Posts Tagged ‘New York’

Sources: Find a Grave, Atlas Obscura, The Milwaukee Journal,, youtube, British Psychology Uk, Actually going to school < yes I can say this for once!

Homer Lusk Collyer – 6th November 1881 -21st March 1947

Langley Wakeman Collyer – 3rd October 1885 to approx. 9th March 1947

The brothers became infamous for their bizarre natures and their obsessive-compulsive hoarding. They lived at 2078 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, New York City in the USA. Fifth Avenue is one the most expensive streets in the world, Upper Fifth Avenue is known as Millionaire’s Row. The brothers lived there but these days it is Collyer Brother Park, in their memory and the property is long gone. It was a Harlem brownstone property, the material was very popular at the time and examples are widely seen around Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware for example.

The brothers were the son of Dr Herman Livingston Collyer, 1857-1923, and his first cousin, Susie Gage Frost Collyer, 1856-1959. They had their first child, a daughter, in 1880 called Susan, who died when she was only four months old. Following that tragedy, they had Homer Lusk, born 6th November 1881. 3rd October 1885 and Langley Wakeman was born, both brothers went on to attend Columbia University. Homer earned a degree in admiralty law, Langley studied both engineering and chemistry. Langley was also an established concert pianist and in 1909 Herman moved the family into 2078 Fifth Avenue.

Dr Collyer was eccentric himself and sometime in 1919 the married couple separated, I was unable to locate an exact reason for it, I found her memorial online and it said she was buried 27th January 1929 of Carditis (inflammation of the heart). The two brothers stayed with their father, and it is also worth noting that in this era separation was very unusual, it would have likely caused gossip in the area. When Dr Collyer died, he left everything to his sons, they brought all of his possessions back to the home, including medical instruments and when Susan died she left them the property, they continued to live there for the rest of their lives. They socialised for about four years after that and Homer practised law whilst Langley worked as a piano dealer.

In 1933, Homer lost his eyesight due to having haemorrhage in the back of his eyes. This started the withdrawal from society as Langley left his job in order to care for his brother. They then ended up with more things to consider, they were fearful of changes in the area as their own neighbourhood was suffering from the Great Depression; they also seemed to be uncomfortable with the new African American community coming into nearby empty apartments. When asked about their self-imposed exile it was Langley who stated, “we don’t want to be bothered.”

With the rumours of local interest in the brothers growing there were now crowds coming to look at the property, no doubt adding to their growing sentiment stated above. The Milwaukee Journal reported on that fact that local teenagers had thrown rocks at their windows and this prompted them to sure up the property even more, to try and stop burglary and crime against them they then booby trapped the house and used all the things they had hoarded to make warrens and tunnels through it. It had got to the point they were making nests to stop in around the place.

Langley told a reporter he had to bath, groom and read to his brother and that he would play piano as part of looking after him. Homer was being cared for by diet and rest, as both men seemed resilient to the idea of any doctors intervention, even to the point that they did not seek any medical advice when Homer was left paralysed by inflammatory rheumatism, he was now blind and paralysed in the property and solely dependent on Langley. They had been brought up by a doctor and they felt they already knew enough to handle it all.

At some point Langley turned to going out after midnight, avoiding the crowds and witnesses so that he could get food and water from the garbage, or to collect from butchers and grocers who were throwing food away. He would bring it all back for this brother and by the early 1930’s the house was in disrepair and then in 1937 the telephone was disconnected. They had failed to pay their bills so the gas, electricity and water were disconnected in 1938, so they warmed the house with a small kerosene lamp (sounds safe…) and then the water had to be collected from a water pump in the local park. Their only connection to the outside world was a crystal radio. The home-made radio was created by Langley and they are sold these days as an educational toy.

The neighbours and shopkeepers would explain that whilst he was polite and clam, he was also ‘crazy’. Langley was fiercely protective of his brother and spent $7,500 on the property next to them when he found out it was being used to spy on them. There was a small fire in 1941, Langley would not let firemen speak to Homer when they were called out to extinguish it. 2077 Fifth Avenue, the neighbours place, was repossessed in 1943. Langley said as they had no income they should not pay income tax, there were rumours that they were sat on piles of cash, they didn’t trust depositing it, but this seems to be unfounded.

