THE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO HOUSE OF LEAVES

Welcome to The Idiot's Guide to House of Leaves!

Below you will find the beginnings of a never to be finished work in progress.  We've given up hope of a Compleat Idiot's Guide and suggest that you turn your attention next to http://www.houseofleaves.com/ for more details about this labyrinthine work. The questions are below in black text, the answers,
however, will only be revealed if you highlight the text with your mouse. This way, if you have a specific question that you are stumped with, you can read the answer for yourself, but if you are trying to unlock the mysteries within the House of Leaves text for yourself, it won't be ruined by looking over these pages.

For example:
Who wrote the novel House of Leaves?
The true author of the novel is Mark Z. Danielewski, however the novel credits Zampano and Johnny Truant as its authors. (Both Zampano and Johnny Truant are characters created by Mark Z. Danielewski, at least we THINK they are!)

Okay, now that we've got that example out of the way, the first thing we're going to address is the original House of Leaves contest that ran on iUniverse's website during the serialization of the novel back in March, 2000. The winners of the contest (the author of this website is one of them) received autographed copies of the novel as prizes!

The 21 question contest has puzzled many who have come across its path, and also gives a lot of details into some of the secrets contained within the pages of House of Leaves.

1. In which film does a character called Zampano figure prominently?
La Strada
For further information see:
http://www.angelfire.com/movies/davidsmovies/fellini.html
http://www.austinchronicle.com/gbase/Calendar/Film?Film=oid%3A138609

2. Johnny Truant gets a lot of things right in the introduction. On page xx, what does he get wrong?
The Works of Hubert How Bancroft, Volume XXVIII DOES exist, it's actually the second volume of Bancroft's "History of the North-West Coast", originally published in 1884. The edition shown on page 658 is a second edition copy, which seems to have been borrowed from the Beverly Hills Public Library.
For further information see:
http://www.bartleby.com/227/0827.html

3. The author's name can be found somewhere between footnotes 24-45. Where?
His name appears as the first letter of the first word in footnotes 27-42: 27 Michelle 28 A 29 Rita 30 Kellor 31 Zampano 32 Declared 33 And 34 Neatly 35 In 36 Easily 37 Look 38 Edith 39 Walter 40 Something 41 Know 42 In

4. Describe Chad and Daisy's nightlight.
A model of the Starship Enterprise

5. How did Johnny Truant's father die?
He was the passenger in a Mack truck that swerved into a ditch and caught fire when the driver fell asleep at the wheel. The driver of the truck survived, unfortunately, Donnie, Mr. Truant's father, did not.

6. At the end of footnote 77, Johnny Truant approximates a Latin phrase. What is it?
"non sum qualis eram" (I am not as I used to be). Johnny tried to approximate that into English:
Known = Non
some = sum
call + is = qualis
air + am = eram

7. Who is Gdansk Man?
Kyrie's boyfriend

8. The index says the word "spans" is on pages 294-296. Is it? If so, explain.
page 294: sn-
page 295: -a-
page 296: -ps
Put that together backwards

9. Where did Johnny Truant first meet Ashley?
Tex's (pg. 297)

10. In Chapter XVI both Dr. Mel O'Geery and Dr. Ogelmeyer are mentioned. How are they related?
MELOGEERY OGELMEYER
The same letters are used in both doctors' names.

11. In footnote 380, there is a mention of "ultrapure water" and The Super-Kamiokande Detector. What color best characterizes "Cherenkov Light"?
BLUE
For more information see:
http://hep.bu.edu/~superk/cherenkov.html

12. On page 399, the phrase "to wind something up" appears. Where have we seen this before and who said it?
pg. 118, footnote 141 said by Johnny Truant

13. On page 514, the band talks of the encoded appearance of "Thamyris" on page 387. If they're right, where exactly is it?
That house answers many yearnings remembered in sorrow
Check the letter at the beginning of each word

14. What lyric by Poe does Johnny Truant quote in Chapter XXI?
I live at the end of a five and a half minute hallway

15. How does the film mentioned in Question One end?
On a beach, just as it had begun

16. What does Zampano liken Prometheus to?
a book (pg. 546)

17. Who is Marine Man?
One of Johnny's foster fathers (pg. 92)

18. Where else does the phrase referred to in Question Six appear?
It appears fragmented on page 71.

19. What's Johnny Truant's mother's name?
Pelefina Heather Lievre

20. What does "Yggdrasil" mean?
Yggdrasil in norse mythology is an ash tree that supports the universe:
"A wondrous ash-tree, YGGDRASIL, supported the universe. It struck its roots through the worlds.

