreamlands while not actually having been a part of it, since aspects of the Dark Tower existed in realities outside the All-World in various forms, such as a rose. The second Peter Hypnos story featured our protagonist being pulled into the Dreamlands by an extension of that realm that appeared in the form of a rose, so some connection might exist. As my friend and colleague Jay Lindsey pointed out to me, All-World appears to have nothing in common with the Dreamland realms that Peter Hypnos found himself within, but it's possible (based on my own conjecture) that the Dark Tower may have originated in the Dreamlands but later found a permanent and "fixed" corporeal existence in All-World. I have theorized that a similar thing happened to the Castlevania construct of the eponymous video game series, though the latter building can manifest physically in the Earth dimension at certain points and times depending upon various factors, including astrological. As those who have read my "Dracula" index elsewhere on this site may recall, I have theorized that the Dreamlands may be accessible from the Dark Tower, and there may have been a collaboration between the Crimson Chronicles of Warren's Dracula crossovers with Vampirella, the Crimson Stone of the 'Castlevania' video game series, and the Crimson King of the DARK TOWER series (see that index for an indepth discussion of this connection).
Another friend and colleague of mine in creative mythography, Crazy Ivan Schablotski, has theorized that the lands of Oz as depicted in the Baum books written after the first all take place in the Dreamlands, and that all archetypal and fictional characters that are known throughout human folklore and tall tales have the equivalent of a corporeal existence in the Dreamlands. This realm appears to be ‘psycho-reflective’; that is, what passes for reality there is created by the subconscious imagination and dreams of all humanity.
If anyone does access any area of the Dreamlands, they can appear to visit all of these realms, and directly interact with the “fictional” characters directly out of folklore and fairy tales that exist there. Some of the areas of the Dreamlands, such as those encountered by Peter Hypnos and Randolph Carter, seem to be realms that are filled with archetypal characters, as well as strange versions of people who exist in the mainstream WNU (note Willy Whambanger in the above indexed story), and there is some evidence from this series that human beings from possibly many different alternate Earths that are part of the same multiverse as the WNU may be accidentally drawn into the Dreamlands. Further evidence from this series suggest that many of these people may end up trapped there, where they slowly but surely take on strange characteristics and morph into forms that only vaguely resemble the people they once were. After spending an extended period of time in the Dreamlands, these theoretically trapped humans seem to fully acclimate themselves to their bizarre new home and seem to more or less patiently resign themselves to their new existence. Other entities that are seen in these Dreamlands are likely “living archetypes,” and originated in that realm.
It has also been theorized by my colleague Crazy Ivan that a version of Santa Claus dwells in the Dreamlands, and an entire section of the Dreamlands may be an archetypically created version of his North Pole home, literally created from the collective imagination of humanity, and his existence is therefore patterned on the common cultural conception of Santa Claus held by so many people. It is likely that the version of Santa Claus that appeared in stories and books written by Frank L. Baum, and who once crossed over with the land of Oz, dwells within the Dreamlands (also as theorized by Crazy Ivan). Of course, there is an “actual” Santa Claus and land of Oz that exist within pocket universes that have nothing to do with the Dreamlands, and the former was seen in various sources whilst the latter was seen in Phillip Jose Farmer’s terrific book A BARNSTORMER IN OZ, where it was revealed that only the details of Baum’s first book had any reality to it; the other Oz books by Baum and his successors are theoretically believed to have occurred in the Dreamlands.
It appears that some forms of entities or intelligences that exist within the Dreamlands can fleetingly “leak” into the material world of logical reality in an area close to individuals (like Peter Hypnos) who have a natural rapport with the Dreamlands for the sole purpose of dragging that person into one of the Dreamland realms. Temporary portals into and out of the Dreamlands for such individuals can manifest on a flower, a mirror, a hole in the ground, or a painting or photograph, among many other things. Other individuals who are nearby will occasionally witness the person’s entering or exiting from one of these portals, though most often the Dreamland entities seem to drag such individuals into one of its twilight realms when they are wandering alone somewhere.
It has also been noted that certain occult artifacts, when wielded by certain individuals, can gain someone deliberate access to the Dreamlands. One such artifact is the fabled Silver Key, which first appeared in H.P. Lovecraft’s eponymous short story, and which is the basis for the third Peter Hypnos story (also eponymously titled), which I will get into in more detail in the WNU Connections section for that story down below.
It is a further theory of mine that one of Dracula’s soul-clones, Dracula-Mordante, eventually gained access to the Dreamlands via occult means, and this led to his eventual merging with the 11th century warrior/alchemist Mathias Crongvist to become a new soul-clone, Dracula-Mathias, and that the Dreamlands was the origin of the much feared Castlevania construct. I discuss this theory of mine in detail in my “Dracula” index that is elsewhere on this site.
Peter’s surname, Hypnos, may also be a hint that he had a natural rapport or connection of some sort with the Dreamlands based upon my theory. Hypnos was the Greek god of dreams, and the name has since become associated with the dream realm. It was never revealed in the series if this was Peter’s actual surname or it was tacked on by author Jose Bea as a possible further suggestion that the strange realms Peter periodically entered were indeed realities where dreams take on a form of quasi-objective and solid reality based upon the collective imagination of humanity.
