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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Image in Psychiatry

Remember the Collyer Brothers? They were these two bachelor brothers who lived in the family home at 128th street and 5th avenue. One was blind, the other one hoarded, both were paranoid. They cluttered up their brownstone so much that they were relegated to living in little "nests" that they created within the clutter. It was so bad that they died there.

The city demolished the building after their deaths. And the brothers didn't have anyone to inherit the building or the lot, because it's now a park.  Please forgive the picture-it was taken with an iPhone while passing by in a bus.

According to Wikipedia:

Homer Lusk Collyer (November 6, 1881 – March 21, 1947) and Langley Wakeman Collyer (October 3, 1885 – c. March 9, 1947), ...were two American brothers who became famous because of their bizarre natures and compulsive hoarding. For decades, the two lived in seclusion in their Harlem brownstone at 2078 Fifth Avenue (at the corner of 128th Street) where they obsessively collected books, furniture, musical instruments, and many other items, with booby traps set up in corridors and doorways to ensnare intruders. In March 1947, both were found dead in their home surrounded by over 140 tons of collected items that they had amassed over several decades.

They were the children of two first cousins, their father a gynecologist, their mother a former opera singer. The both had degrees from Columbia, and Langley was an accomplished pianist who performed at Carnegie Hall. The parents separated in 1919, and the brothers continued to live with their mother in the brownstone on 128th and 5th. The father died in 1923, and the mother in 1929, after which, the brothers continued to live together.

Homer lost his eyesight in 1933, and Langley quit his job to care for his brother. The two became increasingly withdrawn, fearful, and eccentric. After several attempted burglaries, Langley:

set up booby traps and tunnels among the collection of items and trash that filled the house. The house soon became a maze of boxes, complicated tunnel systems consisting of junk and trash rigged with trip wires. Homer and Langley Collyer lived in "nests" created amongst the debris that was piled to the ceiling.

Langley occasionally ventured out of the house, collecting food and various objects, but Homer was unable to move due to rheumatism, and both brothers refused to seek medical help for him.

The brothers paid no bills or taxes, and in 1938, refused to sell their home for $125,000. They were nearly evicted in 1942 for not paying their mortgage, and when the police tried to break down the door, they found it blocked by a pile of junk. Langley handed them a check for the full mortgage, and the brothers withdrew once more.

On March 21, 1947, an anonymous tipster reported the smell of decomposition. After some difficulty, the police finally broke in to the house through a second story window. Homer's body was found after 5 hours of digging, dead of starvation. Langley was not found until April 8th, 10 feet from where Homer had died, with 19 tons of junk removed from the first floor in the interim, including 3000 books, a horse's jawbone, a Steinway piano, and an X-ray machine. Langley is thought to have inadvertently tripped a booby trap while crawling through a tunnel to bring food to his brother, and died of asphyxiation.

Ultimately, 140 tons of debris and junk were removed from the building. The house was deemed unsafe, and razed in July 1947.