"The Lost Room"- An Overlooked Brilliant TV Series

Don't miss this exciting adventure, with a little quantum mechanics thrown in for good measure.
Marcia Wendorf

Every once in a while, something remarkable appears on TV. In 2002, it was "The Wire" written by David Simon. In 2019, it was "Chernobyl", which was written by Craig Mazin."

Back in 2006, an amazing series appeared on the SyFy Channel, which was then known as the Sci Fi Channel, and few people have ever heard of it. "The Lost Room", written by Christopher Leone, Laura Harkcom and Paul Workman, premiered on December 11, 2006.


The series starred Peter Krause of "Six Feet Under" and "Parenthood" fame, as Detective Joe Miller, Juliana Margulies of "ER" and "The Good Wife," and a host of outstanding supporting actors including Peter Jacobson, Dennis Christopher, Chris Bauer, Elle Fanning and Kevin Pollak.

What is "The Lost Room?"

"The Lost Room" is a mind-bending excursion surrounding a now non-existent room, Room #10, in a seedy motel outside Gallup, New Mexico. At 1:20:44 p.m. on May 4, 1961, "The Event" or "The Incident" happened, and it erased the room and all of its contents from our time and space.

At the time of "The Incident", Room #10 was occupied by a man and those of his belongings that were common in 1961. All those belongings have become "Objects", and each has a special and peculiar power when outside of "The Lost Room."

"The Lost Room"- An Overlooked Brilliant TV Series
"The Lost Room" Key Source: Internet Archive

The most important "Object" is "The Key", which is an old fashioned Niessen 612a motel room key with a fob stamped "Sunshine Motel" and "Room 10". "The Key" opens any hinged door that has a lock, and it turns that door into a portal to "The Lost Room." From that room, the key holder can exit to any location he or she wants, provided that that location also has a hinged door.

"The Lost Room"- An Overlooked Brilliant TV Series
"The Lost Room" Bus Ticket Source: Internet Archive

If the door to "The Lost Room" is closed while the "Key" is outside of the room, "The Lost Room" "resets", and anything in it that isn't an "Object" disappears. This, unfortunately, happens to Joe's young daughter, Anna, and it is his search for her that drives the rest of the series' action.

One of the  "Objects" is "The Occupant", a man who was staying in "The Lost Room" at the time of "The Incident". His name is Eddie McCleister, and he explains to Joe that there are many "Rooms", and that any "non-Object" that is left in "The Lost Room" is not erased, but continues to exist in another instance of "The Lost Room".

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"The Lost Room"- An Overlooked Brilliant TV Series
"The Lost Room" Clock Source: Internet Archive

This is one of the best explanations of quantum mechanics which puts forth two opposing interpretations of reality: The Many Worlds Interpretation and The Copenhagen Interpretation.

Both theories arise out of the famous double-slit experiment. When particles are fired through two slits and impact onto a screen, they display an interference pattern due to the peaks and the troughs of their waves either reinforcing or else canceling each other out.

"The Lost Room"- An Overlooked Brilliant TV Series
"The Lost Room" Comb Source: Internet Archive

However, if physicists place a detector just behind one of the slits, the interference pattern disappears, and the pattern on the screen is of two bars, with the particles behaving like particles and not waves.

According to The Copenhagen Interpretation, it is the measurement itself that causes the set of probabilities to assume only one value. This is best described by Erwin Schrodinger's famous thought experiment known as "Schrodinger’s Cat".

"The Lost Room"- An Overlooked Brilliant TV Series
"The Lost Room" Deck of Cards Source: Internet Archive

A cat is put in a box, and as a result of a random radioactive decay, poison is either released or it is not. While the box remains closed, we don't know if the radioactive decay has occurred, and the cat is said to be in a state of superposition, where it is both alive and dead.

However, when the box is opened, and the cat’s state is observed or measured, it is that observation that causes the cat to either be alive or dead. The observer is said to "collapse the probability wave function."

"The Lost Room"- An Overlooked Brilliant TV Series
"The Lost Room" Pen Source: Internet Archive

The Many Worlds Interpretation is based on the Schrodinger equation, which describes how probability waves evolve over time, and it provides the probability wave’s shape at any future time.

With this interpretation, measuring a quantum object does not force it into one state or another, but rather, the measurement causes an actual split in the universe, with a separate universe for each possible outcome of a measurement.

