Man's remains found in home presumed empty since 1997
May 11, 2001 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Man's remains found in home presumed empty since 1997...his skeleton in the living room chair. "It makes you appreciate the fact that you have loved ones."
posted by 7sharp11 (41 comments total)
Must we clog MeFi with these thinly-veiled advertisements for LazYBoy recliners?
posted by mecran01 at 1:29 PM on May 11, 2001

it took just as long to find the server behind the wall.

Must we clog MeFi with these thinly-veiled advertisements for LazYBoy recliners?

seems more like an advertisement to be social.
posted by register at 1:46 PM on May 11, 2001

I'm puzzled...I read this article in the dead-tree paper this morning, and apparently his door had been posted with notices regarding utilities, seized property, etc. Even the postman kept delivering, for a while. Shouldn't SOMEONE have noticed, or inquired, or called? Bizarre.
posted by davidmsc at 1:53 PM on May 11, 2001

god i wish i could be left alone like that for a while.
posted by jcterminal at 2:04 PM on May 11, 2001

Maybe he decided he wasn't getting up out of this goddamn chair until the Cubs got in the World Series. Kudos to him for having the balls to follow through! And the Cubs are in first place, so....

Maybe he even had a cubs cap sitting on top of his gleaming white skull. Oh man, to have seen that.

I wonder, does the skeleton stay together (i.e., sitting up) or are we talking about a pile of bones here? Which is not near as fun.
posted by luser at 2:06 PM on May 11, 2001

But how long till the remains become part of the mummies specials on TLC that they keep running....over...and over...and over...
posted by DiplomaticImmunity at 2:11 PM on May 11, 2001

If I were a neighbor, and there were a lonely elderly man living nearby who suddenly disappeared, I wouldn't assume that he abandoned the house. I'd assume that he died, and I'd go over to the house to check it out. I agree with davidmsc -- it's sad that his community was so apathetic.
posted by ktheory at 2:28 PM on May 11, 2001

In my neighborhood I wouldn't be dead 20 minutes before my neighbors found me. Stupid busybodies.

I almost posted this story myself, but I could not think of an angle that did not sound bitter.
posted by thirteen at 2:29 PM on May 11, 2001

I agree with davidmsc -- it's sad that his community was so apathetic.

It's not his community, it's our society. Every one of us knows of at least a couple of people on the periphery of our lives - someone at work or school, or a few doors down - that we don't particularly like for one reason or another, and that we wouldn't care less if they suddenly disappeared. (Remember my post asking whether people who don't specifically want to be left alone should be completely abandoned by society?)
posted by aaron at 2:39 PM on May 11, 2001

So we all have to keep tabs on everyone we know or else our whole society is apathetic?
posted by techgnollogic at 2:51 PM on May 11, 2001

My grandparents live in that area. It's mostly older folks that nose around in the business of their neighbors so I was shocked by the fact that nobody knew he was missing. If the tiniest event happens everyone knows about it in seconds. Hell the only interviews they had on the tube were with the nosy old ladies.
posted by @homer at 2:54 PM on May 11, 2001

people are morons. this is a prime example.
posted by wantwit at 3:06 PM on May 11, 2001

In the suburbs of Liverpool, this story is not unusual. In fact it's repeated every six months on the local news, almost precisely copied. And every time my stomach turns, because in the increasing isolation of people it's going to happen more and more.

It's society as a whole that's at fault, whichever part of the world you're in. Just for a second imagine you're in old age. All of your friends are slowly dying. Eventually there's no one left. No one calls. You get the odd letter from your family who live on the other side of the country, or even the planet. The only social contact you get is the nod over the fence and the teenager from social services who drops off your meals on wheels. No one could actually care if you lived or died. The community has decided your just old - you'll die soon anyhow so why should they make the effort?


Gallows humour's funny if you're not the person who had no one to comfort them in their final breath.
posted by feelinglistless at 4:28 PM on May 11, 2001

Techgnollogic said "So we all have to keep tabs on everyone we know or else our whole society is apathetic?"

I see this going down a slippery slope until you think I'm advocating Big Brother 1984-style. I'm not.

Stec's neighbors observed that he was missing, so they were already "keeping tabs" in that sense. I think that the apathetic part is that no one bothered to DO anything about that. If I notice someone is missing, I would take 2 minutes to knock on their door, and maybe peek inside, rather than just assume that they moved away. That seems like an unreasonable assumption.

Maybe I'm a snoop, but if the house next door had been abandoned for a few months, I'd go instead out of shear curiosity.
posted by ktheory at 4:36 PM on May 11, 2001

It's a nasty indictment on the fragmentation of communities and neighbourhoods.

(And it actually surprises me, feelinglistless, that it's such a regular thing in Liverpool, as I'd assumed that it was one of the places where you do get extended families living close together. And that's not from watching Bread, I should add: Middlesbrough, with its Irish Catholic base, is meant to have the same kind of demographics, and I can only think of the people who turned out in droves to my grandparents' funerals. I suppose that suburbanisation has something to do with it: people who've grown up around one another feel absence, or even the smallest problem, on a personal level.)

