The TV show Lost was practically made with the intention to make all of its viewers feel exactly that: lost! The whole idea behind the show is that questions were introduced faster than anyone could find answers and that if you did manage to get an answer to a question, it only came with a dozen more questions! Fans and audience members really struggled to cope with never knowing what was going on within their favorite show, and the show actually managed to lose a lot of viewers due to its enigmatic nature. Even when the show ended, viewers were left with dozens of questions unanswered, which wound up infuriating a lot of people.
The point is that we were constantly questioning everything while watching Lost. When the writers gave us no answers to our questions, we started trying to figure them out for ourselves… “What is the smoke monster?” “Where did that foot statue come from?” “Who are the others?” “Why does Widmore care about the island?” “Why can’t Desmond leave the island?” We had so many questions that we started to guess what the answers could be.
Now, obviously, many of these theories have been proven wrong (we’ll point those ones out) — the show ended seven years ago, and many of these mysteries wound up being solved. But they’re just so entertaining that we had to share them with you! Here are 15 Lost fan theories that wound up making more sense than the show did itself:
15. Widmore and Psychic Marketing
Charles Widmore was a pretty vicious guy, but not nearly as vicious as this fan theory hypothesized. These fans believed that the plane crash wasn’t real and that the survivors had been, in a sense, brainwashed. Charles flew them to the island and made them believe they’d crashed to test out a new psychic marketing tactic he wanted to employ in his business endeavors. However, things went awry when the survivors met “the others,” who were Charles’s employees, and got even worse when the survivors found the pseudo-runway that the others had built. Additional clues that made this theory make sense included the brainwashing chamber and everyone’s trippy “hallucinations” that appeared to introduce reality in dream form. This theory was a cute one but was absolutely incorrect. It was formulated right around the time Widmore was introduced in Desmond’s flashbacks, so it was certainly creative given how little we knew about him — but still wrong!
Many fans thought of this theory at some point in time, and those who did thought that they had to be the most original fan out there for thinking it up all by themselves. But guess what: you were wrong. On so many levels. When the smoke monster was first introduced, everybody thought, “IT’S MADE OF NANOBOTS, NOT SMOKE!” at some point. But that would have been mega-lazy since Michael Crichton (a strong source of inspiration for the show) published a book about a cloud of nanobots about three years before. Damon Lindelof went on camera several times in interviews saying, “I don’t know how many times you can go on record saying that the black smoke is not made up of nanobots before you stop getting asked that question.” Fans thought it might be the writers trying to lead them astray and were insistent since it seemed the nanobots were taking pictures of Eko’s memories, but they were totally (obviously) wrong.
13. Dharma Created the Smoke Monster
This theory was obviously proven false as soon as John Locke revealed himself as the Man in Black in Disguise at the end of season five — and then, at the beginning of season 6, when Smokey the monster destroyed everyone in sight. But back before then, like way back in season two, there was a theory that The Dharma Initiative was using the island as a sort of redemption recycling plant: they wanted to sort through newcomers to find the damaged and broken people, then try to bring them back from their messed up ways. The Smoke Monster was invented by them as a measure of quality control: to determine just how corrupted they were and if they were worthy of Dharma’s efforts. It was an incorrect theory, but it was a really good one — especially after the episode where Eko is confronted by the monster, only to be left alone.
12. Two Smoke Monsters?
So we know that the smoke monster is actually The Man in Black (aka, Cerberus) going into a metaphysical form in order to terrorize people who might side with Jacob or impede his eventual goals of escaping the island, putting out the light at the center of the island, and creating chaos in the world. But that doesn’t really explain all of Cerberus’s actions earlier in the show… like, why did he go after Juliet and Kate in season three? He’d need Kate on his side to get off the island, and Juliet meant nothing to him. This fan theory posited that there were actually TWO smoke monsters: a benevolent Cerberus, trying to win the survivors over, and a malevolent one trying to kill off good islanders… like THE DEVIL! It would certainly explain a lot of the weird stuff the smoke monster did, but that can all really be chalked up to the writers needing a convenient suspenseful event.
