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 hereSources: Wikipedia, NY Daily News