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Saturday, April 09, 2016

Death by HOARDING

I am participating in the Blogging from A-Z Challenge again this year. What is this mysterious blogging challenge you ask? Arlee Bird from Tossing it Out came up with this fantastic idea where bloggers post using consecutive letters of the alphabet for 26 days in April. It grew in numbers, and Arlee now has many helpers. To view other participates of the A-Z event click here.

Odd deaths happen, right? It’s sort of like being at the right place at the right wrong time. My A-Z 2016 blogging journey takes us down the road of Death by Oddity. Come join me.

H = Death by HOARDING
This A-Z post is a long one! I promise it’s the longest of all of my odd deaths, but one of my favorite human interest stories about the Collyer brothers. Although, I am not a hoarder, I am interested in stories about people who are extreme hoarders; a subject both interesting and heartbreaking. And the Collyer brothers were hoarders.
Homer and Langley were affluent NY brothers, born in the 1880s. Both were well educated. In fact, Homer earned a bachelors’ degree at the age of 14. So it appears they were intelligent fellows. Their father was a physician, but reported to be eccentric. Their mother had been an opera singer. When their parents separated, the adult brothers decided to live with their mom. When she died, her house and belongings became theirs. And ditto when their dad passed; they inherited all of his possessions including medical equipment. After that, the Collyer brothers found themselves living in their mother’s brownstone with their own possessions, as well as, their parents and no garage sale in their future. 
For a while, it was life as usual, socializing, working jobs (Homer practiced law, Langley sold pianos). However, life changed when Homer lost his eyesight and Langley quit his job to care for Homer.
But how did they die?
Wait! Will ya? I’ll get to it.
Paranoia and fear seem to dominate the lives of the Collyer brothers (probably because they cut themselves off from the world). They ventured outside the house very little, ran out of money, didn’t pay bills, saw their house vandalized again and again and became Freegans. Alongside the rats (I’m making that part up), they ate their meals from dumpsters. It was also found out later that they had set up “booby traps” in the house, I guess to catch boobies. Kidding. Kidding. They were determined to stop people from exploring their home (as in breaking in).
They were called crazy. 
But how diddddd they diiiiiiiie? 
One day, an anonymous tipster to law enforcement reported smelling a dead body while passing the Collyer house. A police officer forced his way inside the brownstone, but didn’t get far because of the Collyer hoarding. (Be prepared to sweat when you see it, but here’s photo of one room here.)  Several men began pulling the Collyer stuff outside and it overflowed to the sidewalks and street. Several hours later, they found Homer’s dead body surrounded by boxes and paper piled to the ceiling, purportedly dead from starvation and heart disease. It was believed he’d only died 10 hours before they found him. It was also believed at the time of discovering Homer’s body that Langley had fled after reporting the death anonymously.
After eighty four tons of debris and possessions (i.e., baby carriages, horse’s jawbone, dressmaking dummies, bowling balls, etc.) were removed from the house, Langley’s decomposing body was also found. They surmised that Langley died when he triggered a trap that he'd set, in the tunnel he’d created to get to his brother, which caused some of the piled up things to fall and crush him. 
If you haven’t read about the Collyer brothers go to Wikipedia, for a quick fix here, or better yet, find a book on them and read about the Collyer brothers. Please! It will make you feel better about yourself, but not so much about the stuff that owns you or fills your dwelling. 
For pictures of their house, the tunnel and the public manifestation click here
Sources: Wikipedia, NY Daily News

18 comments:

  1. I've read and reviewed the book written about the brothers, called 'Homer and Langley'. The fictionalized story is still quite sad but it sticks fairly close to what you say here. See my E.L. Doctorow post for D, he's the author of the book I read.

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  2. That's tragic. I once rented a room from a hoarder. I left after only six weeks; I didn't recognize the issue at first, but when promises of cleaning up were never even begun, I had to leave.

    This makes me too sad to look at the pictures.

    Boldly Going Through the Alphabet!
    @shanjeniah
    Part-Time Minion for Holton's Heroes
    shanjeniah's Lovely Chaos

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  3. Sigh. There is waaaaaaay too much stuff here. We are not at their stage. Yet.

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  4. Wow. Now that's a sad story.
    I can never understand how a hoarder lets it get to that stage of being soooooo over cluttered. The hygiene factor alone gives me the heebie-jeebies.
    Who knows what sort of germs/viruses are breeding and preparing to spread...take over that world.
    Writer In Transit

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  5. I'd never come across this story before, so sad. I like that the area where their house once stood is now a pocket park.

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  6. when I saw your blog title I wondered if this would be about the Collyers. There was an episode of Streets of San Francisco that seemed to be based on the Collyer story too. It was called 'The House on Hyde Street'.

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  7. I think people are curious about hoarders because they can either relate on some level and are afraid of becoming the extreme or they are such neat freaks that they are horrified but can't look away.

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  8. I read this one a while ago. That is a ton of crap they hoarded indeed.

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  9. Wow, looking at that picture, I'm amazed they survived as long as they did!
    Debbie

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  10. Nothing like good neighbors to help you through hard times...

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  11. How tragic this story was. I have a hard time imagining people hoarding like this, but I've seen it. Unfortunately, a friend who seems perfectly normal and happy can't seem to toss a single thing she brings into her home.

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  12. Yikes! I watch Hoarders and always wondered if someone had ever died from their hoarding. Now I know. =(

    ~Ninja Minion Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

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  13. I wrote about a hoarder in one of my mysteries and she *did* die! But not from hoarding. :)

    This blog series reminds me so much of Edward Gorey's book...have you read it? My father and I got such a kick out of it: https://www.brainpickings.org/2011/01/19/edward-gorey-the-gashlycrumb-tinies/

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    1. I have not read that book, but you've peaked my interest. I'll get a copy. This theme came from the news, sort of. Someone died in Kansas City and I thought, that would be an odd way to die. Then as usual I google "odd deaths" and found out that there are many odd ways to die apparently.

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  14. I've heard of other stories like this and it's a bit freaky to think about. I tend to keep a lot of stuff though I'd hate to think that I'd ever get that extreme--I don't think so. I keep a lot of stuff though I'm on a constant mission of getting rid of stuff as well. It just sometimes seems that the race between accumulation and disposal often finds hoarding on the winning side.

    I think a lot of this will be fixed when I have to move someday, an inevitability that I'm sure will come soon after my wife retires. Two things for us to consider: Getting closer to our kids and grandkids and living in a house with just one floor. The second story for now doesn't factor in much for me, but looking at other older folks that I know stairs can become a real bugaboo when you start getting older and less able to climb them.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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  15. We had a neighborhood hoarder who died. It was the postman who finally got the police to check inside her house--she'd been dead for more than a month, they thought. She was a paranoid schizophrenic, so I think the hoarding was just a part of a complex set of symptoms.

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