Because I believe that Peter Hypnos was one of those few individuals who was routinely pulled into the Dreamlands, albeit not of his own volition, I am using this theory of mine to make a case for bringing this series into the WNU.
Time Frame: Though it was never stated exactly what time period Peter Hypnos lived in, based upon the clothing, architecture, and the presence of old style bicycles and automobiles that were glimpsed amongst the imagery in these stories, I believe that Peter lived sometime in the early half of the 20th century, during a time after automobiles had been invented. The presence of those old style automobiles and his once acknowledging the existence of Frank L. Baum’s first Oz novel made it clear that he lived some point past the early part of the 20th century’s first decade. There was some evidence in this story to suggest that this represented Peter’s first ever foray into the Dreamlands, so it can be said that this tale did indeed take place before the second and third story in the series.
“Voyage to the Final Hole”
Writer and Art: Jose Bea (uncredited)
One Sunday morning, Peter Hypnos was out taking a walk in the wooded area surrounding his village, enjoying a most pleasant sunny day (the locale was described as “a beautiful nowhere place in the land of anywhere”). While strolling through the country setting, Peter was trying to take his mind off of the fact that tomorrow would be a school day, and his walk was designed to enjoy the tranquility of his day off, when his time was his own. Peter was observing the great floral beauty of the countryside, as a great variety of flowers were present and in full bloom at this time of the year (it was likely sometime in the spring season, since flowers were in bloom and school was still in session).
At one point, Peter sat in a mound of grass and wondered to himself why anyone would prefer the musty, loud cities to the roiling hills and peace of the country. Just then, Peter noticed something unusual…he caught sight of a strange flower in the middle of the grass that he knew wasn’t there a minute before. Suddenly, the flower began growing in size until it was much larger than Peter himself, which occurred because he realized that he was simultaneously shrinking just as the flower was growing. Before Peter could run from the increasingly hostile looking flower, the plant swiftly “swooped down” and sucked our protagonist into a strange realm. Peter mused to himself, “Either this is the end of Peter Hypnos…or the beginning of another adventure that no one’s going to believe!”
Within the flower was what the text described as “a strange, yet vastly beautiful hallucinatory universe filled with unknown colors and unimaginable forms…!” Realizing that he was indeed involved in another surreal adventure, Peter observed that he was still shrinking fast, the perspective of width and depth around him was changing, and the ground beneath him appeared to be vanishing. As soon as the shrinking process and kaleidoscopic swirling of colors ended, Peter found himself in front of some “strange constructions” (they are hard to describe, but they looked like truly odd buildings and structures, some with huge human faces peering out of square shaped openings at the top of them, as well as the shoulders and head of what looked like a dozing police officer embedded in the ground; the ground itself was described in the text as a “soft and velvety path”). Walking close to one of those house-like structures, Peter was greeted by the face of a being that resembled an anthropomorphic rabbit with many fang-like teeth. The rabbit-like being told Peter that he seemed to be the latest individual to be captured by the “damned rose,” and assured him that he was now in “good company” because there were at least a thousand individuals trapped there now [as noted in the WNU Connections section of the previous story, it’s possible that the rabbit-like being was actually a being who originated in the Dreamlands, but he may also have been a trapped human whose physical nature altered in cahoots with the strange new realm he found himself in after spending a lengthy stretch of time there; the other, more human-looking individuals may have been people who were trapped there more recently than the rabbit-like being, or who perhaps simply didn’t become altered by the bizarre physical laws there in as extreme a manner for some reason. It’s possible that some aspect of a person’s subconscious mind may determine precisely in what way they will become altered after spending a long period of time in the Dreamlands.].
Peter spoke to another, more human-looking face looking out of one of the house-like structures, and he told this person that he was starting to get scared and he wanted to find his way out of this bizarre realm. The person looking out of the house told him that if such was the case, he had better hurry in finding a way out [could this be due to the fact that this possibly trapped individual was aware that if Peter spent too much time there, he would be altered by the strange reality in such a way that it would then be far more difficult for him to leave the realm?]. Peter was then approached by a truly bizarre, completely non-human looking being who referred to himself as Jorum. This entity was roughly humanoid and bipedal, but had a rat-like head and nine very long human-like arms (he said that people often call him “Handy” for that reason…I might consider laughing at that, but it was much too strange a sight to find overtly humorous). Jorum told Peter that they must make haste in leaving the area. Peter asked the being where he wanted him to go, because all he wanted to do was to get out of the flower that engulfed him. Jorum noted that everyone in the realm wanted the same thing, but escape wouldn’t be easy. Following Jorum atop a strange looking vehicle, Peter was informed, “First we have to cross the river of the submerged ones. Then…if we’re lucky, we’ll get to the final hole!”
