Welcome to The Idiot's Guide to House
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
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.
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
For further information see:
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
For further information see:
3. The author's name can be found somewhere between footnotes
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?
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?
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
For more information see:
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
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
I live at the end of a five and a half
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
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
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
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
Chapter IV opens with the Navidsons
home from a wedding in Seattle.
It also opens with a passage in
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
he's been having since he discovered the pages in Zampano's
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
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
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
On page 122, the team begins their
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
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
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
& 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
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
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
(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
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
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.
begins the group, followed by
Love at First Sight, several untitled fragments,
and You Shall Be My Roots.
Appendix II-A begins with more photographic evidence.
Drawings, sketches, and a photograph containing many polaroids
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
Appendix II-D contains letters sent by Johnny Truant's
mother, while she was residing at the Three Attic Whalestoe
letters became one of the most popular sections of the
novel. Due to the popularity of the
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
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
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
http://www.houseofleaves.com and you can also
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....