The Collyer Brothers, two weirdos known as the world's most famous recluses

Does anyone ever heard of them?

They are two brothers found dead in their Harlem house loaded with tons of trash in 1947.

I first read about them in a book about eccentric people which totally shocked me.

I was wondering if someone knew some good links, books or articles on the subject.

Check out these interesting links, the only ones I have found. Their story is amazing and I’d like to know your impression.

Oprah’s done a bunch of shows on people like these, who seem not to be able to trow away anything. Reminds me a lot of my family, although (Thank God) we’re not compulsive “Don’t throw that away!”

I probably know less than you, but IIRC one was blind, and the other thought if he fed him enough oranges he’d be cured, but he got caught in a booby trap thru his tunnels of stuff, got crushed, and the other starved. House was supposed to be fortified and boobytrapped.

You can read the saga of the Colyer Brothers in comic-book form. It appears on pages 181-183 of “The Big Book of Weirdos”, sandwiched between William Randolph Hearst and Howard Hughes. TBBoW was published in 1995 by Paradox Press, a division of DC Comics.

If you look in their bibliography ou find mostly contemporary news reports, including Life magazine for April 7, 1947 and the New York Times for March 26, 1947; April 9, 1947; March 22, 1947; and April 10, 1947.

They also list the Washington Post for Feb. 8, 1983 and “Odd and Eccentric People” from the “Time/Life Library of Curious and Unusual Facts”

I read about them, although I’ve never been closer to New York City than Beech Grove, Indiana. Apparently the police got a call “there’s a man dead at 2078 Fifth Avenue.” Langley sprung one of his own booby traps and was buried under mounds of newspapers, as well as sewing machines, violins, automobile parts and a suitcase full of metal. When the firemen finally reached Homer, who had starved to death, they found him holding a 20-year-old copy of the Jewish Morning Journal. Ironic, huh? Actually, he supposedly ate dozens of oranges every day, hoping to get his eyesight back. :frowning:
I told a psychiatrist–who was born and raised in the New York City area herself–about the Collyers; she suggested they had some serious mental aberration (not her own words).

I just learned that E.L. Doctorow’s next novel will be about them, probably making it even more likely that a movie will someday be made: An Excerpt From E.L. Doctorow's Next Novel

My parents used to mention them ocassionally, usually in reference to the condition of my room.

I have a very vague recollection of some of their stuff being on display in an arcade on Times Square back in the 50s.

I’d just like to know how the hell they got a car’s chassic inside the house? :confused:

From what I remember reading about them years ago, the inside of the house was a disaster area. The cops searched for hours for one of the brothers (I believe the more mobile of the two) only to find him trapped under a pile of junk a few feet away from where they already searched numerous time. Sad. :frowning:

The Wiki article has some photos of the inside of the brothers’ house.

They’re mentioned in an episode of the Honeymooners.

Norton congratulates Ralph about having the lowest gas bill since the Collyer brothers.

“My Brother’s Keeper” by Marcia Davenport is an old novel based on the Collyers. Fascinating. I read it when very young and I’ve never forgotten it.

Elendil’s Heir, do you have a room somewhere just stuffed full with these old, old threads?


:smiley: Nope. I just saw the Newsweek excerpt from Doctorow’s new book, did a SDMB search and chose several new-ish threads in which to post an update.

Wasn’t there a 1950’s novel based on the Collyer Brothers?
As I recall, the brothers became recluses while their fater (a prominent Manhattan surgeon) was still alive.
As to why they filled the house with junk, I think it was mostly because they were obsessed with keeping burglars out (those walls of newspapers).

The term you’re looking for is Compulsory Hoarders.

I recall some years ago how authorities had to forcefully clean out all the junk a hoarder had accumulated in his apartment, the guy was milling around while municipal workers (some in gasmasks) dumped all the stuff out, he looked remarkably alike a hamster I had as a kid that would go ballistic when I cleaned its cage, trying to keep its stash of seeds and rags.

Such as the one mentioned in post #11, just 3 above yours?

There’s a much more recent non-fiction book by Franz Lidz called Ghosty Men about them. It’s pretty good. The hardcover version has a cool jacket.

If the government forces you to hoard, that’s Compulsory Hoarding. If you personally feel you must hoard, that’s Compulsive Hoarding: Hoarding disorder - Wikipedia

That’s it! The government is forcing me to fill up my house with all this useless crap!

:smiley: My Dad told me their story once, for the same reason. Particularly apt, since I shared a room with my brother.