Some time later, Peter was seen traveling in a boat-like conveyance over the river in question, with Jorum at the controls. There we saw the submerged ones, who appeared to be a coterie of strange people of various sizes and shapes stuck in the water (some of them had the heads of animals, while one appeared to have a human head with a human-like mask over it). One of the submerged people trapped in the water shouted some encouragement to Peter, urging him not to stop believing, otherwise he would be “lost.”
The text then stated: “The canal of heads ended abruptly in a tremendous cascade which seemed to go on forever…!” As the boat went down a huge waterfall, Peter asked Jorum what the final hole was, and what the man meant when he said that he had to keep believing. Jorum explained that the final hole was the only passage out of this realm (presumably a portal that led back into the Earth dimension), and that to get there they must have faith. Peter was then told that he must continue to shrink further by concentrating on doing so, because “once you have the smallest doubt all will be lost to you” [this is more evidence that the power of belief, individual as well as collective, has a strong psycho-active effect on the nature of the Dreamland realms].
As Jorum explained this to Peter, the waterfall led out of what appeared to be a gigantic faucet (since they had continued to shrink), and the waterfall was shown to be connected to this enormous tap. The two of them fell through the tap without their boat (which didn’t seem to shrink with them) and they landed in a gigantic wine glass filled with water. Jorum said this represented bad luck on their part, since “the old drunkard” decided to drink water instead of wine for once. The giant glass was held by a proportionally gigantic, semi-human looking being (obviously the “old drunkard” Jorum referred to), and noticing the two strange little creatures in his drink, the man proclaimed, “Ho! Every day the water gets more and more contaminated. It’s the work of the Devil, I say!”
At first thinking that he should stick to imbibing wine in the future, the giant man-like being decided that Peter and Jorum looked “almost appetizing” and curious as to how they would taste, he drank them down (“whatever isn’t killed, gets fat…!” the man said to himself just before gulping down the inhabited water). Passing down the man’s gullet, Peter “found himself surrounded by juices, sinews and organs with a very nauseating smell!” Understandably grossed out by his latest predicament, Peter noticed that Jorum was “lodged to death in a cavity,” so he had to undertake the rest of the adventure without his guide [it’s my conjecture that Jorum was an inhabitant of this area of the Dreamlands who originated there, and was created to serve as a guide for any humans dragged into the realm, or at least humans with a certain personality type who stood a particularly good chance of escaping; the nature of these guides was never completely explored in this series].
Peter now found himself within the giant’s body and still shrinking. He realized his situation was now worse than before, because not only did he need to get out of the rose, but first he had to get out of this giant’s body…and it soon occurred to him the only way he could get out, much to his dismay. Ending up in the giant’s intestines, Peter was rejected by the huge man’s digestive system as indigestible, and he passed out of the man’s rectal opening (eeeeewww! I wish I was making this up!).
Finally out of the giant’s body, Peter now resolved to find his way out of the flower. (In a very unwelcome moment of humor, Peter thought to himself: “Years from now, they’ll write a story about this…and call it Deep Brown and Jorum!")
It was clear to Peter that the means of getting out of the flower was to continue to grow smaller. He was then approached by a bizarre looking woman dressed in Victorian clothing (complete with her breasts pushed up and perking out of the front of her dress) and with an extremely long nose that had the appearance of a small elephant trunk. This woman told Peter not to worry, because if his process of shrinking were to stop, she could offer him an alternative for a “very reasonable price.” This woman owned a factory where she had a device that could painlessly compress people to dwarfish size. She showed how her customers went through this process, which was to have them stand underneath a great hydrolic press, where they would be crushed to diminutive size. At first considering that the compressor may be the solution to his problem, he was given pause when he looked around and saw several of the woman’s customers walking about, as many of them had received poor results (“there seemed to be one accident or another all the time…!”; one of the customers whom the process failed to work on correctly resembled a large human head with a presumably disproportionally compressed body, as only his head was visible while a woman carried him about in the back of a carriage-like conveyance). One of the other men whom the compressor failed to work on properly (it seemed like his head was also far too large for his body) told Peter, “Take my advice, boy…get away from this mad woman as soon as you can. You’re still in the natural process of becoming smaller. Keep believing in yourself and you’ll make it with no one’s help!”
Deciding to follow the disgruntled customer’s advice, Peter made his way on his own, eventually coming to the top of a very large tower (it looked of ancient construction). Looking down from it, he saw a large assemblage of bizarrely altered people (many with animal heads or some other physical distortion) who were all inciting Peter to jump before all was lost. Thinking that these people knew more about Peter’s “strange adventure” (i.e., this realm) than he did, he took a chance on their advice and jumped. Our protagonist then “crossed through space and submerged into a sea of hauntingly strange surreal characters.” Still evidently shrinking, Peter landed in the hand of a comparatively gigantic man, who saw the tiny boy as the “condemned one.” Another man who observed his fellow’s catch noticed that Peter was still shrinking, which he knew meant that the boy didn’t stop doubting as the rest of them did. The man then wished Peter luck, telling him that it looked like he was going to make it [is it possible that Peter’s youthful idealism was the main reason he could still believe, whereas these adults with their jaded, set-in-their-way minds couldn’t do the same, thus explaining why Peter was proving more successful at escaping than they were? Something to ponder].