"The Lost Room"- An Overlooked Brilliant TV Series
"The Lost Room" Scissors Source: Internet Archive

In The Many Worlds Interpretation, all possible outcomes of quantum measurements are physically realized in some "world" or universe. That means that "The Occupant" is the only one who can retrieve things lost during a room "reset", including Joe's daughter.

The Objects

All of the "Objects", including "The Occupant", are aware of one another and attract each other. They also obey what "The Occupant" calls the law of "Conservation of Objects," which is similar to the First Law of Thermodynamics which states that the total energy of an isolated system remains constant; energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but can only be transformed or transferred from one form to another.

"The Lost Room"- An Overlooked Brilliant TV Series
"The Lost Room" Wedding Picture Source: Internet Archive

The law of "Conservation of Objects" means that if an "Object" is destroyed within "The Lost Room," a new "Object" will take the destroyed Object's place.

Besides the "Key", there are quite a few other Objects. Some of the more important ones are:

"Bus Ticket" A Yucca Transit Lines Ticket # 11560. When touched to a person's forehead, that person is immediately transported to U.S. Route 66 outside Gallup, New Mexico. The bus ticket originated in Willowbrook, Arizona, where Eddie McCleister lived with his wife before he was ripped out of time, and now she has no recollection of ever being married
"Clock" A Phinney-Walker brand folding alarm clock whose special power is turning brass into a gas when it is wound. Its hands are permanently frozen at 1:20:44, the exact time of "The Event"
"Comb" An Aristocrat Professional Ruler Hair Styling Comb whose special power is that it stops time for 10 seconds when its owner runs it through their hair. When combined with "The Key" and "The Watchbox", a user can step into an alternate dimension within Room #9 of the Sunshine Motel
"Deck of Cards" An Arrco brand deck that creates visions of the Sunshine Motel in people viewing the faces of the playing cards
"Glass Eye" Can heal or destroy living things. In its destruction mode, it turns people into dust
"Pen" It is printed with "Sunshine Motel", and it instantly microwaves both living things, which sustain severe burns, and electronics, which are short circuited
"The Pencil" Is a yellow number 2 pencil with a pink eraser. When the eraser tip is tapped against a solid surface, a 1961 U.S. penny is created. A lot of taps means a lot of pennies
"Polaroid Photos" While some photos lead to the location of a hidden vault, one special photo that when viewed while standing on the location of "The Lost Room" allows the viewer to see "The Lost Room" as it was before "The Incident"
"Quarter" A 1961 U.S. Liberty quarter which, when swallowed, temporarily brings a loved one back to life
"Scissors" Vintage Solingen scissors that rotate a target, such as a person, in three dimensions
"Wedding Photo" A 5" × 7" photo of "The Occupant", Eddie McCleister, and his wife, the former Mabel Smith, who 45 years later has no recollection of ever being married even though on the back of the photo in Mabel's writing are the words: "Summer 1959"
"The Wristwatch" A vintage 1950's Bulova 17-jewel watch with a sunburst dial that when combined with the "Knife" grants telepathy. It also hard boils an egg when placed within the band, which is a handy feature if you're hungry.

The Cabals

If instant hard-boiled eggs aren't your thing, "The Lost Room" series also has "Cabals". These are groups that seek the "Objects", and there are three of them. "The Collectors", who were led by the former manager of the Sunshine Motel, have hidden their most important Objects in a vault.

"The Legion" seeks only to keep the "Objects" from causing harm, and they try to follow ethical standards when collecting Objects. "The Order of the Reunification" believes that the "Objects" are pieces of God, and that they must be reunited in order for man to communicate with God. Their ethical standards are quite questionable.

The Creators

The brains behind "The Lost Room" are Christopher Leone, Paul Workman and Laura Harkcom. Leone and Workman came up with some of the concepts while working together in the library at Carnegie Mellon University. Workman came up with the idea of teleporting into a hotel room and to a strange city.

Leone had ideas about secret societies existing just below the surface of our everyday life, and it was Harkcom who suggested putting Leone's and Workman's ideas together, the result of which was "The Lost Room."

Possibly because of the way the series was originally aired — three two-hour episodes three nights in a row just before the Christmas holiday — "The Lost Room" never caught on with viewers, and a Season 2 never happened, much to the disappointment of "The Lost Room's" legions of fans.

Today, you can stream "The Lost Room" for free on The Internet Archive, TubiTV, the Roku Channel and Amazon Prime.. The DVD is also available on Amazon.

Pull down the blinds, turn off your phone, tell your friends and family you've gone out of town, then sit down to almost six hours of the amazing adventure that is "The Lost Room." You won't be disappointed.

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