Clean Your Room

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If you think you’re a packrat — cheer up.

In 1929, brothers Homer and Langley Collyer holed up in a Harlem townhouse and basically set the all-time record for reclusive hoarding. They kept to the house during the day, and at night Langley fetched their water from a park four blocks away, dragging home abandoned junk.

In 1942, when they missed a mortgage payment, the police investigated but couldn’t get past a solid wall of junk behind the front door. In 1947, when rumors surfaced that Homer had died, a team of seven men finally began excavating the foyer, which was choked with old newspapers, folding beds and chairs, half a sewing machine, boxes and parts of a wine press. A patrolman broke into the second floor and spent two hours crawling through packages and newspaper bundles before he discovered Homer, dead in a bathrobe, his head on his knees. The recluse had been dead only 10 hours, so the smell was coming from somewhere else.

Authorities began unpacking the house. Among other things, they found baby carriages, rusted bicycles, a collection of guns, gas chandeliers, the folding top of a horsedrawn carriage, three dressmaking dummies, a kerosene stove, thousands of books about medicine and engineering, human organs pickled in jars, a clavichord, two organs, the chassis of an old Model T, a horse’s jawbone, an early X-ray machine, and more than six tons of newspapers, magazines, and wood. After several weeks of searching, they found Langley 10 feet from his brother. He had been crushed in one of his own booby traps.

In total, police and workmen took 136 tons of garbage out of the house, including 14 pianos and more than 25,000 books. It was eventually torn down as a fire hazard.

Personality and Blood Type

Personality traits associated with various blood types, according to Japanese superstition:

Type A:

  • Best traits: Conservative, reserved, patient, punctual, perfectionist, and good with plants.
  • Worst traits: Introverted, obsessive, stubborn, and self-conscious. Anal retentive.
  • Famous examples: George H.W. Bush, O.J. Simpson, Britney Spears

Type B:

  • Best traits: Creative and passionate. Animal-loving. Optimistic and flexible.
  • Worst traits: Forgetful, irresponsible, individualistic.
  • Famous examples: Akira Kurosawa, Jack Nicholson, Luciano Pavarotti

Type AB:

  • Best traits: Cool, controlled, rational. Sociable and popular. Empathic.
  • Worst traits: Aloof, critical, indecisive, and unforgiving.
  • Famous examples: John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Mick Jagger

Type O:

  • Best traits: Ambitious, athletic, robust, and self-confident. Natural leaders.
  • Worst traits: Arrogant, vain, and insensitive. Ruthless.
  • Famous examples: Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth, John Lennon

Interestingly, Type A blood is the most common in Japan, while Type O is most common in the United States — and among Japanese prime ministers.

Boo!

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Freud would have loved San Jose’s “Winchester Mystery House,” a mansion-sized emblem of its owner’s mental illness. Rifle heiress Sarah L. Winchester started construction in 1884, and never stopped. A medium had told her of a family curse, and convinced her that she would die if the construction ever ceased.

So it went on, 24 hours a day, for 38 years. There was no plan; the house was just continuously rebuilt. Worse, Sarah believed that vengeful spirits of gun victims were seeking her, so she slept in a different room each night, and the layout is full of secret passages and stairways and doors that lead nowhere.

The result shows what $5.5 million worth of insanity looks like. Altogether there are 160 rooms, including 40 bedrooms, 47 fireplaces, 1,260 windows, 17 chimneys (with evidence of two others), two ballrooms, two basements and three working elevators.

It takes 20,000 gallons to paint the place, so painting never stops. In that sense, Sarah’s weird wish lives on.

SPCSCPG

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The Society for the Prevention of Calling Sleeping Car Porters “George” was a lighthearted association with a useful, if incidental, cause. Most railway porters were black, and many passengers called them all George, following the racist custom of naming slaves after their masters. (George Pullman ran the company that made the cars, so the porters were regarded as his servants.)

Strangely, the prevention society was founded not by the black porters, but by white railway employees who were actually named George. Apparently they were either annoyed by the tradition or thought that such a society would be a good joke.

People did think it was funny, or at least inoffensive. At its peak, the society had 31,000 members, including King George V of the United Kingdom, Babe Ruth (whose given name was George), and French politician Georges Clemenceau.