Continuing to make himself shrink, Peter disappeared into the folds of the man’s skin, where he was in the company of several similarly sized individuals (many of strange appearance) who also seemed to be stuck in the man’s skin, some of them continuing to shout encouragement to him (“You’ll see the sun again. Don’t do what we did. Don’t give up! Struggling is better than drowning…and infinitely more comfortable!”). The text then lamented: “Peter fought on in that strange mass of bodies. Everybody congratulated him and urged him on, although he couldn’t exactly figure out why. He had simply given himself up to the hands of destiny…as he always had…!” (One of the people trapped in the skin of the man’s hand requested, “If you manage to get out, look up my mother and tell her not to expect me for dinner.”—ha…ha). One of the people told Peter that he would give up all the money he ever had to possess the boy’s “optimism and confidence” [optimism being another important trait of youth that adults often deride, but which appeared to be the reason why youths had such a natural rapport with the Dreamlands, and why they could more easily get into those realms, and more importantly, get out of them again after being dragged into them].
Finding himself in a valley-like setting as he continued to get smaller, Peter realized he still wasn’t back in the Earth dimension, and he started to wonder if his quest to escape would ever end. Continuing to place himself in the hands of fate without fear or questioning, Peter still pushed himself into falling and shrinking.
As he continued to fall and shrink, Peter plunged through another section of the Dreamlands, this one filled with a great number of more bizarre-looking people (one of them resembled a semi-humanoid insect, another seemed to have the head of a pig on the body of a chicken, with most of them strangely distorted in some other way). These individuals often yelled odd philosophical diatribes to him:
One man with a head like a bird: “Freedom of expression constitute the most precious gift a just and orderly society can bestow upon its people!”
One woman: “Take note, dear sisters! The fight for equality will put an end to the submissive woman and will put robust females full of passion onto the streets!”
Another man: “Erotic, lustful, enthusiastic passions, I might add.”
[Was this a section of the Dreamlands designed for those who espoused activist goals, such as civil rights supporters and women suffragists, along with some individuals who looked forward to the latter gaining rights for more base reasons? If so, it may be presumed that this particular section of the Dreamlands was inhabited by altered people who had some stake in certain activists goals, be it for either idealistic or purely banal reasons.]
Peter’s fall finally ended, and he found himself in the company of several human-looking individuals who were nevertheless freakishly large due to his continued shrinking, and they looked at him with “admiration, surprise…and even a certain air of envy in their faces!” One of the women observed how small Peter now was, and wondered if he could get through the hole, but hoped he couldn’t so that he would then have to stay there with them. A man named Charles whom she was addressing told her how unfair it was to hope for that, because “if he’s got what we all lacked, then he deserves success.” The man then pointed out to Peter where the hole leading out of that realm was, and he encouraged him to attempt to leave through it (the hole was simply a regular circular opening in the side of some wall with an inscription saying, conveniently enough, “the final hole”).
Peter found that the final hole was so small that even at his miniature size he had trouble fitting in it, but he persisted, and suddenly he was through it. He found himself back in the Earth dimension at his normal comparative size, and he saw the rose that had engulfed him shrink down to apparent nothingness, “closing its petals on all those strange and sad beings within” (presumably, the flower was an ‘extension’ from the Dreamlands that fully returned to that dimension after its purpose of serving as a temporary portal was completed).
Peter then rushed home, and as soon as he was in the door he discovered that his mother was chagrined at his lateness. She told him that if he was ever late like that again, she wouldn’t let him out on Sundays anymore. She then predicted he would tell her about “another fantasy” of his, and he proved her right by telling her about his incredible experience after being sucked up by the flower. Seeing the expression on her face, Peter asked his mother if she didn’t believe him, and she sarcastically replied, “Oh sure I do, Peter. It happens to me all the time!”
Comments: This tale, like all three of the Peter Hypnos stories, continued the wondrously high strangeness and sheer surrealism of this series, and is more than worth reading by anyone who enjoys the fantasy medium with a penchant for the truly bizarre.
In the opening panel of this story, we got to see an overview of the countryside that Peter lived in, which was quite picturesque and highly evocative of the type of idealized village that no longer exists.
WNU Connections: As seen above in the synopsis of this story, I engaged in more theorizing about the nature of the Dreamlands, how Peter may have been able to escape so often after being pulled into the various realms extant there, and also my belief that certain beings may come into existence in that realm who are designed to serve as guides to humans who find their way in there, either inadvertently or deliberately (more evidence of this in the next story). The collective human imagination may serve to “sculpt” the appearance of these guides, and the subconscious of every human who gets drawn in there may have an adverse effect on what form they may mutate into after being trapped there for long periods of time to the point of becoming a de facto resident of the Dreamlands. How, why, and when the intelligences that exist in the Dreamlands decide to drag someone with a natural rapport for the Dreamland realms into it is not currently known, but I am hoping that other creative mythographers with an interest in the Dreamlands will do further research and theorizing in the future.
