Too Much Stuff Helping Hoarders Clean Up

 In March 1947, a group of nearly 600 onlookers gathered on the sidewalk in front  of the home of bachelor brothers Homer and Langley Collyer on Fifth Avenue and  128th Street in Manhattan. Residents of the neighborhood had speculated and  gossiped for years about the two eccentric shut-ins and their crumbling  brownstone, which was rumored to be crammed floor-to-ceiling with treasures and  curiosities collected by the Collyers over the decades.  

 It was not until an anonymous tip was phoned in to the NYPD claiming that there  was a dead body in the Collyer house that the mystery surrounding the brothers  finally unraveled.  

 Initially, officers responding to the tip were unable to get into the building  because the foyer was entirely blocked by a solid wall of junk, including  mountains of yellowed newspapers, broken furniture, boxes, and tangled debris.  A patrolman eventually broke in through a second-floor window, and after  crawling for over two hours through a dark, cramped, foul-smelling maze of  thousands upon thousands of objects of all descriptions, he found Homer  Collyer's body. There was no sign of Langley.  

 While search parties looked all over the city for Langley Collyer, workers began  clearing the brothers' house of decades' worth of accumulated possessions,  trash, and waste. On April 8, 1947 —nearly two weeks after the discovery of Homer Collyer—the badly decomposed body of Langley Collyer was discovered, mere feet away from  where his older brother had been found. He had apparently been crushed beneath  a landslide of stacked luggage and newspapers.  

 Ultimately, some 130 tons of junk and garbage were removed from the Collyer  house. The vast majority was worthless—the salvageable items netted less than $2,000 at auction—and included things like baby carriages, rusty machinery of all kinds, thousands  of books, kitchen utensils, tools, musical instruments, and of course,  thousands upon thousands of newspapers and magazines.  

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2 Comments

  • I heard this happened one time in my co-op building. The apartment was filled with junk from floor to ceiling. The owner who lived there had disapeared and the building had received a violation for the trash in the balcony.
  • Living with a hoarder who is slovenly is mentally challenging and does indicate enabling behavior on behalf of those who live with one. My experience is that the hoarder I live with is often passive aggressive about continuing slovenly habits and denies that filth fecal matter or rotting food and multiple hoarded items are any indication of abnormal or unhealthy behavior.I have been told by the hoarder that being critical of the behavior is passing judgement on lifestyle choices while trying to coerce her into living the way other people do. Its distressful and depressing to live with someone who chooses to disrepect the needs or health of those they live with.