Netflix just debuted its latest big-budget comic book adaptation, Locke & Key. Based on the popular horror comic books from writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez, Locke & Key revolves around the Locke family and their supernatural home, Keyhouse. Keyhouse is home to numerous mystical keys that grant incredible abilities, but only to those clever and diligent enough to find them.
Now that Season 1 has arrived, it seems like the perfect time to explore the various keys in the series and the powers they bestow. We’re not going to touch on every one of the several dozen keys in the comic, but only the ones likely to play an important role in the early seasons.
Note – all comic book artwork is drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez and featured in Locke & Key: Guide to the Known Keys #1.
The Rules of the Keys
First things first, there are certain rules that govern how the keys work and who can access them. The keys are powerful artifacts, and it wouldn’t do for just anyone to stumble across one and unleash its power. Fortunately, the keys are forged from an enchanted metal called Whispering Iron that calls out to specific people.
As actor Connor Jessup explained to IGN, it requires a certain degree of childlike innocence to be able to hear the call of the keys. “At the beginning of the show, only Bode can hear them, and he’s the one who finds all of them. They’re hidden in all these weird little nooks and crannies around the house. And then as the show goes on, I guess the responsibility moves up the ladder. Tyler and Kinsey start being able to hear them.”
That willingness to embrace magic as a normal, everyday occurrence is something that fades with age, leading to a very interesting phenomenon in the Locke & Key universe. Almost no adults over the age of 18 can sense the existence of magic or comprehend the power of the keys. Even if they knew about the keys as children, they’ve forgotten as adults.
The TV series makes a slight alteration to that rule, however. Actress Darby Stanchfield said, “The TV show is slightly different in that that is true, with the exception that if the adult is on any sort of mind-altering substance – alcohol, drugs, any medication – they can suddenly see the magic.”
Stanchfield continued, “It’s the circumstances that [Nina’s] in that eventually pushes her over the edge in terms of this mysterious death of her husband and the isolation building, and what was so fun about exploring the magic once Nina does start drinking and sees the magic was she still doesn’t really know. Like, she thinks it’s real, but she checks with Kindsey.”
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However, it’s not just any child who can hear the call of the keys. They have a unique connection to the Locke family, one that isn’t entirely revealed by the of Season 1. Jessup told us, “This is part of the mystery of the show that’s not totally resolved by the end of the season. It’s not a total coincidence that this is happening to us. The keys have a long and complicated history with the Locke family, going back generations. So there is like our blood is in these keys and this house.”
The Ghost Key
The Ghost Key is the first key to appear in the comic and the first one that comes into play in the Netflix series, too. Not all keys are tied to specific doors in Keyhouse, but the Ghost Key is designed to unlock the power of the Ghost Door. When the wielder opens the door and passes through, their soul is ripped out of their body and they become an invisible ghost free to roam the Keyhouse grounds to their heart’s content. Once that door is opened, others can also walk through and also become disembodied ghosts. The Ghost Key quickly becomes a favorite plaything of Bode Locke.
The Ghost Key does pose certain dangers, unfortunately. A ghost’s living body is left defenseless and comatose, and it’s possible for a ghost to inhabit another person’s body other than their own. Also, if the door is shut while you’re a ghost, then your body will remain dead and you’ll be stuck as a ghost. But there’s a plus side. As a ghost, you can fly around, spy on others, and talk to the ghosts of those who died on the Keyhouse grounds.
The Head Key
The Head Key doesn’t unlock a single door, but rather opens up a person’s mind. Literally. In the comics, it can be inserted into the base of the skull, causing that person’s skull to open and make all their thoughts, emotions and memories visible for others to see. Those thoughts and memories can even be removed from the head, causing the person to instantly forget the corresponding memory. As you might expect, that can be either a good or bad thing, depending on the circumstances.