They came under public scrutiny again, workers from Consolidated Edison were sent to the home in 1939 to remove the gas meters, they were met with hostility. In November 1942, Bowery Savings Bank began eviction procedures and sent a clean-up crew to the place.  Neighbours summoned the police over Langley yelling at the workers, the police tried to force their way in and got met by the wall of junk, they found Langley in there who wrote a cheque for $6,700 without comment, then he ordered them all off the property.

21st March 1947, and a man identifying himself as ‘Charles Smith’ phoned the police about there being a dead body in the property. The caller said there was a smell of decomposition, a squad of emergency workers had to basically begin removing trash and goods from the property to get inside. It took five hours to get through the door by removing the obstruction from the door, they finally found Homer’s body there with his head resting on his knees. The medical examiner said the older brother had been dead for 10 hours, the ME confirmed his identity then said he had died of starvation and heart disease. At this stage it was believed that Langley had left the property and his neighbour was identified as the caller using ‘Charles Smith’, then a policeman was posted at the property to wait for his brothers return.

Langley did not show up after his brother’s funeral on the 1st April. A manhunt was set for him, sightings for the man were made across nine states and the police continued to clear the property as they waited for news. On the 8th April they found the body of Langley Wakeman only 10 feet away from his brother, the smell of decomposition had been caused by his body and not that of Homer, it was estimated he may have died about 9th March. The theory posed, and most widely accepted, was that he had been attempting to get to his brother when he set off one of his own booby traps and was crushed by debris. It seemed that with this both men’s fate had been sealed.

The property then had to be cleaned out, some sold, some passed to the hands of collectors and around 120 tons of rubbish and objects were removed. The obsessive-compulsive hoarder objects were mostly disposed of and eventually the property was demolished. Modern firefighters have been known to use the term Collyer’s Mansion when dwellings are dangerous due to hoarding, there have been TV shows, plays and stories that use their case as influences in their creaton.

Overall it is worth remembering that OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, is an issue that can come about in many forms. Quite often it is thrown out as a term for someone who is very meticulous and orderly, it is a concern when those things begin to affect your every day life. Around 2.3% of the diagnosed population are known to have this to a life-affecting level, self-diagnosis is not counted in these figures (and nor should it – get help if you think you have it). OCD is linked to trauma, there are differential diagnosis that also come into play, anxiety, depression and eating disorders along with OCD Personality Disorder come under this complicated bracket. It is also known that OCD affects men more often than women.

The reality is that these two men lived in dangerous conditions, the inability to know they needed help led them to be shut off from the world and they were in sub-par living conditions. Could they have been helped? Could Homer have lived longer if he had been found sooner? Ultimately there is no answer for this, but I do think it’s worth keeping an eye on how someone lives and if you are concerned discuss it with them if you think you can. Have I seen Hoarders? Yes, did I like it? Well actually I found it very hard to watch the TV show because I do keep lots of things that might be seen as unnecessary, and I also try to say things like “I might need it.” How have I learnt to try and reduce that threat? I have a rule that if it is not “used” or of true sentimental value then I shall remove it and sent it to charity or pass it on… and with that note I am off to clean my desk for the fourth time since starting to write this blog!

In New York, 1788 a riot broke out aimed at the physicians and medical students by the poorer New Yorkers. The riot was about the illegal procurement of corpses from the graves of the poor and slaves.

In April 1788 a student named John Hicks could hear children playing outside the building. The physician, Richard Bayley, was known to exhume corpses from the two cemeteries nearby. John Hicks was dissecting an arm and waved the arm out of a window, at the children, he told a boy that it was the arm of his recently deceased mother.

The boy ran home and told his father what had happened, the coffin was exhumed and found to be empty. A group amassed around the hospital, the mob broke in and found several bodies in different mutilated conditions. They dragged out Richard Bayley’s assistant, Wright Post, and other students into the street. The mayor of New York, James Duane, was forced into intervene and ordered them to be escorted to the jail house for their own protection.

2,000 people rioted and news spread fast, the few physicians remaining in New York were forced into hiding. A large group of the rioters set off down Broadway to find John Hicks, they assembled at the courthouse to throw rocks and caused a disturbance. In the end the militia and cavalry had to repel them.