Time Frame: Though it can’t be certain precisely how much time passed between the last story and this one, it wasn’t longer than a year, because Peter appeared to be the same youthful age in this tale as he was in the last. There is no way to know exactly how much time passed between Peter’s recurring excursions into the Dreamlands, if they followed any form of pattern, if astrological factors played a part, or if the intelligences that seemed to drag him into the Dreamland realms operated more or less upon a whim. It also cannot be determined exactly how many adventures into the Dreamlands Peter had, because only three were recorded during the existence of Warren Comics. One can hope that New Comic Company, who currently owns the copyright to Peter Hypnos and most other Warren characters, will allow Dark Horse Comics to chronicle further Peter Hypnos exploits in the future.
“The Silver Key”
Writer and Art: Jose Bea
One sunny morning in the spring, Peter Hypnos was again on his way to school. The path he took to get him there quicker circled a lake. He arrived in the village where his school was located (presumably he lived just outside of the village, in a more rural area), and it was just seconds before the 9 AM clock bell would ring. Much to Peter’s surprise, the usually crowded streets at this time of the morning were bereft of any adults.
Peter soon discovered where everyone was when he came to the town square. All of the adults in the village seemed to be surrounding an artist who was painting on a canvas in the middle of the street. Peter realized that he had but two minutes to arrive at school on time, and it was going to take him at least that long to get through the crowd in front of him. He knew his teacher would be angry at him. Still, he also knew that he had to make the effort to get there on time, so he made his way through the crowd, finally standing in front of the artist.
The artist appeared delighted to see Peter, and he asked him to look at his painting and give him his opinion on it. Peter said he would be glad to do this, but he could only stay a second since he was in a hurry. The painting looked quite strange to Peter, as it seemed to be a rendition of a small, thin house with a door, some unknown insignia above it, and a large human eye near the roof. When Peter asked the artist what the painting was supposed to be, the latter laughed and told the boy it was a painting of his future. Peter said it looked like “abstract depressionism” to him, and that he now had to leave or he would be late for school. The artist then seemed incensed, proclaiming Peter a “ten o’clock scholar” and an “untutored art critic” who was in need of lessons (“…the kind I am prepared to provide”). The artist then lunged at Peter and pushed him up against the painting, and the hapless boy found himself literally sucked into it (and, I conjecture, into another section of the Dreamlands).
Falling through the layers of paint and into a strange environment, Peter realized he was in the midst of another of his strange adventures (“if I were Dorothy, I’d think I’d fallen over the rainbow and into Munchkin Land”; the reference to “over the rainbow” may be an indication that this series took place sometime after the year 1939, since that was a song from the movie version of “The Wizard of Oz,” and I do not recall if any such expression or phrase appeared in the book version).
Peter quickly noticed that the realm inside of the painting was inhabited by many strange individuals, along with a lot of strange imagery and a giant representation of the house with the huge eye on it. Some of the women seemed to act startled that Peter appeared, and a paddy wagon soon arrived, with a man nearby who served him a warrant for his arrest (and also calling him a “ten o’clock scholar,” thus suggesting that the artist who sent him there was a denizen of the Dreamlands who had briefly entered the Earth dimension for the purpose of absconding with young Peter). The text said: “This obviously wasn’t Oz!...b…but maybe it was Wonderland!” Next Peter was approached by a strange looking being that appeared to be another helpful guide indigenous to the Dreamlands (this particular being appeared to be a goofy looking cross between a human and certain types of animals with a party-like hat and a pipe in his mouth). This being told him, “You’re late! You’re late!” and gave Peter a large silver-colored key and told him it would “open the door to [his] future,” but he must “use it…or lose it!” Peter walked up to the door on the house with the eye, and fit the key into its lock, opening it.
When the door opened, Peter’s key was snatched from him by “the oddest desk sergeant [he] had ever seen!” This desk sergeant was a truly strange being (even for the Dreamland realms Peter routinely seemed to enter), as he had the head of a human but a totally non-humanoid, multi-tentacled body (Lovecraftian?). This judge took the key from Peter as evidence for his upcoming trial. When the desk sergeant asked him what his plea was, Peter simply replied that he objected. The objection was overruled, and when the judge asked the jury what their verdict was, they all pronounced him guilty, with the sentence being a beheading (actually, in Western jurisprudence, it’s the judge who does the sentencing, not the jury, but I guess the rules work differently in the Dreamlands, much as everything else there does). Before Peter could be grabbed and delivered to such an unpleasant fate, he noticed a crack in the paint and leapt through it.
