Most of us have become aware of the strange phenomoneon of hoarding via the popular TV show 'Hoarders', which has often inspired us to a bit of a spring clean. The condition of obsessively hoarding is a very real problem for sufferers, however, and in fact there are cases out there much worse than what the media could ever believably depict. Hoarding is considered to be a psychological disorder where a person has extreme difficulty in parting with possessions and other items and can extend from the dangerous habit of hoarding animals to trivial items like mail, papers, knick-knacks and even bodily fluids (yes it has happened). The objective value of the items hoarded is of little importance to a hoarder.
Hoarding tends to affect the older population, but there have been reports of it affecting young people in their twenties and thirties. The problem with a hoarding disorder is that the person suffering doesn’t normally see anything wrong with what they are doing, making them more reluctant to seek treatment. They simply see past the dining room tables piled high with junk, hallways that have become narrowed with clutter, or the fact of keeping so many animals that the health and well being of both human and pet is jeopardized.
Here, we're enumerating some of the most extreme hoarding cases that have hit the headlines. There are some on this list that unfortunately even met their end because of this condition. Read on, and expect to feel inspired to finally clean out that closet or get rid of the junk in your garage.
Some mildly graphic descriptions of animal abuse may disturb sensitive readers.
10 Collyer Brothers (1947)
In March 1947, a neighbor called the authorities to let them know there was a dead body in the apartment of brothers Homer and Langley. It took the police two hours to climb through the boxes and piles of junk, phonebooks, trash, newspapers, and other miscellaneous stuff. And sadly, indeed, there was a dead body in the midst of all the junk. It belonged to Homer, the elder brother. Langley was nowhere to be found until three weeks later when his body was found just ten feet away from Homer; the delay in finding the second body contextualises quite how bad the level of junk hoarding was. 100 tons of trash was removed from the home, including 25,000 books, fourteen pianos, fabric, pickled human organs, and Model T Ford parts.
9 Grey Gardens (1975)
If Edith Bouvier Beale ('Little Edie') and Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale ('Big Edie') hadn’t been cousin and aunt to First Lady Jackie Kennedy, perhaps these two ladies wouldn't have become the famous hoarders that they are today. They lived in an East Hampton mansion known as Grey Gardens. When sanitation workers finally entered their home, they found junk and clutter everywhere, a baffling total of 300 cats, tin cans, and fecal matter all over the place. These two captivated people so much that a documentary was made about them, called “Grey Gardens”. Since then, a musical adaptation was also made.
8 Alexander Kennedy Miller (1996)
After Alexander Kennedy Miller’s wife died, investigators found a treasure trove in his home. While this is a hoarding case, many are grateful for Miller’s collection. It was well known that Miller liked to collect aircrafts and cars, but the extent of his habit wasn’t known until 1996. About 50 cars were found, many of them Stutz’s, as well as thousands of car parts from engines, shock absorbers, gaskets, radiator caps, just to name a few. Along with cars and planes, the Millers stored away millions in riches including gold and silver bullion as well as stocks, shares, and promissory notes.
7 Edmund Trebus (1999)
Edmund Trebus became known to the world in 1999 from the BBC show, “A Life of Grime” which depicted his struggle to maintain his home and his belongings. He was a Polish war veteran who had accumulated years of junk including rotting clothes, knick-knacks, papers, and other random items that stuffed his five-bedroom home. The television programme was thought to have made progress in getting Trebus some help, but a follow-up episode in 2001 showed that he was back to his old habits and that his home was on the brink of collapse. Trebus died in 2002.
6 Bettina Grossman (2008)
Bettina Grossman is an artist who has been heralded as one who is “suffocating in her own greatness.” While it is an artistic way to put it, Bettina suffers from a hoarding disorder, with hundreds of boxes stuffed into her two-bedroom Hotel Chelsea apartment and her artwork taking up most of the space to the point where she has to sleep on a deck chair. Grossman became a recluse about 30 years ago and doesn’t leave her apartment much at all, but she does converse with neighbors from the hallway. After meeting neighbor and filmmaker Sam Bassett, who depicted her life on film, Grossman sought help in getting rid of the excess junk and installing shelves to help organize her belongings.
5 Jesse and Thelma Gaston (2010)
Imagine having a hoarding issue so massive, that you were lost in your own junk. That’s what happened to 76-year old Jesse Gaston and his 79-year old wife, Thelma. Concerned neighbors called the police to their Chicago home after not seeing the couple for sometime, and police had to break down the door to their home. Rotting food, piles of trash, and food waste greeted the authorities, and the elderly couple was found literally buried alive under all of the trash, and taken to the hospital to be treated for malnutrition among other health issues.
4 Richard Wallace (2011)
Richard Wallace had a junk pile that was so massive that it was bigger than his house and could be seen from Google Earth. Among the piles of junk included several cars and newspapers spanning over 34 years. It isn't clear why Wallace accumulated so much stuff in his life, but the public and his neighbors eventually had enough. When he was served with notices and orders to clean up his yard, Wallace stated that it was his human right to hoard all the junk. Eventually, with the help of neighbors, over 30 tons of junk was removed, and Wallace began to seek psychological help for his condition.
3 Penny and Steve Lefkowitz (2011)
This couple managed to make it to the top three of the worst animal hoarding cases according to the Humane Society of the United States. They are the owners of the Haven Acres Cat Sanctuary, and on June 7th, were arrested on 47 counts of animal cruelty. Authorities seized 697 cats in total. About 100 of the cats had to be put down because of health complications. Penny and Steve had intentions of doing good, but quickly became overwhelmed by so many residents dropping off their cats and were spending about $33,000 a year to try to maintain the sanctuary.
2 Kenneth Epstein (2012)
It has been declared as one of the worse cases of hoarding that Las Vegas has ever seen. After Epstein inherited his mother’s duplex, neighbors began to notice things such as a high volume of junk accumulating in entranceways as well as foul odors coming from the home. Since 2007, the home was cited for code violations, and finally intervention was necessary. Most hoarders will commonly leave a pathway to navigate around the home, Epstein had so much stuff that he had to crawl over the junk. After just removing 60% of the junk, they found the bodies of nine cats, 33 living cats, and six refrigerators full of food that was so decayed and rotten that it had taken on liquid form.
1 Roger Blew (2014)
In March 2014, Roger Blew was arrested and charged with 28 counts of animal neglect in what could be Iowa’s most intense animal hoarding case as authorities removed over 350 animals including pigs, rabbits, and ducks. It was reported that there were dead animals mixed in with live animals, from bones to freshly dead carcasses. It is safe to say that sanitation was also an issue as well as the residence being in shambles. It has been debated as to whether this was a hoarding case or not, although psychologists and authorities declared it to be so after inspecting the property.