At least three rioters and military men died, an estimate of the total dead was given as 20 people. Some students were brought to trial but the taunting Hicks was not one of them. With the riots came a statute law that only condemned criminals could be used and how corpses were to be treated. With the demand for new bodies the physicians then turned to hiring resurrection men, a practice which continued for some time.

An Interrupted Dissection.jpg
By William Allen Rogers –, Public Domain, Link


If, like me, you are a fan of the Dan Bell hotel reviews for bad hotels/motels do you also wonder what review you could leave for discovering a dead body? 1 out of 5 stars, or is that bad taste? Well it all started with a small campfire style story…

 A couple book a night away and find the smell in their room to be over-powering and foul. Human beings tend to be quite inquisitive and a search shows up something truly awful… a dead body! Is there any truth to the claims? Well yes, I started with a Snopes article on his and went on to read up from there. So here goes:

 13th July, 2003 a news article for WDAF Kansas City TV News (now expired link) says that a man complained about a bad smell and checked out early, after three days. The Capri Motel on Independence Avenue was the location, the cleaning crew then then found a body of an unknown male under the bed. It is thought the wood paneling masked the odour for a period. Police knew his identity but had to notify his next of kin.

 In 1999 Saul Hernandez of Queens, New York City was discovered dead, his body had been stuffed under the bed of room 112 of the Burgundy Motor Inn. A German couple managed to sleep there for one night, despite the smell, and it led to the discovery of the dead man when they complained the next day. The County’s Medical Examiner, Dr Hydow Park, concluded that death was due to exsanguination from chest and abdomen stab wounds. A follow-up article in the New York Times states a 17-year-old girl was charged on suspicion of murder.

 A slightly different way to report this one, in 1961 Jerry Lee Dunbar was born and sometime around May/June 1989 in Virginia he strangled two women and hid their bodies. Deidre Smith (27) and Marilyn Graham (29) were found murdered and left for guests to discover. Smith was found under the floor of a motel room on Route 1 and Graham under the bed in the Alexandria Econo Lodge (Murderpedia source). Dunbarr waived the rights to a jury trial, he was sentenced having been found guilty of both murders and sent to prison in 1990.

 CBS News reported a missing person found dead in a motel room, with a few frightening thoughts about the circumstances. Sony Millbrook reported missing on 27th January 2010, after she failed to pick her children up from school. On 15th March, 2010 homicide police were called to the room of a Budget Motel, Memphis, Tennessee when her body was found in the motel bed frame, she had been living there prior to her disappearance and after her room had been cleaned and rented several times. It had taken 47 days for her to be found and there are suggestions online that reports were made about a bad smell in between.

 Lakeith Moody was found guilty of strangling her to death and sentenced to life in prison. Moody was the father of four of Millbrook’s Children and was arrested several weeks later driving her car.

 Now don’t go thinking this is all exclusive to the USA either, poor Amphon Kongsong’s body was discovered in a hotel in Pattaya, Thailand. Two teenage boys of 14 years old and 17 years old were arrested for the murder of the transgender woman, the boys from Nakhon Ratchasima were tracked down by CCTV. The two boys had made friends with Amphon but she was apparently aggressive about the 17-year-old vying for sex, the fight turned lethal as he strangled her and the 14-year-old held her legs down.

 Having killed her they then stuffed her body under the mattress and a couple of tourists who used the room complaint about the odour, where upon her body was found.

 So, if you do get a funky smell in a room have I made you sufficiently paranoid?



Building 25 at the complex is the one with the harshest reputation around this centre. It is one of the abandoned units on a site that is till used and doesn’t reflect the history, fortunately. Located at Queens Village, Queens, New York the name most likely comes from the Creed family that originally farmed there. In 1892 after about 20 years of the NRA (National Rifle Association) leasing the area the land went back to the state.

It’s life as a hospital began in 1912 with 32 patients, by the Lunacy Commission of New York State. By 1918 there were 150 housed in the abandoned National Guard barrack. The facility kept expending and by 1959 numbers were at 7,000 patients. It, like many, suffered from overcrowding and under-staffing. In 1970 there was a killer placed there, former NYPD officer Robert Torsney, who was committed there due to insanity, after murdering 15-year-old Randolph Evans in Brooklyn.