Upon emerging from the crack, he found a “residential section” of some odd area in another section of the realm. There he was greeted by a young man who introduced himself as Charlie, and who decreed that Peter was another fugitive from criminal justice. Charlie proved helpful and said they would have to find Peter a place to live while residing in that realm because he would be there for a very long time. Peter mentioned that he couldn’t stay because he had to go home soon, but Charlie told him that he couldn’t leave that realm without his key. Charlie then said there were thousands of people trapped in that realm because their keys were confiscated from them by the beings posing as legal authorities there for one infraction or another. Charlie assured him that the realm he now found himself in wasn’t bad once you adjusted to it. This realm seemed to consist of no houses whatsoever, but actually a single unending platform with many openings that apparently served as residences for the various strange-looking and obviously altered people who were trapped there (one of the residents referred to the living spaces as “large co-operative squares” that were “available for sharing”; one of the beings sticking out of one of those living spaces appeared to be a Roman centurion in full regalia, while another resembled a talking giant diamond ring).
Every being Peter saw there acted congenial to him, and Charlie told him he could feel safe because he was already welcome there. Peter said he had to find another key because he needed to get home. Inspired by Peter’s decision, Charlie mused that they had to keep the confiscated keys somewhere, so he offered to help him look for them. Just then, the two young men were approached by another extremely strange being who resembled a bipedal, anthropomorphic turtle with a bald human-like head that had a large nose, big ears, and a hand and forearm in place of his mouth (I’m not sure what scribe/artist Jose Bea was smoking before writing and drawing these stories, but I certainly would like to try some of it!). This being carried a tray with fresh fruit on it, and offered some to Peter and Charlie. Charlie felt it was a good idea to get something to eat before they began their search, so he accepted the strange being’s offer. The turtle-like entity lifted a piece of fruit from the tray with the hand extending from his mouth and told Charlie, “Here, take this one[,] lad. It says ‘eat me.’” Charlie took a bite of the fruit, and Peter noted that if they were in Wonderland, the fruit would have a very distinct effect on him…only to find out that the fruit did indeed have a bizarre effect on Charlie, albeit not the same type of effect as food in Wonderland had on Alice; it turned the young man’s head into a plant (with his eyes still visible). Peter then wisely declined the offer of fruit. The turtle-like being shouted to Charlie that his transformation was a lesson and that he should be “more selective in [his] behavior or [his] brain will turn to grape-fruit as well.” The being then stated he would have known better if he had retained the ‘key of knowledge.’
Peter pointed out that he noticed what resembled a flying machine that could get them both airborne (conveniently, of course), therefore being able to cover much more ground on their search (this machine resembled a strange mechanical device connected by several ropes to a container that the two boys sat in, much like one of those giant balloons used for transportation, with the container having the same insignia on it as the house in the painting that brought Peter here). Peter was confident that as soon as he and Charlie found their keys, they would be able to restore the latter’s head to normalcy.
For what was said to be days (though I personally doubt this), the two traveled about high over the land in their flying conveyance, and the text described how they “saw rivers, lakes, mountains and strange rock formations, but they did not see the silver key…” (at one point, an enormous disembodied human head appeared and told the boys, “If you find the solution let me know. In moments of stress, many of us lost our heads here!”).
Eventually, the flying machine ran out of power and fell to the ground (though for some reason Peter and Charlie weren’t injured). Standing on what appeared to be a street corner, they saw a signpost that resembled a giant human hand pointing in a certain direction with a sign tied to the pointing finger that helpfully read, “To the House of the Silver Keys.” Charlie excitedly bid his traveling companion to follow him towards a large castle that the giant signpost was pointing to.
As the text mentioned: “The walls were covered with varied and interesting photographs picturing all sorts of impossible occurrences” (the one example depicted in this panel was a pic of a man sitting at a dinner table and about to eat a large version of his own head). The boys at first laughed at the strange pics they saw on the walls of the castle-like structure, but their smiles quickly faded when they saw literally thousands of silver keys piled onto the floor, covering the ground as far as the eye could see, and both realized their own keys could be anywhere amongst that endless pile (“talk about finding a needle in a haystack!” Peter unhappily quipped).
Just then, what appeared to be yet another guide-like being approached the boys (he looked like a giant clownishly dressed man with pointy ears, no hat, a bald pate with hair on the sides of his head, and a small boot covering most of his nose), and this being introduced himself as the guardian of confiscated keys. The guardian welcomed the boys to try and find their rightful keys and open the door (probably a portal) leading out of that realm if they were able, followed by mockish laughter.
Charlie grimly opined that they didn’t stand a chance to find the right key. Then, he suddenly felt odd, and the rest of his body, starting with his hands, began transforming completely into a plant (was it possible that Charlie’s lack of optimism and burning doubts had a psycho-active effect on his body, thus furthering the alteration begun by the fruit, the latter of which was perhaps a psycho-symbolic representation of self-doubt or delusion?). Charlie was now in a state of total dismay, as he noted that even if he did find his key, he couldn’t go back to his home dimension in such a state, otherwise, “all I’d be good for is a freak show!” Just then, another apparent manifestation of Charlie’s nagging doubts appeared, as a long group of strange people (including a woman with her breasts exposed and those with animal-like heads) appeared, all of whom were connected to each other by a long caterpillar-like structure (almost the way Asian dragon designs carried by multiple people at festivals like the Mardi Gras appear). Those individuals all collectively told Charlie that he didn’t need to change because they liked him in his plant-like state, and they bid him to come with them. Charlie did as they requested, since he felt that he now belonged with them, and wished his friend good luck [is it possible that the Dreamlands, if such is what these realms were (and I theorize they are), confer a feeling of easy resignation to anyone who has been trapped within them for long periods of time, and is especially strong if they give in to doubt and pessimism? It’s a working theory of mine that the Dreamlands can manifest situations and scenarios based upon the subconscious mind of any individual who resides there].