The Netflix series represents the power of the Head Key in a different way. Rather than allowing people to view the literal inner content of a person’s mind like peering into a fishbowl, the show’s version of the Head Key spawns a door with personal significance to the person (like the door to their old family home or their favorite place to shop) that characters can walk inside to explore. Inside, it’s essentially a massive library where all thoughts and memories are cataloged and stored. Just like no two people are alike, the inside of each person’s head varies wildly depending on their life experiences and perception of the world.
The Locke kids figure out a few tricks, as well. If you put a book inside your head, then you instantly gain all of the information inside. Emotions and memories can also be taken out of your head, which can have a profound impact on the person. You could go into someone’s head and make them lose their memory by literally taking their memories out of their head. Or you could go inside your own head and remove your fear so you will no longer be afraid. But of course meddling with someone’s mind this way often has unforeseen consequences.
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The Identity Key
The Identity Key is one of several cases where the Netflix series is blazing its own trail rather than sticking to the source material. The Identity Key doesn’t exist in the comics, but seems to be a rough composite of two existing keys – the Gender Keys (which allows the user to swap their biological sex when passing through the corresponding door) and the Skin Key (which allows the user to select from one of seven skin colors).
The Identity Key is similar but far more powerful, allowing the user to adopt an entirely different identity. Dodge uses it in much the same way she does the Gender Key in the comic, transforming into Lucas Caravaggio and other identities as needed.
The Mirror Key
The Mirror Key is another artifact created specifically for the Netflix series, as well as being one of the first keys to appear. This key can be used in a mirror, unlocking a dimension called the Prison of the Self. Nina finds herself trapped in that limbo, but fortunately she’s spared the fate of others who died trying to find a way out.
The Echo Key
The Echo Key unlocks the door to the Wellhouse on the Keyhouse grounds, a structure very important to early chapters of the comic, and one that appears in the trailer for the Netflix series. The Echo Key can be used to bring a spirit from the realm of the dead back to the living world, though once that spirit passes through the Wellhouse door, they’re banished back to oblivion. As we see in Season 1, Ellie used the Echo Key to try and resurrect Lucas Caravaggio, but only succeeded in summoning the demonic Dodge and tethering her to the Wellhouse.
The Anywhere Key
The Anywhere Key is pretty much exactly what the name suggests. This key allows the user to travel anywhere in the world they can picture in their mind, so long as they can clearly imagine the door they want to walk through. Even better, it’s not linked to a specific door and can be inserted into any keyhole. Unfortunately, the very useful key quickly falls into Dodge’s hands in the series, allowing her to escape the Wellhouse and begin tormenting the Locke family.
The Music Box Key
The Music Box Key is easily one of the most powerful keys in the series. This key unlocks a corresponding music box that, when played, hypnotizes all listeners into doing the owner’s bidding. That spell lasts so long as the listener continues to hear the music box play. It comes into play in Season 1, as Kinsey uses it to get revenge against a bully. Hopefully she learned her lesson and this key won’t fall into more sinister hands.
The Shadow Key
The Shadow Key unlocks a secret door in the basement of Keyhouse. That door leads to the Chamber of Living Shadows, a room which houses a powerful artifact called the Crown of Shadows. The crown allows the user to control ghostly entities called Living Shadows, with the form of those shadows varying depending on the personality of the user. The Crown of Shadows winds up playing a big part in Season 1, with the Locke family forced to battle against Dodge’s Living Shadow minions. Though as our heroes discover, the shadows are extremely vulnerable to light.
The Omega Key
The Omega Key is perhaps the most mysterious and powerful of the many keys in Keyhouse. It was also the first of these artifacts ever created. The Omega Key serves only one purpose – to unlock the Omega Door. Rendell Locke once unlocked that door, only to unleash demonic horrors upon the world.
After Bode discovers the Omega Key hidden inside his father’s ashes, the Lockes are able to once again open the door and undo the damage their father caused. Sadly, Dodge is too crafty to be defeated so easily. And it’s just as well, because there wouldn’t be much of a show if the main villain were dealt with after one season.