A History of the Infinity Room

James Tadd Adcox

1 The Infinity Room was constructed in 1985.

2 To say that the Infinity Room was constructed in 1985 is clearly a mistake; it stretches infinitely; the idea of its being constructed within any precisely definable period of time is unimaginable.

3 It is located thirty-five miles from Madison — a distance near enough as to be disconcertingly close to “real life.”

4 It is impossible to continue past a certain point in the Infinity Room, though not because the Room itself stops. It does, however, narrow — the further the Room stretches, the narrower it gets, until it appears to vanish, far off in the distance. (On this point, see Appendix, §1.)

5 The visible length of the Infinity Room is generally held to be just over 39 meters (128 feet).

6 There is no center.

7 The Infinity Room moves, slightly but perceptibly, under one’s weight as one walks through it. (Appendix, §2)

8 About Alex Jordan, Jr., the room’s designer, little is known. He was an intensely private man, “a shadowy figure as reclusive as the late multi-millionaire Howard Hughes,” according to his (unauthorized) biographer Marv Balousek. (Although see Appendix, §3.)

9 Balousek speculates, perhaps unfairly, on Jordan’s arrested sexual development, likening him to “a pre-pubescent boy fascinated by women’s nipples and bathroom jokes.”

10 Both Balousek and, later, Doug Moe (whose work was authorized and, indeed, encouraged by Jordan’s estate), tell of a meeting between Jordan’s father, Alex Jordan, Sr., and architect Frank Lloyd Wright, at “an unspecified time apparently between 1914 and 1923.” After looking over Jordan Sr.’s architectural designs, Wright is supposed to have remarked: “I wouldn’t hire you to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop. You’re not capable.”

11 The Room is often understood as a deliberate affront to Wright’s work, though Wright had been dead for many years by the time of its construction.

12 “Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable …”

13 It should be noted that Sid Boyum, the source of this story in both the Balousek and Moe biographies, was well-known locally as an inveterate liar.

14 At a point circa twenty-nine meters from the entrance to the Infinity Room, just before the room becomes so small as to impede further progress, there is a glass panel set in the floor. The ground is several hundred feet below. Through the panel one can see the tops of trees.

The intense vertigo inspired by the panel comes not from the distance to the ground beneath one’s feet, but rather from how meaningless that distance appears in comparison to the infinite stretch of the Room.

15 According to one commentator, the Room represents “the most brutally direct incarnation of the labyrinth myth … The Minotaur to be found waiting at its center is Endlessness itself (by which the hero, in his mortality, is consumed) …” (Appendix, §5; in addition, cf. footnote 6.)

16 In Book 11 of the Confessions, Augustine distinguishes the ideas of endlessness and eternity: that which is within time but continues forever (and thus may have a beginning but no end), and that which is prior to and outside of time (which therefore cannot be said to have a beginning). The Infinity Room can be entered from one end; being endless, there is no opposite end (though some, particularly those who believe the Room infinitely approaches a specific point [Appendix §1], posit the existence of a “theoretical” end, useful mathematically if unreachable in fact. (On the nature of the [or an] “opposite end,” see Appendix, §6.)

17 A photograph, taken shortly after the construction of the Infinity Room, shows a fir tree, planted or otherwise set near the Room’s “tip” (that is, the point at which the Room becomes so small as to vanish from sight; cf. footnote 5). The sight is impossible, magical. It is not uncommon for visitors to weep before the photograph, which hangs just before the Room’s entrance.

More recent photographs show that the tree has disappeared, likely blown off during a storm. (Regarding the construction of the Infinity Room, cf. footnote 2, above.)


§1. There is some debate as to the exact nature of the Infinity Room’s endlessness. Does it infinitely approach a specific point — that is, is there a point past which the Infinity Room does not extend, though it grows infinitely smaller as it approaches that point? Or does it extend forever, and only appear to vanish past a certain point? Though the latter case might seem, at first, to be the less probable of the two, bear in mind that matter has a lower limit — although physical structures can be very small, they cannot, as far as we know, be infinitely small. Infinite length, by contrast, is possible, if unlikely (cf. footnote 12).

§2. Of course, there is no walking through it, or not entirely — the Room continues, endless.

§3. What is known: Jordan kept a residence in Madison. He never spent a single night in either the Room or the house to which it is attached, though he drove from Madison to visit it nearly every day of his adult life (cf. footnote 3). He was convicted of extortion in 1939, for a plot in which a female friend lured wealthy businessmen to her apartment for sexual intercourse while Jordan photographed the acts with infrared film. His longest relationship was with “Miss Jennie,” Jennifer Olson, his companion of fifty years (they never married). He was born March 3rd, 1914, in Madison, and died in the same city, November 6th, 1989. Aside from his daily trips to the monstrosity of a house to which the Room was attached, he did not like to travel.

§4. But are there other entrances to the Infinity Room — entrances too far for us to ever reach?

§5. Visitors to the Infinity Room often report dreaming, afterwards, of walking towards the “far end” of the Room, growing ever smaller as the Room narrows, until finally they reach a certain distance, which they know, in the logic of the dream, to be the halfway point of their lives; then turning, and walking once more towards the entrance, knowing that they will die just as they reach its threshold …

§6. Certain theorists hold that, past a certain point, the Infinity Room begins once more to expand. What lies beyond this point is a matter of pure speculation, of course. One popular version is the “periodic model”: an Infinity Room that steadily expands and contracts along its infinite length (and, thus, across the infinite reaches of the universe). More radical, however, is the “non-periodic” version of this belief: an Infinity Room that, past a certain point, expands forever. It is possible, even likely, such adherents argue, that there are entire universes contained within the unreachable expanses of the Infinity Room.

Others, however, maintain that it is a mistake to believe that there is any end to the Infinity Room on either side; which is to say, they believe that the Infinity Room stretches infinitely in both directions. What we take to be the “entrance” to the Infinity Room is therefore an illusion (cf. footnote 17): There is no escaping the Infinity Room. We have been in it our entire lives.