Friday, 21 July 2017

collyer’s mansion or messie-syndrom

In Germany, the rather inelegant received translation for a compulsive hoarder is a “Messie,” which neither sounds very clinical nor sympathetic, but this terminology is certainly to be relished by our source that bought us the fascinating and tragic archetypal tale of the brothers who cultivated a dangerous drive for acquisition and an unwillingness to part with anything.
Though by all accounts, at the turn of the century the Collyer family was of the finest pedigree (Columbia-educated, mother an opera-singer and father a gynaecologist and descended from Mayflower-stock) and their two sons were promising in their respective fields, both ended up in 1947 entombed in some one hundred and forty tonnes of junk stuffed to the ceiling of their Harlem brownstone. By inheritance and volition, the sons, Homer and Langley jointly occupying the family home after the death of their parents, began obsessively collecting books, furniture and musical instruments as the two began to withdraw from society, having grown suspect of their neighbourhood during the Great Depression (though never suffering from deprivation) and owing to Homer’s failing eye-sight. Probingly, Langley began saving old newspapers for his brother to catch up on once his sight had been restored—consulting one of the fifteen thousand medical reference books found in the apartment included in the manifest and created a warren—notably booby-trapped, for them both, tunnels and chambers nested within the nearly impenetrable strata of garbage and treasure. Many of the recovered artefacts—many more than were ever catalogued—became curios for other collections (possibly inspiring the same) and after being condemned as unsuitable for habitation, the Collyer’s mansion was razed and transformed into a neatly corralled public garden.