Three roots there are to Yggdrasil
Hel lives beneath the first.
Beneath the second the frost-giants,
And men beneath the third.

It is also said that "one of the roots goes up to Asgard." Beside this root was a well of white water, URDA'S WELL, so holy that none might drink of it. The three NORNS guarded it, who

Allot their lives to the sons of men,
And assign to them their fate.

The three were URDA (the Past), VERDANDI (the Present), and SKULD (the Future). Here each day the gods came, passing over the quivering rainbow bridge to sit beside the well and pass judgment on the deeds of men. Another well beneath the root was the WELL OF KNOWLEDGE, guarded by MIMIR the Wise.

Over Yggdrasil, as over Asgard, hung the threat of destruction. Like the gods it was doomed to die. A serpent and his brood gnawed continually at the root beside Niflheim, Hel's home. Some day they would succeed in killing the tree, and the universe would come crashing down." -"Mythology" by Edith Hamilton pg. 461


21. Tiebreaker (two paragraphs maximum): Why does house always appear in blue?
The author of the novel and the author of this website wish to let you draw your own conclusions for this one.

Now of course, there are plenty more questions than the 21 that are above. The house holds many secrets within its walls, and so, likewise the pages of the novel hold such secrets as well.

Depending on the version of House of Leaves you hold in front of you as you look at this page, several things could appear different to you. If you have a US hardcover edition of the novel, you'll notice strange four character patterns covering the endpapers. Are those characters just there to make cool designs?
No, actually the characters are Hexidecimal code, when compiled in a hex editor and made into an AIFF file, the code actually plays as Mark Z. Danielewski's sister Poe singing "Johnny Angry" in a 2 second clip from her track "Angry Johnny" from the album release "Hello".

If you have a US softcover edition, you may have an inserted card within the pages, announcing the arrival of Poe's second album that looks something like this:

Now, the card claims Poe's album was due to be released in June of 2000, but due to some setbacks the album was released on October 31st, 2000. A strange coincidence considering the album was titled "Haunted". Mark's novel, also coincidentally, was released to the public on February 29th, 2000, a leap year.

UK paperback and hardcover editions have cover artwork that is different than the US releases, and in Japan the novel will be released as a two volume set.

Moving on, once you get past those mysterious endpapers and into the title pages, you'll find something else peculiar. The title pages state "Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves by Zampano with introduction and notes by Johnny Truant 2nd Edition" then the publisher is listed. Now, everyone has to wonder, even if they purchased their copy on February 29th, why is it considered a second edition?
MZD originally published House of Leaves himself on the internet. He "published" the novel in parts on a website, and distributed the site address to some friends so that they could check out the novel he was working on. The true first edition of the novel was the complete set of files downloaded from that site, and published by Circle Round A Stone Publication, as featured on page 513 in your copy of the novel. As mentioned in the Foreword to the novel the first editon of House of Leaves did not contain Chapter 21, Appendix II, Appendix III, or the index.

The next page will contain the publication information from the novel and at the bottom will show "A Note On This Edition" with either a black or blue square around the type of edition you hold in your hand. Currently all US editions are 2-Color editions, with the word house appearing in blue and black and white plates. If you own a UK edition, chances are the black square is around the Black & White edition, color is not used for the word house, as it appears in gray. It is possible future editions could contain Braille, and the current Full-Color Remasted Edition includes color plates, blue, red and purple passages as well.

The dedication page says but one line:
This is not for you.
Although at times, when MZD signs the novel, it will be signed "This one is for you"

The introduction is written entirely by Johnny Truant and introduces many of the principle characters of the novel. There are not any real secret codes or puzzles to unravel in the introduction, other than a mistake Johnny made on page xx.

Johnny Truant begins telling us the story of Zampano, The Navidson Record and the nightmares he has been having.