Peter urged Charlie not to go, and refused to give up his confidence that they would find the right key (more evidence that Peter’s youthful optimism would again save the day for him and prevent the Dreamlands from keeping him within one of its realms permanently?). But Charlie did indeed resign himself to his fate, so Peter had to continue on alone.
Peter picked up one particular key and decided to try his luck with it, and resolved to try another if that one failed to open the door leading to his home dimension. Fitting the key into the lock, he discovered that it did indeed open the door, and he mused aloud to himself that this was an extraordinary coincidence that he happened to pick the correct key on his first try. It was then that the guardian said that this was “why procrastination never pays.” The guardian then explained that if Charlie had tried any of the keys, he would have found his way back into the “real” world, just as Peter did. This was because all of those keys could open the lock, and “every key opens the door to knowledge” (see WNU Connections below). The guardian then urged Peter to keep the key and not to lose it ever again (could the fact that it was able to be confiscated from him in the first place actually a symbolic action taken by the Dreamland beings that had relevance to his personal state of mind at the time?). Peter then walked through the door and found himself emerging back into his home dimension from the temporary portal that was represented by the painting (a man passing by was startled to see a boy emerge from a canvas with a painting on it).
Then, as was always the case, Peter ran home to tell his mother of his adventure, but she simply scolded him since she was fully aware of where he had not been…which was school. Needless to say, she didn’t want to hear any more “fairy tales” from him and wanted to know why he wasn’t in school.
Comments: Unfortunately, the series ended with this story. Since this serial was rather well-received by the readers of EERIE if the letters page was any indication, it was rather surprising that Jose Bea didn’t end up whipping up a few new Peter Hypnos tales. The series had no definitive resolution, but since all the stories were self-contained with no cliffhangers, it didn’t actually need to be resolved in any way. It would have been interesting to see the feature character progress further, however, and to learn more about those strange realms he was routinely pulled into, and maybe even learn to control when and where he gets pulled in so as to explore the nature of those realms (which I believe to be the Dreamlands; see WNU Connections below and in the above two stories). It would also have been interesting to see if Peter retained possession of the silver key he acquired in the Dreamlands, and whether or not he would subsequently learn to use it as a way of ‘unlocking’ portals into those realms (again, see WNU Connections below).
It was a shame that we never truly got to see Peter grow as a character, as all three stories simply had the same basic formula, as awesome as that formula was. The third story may have suggested growth in his understanding of those strange realms he continuously visited, but since no other Peter Hypnos story appeared in the Warren chronicles, that was never followed up on. What new adventures occurred in Peter Hypnos’ life have yet to be told.
Jose Bea may possibly have been inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s story also titled “The Silver Key” when writing this tale, but I go into that in some detail in WNU Connections below.
WNU Connections: This particular story may have a connection to a non-Warren source that may help further my case for wolding Peter Hypnos.
In 1926, the late great horror writer H.P. Lovecraft wrote a short story called “The Silver Key,” and it can be read online for free here. In that story, which featured Lovecraft’s recurring character Randolph Carter, it was described how Carter had access to fantastic realms with dream-like qualities in his youth, but had since lost that ability after becoming an adult despite the continuation of other supernatural occurrences in his life. Later in life, he managed to locate an occult object that was sculpted in the form of a large silver key, accompanied by sigils that were inscribed by the creator of the key to confer its occult properties on it, that evidently allowed the now middle-aged Carter access to some of these realms again. Is it possible that the human mystic who created Carter’s silver key had a degree of familiarity with the Dreamlands in times past, and he found a way to enable certain human beings to gain deliberate access to these realms? Was Carter able to access these realms so much easier in his youth than he could as an adult for the same reasons I conjectured that Peter Hypnos was able to? Did the unnamed mystic in question construct the object in the form of a silver key because he learned that such an object was a powerful archetypal symbol in the collective human subconscious for some unknown reason? Or could it be that it was simply a literal representation of a “key” to opening up portals into the Dreamlands, and making the object in the form of a key was a symbolic way of opening up doorways into these strange twilight realms? If either was the case that might explain why the ‘key to knowledge’ that Peter Hypnos encountered in this particular Dreamland realm appeared in the form of a large silver key. There can be multitudes of silver keys in the Dreamlands representing the form of occult knowledge that is activated by will, desire, confidence, and optimism that all things are possible, though it’s unknown how many material keys of this nature were created in the Earth dimension (Randolph Carter may not have found the only one). It would also be interesting to know if Peter actually retained a physical key after leaving the Dreamlands at the end of this story, or if the guardian’s statement to “keep the key…don’t lose it again” was actually a symbolic statement urging the boy to never lose the youthful confidence, optimism, and idealism that allows someone to access the Dreamlands and always leave them safely afterwards, all of these traits encompassing a certain type of mystical and metaphysical knowledge that the key personifies and symbolizes.
