There’s a fine line that shouldn’t be crossed between “ingenuity” and “lunacy.” But that’s exactly what the 79-year-old retired engineer Louis Dethy did when he sealed his own unfortunate fate. He was found dead in his home where he lived alone for a long time.
What took his life will have you wondering “How could someone possibly have done this?”
Louis Dethy lived alone near the town of Charlerois, Belgium. He was a retired engineer with lots of time on his hands. He spent his time secluded in his garage, puttering about. He liked to build and manipulate mechanical devices.
However, not a soul knew that he was using his ingenuity to transform his home into a death trap that would seriously endanger anyone who stepped inside it.
Dethy once lived in this house with his wife and their 14 children. But despite being known for being a regular church-goer, not even his religious beliefs stopped him from abusing his family. After years of abuse, his wife and their kids left him.
Even his own mother, who bought the house for them, turned against him. The house had been bequeathed to Dethy’s daughter Jeanne, to whom he must pay rent. Because of this, he harbored ill will against his family.
Dethy started to become obsessed with revenge. After being left alone, he felt his family wanted to take all his possessions. He hated them so much and he was afraid the moment he died they would want to come get his assets.
Killing his wife and children was all that mattered to him. So, he set out to put booby traps inside his house to make sure that when he’s gone, the next occupants won’t be able to enjoy the house for long.
His plan was described by investigators as “fiendishly clever.” His improvised “home security system” was set up with traps that fire a 12-gauge shotgun, enough to do serious damage, even kill a moose.
The traps were set up where he knew temptations will be greatest, such as in a money chest. A colorless fishing line connected the lid of the chest to a steel pin in a shotgun to keep it from going off. The line ran along the ceiling and behind walls. It was supposed to go off when the lid of the chest was lifted. Each trap was positioned so that when they are triggered, they would more likely hit the victim in the head.
Dethy was so determined to do damage to his victims and make known his wrath. He set up more traps, placing them in every corner of the house. Every room was booby trapped including the living room, the bathroom, and the cellar in the garage. Every bit of the house put anyone in serious danger.
In the cellar, for instance, he carefully set a crate of beer on a spring-loaded board with a gun hidden underneath. He cleverly designed it so that only after a certain number of bottles have been removed would the gun go off.
Within the next four years, Dethy laboriously turned his house into a death trap that even moving a set of a dinner plate or a fire log would become deadly. And because his memory was then already failing, he had to keep track of each trap by writing clues that only he would understand.
The trap that sealed Dethy’s fate was one in plain sight – a soup dish on a shelf. When the soup ladle was moved, the lines that connected it to a modified shotgun would pull back its trigger. The set up was so sensitive that when the ladle was pulled, the modified shotgun was activated very easily.
Modifying the trap would have required very soft touch to keep the gun from being triggered. Dethy may have been making adjustments to the soup dish trap and accidently set it off…
And then, the unexpected happened. As Dethy was moving the soup dish, he accidentally set off the trap attached to it. The gun was fired, with the bullet striking him in the neck. He died from loss of blood.
The first to arrive on the scene was Major Luc Bodart. He thought Dethy attempted a suicide. It was an assumption which nearly cost the life of one of the investigators when, as he opened the chest, the shotgun hid inside went off, with the bullet missing him by just inches.
Over the next few weeks, experts scoured the entire house as though they were de-mining a war zone. They discovered all his notes which described a 20th trap which they never found. It’s possible that he never got to finishing it. He may have not constructed it or maybe it was never found.
Dethy used his twisted genius designing some of the most sophisticated booby traps, but in the end, all it did was put an end to his devious plan by putting an end to his own life.
But Dethy’s case, although gruesome in every way, wasn’t unique. There were others like him who ended up dead by their own booby traps.
Daniel Ricketts, 50, was from New York. He saw an opportunity in growing his own marijuana plants, and he had them growing on his property on Saw Mill Road in Albany County.
One Saturday afternoon, Ricketts was driving around his property on an ATV when he ran into an invisible wire which nearly decapitated him. He died of his injuries. The wire was part of the security measure set up to protect his marijuana plants.
In Savannah, Georgia, a 67-year-old man named Ernest Gaylord Michelberger took it upon himself to protect his property at all costs. He set up booby traps as security measures to put himself at ease.
His son, Gunner Michelberger, claims that his father grew paranoid as more and more minorities started moving into their neighborhood. He made it clear, however, that his father was not racist. It’s just that he grew worried about the house getting broken into.
Gaylord Michelberger set up elaborate contraptions made of pullies, levers, and two chainsaws. They were easily triggered at the push of a button. However, he ended up setting off his own trap, which gruesomely severed him in half.