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Houses That Kill

August 17, 2010

I recently read Ces maisons qui tuent by Roger De Lafforest, a book first published in 1972, no doubt in an effort to cash in on the occult and paranormal craze going on at the time. There was an English edition published under the title Houses That Kill, but it is long out of print and used copies are fetching a tidy sum (as of this writing, there are three yellowed paperback copies on Abebooks going for upwards of $59). Copies in the original French are plentiful and affordable, so if you happen to be fluent in that language, that’s the way to go.

Why does this obscure, forgotten book deserve attention? Well, for the simple fact that much of the misinformation it advanced is still making the rounds some 38 years later.

If there’s an interest, I may sit down and write a proper review sometime, but for now, what follows are my impressions in bullet point form (all page numbers refer to the 1986 J’ai lu paperback edition):

  • heavy on the dowsing/radiesthesia and pyramid power; on p. 193, for example, the author claims that it is “almost unanimously agreed among Egyptologists” that the preservation of mummies is in large part due to the shape of the pyramids.
  • all the evidence presented is anecdotal.
  • borrows concepts and terminology from physics and electronics in order to lend an air of scientific credibility to its claims (for example, on p.175 the author borrows from the theory of radio transmission when he talks about human emotions having specific frequencies which modulate pyramid-power “shape waves” acting as carrier signals); such pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo might impress flakey New Age types, but it’s not likely to fool a critical thinker with a background in science or engineering.
  • typing the term “negative green” or the French “vert negatif” into a search engine doesn’t yield a single result from a scientific source; the only hits are from dowsing and New Age sites, and from sites which specifically mention De Lafforest’s book. “Negative green” appears nowhere in the English version of Wikipedia, including the articles on “Green,” “Color spectrum,” and “Electromagnetic spectrum.” If, as this book alleges on p.167, there is a wavelength called “negative green” within the electromagnetic spectrum, then physicists must be keeping mum about it, since I can find no mention of it in scientific literature.
  • at a couple of points (pp.153, 162) the book comes off like an ad for certain questionable products, namely a gadget called “aspironde,” said to neutralize the allegedly harmful fields emitted by 220 volt house wiring through the emission of pyramid-power “shape waves,” as well as a similar gadget designed by “physicists” A. de Bélizal and P.-A. Morel.
  • makes dubious, unverifiable claims that Howard Carter protected himself from King Tut’s curse by wearing an “Atlantis Ring” (considering that “replicas” of this supposed ring are, to this day, being sold for exorbitant prices through New Age shops and mail-order outlets, one has to wonder if the author wasn’t getting a cut from sales of these rings in exchange for clandestinely marketing them in his book; frankly, I believe the author invented this ring and the legend surrouding it out of whole cloth, as to the best of my knowledge, no one had ever heard this tale until the publication of his book).
  • by extension, if the story of the “Atlantis Ring” was a hoax by the author, then there likely was no “curse of the Pharaoh’s tomb,” since nothing bad befell Howard Carter.
  • while I believe that much of what is written in this book is not only wrong but outright fraudulent, I don’t rule out that cosmic rays and telluric fields could exert an influence on human health; that there are such things as “cancer houses” and areas along roads that for no apparent reason act as magnets for automobile accidents (though I don’t necessarily agree with the explanations put forth by the author); that certain shapes and architectures might have negative psychological (but not directly physical) effects on some individuals; and that there are such things as haunted houses, whether these hauntings be by actual discarnate spirits or entities, the result of telekinetic projection by live occupants, or through an undiscovered mechanism whereby the house “records” traumatic events that have occurred within its walls.

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