Hoarding can have absolutely devastating consequences, including untimely and even gruesome and unattended (or undiscovered) deaths of people who labor under this disorder. Sad and horrific deaths connected to a person’s hoarding condition have made headlines for generations. Two cases – one old and one new – demonstrate how dreadful can be the consequences of hoarding.

Today we present that sad tales of Sally Honeycheck and the Collyer brothers. This presentation is for adult only and for people who understand up front that these are gruesome tales.

Sally Honeycheck

Sally Honeycheck was an 80-year old woman in Detroit who was not confined to her home. She did get out and about with reasonable regularity – tending to things like grocery shopping for her pet pooch and herself and attending games of BINGO. What one knew, or even seemed to suspect, was that Honeycheck as a hoarder and had been laboring under the condition technically known as hoarding disorder for years.

As is the case with many elderly people, Honeycheck ended up dying along in her home. Although she had not completely isolated herself before her death, her absence was not immediately known. Honeycheck had not immediately family members, her closest relative was a cousin who also lived in in Detroit.

After some weeks passed, Honeycheck’s cousin became concerned that she hadn’t heard from the older woman in some time. She tried to reach Honeycheck on the phone and failed. She decided to make a trek over to her Honeycheck’s home to ascertain if the older woman was doing alright.

The cousin had an emergency key to Honeycheck’s home although she’d not been in the house for several years. She would see Honeycheck from time to time, the two women meeting for coffee or a meal. Thus, the cousin had not idea that Honeycheck was afflicted with hoarding disorder. She had no idea of what she would encounter when she opened the door to Honeycheck’s home.

When the cousin entered the residence, she was greeted with an odor she could not immediately place. What she did see immediately was the squalid conditions of the interior of the residence. Objects of all types were piled throughout the residence, mixed in with garbage, trash, and other waste (including human and dog).

In the living room, Honeycheck’s cousin thought a Halloween prop had been propped in a chair. What she thought was something for Halloween was something of a mannequin that appeared to have parts missing – typical horror fare.

The police and local coroner were dispatched to the scene, determining that Honeycheck had died weeks earlier for natural causes. Honeycheck’s cousin enlisted the aid of a biohazard cleaning company to address the hazardous situation at the residence and restore the premises to a usable condition.

After looking at what she thought was a Halloween decoration for a beat, the Honeycheck’s cousin realized that the human-shaped figure slumped in the chair was not a mannequin at all. In fact, in the chair was the body of Sally Honeycheck herself, long dead and partially eaten by her own dog. (The dog was also found dead in the residence.)

The Collyer Brothers

Seventy-some years before the alarming situation involving Sally Honeycheck, the story of the Collyer brothers transpired, another horrific tale of hoarding and death. The Collyer brothers lived in a Harlem brownstone on Fifth Avenue. Langley Collyer was mobile and tended to the needs of his blind brother Homer, who was unable to walk.

Through the years, the Collyer brothers had not permitted anyone to enter their home. They had amassed a tremendous amount of garbage and trash through the years and were virulent hoarders. When outsiders finally entered the home after the brothers had died, 140 tons of “stuff” was found in the residence, accumulated over the course of over 40 years. 

Included in the mix mash of “stuff” in the property were tons of newspapers, stacked to the ceiling and forming what fairly can be described as mazes through the home. Langley Collyer – the mobile brother – used towering stacks of newspapers in the creation of boobytraps located throughout the house.

In the spring of 1947, the New York City police received an anonymous call about a horrible smell coming from the Collyer brownstone. (Calls of this nature were nothing new for the police department.)

Dispatched to the property, the police forced their way into the home. In doing so, they came upon a long-dead Homer Collyer, dead on the sofa on which he’d long been confined. Langley was no where to be found. Initially, the police reached one of two conclusions. Either Langley left after Homer died or Langley left, leaving Homer to die.

An autopsy of Homer concluded that the man had starved to death. Thus, the police began to focus on the theory that Langley had departed the house and left his brother to die.

Work began on clearing out and cleaning up the residence. Ultimately, the body of Langley Collyer was found in the home, also long dead. Indeed, the coroner concluded that Langley died some time before Homer. Ultimately, investigators concluded that Langley had tripped one of the boobytraps in the residence, causing a tremendous amount of newspapers to fall on him and kill him. At the time of his death, Langley was making his way from the kitchen, bearing food for his brother to eat.

Even in cases when a hoarder is alive, dealing with a residence in which hoarding occurred can be a herculean task. In order to ensure that hoarder property cleanup is safely and thoroughly undertaken to return the premises to a truly livable condition, professional assistance from a hoarder property cleanup company should be considered.