It’s decline, similar again to many, began in the 1960’s thanks to advancements in treatment and a desire to keep people from becoming institutionalised. There were reports that in 1974 patient abuse and neglect was out of control. The campus was investigated because within 20 months were had been rape, assault, fires and six suicides plus other crimes reported. 1984 saw the death of a patient who was struck in the throat by a staff member whilst restrained in a straight jacket.

Fortunately some of the area is in use and performs more modern care, though it still has some structures like building 25 which have been left to fester. Pigeon mess, mountains of the stuff have collected, vandals and ‘urban explorers’ with no respect have added to the state of the place. It isn’t somewhere to go if you have a weak stomach thanks to the state of the place and the smell.


For the original up-loaders file click here  it will open in another window. (sadly this has since been removed so here is a youtube link instead (

WKCR Hijacking is one of those incidents described as a Broadcast Signal Intrusion, like the Max Headroom Incident (I covered this in my June 2014 blog) and it seems unconfirmed but the story interested me. So here goes:

It was originally posted on 4chan where the original poster says that they came across an old recording made in 1994/1995 and that they never thought about copying it, then they found it again and decided to upload it digitally. The uploader says that it was from WKCR 89.9, among the posts there is the usual insults and trolling but there are other comments.

From the post I found myself listening to the upload, it is discordant and overlapping with various sounds. All together when combined the effect is pretty creepy and well not entirely pleasant on the ears, if like me you find high pitched squealing noises hard work on the ears.

So off I went to the internet having listening a few times, and here’s a summary of what I think are the best points.

Reddit – WKCR FM Columbia, New York is a college radio station, generally the idea behind this is that many think it was an arts project. It seems a worthy consideration and given their listings on the website, sounds quite fair.

It was compared to some other experimental artists and many comment that it does not feel like it was an old tape and converted over, purely down to the high quality of it. Some think it would be a little about how clean it was that made it a spurious claim and others countered this saying that you can clean tapes up to very good quality these days.

A comment I saw mentioned that a date in the audio was 1998. I listened to it quite a lot and did not manage to pick that out. Can you tell me if you do and where?

Some people think it might be an attempt at replicating artists like Diamanda Galás, she centered on things like AIDS, mental illness and despair as examples. I compared them, I thought she was interesting but this does not sound like something copying her work.

This is what I could make out – add corrections if you can. I have placed them in date order…

February 1985 – Frank Oppenheimer, brother of Robert. Husband of Jackie, their father of Micheal, our friend.

August 22nd 1985 [incoherent] Tulio. Sister of Millie, Margaret, Dominic and joe. Wife of William. Mother of Mary, Lisa and Billy.

July 4th 1987 Peter Dunwell, Son of Robert, Husband of Lisa

March 17th 1988, Edward McEllis (McNellis?) [Incoherent] Edward’s brother. William, June, Peggy father of Julie, Heart Attack.

April 1988 Rupert [incoherent]

October 1988 Morgan (Tunic?) father of Barbara, Husband of Elsie. Barbara’s dad. Kidney failure.

November 1988 John Byrne (Burn?) Son of John, brother of Catherine and Chris.

December 21st 1988 Barry Valentino, son of Barry Senior, brother of Scott, Mark and Lisa. And his friend, my friend.

May 1987 Henrietta Graham, Mother of [incoherent] my friend.

So is there any relevance? Well 22nd August 1985 was the date of an airways disaster. British Airtours Flight 28m. In total 55 people died as a result but I couldn’t find anything that listed those names and I think I would need the name of the diseased, I could not make that out.

I would also like to clarify that Frank Oppenheimer was not part of the Manhattan project as some of the sources suggest. Robert is mentioned but they are reading out the details about Frank, Frank died 3rd February 1985 and died at home, not as a result of a plane accident, so there is no link there.

Barry Valentino is listed and appears to be a victim of the Pan AM Flight 103, Lockerbie. There is a plane involved in this one.

So is it a creepy art project and a false claim of broadcast intrusion? At the moment I have to say yes, there is nothing specific enough here and I don’t really recognise what message they are trying to portray within the recording.

I am standing ready to be corrected.