7 Famous Hoarders

iStock / kali9
iStock / kali9

Do you have trouble throwing stuff out? Afraid to let go of that old remote control for the broken TV you've got stored away in the basement just in case you might need it someday? You might be suffering from disposophobia, sometimes called pathological hoarding. Of course, there's a big difference between needing to exorcize your clutter and hoarding, pack rat-style. Disposophobia is a serious form of OCD, and one not to be taken lightly, as the following seven people prove.

1. & 2. Homer and Langley Collyer

The Collyer brothers have been the subjects of movies, plays and a recent novel by E.L. Doctorow. With American roots tracing back to the days of the Mayflower, Homer and Langley Collyer were well-off members of Manhattan's elite. After their parents' death in the 1920s, the brothers withdrew from society and divided their time between their family's Manhattan and Harlem brownstones. Appropriately enough, thanks to Homer (who was also crippled and blind) and his brother Langley, disposophobia is also sometimes referred to as 'Collyer brothers syndrome.'

Why? Because as the brothers became more and more reclusive, rumors began circulating that the houses were filled with riches and the brothers set booby traps to protect their valuables. Then, in 1947, a neighbor called police complaining of a pungent odor. Inside the Harlem brownstone police found Homer Collyer dead. His corpse was amid tons of junk, including an early X-ray machine, the jawbone of a horse and bundles upon bundles of old newspapers.

His brother Langley was nowhere to be found, and a nationwide manhunt was conducted. Weeks later, when half the brownstone had been cleared of 180 tons of junk, a worker discovered Langley's decomposed corpse buried beneath a stack newspapers. He had been dead for weeks and rats had eaten most of his body. It was ultimately determined that Homer died of starvation when Langley, who fed his crippled, blind brother, was crushed to death under—what else?—a bunch of junk.

3. & 4. The women of Grey Gardens

In the early 1970s, two women related to Jackie Onassis were the subjects of the critically acclaimed documentary, Grey Gardens, about eccentric behavior. The women, Edith Bouvier Beale and her mother, Edith Ewing Bouvier, were former New York socialites who spent their days holed up in a decrepit East Hampton mansion.

When the Suffolk County Board of Health raided their house, they found piles of garbage amid human and animal waste. It was said that only three of the mansion's 28 rooms were used, while the others were occupied by hundreds of cats, possums and raccoons.

When word of the deplorable conditions got to Jackie-O, she and her then-husband Aristotle Onassis paid $32,000 to clean the house, install a new furnace and plumbing system, and cart away 1,000 bags of garbage. When Grey Gardens filmmakers Albert and David Maysles began to shoot there in 1973, the mansion was so infested with fleas that they had to wear flea collars around their ankles.

5. Edmund Trebus

TV viewers all over the UK knew compulsive hoarder Edmund Trebus for his eccentric habits and snarky English temper. Featured on the 1999 television documentary A Life of Grime, Trebus would often tell friends and neighbors to "stick it up your chuffer!" especially when they complained about the odor emanating from his house. The majority of his household junk was acquired from his neighbors' trash, and Trebus went to great lengths to collect any material related to his favorite musician, Elvis Presley. He had an expansive Elvis collection that included most of the King's original records. But it was the flotsam and jetsam that took up most of his five-bedroom Victorian villa at Crouch End in north London: window frames, motorbikes, scaffolding poles, tree-trunks, For Sale signs (complete with posts), fridge-freezers, even a mortuary table.

The smell his neighbors complained about was a result of the bags of rotting vegetables (mostly grown in his own garden!) piled from floor to ceiling in every room. At the time of his death, Trebus's North London home was so stuffed with junk that he was living in a small area on the floor.

6. Ida Mayfield Wood

In the late 19th century, all of New York's high society knew Ida Mayfield. Her charm and beauty attracted many suitors and Ida eventually married Benjamin Wood, publisher of the New York Daily News. But the couple's marriage was an unhappy one and Benjamin fathered a child by another woman.

To make up for his womanizing, Benjamin would give his wife large sums of money to deposit into her own savings account. By the time of Benjamin's death in 1900, Ida was a very wealthy and powerful woman. The influential pages of the New York Daily News were now under her control. But after the financial panic of 1907, Ida grew increasingly paranoid about her finances and withdrew from society.

She lived in squalor in a couple of rooms at New York's Herald Square Hotel and never went outside. By the time of her death in 1932, Ida had hoarded nearly $1 million in cash, stuffed in pots and pans inside the hotel room. Among other valuables found inside were a diamond necklace hidden in a Cracker Jack box. Ida was even found to have $10,000 in cash sealed around her waist.

7. Bettina Grossman

New York's famed Chelsea Hotel, the place everyone from Mark Twain to Janis Joplin once called home, was also home to an unknown artist by the name of Bettina Grossman. Bettina had been living in the Chelsea as one of its artists-in-residence for 30 years and had amassed an entire lifetime of artwork. The fruits of Bettina's labor lay stashed away in hundreds of boxes inside her tiny two-room apartment.

When filmmaker Sam Bassett, another artist-in-residence at the Chelsea, discovered Ms. Grossman, she was literally sleeping on a deck chair in the hallway. Bassett became inspired by Bettina's artwork and eventually convinced her to display her various collages and mixed media portraits. He even helped her build shelves to organize it all. Bettina agreed, and Bassett's 2007 documentary, Bettina, chronicles the eccentric artist's long road to personal recovery.

