I remember reading it in late 80s - early 90s. It was part of a larger collection of sci-fi short stories.

The plot is about an architect who designs and builds a house for his friend in California, but the house has an extra dimension. When it's built and they go to check it out something is wrong - they only see one floor out of 4 (or 5) built just the prior day. After they enter it they realize the other floors collapsed into the first one, but only on the fourth dimension. All the rooms are intact, but intersect in weird ways. At some point they chase some intruders only to realize they are chasing mirror images of themselves.

They are stuck inside because all the exits loop back into the house. One room has windows to other strange places like an upside-down ocean or an alien looking desert. They can only leave the house if they don't think about their destination.

Apparently a small earthquake caused the problem because the 4th dimension of the house was not stable enough. They manage to escape as another earthquake hits and end up miles away.

  • 11
    Surely all houses are built in 4 dimensions?
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 23:57
  • 20
    @Richard - Yes, but you have to wait a while to see them all.
    – detly
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 2:04
  • 4
    Unrelated, but this reminds me of Wonko the Sane and his Asylum: hitchhikers.wikia.com/wiki/Wonko_the_Sane Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 15:26
  • 3
    Two vaguely related stories: (1) The House that Jack Built from the TV serial "The Avengers" (2) The 1997 film "The Cube"
    – user66716
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 19:38

2 Answers 2


The story you're after is "'—And He Built a Crooked House—'" by Robert Heinlein, originally published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1941.

  • House built in California

Things are done fast in southern California. Ordinary houses there are usually built in a month's time. Under Teal's impassioned heckling the tesseract house climbed dizzily skyward in days rather than weeks, and its cross-shaped second story came jutting out at the four corners of the world. He had some trouble at first with the inspectors over these four projecting rooms but by using strong girders and folding money he had been able to convince them of the soundness of this engineering.

  • Collapses into a fourth dimensional mess due to an earthquake

"Yes, yes, the little shake we had last night. From a four-dimensional standpoint this house was like a plane balanced on edge. One little push and it fell over, collapsed along its natural joints into a stable four-dimensional figure."

enter image description here

The full text is available here.

  • Wonderful answer! I tip my (three-dimensional, metaphorical) hat to you. Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 0:21
  • 2
    @Richard The cover of the Astounding magazine reminds one of the end of the original Planet of the Apes movie. A male and female with basic clothing looking up at the Statue of Liberty.
    – camden_kid
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 10:22
  • 1
    Not an answer, but I think [this film](en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangle_(2009_British_film) was strongly inspired by this story. Regardless, it's a good watch if you're into adventures in the 4th dimension!
    – Starkers
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 16:40

You're looking for the 1941 short story "—And He Built a Crooked House—" by the late, great Robert A. Heinlein.

I've read it in two places: Heinlein's collection The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, and Isaac Asimov's anthology "Where Do We Go From Here", a group of stories that the good doctor used to point out scientific concepts. (In the case of this story, the concept of a fourth spatial dimension was the concept in question.)

  • 4
    I stick out my tongue at you for faster fingers. And I give you the WP link. Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 0:05
  • @dmckee Curse my thoroughness. I had the answer 5 minutes before I posted but I wanted to actually do a decent post rather than just going for "fastest gun in the west"
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 0:09
  • I think that the answer by @Richard puts mine to shame. Although I do admit I tried to get this answer up fast and only then improved it. Saw this question and thought, "Hey! I know this one!" Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 0:11
  • 1
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 0:25
  • 1
    @user14111 But you don't get the reputation points for having your answer accepted by the OP if you don't throw in all the bells and whistles! ;) Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 4:06

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