I would like to once again encourage other creative mythographers with an interest in Lovecraft and the Dreamlands to seek out and read the three Peter Hypnos stories (they are well worth it!) and to do further research on this possible intriguing connection between the “Tales of Peter Hypnos” series and Lovecraftian elements.
Upon consultation via e-mail with my friend and colleague in creative mythography, Crazy Ivan Schablotski, he had the following words to say about this series taking place in the WNU:
It does indeed sound like a Dreamlands occurence surrounded Peter's early years. Oz and Narnia stories often have people accidentally stumble into the magical realms in ways that have little to do with where they are or what they were doing, and practically never reproducably, in that the travelers themselves cannot reproduce the efforts to travel to or from Earth by retracing their steps [though it's possible that the silver key(s) provides an occult means of doing so--CN]. Peter may not have anything inherent connecting him to this other world, aside from that other world's 'desire' to bring him back (such as what seemed to happen to Alice in the recent live action "Alice In Wonderland").
It may be interesting to note that in addition to the DARK TOWER series, King wrote a short story in which a woman with a knack for taking crazy shortcuts was discovered to actually be driving on paths that didn't exist for other people, paths that went through woodlands no one in the area had ever seen that were populated by creatures akin to giant insects. While I do not remember the name of the story or the name of the woman, I do recall that she eventually went on one of her drives and simply never returned, assumed to have become lost, intentionally or not, in that other world [which correlates with the many people in the Dreamland realms whom Peter Hypnos encountered that appear to have been born on Earth but been trapped in those other realms, apparently eventually becoming part of these otherwordly realities--CN].
It seems likely to me that there are people that have connections to the Dreamlands, most likely these people have ancestors who were part of that world(s) at one time. It is these people that tend to accidentally slip through the weaker barriers between the universes, like particles of dust passing through an air filter that the majority of dust motes simply cannot pass through (unless the openings become larger).
It is also worth noting that the CALL OF CTHULHU RPG [role-playing game] relates that the general level of society / technology within the Dreamlands is approximately 100 years behind that of the modern "real" world, with that range varying plus or minus 50 years, in general (though always and eternally pre-industrial). This means that the Victorian attire observed by Peter Hypnos is perfectly in keeping with this "standardized" view of H.P. Lovecraft's Dreamlands, even if the stories took place after the 1939 release of "The Wizard of Oz."
As to the Silver Keys, yes I think that this constitutes a crossover. Randolph Carter's key was supposedly created by a relative (grandfather?) who often traveled to the Dreamlands via dreaming, as young Randolph did himself. This key may have been a Key of Knowledge, which the relative had inscribed with mystic symbols to allow it to transport the user from Earth to the Dreamlands, while the nature of the Key of Knowledge appears to be focused purely on traveling To Earth from the Dreamlands. Also, Lovecraft fiction makes use of strange music and paintings as a means to access otherworldly realms (though not necessarily the Dreamlands), so this fairly well sets this series within the HPL Mythos Universe, if not the Warrenverse.
Jay Lindsey weighed in with the following:
"Jack Sawyer, the protagonist of two novels by Stephen King and Peter Straub, possesses the ability to travel between parallel realities, much like Peter Hypnos seems to do.
"Likewise, another King character, Father Callahan, who first appeared in SALEM'S LOT, later reappears in the DARK TOWER books, having learned to travel the 'highways in hiding' that lead to other realities.
"And if we're talking precocious kids who keep finding their ways into alternate realities, it would be interesting if there was a familial connection between Peter [Hypnos], Alice Liddell, and Jack Sawyer. Or even Calvin, from 'Calvin & Hobbes,' whose 'fantasy' worlds were occasionally hinted at being something more?"
In regards to the Stephen King story described above by Crazy Ivan, Jay clarified, "That's 'Mrs. Todd's Shortcut,' found in the collection SKELETON CREW. One especially interesting bit is that every time Mrs. Todd uses one of her shortcuts, she sheds some age and becomes a little younger..."
Many thanks to Crazy Ivan and Jay for providing these observational anecdotes. Further, it's nice to see that another creative mythographer agrees that Peter Hypnos' story "The Silver Key" likely constitutes a crossover with Lovecraft's fiction, the latter of which is one of the cornerstones of the WNU. I also amended other things in this index after some input from Ivan, including the time period where I have guessed this series took place, and it's Ivan's opinion that this serial occurred someplace in Eastern Europe, specifically in one of the more remote areas.
Time Frame: Once again, there is no clear way to determine how much time passed between the last story and this one, or if Peter had other exploits into the Dreamlands in between them that have yet to be recorded. However, since this story was said to occur in the spring, and the second story also seemed to occur during a warm period when school was still in session, it’s my working theory that all three of these stories occurred between April of one school year and early June of either that year or the following year, since Peter didn’t seem too much older between the stories.