One thing that we can explore is the slight differences between the original version of the introduction that MZD distributed via the Internet back in 1997 and the version that we see in print before us today. When Mark was looking for a publisher for his novel, the first segment he published on a website contained the first 50 pages of the novel. That excerpt included the introduction and Chapters I-IV. There were many small changes, such as the mention of the PELICAN POEMS: A Still Unfinished Adventure, which were found by Johnny in one of the boxes at Zampano's apartment. The word minotaur appears in the original introduction in red, and Johnny closes out the introduction (dated October 10, 1997) with the following warning:

"Drugs are useless. So are crosses, holy water or 9mm
guns. Sorry. About the only way I know is to find the
house but since the house never existed to begin with,
well, you see how that works . . . Still if somehow, some
way you do find the house, or figure out how to make these
nightmares stop, please tell me.
Iím so tired Iím just dying to sleep."

Muss es sein?
Does it have to be?

And so begins the Navidson Record.

Chapter I begins the tale of the Navidsons, and gives us our first glimpse into the house on Ash Tree Lane and its five and a half minute hallway. Another change in the original 50 page excerpt was where the Navidsons resided. Originally the house was on Oak Tree Lane, which would allow the readers a completely different interpretation. After all, this is a house of leaves, and Oak leaves are much different than Ash leaves.

Chapter I also begins the usage of footnotes on page 3, and on page 4 the editors instruct you as the reader of the two different typefaces used for portions written by each author. Zampano's passages are written in Times, while Truant's are written in Courier.

Once beginning Chapter II it is a good thing to listen to the editor's advice, and read the passages written in Johnny's typeface seperately from those written in Zampano's. It would be very difficult to interpret the novel, just reading page for page! A short passage from the end of Chapter II

Chapters I-III don't really have any puzzles contained within their pages, any non-English words, passages or phrases contained in the first few chapters are translated in the corresponding footnotes.

Chapter IV opens with the Navidsons returning home from a wedding in Seattle.

It also opens with a passage in German, which is again translated into English in the footnotes.

Johnny's story picks up with the German translation, and his inability to cope with the experiences he's been having since he discovered the pages in Zampano's room.

Again most of the translations are revealed in the footnotes, spare one, a phrase uttered by Fred de Stabenrath in April 1954: "Les jeux sont fait. Nous sommes fucked."
The plays are made. We are fucked.
The footnote reads: "Fred de Stabenrath purportedly exclaimed this right before he was ki (part missing)
There's a good possibility the sentence may have continued "-lled in Vietnam." By early 1954, French efforts to defeat Ho Chi Minhís forces in North Vietnam had soured. In mid-March, the French army found itself encircled by Vietminh forces at Dienbienphu. France pushed the United States to intervene, but Eisenhower eventually decided not to and the French army surrendered in early May. Despite not coming to Franceís aid, Eisenhower worried that the French defeat would ultimately result in a communist triumph in Indochina--the term Indochina refers to the intermingling of Indian and Chinese influences in what is now known as Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.

Moving on to Chapter V, the novel continues to translate from many different languages successfully in the footnotes.

The chapter discusses echoes as an introduction to the Navidson children wandering off, and Navidson's further exploration of the hallway.

And what is with that long list of names on pages 64-67?
lucien Aigner osbert Lam cas Oorthuys floris m Neususs ashim Ghosh annette Lemieux irena Ionesco cindy Sherman edmund Teske (It says "a long list").

Chapter VI touches on the Navidsons' pets, and their response to the house. It also allows Johnny some space to go off on yet another tangent about his own personal experiences. Not much to the chapter as far as questions that have arisen. No secret codes or messages hidden within the footnotes, and certainly not any soundbytes to include here within the Idiot's Guide.

Chapter VII brings the arrival of Holloway Roberts, Jed Leeder and Kirby "Wax" Hook to the house on Ash Tree Lane. As they begin their explorations of the hallway, Johnny relates an experience he has with one of Lude's female friends, Kyrie. The audio track relating to that experience, as read by MZD with a backing track and duet of sorts with his sister, Poe, has become one of the most requested pieces of media related to the novel, as well as Poe's album, Haunted. A slightly different version of the track has been released by Atlantic Records as "Hey Pretty (Drive-By Mix)" as a promotional single for the album, and the MZD/Poe version of the track could possibly become a part of future pressings of the Haunted compact disc.

Chapter VIII brings SOS from Holloway's team, as they get lost within the Labyrinth that is the hallway.

