Almost 250 years ago, Archibald Winter was out for his evening stroll when he discovered the first doors. Initially, Winter, a roofer by trade, was flummoxed by the fact the doors were, by all appearances, just floating in air. But we’ve gotten used to those sorts of things.
Winter may have been a roofer, but he was a man of many talents. After spotting the doors, he writes in his diary, he simply, “went through the first one.” He continues, “the world on the other side was, for as far as I could see, identical to the one here, yet felt different. I could walk back and forth between the door with my eyes closed and know which side—that is, this one or that, I was on.”
Nowadays, few of us even notice the doors, or the people who temporarily pop through them. Just the other day, I saw a confused woman clear a doorway while holding a donut, only to widen her eyes in fear and back through the door where she came. I didn’t bother to slow down from the rapid pace I was walking. I’d argue the only reason I even noticed was because I was doing research for this very article.
We haven’t learned much about the doors since Winter’s initial discovery. Scientists prodding and poking hasn’t gotten us anywhere, and Winter’s first act of walking through the door is the best form of testing we have even today. The doors go there, or they stay here sometimes, but it’s thought that perhaps even when they stay they have indeed gone somewhere. “A skewed plane,” the researchers like to call it, a term coined by Winter in his diary, “When you’re on the other side, everything is just a little bit different, the same, you know, but different, like a skewed plane, where you know you are wrong, but can’t say why you feel that way.”
Of his 56 years of life, 22 of them after the discovery of the doors. Winter traveled through the doors over 400 times. Yet his notes were never more complex than the first sentences he wrote after the first door. The discovery was enough to pull Winter away from roofing, at least, and the government was happy to set him up with a small financial stipend to cover his continued trips across the threshold of all the doors as they appeared.
When Winter died of a heart attack earlier this year, it felt like we’d lost one of the last great explorers. By the the time he died, Winter had tagged 943 doors across the world himself, though he’d only been able to walk through around half of those. According to the Threshold Binding Agency, TBA, which was created to track the doors as they appeared, 8,503 doors have appeared since Winter walked through his first door. Nine people have been lost after walking through them, 43 people emigrated here after the doors closed behind them, and four cats have wandered through the doors and never returned.
The next time you see those doors off in the distance, spare a thought for Winter and his pioneering spirit. And let’s not forget just how strange they truly are.