We arrived at the house. The door was ajar and we called out. A man’s voice said, “Come in.” I pushed the door back and was stunned. We were blasted with a waft of stale air–a stench that is hard to describe. The closest description would be walking deep into a cave with stagnant, musty air.
From floor to ceiling, every conceivable space was jammed and stacked with electronics, thousands of magazines, hundreds of expired Campbell’s soup cans, 8-track tapes stacked on shelves (remember those?), and thousands of albums. It was impossible to have any idea of the layout of the house. I snapped the following photos with my smartphone.
This tiny room is the kitchen in dim light. The old 1950’s still-working Westinghouse refrigerator was the only clue that it was a kitchen–at least at one time. A large 6ft freezer was flush to the right of the fridge. A tacky, cheap, blue shag loveseat from the 1970’s was jammed on top of the refrigerator with boxes stuffed on the seat. Swollen cans with 1990 to 1992 expiration dates were stacked next to the small window. Random objects were placed here and there, and in all of this chaos, business magnets were perfectly lined up row by row on the face of the fridge.
In the top right corner of the photo, you’ll see a myriad of wires–coax computer connections and power cords leading from the first floor to the second floor. Because of the 3/4 inch plaster walls, Bill, obviously could not put the wires inside the walls. They were hanging from a lag bolt screwed through a bookcase attached to the ceiling. The scene was unfathomable. A small air conditioner was in the window and attached was a 5 inch flexible duct leading off somewhere.
To the left were stacks of magazines and catalogs from the early 90’s, most were still in plastic sleeves, never opened and never read. Underneath the magazines was an old Konica copy machine from the 80’s. In the upper left hand corner, behind the magazines, were cassette tapes lined up vertically on a makeshift shelf attached to the wall. Beneath were boxes and bags with more random items.
I took this photo from the tiny kitchen looking back to the front door. The entire living room area was completely barricaded off with electronics stacked floor to ceiling. Cabinets with caddy drawers filled with nuts and bolts–thousands of them. Heavy boxes on the right lined the wall stacked from floor to ceiling. There was just barely enough room to walk through to the kitchen. And peeking out beneath was filthy avocado green wall-to-wall carpeting from the 1960s.
Extremely orderly in an absolute chaotic setting…we couldn’t wrap our heads around it. (There’s a 1995 calendar magnet of the fridge.) We knew NOTHING about hoarding–never watched the hoarding shows on TV. And then we looked around the corner to the right of the fridge and saw Bill, a snow white-haired man in his early 70s, sitting in a chair at a table that looked like it was some sort of command station with a slew of radios stacked on shelves above; he was surrounded by VCRs, TVs and more radios stacked to the ceiling. The duct work from the kitchen window– which was really a flexible dryer vent–reached his desk feeding him cool air. There was barely enough room for the two of us to stand. Objects were suspended from the ceiling forcing us to hunch over.
We finally met Bill.