Last year, Ms. Grossman fell and broke her hip, and is now living a Brooklyn nursing home. Still, her artwork is never far behind. She's brought a few boxes of her work with her to the home.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

The 12 Best TV Shows on Amazon Prime Right Now

Stephan James and Janelle Monáe in Homecoming.
Stephan James and Janelle Monáe in Homecoming.
Ali Goldstein/Amazon Studios

If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’re entitled to free expedited shipping, free Kindle downloads, and lots of other perks. But some customers are perfectly content to relegate their use of the service to the company’s considerable streaming video options. Check out our picks for the best TV shows on Amazon Prime right now.

1. Undone (2020-)

Rosa Salazar and Bob Odenkirk star in this trippy tale of a young woman named Alma who's struggling with her sister, mother, and boyfriend—and then her dead father begins appearing to her with a request to master time travel. Filmed with actors and then beautifully rotoscoped to lend it an air of animated surrealism, Undone will take you for a spin.

2. The Boys (2019-)

If you've had your fill of both superheroes and superhero meta-analysis, you'll still want to check out The Boys. Supernatural creator Eric Kripke's adaptation of the Garth Ennis comics imagines a world in which heroes are corporate tools, social media icons, and very, very morally bankrupt. The head of the vaunted Seven (think an ethically destitute Avengers) is Homelander, played with red-eyed menace by Antony Starr. When mortal Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) targets Homelander, the full scope of the hero industrial complex is revealed. The first three episodes of season 2 hit Prime on September 4, with new episodes being released weekly.

3. Fleabag (2016-2019)

Phoebe Waller-Bridge created and stars as the title character, a downtrodden Londoner with a too-perfect sister, a wicked soon-to-be stepmother (played by The Crown's Olivia Colman), and a lust for hedonism that masks the fallout of an unresolved emotional crisis. Like Ferris Bueller, Waller-Bridge interrupts the action to address the viewer directly, offering a biting running commentary on her own increasingly complicated state of affairs, including having the hots for a priest (Andrew Scott).

4. Hanna (2019-)

Based on the 2011 film, Hanna follows a 15-year-old girl (Esme Creed-Miles), who possesses combat skills and other traits that make her a person of interest to the CIA. To figure out where she's going, Hanna will first need to discover where she comes from.

5. Homecoming (2018-)

Julia Roberts stars in the first season of this critically-acclaimed drama, which sees her working at a facility that helps soldiers reacclimate to civilian life. Years later, an investigation into the program reveals some startling truths. Janelle Monáe headlines season two, which pushes the story in new directions.

6. Forever (2018)

The less you know going into this half-hour series, the better. Don't let anyone tell you anything beyond the fact that Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph portray a couple in a floundering marriage. Where it goes from there is best left to discover on your own.

7. Goliath (2016-)

David E. Kelley (The Practice) heads up this series about a downtrodden lawyer (Billy Bob Thornton) who brushes up against his former law firm when he tackles an accidental death case that turns into a sprawling conspiracy. Thornton won a Golden Globe for his performance; William Hurt should've won something for his portrayal as the diabolical firm co-founder who keeps pulling Thornton's strings from afar. Seasons two and three up the ante, with the latter co-starring Dennis Quaid as evil California farmer Wade Blackwood. A fourth and final season is expected.

8. Bosch (2015-)

The laconic detective of the Michael Connelly novels gets a winning adaptation on Amazon, with Titus Welliver scouring the seedy side of Los Angeles as the titular homicide detective. Don't expect frills or explosions: Bosch is content to be a police procedural in the Dragnet mold, and it succeeds. The sixth season premiered in April.

9. The Americans (2013-2018)

If Stranger Things stimulated your appetite for 1980s paranoia, FX’s The Americans—about two Soviet spies (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) embedding themselves in suburban America—is bound to satisfy. As Russell and Rhys navigate a complex marriage that may be as phony as their birth certificates, their allegiance to Russia is constantly tested.

10. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017-)

Critically-acclaimed and showered with praise by Amazon viewers, this dramedy stars Rachel Brosnahan as Miriam "Midge" Maisel, a 1950s housewife who takes the bold (for that decade) step of getting into stand-up comedy. Brosnahan practically vibrates with energy, and so does the show, which captures period New York's burgeoning feminism. In Midge's orbit, Don Draper would have a heck of a time getting a word in.

11. Hannibal (2013-2015)

At first glance, Bryan Fuller’s (Pushing Daisies) take on the Thomas Harris novels featuring the gastronomic perversions of Hannibal Lecter seems like a can’t-win: How does anyone improve on The Silence of the Lambs and Anthony Hopkins’s portrayal of the diabolical psychiatrist? By not trying. Mads Mikkelsen’s Lecter is a study in composure; FBI agent Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is the one who seems to be coming unhinged. While Fuller has time to explore the finer details of Harris’s novels, he also has the temerity to diverge from them. Hannibal’s brief three-season run is a tragedy, but what’s here is appetizing.

12. Luther (2010-)

Idris Elba stars in this BBC drama as DCI cop John Luther, a temperamental but dogged investigator who runs afoul of some of the UK's most wanted criminals. Ruth Wilson co-stars as Alice Morgan, a charmingly psychotic foil-turned-friend. Amazon has all five seasons, including the most recent season that premiered in 2019.

This story has been updated.