Judy's Reviews > Ghosty Men: The Strange but True Story of the Collyer Brothers, New York's Greatest Hoarders: An Urban Historical

Ghosty Men by Franz Lidz
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's review
Jul 29, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: guilty-pleasure, memoir, non-fiction, new-york, hoarder
Read in August, 2011

This book turned out to be a lot shorter than I thought it would be--that's the downside of Kindle. I wish there were more of it.

Lidz weaves the story of the infamous Collyer Brothers with that of his Uncle Arthur, who was also a compulsive hoarder. I ended up finding the Lidz family saga as weird and fascinating as that of the Collyers. Like all of us, Lidz wants to find out why Langley Collyer and his Uncle Arthur had to have so much stuff that was essentially worthless and dangerous. The issues of health, sanitation, and the whole idea of "Well, we'll just clean the place up!" keep popping up in both stories, but neither Langley nor Arthur agree to part with a single scrap of paper.

I especially liked the newspaper accounts of the 1947 search for Langley after his brother Homer's body was found--blind and paralyzed he'd starved to death. There were hundreds of false Langley sightings, as he'd been killed by one of his own booby traps, only ten feet from his brother, lost in the maze of stuff. It took a month and the removal of a hundred tons of trash before Langley was found.

I figure books like "Ghosty Men" and Homer & Langley by EL Doctorow, and the television show "Hoarders" are cautionary tales. When you're cleaning out the home office and you come upon those old notebooks from college, throw them out. Because you might end up like Uncle Arthur or Langley Collyer, surrounded by piles of newspapers and shoelaces and old socks.
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