Death by Junk Pile

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Death by Junk Pile

Hoarding can be a real problem for some people.

Scott Peterson/Getty Images

They say that one man's trash is another man's treasure, but it can get out of hand if you become a packrat. Most people have a little bit of this tendency in them, but not to the extent that it would kill you. Sadly, the same can't be said about New York City's Collyer Brothers.

Langley and Homer Collyer moved to the New York neighborhood of Harlem in 1909 when they were in their twenties. Sons of an upper class family, the brothers became increasingly hermitic over the years and began to hoard items. How much stuff did they accumulate? It's estimated that there were 180 tons (163 metric tons) of "junk" in the apartment in the end [source: New York Times]. Busted chandeliers, broken baby carriages, smashed pianos, cracked clocks and molding furniture was stacked in every corner of their home. Homer went blind in the 1930s and was bedridden because of rheumatism by 1940. His younger brother cared for his every need and even saved hundreds of thousands of newspapers in hopes that Homer would regain his sight.

Oddly, the home was also booby-trapped in places to prevent intruders. This would turn out to be Langley's undoing when he tripped on one of the traps and was buried beneath an avalanche of junk. Unable to help, Homer could only slowly starve to death as his brother lay dead under the pile of refuse. Police reportedly searched Manhattan for weeks before realizing that Langley was buried in his own home.

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