Friday, December 01, 2006

Fascinating story about hoarding hermit

Once again courtesy of Wiley over at News of the Dead, a great link:

If the house on Washington Square could talk

A death resurrects a historic home and reveals a secret life.


"I've seen this before. Recluse lives in a house stuffed to the gills. It's a person with resources and means, educated, and living in squalor with animals living in the house. It's so familiar," said Lin Team, an Austin real estate agent and board member of the Preservation Society of Austin, a group that monitors historic properties. "It's a strange phenomenon."....

It's not clear when, exactly, Reed Mathews slipped deeply into strangeness. .....

Both hoarding and obsessive journaling are indicative of a type of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), said Michael Telch, psychology professor and director of the Laboratory for the Study of Anxiety Disorders at UT.

"Hoarding is a senseless thought or idea that something bad will happen to you if you throw things away," he said. Though Telch declined to make a diagnosis of a man he'd never met, he said the urge to continuously document one's daily life with exhausting detail is also "consistent with OCD, a recording compulsion with senseless work or action that has no value. But, if you don't do it, something bad will happen."

The Dumpster diver

Steve Sisk, a junk collector, spent 14 hours digging in one of the Dumpsters at 3001 Washington Square. He never met Mathews either, but he thinks he understands the way his mind worked.

"I have OCD, too. You have to, to be in the junk business. I don't throw anything away," said Sisk, standing outside his own home on East 53rd Street. "I have my collection of fishing lures and Atari games. You get fixated on stuff, and it becomes a natural energy that just takes over. He never threw things away, too. I found used toilet tissue in a plastic bag."

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