Crime Scene Photography · New York

The deaths of the Collyer brothers

March 21, 1947
Manhattan, New York
The second of the Collyer brothers, a pair of extreme hoarders, dies in their home

Police received a tip that the home held a dead body as the smell of decomposition became noticeable. Authorities attempted to enter the home, but a wall of hoarded items prevented them from doing so immediately. They were forced to pull piece after piece from the doorway, throwing items into the street, until they made their way to Homer Lusk Collyer, the elder Collyer brother. It was determined he had died approximately 10 hours before of heart failure and starvation.

It was only after his younger brother, Langley Wakeman Collyer, failed to attend Homer’s funeral on April 1, that it was suspected he had died as well. A more intensive process of removing the various objects from the home began until Langley’s body was found on April 8, just 10 feet from his brother’s body. He died around March 9 and was the source of the decomposition stench. It was theorized that he had been crawling through a tunnel in the debris to bring food to Homer, who was paralyzed and blind. The Collyers had set up several booby taps in the home and it is speculated he tripped one of the traps, pinning himself under various junk, where he asphyxiated.

The three-story home was cleared of a staggering 140 tons of objects, which included:

  • a human skeleton (pictured)
  • a two-headed baby in a jar
  • pickled human organs
  • an X-ray machine
  • 14 pianos
  • over 25,000 books
  • the chassis of a Model T
  • 3 pistols
  • countless newspapers and out-of-date phonebooks, some decades old

The brothers were buried next to their parents in unmarked graves.

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