In the 1920's, Homer had a regular job in a title research office, but walked eight miles to and from the office every day. But by the [late 1930s], he was blind and almost paralyzed, cared for exclusively by Langley. . . .The story may have receded from public consciousness over the years, but, even today, "in New York City, and along much of the East Coast, a dwelling jammed rafter-high with junk is referred to by rescue personnel, with dismay and no small degree of respect, as a 'Collyers' Mansion.' As in, primary searches delayed because of Collyers' Mansion conditions."
On March 21, 1947, the police got an anonymous call saying that Homer Collyer was dead. The interior of 2078 Fifth Avenue was stuffed so high with papers and furniture that the police had to enter the house on the second floor by a ladder. They lowered Homer's body out the window in a sack. It appeared that he had died of hunger.
Langley Collyer had last been seen a few days before on the stoop of the building, but there was no sign of him now. Meanwhile, searchers began cleaning out the house. In the next few days they found the jawbone of a horse, a flier protesting the vote for women, unfinished knitting left by Mrs. Collyer, part of an auto chassis, pianos, furniture, papers and thousands of books, all while searching for Langley Collyer. By March 24, about 2,000 people had gathered at the corner of 128th and Fifth Avenue to watch.
There were 53 people at Homer Collyer's burial on April 1 at Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn -- but no sign of Langley. Then, on April 8, it turned out that Langley had died in the building. Police found his body, wedged to the floor by one of the many booby traps he had created. Bringing food to Homer by a tunnel through stacks of books and newspapers, he had triggered the fall of hundreds of pounds of debris that trapped and, apparently, suffocated him. The brothers died within a few feet of each other.
Check out this Daily News gallery for a collection of historical images of the Collyer brothers and their house.