the Collyer Brothers © wood engraving (ed. 40) image: 7 x 5 in. $100.00 (go to "Hi There" for purchase information)
Bachelor brothers, Homer and Langley Collyer lived in a three story townhouse in Harlem, which they inherited when their mother died in 1929. Eventually their eccentricities and reclusive ways made them a neighbourhood curiosity. At one point the brothers refused to pay their mortgage and were threatened with eviction. When the authorities arrived to evict them, Langley wrote a check to pay off the mortgage. This fueled the rumour they were millionaires and break-ins began, so the brothers constructed booby traps. They accumulated trash and hoarded material, including years of newspapers. Homer, who suffered from rheumatism, eventually went blind and Langely claimed he was saving the newspapers for the day Homer's sight would return. In March, 1947 an anonymous caller told the police there was a dead body in the house. Police had to break into the house when there was no answer at the door and they were blocked by the tight wall of trash and the smell of a decaying body. Work crews began removing the packed refuse. Eventually Homer's body was discovered. Rumours circulated that Langley had been seen aboard a bus bound for New Jersey and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Weeks went by without a sign of Langley and the crews continued to dig away at the rooms of tightly packed trash. Then one day one of the workmen came upon the body of Langley, ten feet from where Homer had died. Langley's body was being eaten by rats and he was covered with bundles of newspapers. The police determined he had been tunneling his way, with some food, to find Homer, when one of the booby-traps fell on him.

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