11. Lost Takes Place in the Distant Future
Alright, this theory was also proven false, but bear with us a moment because it’s a really intricate one. Fans made this theory about a year after the show released: the plane crashes, like usual, and everyone on board dies. The crash is salvaged, and those that we know had their bodies and brains put in ice. Then, decades and centuries later, those brains are brought back and the survivors awaken. This futuristic society decides they’ll endure less trauma assimilating to their new world if they’re introduced to it slowly via events on the island, rather than waking up Captain America-style. We’re not entirely sure that’s true, but whatever… And we also question how a lot of this “futuristic” stuff is so old, like hatches from the 1970s and wooden ships from the 1800s. So clearly, this is all false… but it might have made an interesting story if they could have made the futuristic stuff look cool and sound believable.
10. The Man in Black Took Over Aaron’s Body
So you know how The Man in Black is good at jumping into the skins of the recently deceased? He does so with Christian Shephard, and then he manages to do it again with John Locke. But what if those aren’t the only two victims he had? Some fans theorize that Claire needed to be more watchful of her baby because when the plane crashed, her baby died while in utero. There, the Man in Black took over his baby body before he was even born. He did everything he could to escape the island, but when he did, he found he wasn’t able to be truly free because Jacob was still alive, and the light on the island hadn’t gone out. So he has to return to the island — he jumps into Jeremy Bentham’s corpse and waits until the body is back on the island to reanimate. A really trippy theory — but perhaps one that could hold some truth to it?
9. Walt’s Purpose
Remember Walt from seasons one and two (and then his random appearances later in the series)? Remember how he had some sort of supernatural powers? He definitely had a weird thing with birds going on, like every time he got angry, birds would flock to him in a suicidal manner. What was up with that? We never got an answer! Well, some fans had a theory: that he would grow up to rule the island. Well, if you saw the post-season 6 DVD extra, Walt may still go on to do just that. But others thought that Walt would grow up to become Lance Reddick, Widmore’s assistant who was very knowledgeable about the island. Well, that didn’t happen — though it would’ve been really cool. Maybe he could take on that sort of role in the future of the Lost universe, but we’ll never know unless they make some Lost spin-off sequel (we’re looking at you, Netflix)…
8. Pregnancy on Island
One of the unanswered questions at the end of the day was why women that got pregnant on the island never survived their term. We discover that whatever went wrong likely happened after The Incident that occurred in 1977 (Ethan was born on the island, so whatever went wrong happened after his birth). Well, some fans have a theory: the Dharma Initiative was selective in who could come to the island before The Incident, and they were likely even more selective afterward. Then, when Ben took over management, NO ONE new came to the island, except the occasional recruit like Juliet (and she was a rare case, if you remember). So the genetic pool was shrinking more and more with each passing year. This can cause a lot of problems with pregnancies, including being able to carry a baby to term. This is why Claire and Sun had no problems (because they were from off the island), but every other woman on Juliet’s table died — a potentially true theory, though we think the genetic pool needed to stew another couple of generations to get that muddied.
7. The Time Loop Theory
Alright, hold on to your seats: this theory is about to get mad intricate and scientific on you. Heads up: it’s wrong, so don’t be thinking you have to understand this theory to understand the show. BUT it might have been a popular alternative to what wound up happening. So let’s say that the incident at the Dharma Swan Station causes some tie between the button pushing and time. Ben and Richard rig it so that every 108 minutes, when the button is pushed, the island goes back in time 108 minutes. So the island is stuck in this time loop that originated sometime in the ’90s or so, explaining why Locke gains his ability to walk and women are unable to carry babies, etc. But when the button ceases being pushed, weird things happen as time progresses as usual. It would explain why people like Richard don’t age… but leaves out so many key details that it’s not believable.
6. The Show Was All About Desmond & Penny
This one might be one of our favorite fan theories because, in a way, it was kind of correct. This theory suggests that none of the other survivors or events matter at all — this story is all about Desmond and Penny’s arc. It kind of makes sense in a way: Penny’s father Charles is the one that inspires Desmond to make his sailing trip around the world, which eventually leads him to the island — fans argue that Charles did it intentionally to test if Desmond was a worthy partner for his daughter. Then Desmond eventually makes the plane crash by failing to push the button, Desmond brings the newbs to the hatch, Desmond gets the freighter to come to the island, then Penny saves the Oceanic 6 and Desmond from the island, but then Desmond returns to the island and dies fighting to protect all those back home. Perhaps it’s not the true drive of the story, but… the theory isn’t wrong either.
