Famous Hoarders in History
Hoarding has become a favourite topic of research among psychologists, but it has also been a focus for politicians from time to time. Famously in the 1930s when FDR issued an Executive Order forbidding hoarding in 1933, on this occasion, it was money being hoarded in a bid to protect the money supply at a time when the $US was redeemable at banks with gold.
An example in the 1930s, was a wealthy New York woman called Ida Wood (nee Mayfield) who had regularly featured in the New York Daily News. She ended her life holed up in two rooms of the city’s Herald Square Hotel, where she had hoarded nearly $1 million in cash, stuffed in pots and pans, a diamond necklace hidden in a Cracker Jack box and $10,000 in cash sealed around her waist. Hotel staff also found years of newspapers, boxes, trunks and stacks of old wrapping paper.
During the second World War and rationing, people were discouraged from hoarding to try to ensure a fair distribution of food and other necessities.
However, while hoarding had historically focused primarily on the hoarding of money, this definition started to shift to domestic possessions with psychologists looking at the phenomenon beginning with a study of one of the most famous examples in history, the Collyer Brothers, Homer and Langley, in the 1940s.
The bodies of the two reclusive brothers were discovered in their Harlem home in 1947 hidden, almost buried, in a mass of debris described as “an incredibly dirty mass of debris, old newspapers, cartons, broken furniture and all sorts of junk”, which also included an early X-ray machine and the jawbone of a horse.
Other famous hoarders
In the 1970s Edith Bouvier Beale and her mother, Edith Ewing Bouvier, former New York socialites who were relatives of Jackie Onassis and lived in an East Hampton mansion were featured in a documentary about eccentrics.
The two women reportedly lived in just three rooms of the 28-room mansion. The others were occupied by hundreds of cats, possums and raccoons. It cost $32,000 to clean the rooms and dispose of 1,000 bags of rubbish.
When he died, the artist Andy Warhol was found to have amassed 610 boxes that he called “time capsules”, packed full of the stuff of daily life. His four-storey house was also so filled that only two rooms were functional.
A compulsive hoarder in the UK was featured in 1999, in the television documentary A Life of Grime. He was Edmund Trebus, known as an eccentric hoarder with a bad temper. Although he was a compulsive hoarder of Elvis Presley memorabilia, his five-bedroom Victorian villa in London also contained window frames, motorbikes, scaffolding poles, tree-trunks, For Sale signs (complete with posts), fridge-freezers, a mortuary table along with bags of rotting vegetables in every room.