The top five ''Lost'' theories. From purgatory to hallucination, EW explores it all
Credit: Lost: Mario Perez

Like no show since The X-Files, Lost has inspired its fan base to become conspiracy-hunting, code-cracking sleuths hoping to find the Big Answer that explains the show. (They’re currently playing the summertime Internet game The Lost Experience, which producers say reveals even more secrets about the Hanso Foundation.) We sifted through dozens of theories and ran five popular possibilities past Lost‘s producers and cast.


SYNOPSIS Oceanic flight 815 crashed. Everyone died. Some went to heaven, others to hell. The rest wound up in a dangerous purgatory, where they must work toward paradise — or risk tumbling into the inferno.
EVIDENCE FOR Everyone seems to have something for which they need to atone. So why would purgatory look like a Tahitian resort? Well, in the famous afterlife cosmology sketched by Dante, purgatory’s highest point is the Garden of Eden.
EVIDENCE AGAINST Lost doesn’t conform cleanly to any conventional explanation of purgatory. As for a more generalized application of the concept…well, that would be lame.
WHAT THEY SAY Debunked! Says Lindelof: ”We have said that this is not purgatory, but people don’t want to believe it…. These human beings have hearts, and when those hearts stop beating, they are dead.”


SYNOPSIS Reality on the island isn’t exactly ”real.” To boot: All characters are aspects of one person (usually attributed to Jack or potentially supernatural characters like Hurley and Walt); or everyone is still on the plane trying to survive massive turbulence by escaping into a mass delusion.
EVIDENCE FOR Hallucinations would neatly explain many things, like Walt’s comic book polar bear and appearances by Jack’s dad and Kate’s horse. Also, conspicuous lit references like An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge suggest that not everything is what it seems…
EVIDENCE AGAINST …or they could be red herrings, or serve another curious purpose. Also, Hurley’s imaginary-friend episode, ”Dave,” seemed to actually disprove hallucination theories. Besides, ”It’s all a dream” would have to be done brilliantly not to be a total cliché. And is Lost really going to rip off Dallas?
WHAT THEY SAY Debunked! (Sorta.) Carlton Cuse says that any hallucination theory that denies life-and-death stakes on the island isn’t valid: ”You can’t invest in the show if you think it’s bulls—.”


SYNOPSIS The most famous Internet theory argues that psychics are influencing the castaways for mysterious and possibly good reasons. British fan Andrew Smith’s hypothesis is that the Dharma Initiative, as part of a sci-fi scheme to engineer war-free utopia, cultivated a group of superhuman beings (which may include some of the castaways) capable of wielding the island’s electromagnetic energy.
EVIDENCE FOR Check it out for yourself at There are even cool illustrations.
EVIDENCE AGAINST Smith’s theory — while inspired and well-researched — leans heavily on details from the orientation film. And as the May 10 episode suggested, Lost-ologists should reconsider the truthfulness of said film. Heck: Is Alvar Hanso even a real dude?
WHAT THEY SAY ”Incredibly imaginative, and obviously written by someone who watches very carefully,” says Lindelof. ”But like all great closing arguments, it doesn’t incorporate any moments from the show that wildly contradict it.”