The dots and dashes do have a meaning, throughout the chapter. In International Morse code, they spell out: For many years, unintentionally this solution has been left blank. Recently a newer reader named Eric Pecor emailed me to "remind me" that it was blank. This question has long since been answered in another place, this thread: http://www.houseofleaves.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2985&highlight=morse+code which may also help you with some other lingering "code" issues.

Chapter IX brings talk of the Minotaur in the labyrinth, with many fragments, omissions and text that has been stricken by Zampano for one reason or another. Interesting points:

"The Minotaur" was written by Taggert Chiclitz, as referenced in footnote 126. MZD has used Taggert Chiclitz as a pseudonym when writing works for stage and screen, and Taggert Chiclitz is one of the first people thanked in the credits section of Poe's album, Haunted.

Pretty much any portion of the text involving Minos or the Minotaur has been obliterated by Zampano, but many fragments have been brought back into the text by Johnny.

On page 122, the team begins their sixth day within the hallway.

As referenced in Zampano's excised portions of the text, "the Pelican Poems were to him a perfect example of why errors should be hastily excised."

Footnote 144 ends with a black square, which if you pictured the absence of all things described throughout the footnote, would be exactly what you would be seeing in your dreams.

Footnote 196 contains a song that may have been sung.

Chapter X is a fairly quick read, with only a few words or sentences per page throughout most of the chapter. As we reach Chapter XI and the story of Tom and Will's childhood, mixed in with many references, and a footnote from Zampano, one from Johnny and one from the editors.

Zampano's footnote: "Are you really my son Esau?' Jacob said, 'I am."

Johnny's footnote: "Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee."

The editor's footnote brings the following verse: "The boys grew up, and Esau became a man knowing game, a man of the open fields. But Jacob was a man who wholeheartedly followed the LORD, and a tent-dweller."
For more information: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/7775/GN2527.HTM - MISSING

Tom's story from within the hallway closes out Chapter XI, and Chapter XII consists mostly of Will searching for his brother within the labyrinth. Chapter XIII brings Teppett C. Brookes, one of the school teachers at Chad and Daisy's school by for a visit to the house. While Brookes is visiting the home, Daisy keeps quietly singing to no one in particular words that no one else could understand "ba. dah. ba-ba." On Poe's album Haunted's title track, one of the lines goes "ba da pa pa". Poe has revealed that Daisy's version in the novel is an echo of her song lyric.
More mentions of The Minotaur are eradicated by Zampano and restored by Johnny.

It's possible that Footnote 277 could be interpreted as a musical staff, with no notes on it, indicating silence, so when Johnny starts to talk about Trenton and then stops, there is a period of silence before he continues on.

Footnotes 301 & 302 are included here as well in audio form.

Zampano seems to write a typo on page 320 when he writes "He [meaning Tom] might have spent all night drinking had exhaustion not caught up with me." Should the "me" be "him"? Is this another of Johnny Truant's "additions" to The Navidson Record? Was Zampano actually a member of the Navidson family?

In Chapter XIV there is a German phrase left untranslated: der absoluten Zerrissenheit
The complete act of being torn up.

Chapter XV, while only a partial transcript of a portion of an apparently fictitious film, is completely void of "mysteries" unless of course you count A Poe t. as possibly being Mark's sister Poe. You can look at the picture mentioned on page 368 here.

We're also introduced to Delial for the first time. Chapter XVI & XVII include a lot of scientific data, which is mostly unraveled in the footnotes, except of course the contest questions listed at the beginning of this Idiot's Guide. Fragments and complete pages of what can only be assumed to be further scientific analysis are "missing" from the text. Chapters XVIII & XIX also see to be lacking any sense of mystery that cannot be unlocked within the footnotes of the text.

Chapter XX begins with a quote from Poe Mark actually utters that same line approximately 42 seconds into the track "House of Leaves" on the album Hauntedand a passage in Braille.

"MZD had a blind woman read the Braille section to insure it was accurate. In the middle of the passage the woman raised her hand and exclaimed 'spooky' (or scary)"
It does translate almost exactly as transcribed at the bottom of the page, in Grade 2 Braille,
however the part marked "illegible" is actually CC BRAILLE 2 in Grade 1 Braille.