We don’t know how many times we can say it. LOST WAS NOT PURGATORY, IT NEVER WAS PURGATORY, AND NO PART OF IT INCLUDED PURGATORY! Sure, a lot of fans will argue with us here and claim that the “flash-sideways” in season six was purgatory and that the passengers had been dead all along. (We remind you that everything that happened on the island — and off the island, when people escaped — really did happen in the world of the show.) When they all died in their own times, their spirits convened in some spiritual place between life and whatever comes next. BUT THAT IS NOT PURGATORY! Purgatory, as defined by the Catholic church, is where people who aren’t pure enough to go to heaven endure punishments for their sins — sort of like a temporary version of hell…
Furthermore, THE ISLAND WAS NOT HELL — though some fans posited that The Dharma Initiative found a way to reach hell and study it, which caused a big problem in Hell having access to Earth. The theory seemed plausible to some fans; this version of hell was made real and tangible and gave people hope coupled with disappointment, gain coupled with immeasurable loss. It would explain why new life couldn’t be brought onto the island (because they were all already in a plane of the dead). It would also explain why these characters were constantly stuck in flashbacks of their past, reliving some of their most painful, shameful, and embarrassing moments. But it wouldn’t explain how people were able to leave hell or what happened when somebody died in hell? Would they go to heaven? Nikki and Paulo sure didn’t seem heaven-bound, so where did they go? There were too many holes in the theory!
3. Garden of Eden
Once more, then we’ll get off of the religious heaven-hell-purgatory nonsense. While some fans thought that the fans were living in a version of hell, others believed that they had actually crashed onto the original Garden of Eden. In the Bible, the Garden of Eden is where Adam and Eve are created (remember when the skeletons are found in the episode “House of the Rising Sun,” and the survivors dub them Adam and Eve?) and then shunned from after sinning and bringing corruption into the garden. Well, some believed that these survivors found it again — it looked like a total paradise, but the black smoke represented the corruption the predecessors wrought. It was an interesting theory, for sure, one that kind of makes sense! After all, there are TONS of references to the book of Genesis in the series. But we’re sure a story like this couldn’t have been sustained beyond 2 seasons, maximum.
2. Everything Was a Messed Up Game
This theory was absolutely correct, except for a few minor details. It also totally belittled the roles of the main cast in the final story and gave Jacob and The Man in Black a bit too much credit. Remember when Jacob brought the boat carrying Richard Alpert to the island? The Man in Black and Jacob spend the episode trying to win over Richard’s loyalties and soul, Jacob eventually prevailing. So what if the entire series is really essentially that: a game or competition in which the two are competing, and the survivors that we all know and love are just pawns and chess pieces? Jacob doesn’t care if he loses his Eko pawn piece somewhere in the game as long as the king piece, Jack, is kept safe. In essence, this theory is kind of true — but it robs the characters of the power of agency, which is what Jacob tells all his followers is most important. Having the choice to do something or not do it is what life is all about, and his only chance at winning the game is to hope his case is strong enough that his followers choose him.
1. The Light at the Center of the Island
THIS IS OUR FAVORITE THEORY, one that could potentially still be true and make EVERYTHING make so much more sense! That light at the center of the island, you know, the one Desmond and Jack died to protect — it was shrouded in mystery like this natural phenomenon that was somehow important but none of us really understood why. You know what it is? TIME. Jacob’s mother says that the light is something everyone has some of, but everyone always lusts for more of. The show emphasized the role of time a lot, with pendulums, hourglasses, digital clocks, metronomes, and watches — CONSTANTLY. We’re also constantly observing how time rules us all with flashbacks, flash-forwards, and even flash-sideways to sorts of parallel dimensions (what some people posit “heavenly” experiences may amount to). If The Man in Black puts out this light, he extinguishes time for everyone everywhere, and the world as we know it ends. But if it’s protected, time goes on for us all. IT ALL MAKES SENSE.