It is important to point out that this passage in particular is in Braille because it is ironic in the sense that the passage is describing how smooth the walls are and devoid of any texture. Hence, even the blind can not read where they are in that hallway. The blind are rendered completely blind. Braille relies upon reading by feeling textures and bumps. Yet here, it is describing something in the dark that can't be seen or felt.

Chapter XX also includes a musical staff, (it's a portion of the song "Johnny Comes Marching Home" for some cool related info, check out http://www.homewithjesus.com/johnnycomesmarching.html and listen to the background midi file)and the tagline to Poe's album, Haunted: "Don't be scared."

In Chapter XXI, Johnny encounters the House of Leaves version of his sister's band. The band is dubbed "Liberty Bell" and hail from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They play a cool tune that he seems to relate well to. He discusses some things with the band that are referenced above in the Contest questions and answers. Chapters XXII and XXIII close out The Navidson Record, and complete the true text of the novel.

Following Chapter XXIII is a section titled Exhibits, which contains many items that Zampano wished to include in the text of The Navidson Record, but the items were either missing or never produced. Several of the recovered items do appear in the later appendices.

Appendix A contains a rough Chapter Outline as well as the sections in the film version of The Navidson Record.

Appendix B seems to be a journal kept by Zampano while he was writing The Navidson Record.

Appendix C is photographic pieces, added to the text:
pg. 549 explores the SOS featured in Chapter VIII.
pg. 550 adds to Chapter XXIII
pgs. 551 and 552 show fragments of "original" pages of The Navidson Record.

Appendix D features a letter Zampano wrote to the editor of the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner

Appendix E was meant to feature The Song of Quesada and Molino, but the passage is missing.

Appendix F is a series of poems. That Place begins the group, followed by The Panther, Love at First Sight, several untitled fragments, La Feuille and You Shall Be My Roots.

Appendix II-A begins with more photographic evidence. Drawings, sketches, and a photograph containing many polaroids of houses.

Appendix II-B contains The Pelican Poems. There are plenty of unanswered questions about The Pelican Poems, which MZD may explore further in another companion piece to House of Leaves.

Appendix II-C features collages of more photographic evidence.

Appendix II-D contains letters sent by Johnny Truant's mother, while she was residing at the Three Attic Whalestoe Institute. Her letters became one of the most popular sections of the novel. Due to the popularity of the letters, Danielewski released a companion piece, titled The Whalestoe Letters, which included the letters featured in House of Leaves, as well as several new entries. There are three encoded portions within the letters. One of those encoded portions is featured here as an audio piece. Another translates to: When you take the capitalized letters and arrange them into a sentence, you find "A face in a cloud, no trace in the crowd". This is part of a song Poe wrote that hasn't been released yet. And finally on pg. 615 we get "Dear Zampano, Who did you lose?" From "...destroyed. Endless arrangements--re. Zealous accommodations, medical prescriptions, & needless other wonders, however obvious--debilitating in deed; you ought understand--letting occur such evil?" When you take the first and letter of each word, starting with "destroyed", and spelling the &'s as "and", it reads "Dear Zampano, Who did you lose?" Which is odd--how did Johnny's mother know about Zampano? The letters were written years before Johnny even found out about him.
Meantime, on pages 632-634 is a very odd letter.We're still not entirely sure about this one. One suggestion was made that the whole thing is made up of anagrams. Another suggestion is to look elsewhere in the book for a connection. Pay attention to the date.

Appendix II-F contains various quotes. Several of the quotes are taken directly from other's work, which goes uncredited.

Appendix III explores further photographic evidence.

The index is chock full of words that appear in the novel, words that do not appear in the novel, and other strange tidbits.

The Idiot's Guide is constantly expanding, check back in the future for more updates!

If you have anything you'd like to discuss about the Idiot's Guide to House of Leaves, or if you have a question that you would like answered that is not answered yet on this page, feel free to join the discussion forum at http://www.houseofleaves.com and you can also email me.

Special thanks to Michele Santiago, Dean Morrison, Michael, David Harty, Endorphyne, THX-1138, Charlie Banana, Eric Pecor and albuhtross for added info to this page. Thanks to all who contribute to the forums on hol.com. All other information authored by Erik Hartley, with the exception of quotes from the novel House of Leaves, which was written by Mark Z. Danielewski, unless you talk to his sister Poe, who claims to have written the whole thing....