And it's not snooping, or "keeping tabs", if you actually care about the people who live around you. It's "looking out" for the people who make your living space, well, liveable.
posted by holgate at 4:52 PM on May 11, 2001

Yeah, this is just a minor, less poignant variation on Kitty Genovese, a woman who was killed in New York forty years ago; neighbors heard screams, but none called the cops. Those tenements used to be occupied by dozens of families from the same background, probably often going to the same church and linked by friendships, marriage, and other social encounters; the modern, mobile America doesn't reinforce relationships like that. It's probably only recently that this kind of urban isolation has overtaken the elderly in the same way, hence this particular Chicago story.
posted by dhartung at 5:12 PM on May 11, 2001

A lot of it does have to do with the fragmentation of communities. Although some good did come out of the housing policies in the sixties and seventies, much of the movement of people from shoddy housing into 'brighter' accomodation was done without considering the breaking up of communities which had worked for decades. This led to many people not wanting to know their neighbours, who are 'strangers' and so the problem becomes endemic.

I've also considered another possibility. Some pensioners with larger homes will be in areas where the generally older people have moved away for whatever reason to be replaced by larger families who consider four grandparents to be ample. Who do the older members of the community turn to then?
posted by feelinglistless at 5:26 PM on May 11, 2001

If it were me laying dead in that chair for four years the commotion would raise a chuckle (which would give the investigators nightmares, no doubt). He might not have been a lonely old man but instead a hermit - I don't see this as such a bad thing. I would be happy enough to go out this way (though I have other plans involving my sterilized body attached to a surf board, a launch into space, and a loop of that incessant surfing song).
posted by holloway at 5:48 PM on May 11, 2001

Whoo!! Cubs rule! Number 1! World Series Baaaayyybee!

Ohh, right, this is really sad though.
posted by tiaka at 6:38 PM on May 11, 2001

Shouldn't SOMEONE have noticed, or inquired, or called? Bizarre.

My neighbor died last Christmas. I called the police as soon as the smell was noticable, but he had been dead for about two weeks by that time.

In two years I spoke to him once, briefly, and he was very rude and unfriendly. Other than that one time, he was never seen or heard from by myself or my neighbors. He never left the house, a decrepit thing with a prominent "No Solicitors" sign out front. For a year after I moved in I thought the house was unoccupied, my only clue was his recycle bin out on the curb on Trashday 'Eve every week.

"..But he was a man who rarely seemed to make any friends, they remembered, usually greeting hellos with barely a grunt."

Sounds familiar.
posted by avowel at 6:51 PM on May 11, 2001

"It makes you appreciate the fact that you have loved ones."

Why, so they'll be around to discover your corpse?

Personally I find all the reactions to this story way more disturbing than the actual story itself.

If only people had invaded his privacy more!

If only he had someone who loved him so that they could be horrified to discover that he had died!

If only someone had burglarized his house and discovered him dead and reported it to police after cleaning the joint out!

That last one was mine.
posted by frenetic at 7:01 PM on May 11, 2001

they say it's healthy to have friends of all ages, so that you don't wake up one day with all of your friends dead. and, of course, so you have some fresh viewpoints and don't end up as a fuddy-duddy.

posted by rebeccablood at 7:03 PM on May 11, 2001

In the apartment complex I once lived in, a lady shot herself in her apartment(which was in the same building as the office ...) -they only found her a week later, and only because of the smell.....evidently she had health problems, and occasionally went to the hospital for a few days at a time without telling anyone. In her case people assumed she had merely gone to the hospital again......

How sad.......
posted by bunnyfire at 7:18 PM on May 11, 2001

Near where I live, a guy was once murdered, and no-one knew until the smell became really bad. Is this thing more common than I thought?

It's sad that people don't know their neighbours better. Not snoop, just get to know the people around them.

(slight tangent)There's got to be something wrong in the fact that burglars can rock up with a removal van and do a house over when the people living there have gone away for the weekend - because the neighbours don't even know who they're living next to, let alone that they haven't moved out.
posted by eoz at 8:27 PM on May 11, 2001

I'm sorry. But the privacy angle is just plain ridiculous. All too often, people beat chests and pout about their rights to privacy. And I happen to know two privacy proponents who don't even have firewalls set up on their broadband connection at home.

If privacy entails the complete withdrawal from social interaction, then you can count me out. Because as much as we'd like to think that we are our own self-contained units, the reality is that it is through other people that we grow as individuals. We are there for others and others are there for us. And this is one of the most magnanimous aspects of existence.

Besides, if someone were to refuse to answer the door, he'd miss out on ideological small talk with Jehovah's witnesses, filibustering with poltiical canvassers and getting to know the mailman on a first name basis.

Conversely, why not try and solve the riddle of why your next door neighbor has a roll in the hay with his S.O. at precisely 5:32 PM every day?

I personally feel that something is being lost in the equation if an individual willingly shuts herself off from humanity, for it is in the random wilderness of our surroundings that we have our most life-affirming and changing moments. And it is generally unplanned. Which is just as it should be, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by ed at 8:53 PM on May 11, 2001

Just for a second imagine you're in old age. All of your friends are slowly dying. Eventually there's no one left. No one calls. You get the odd letter from your family who live on the other side of the country, or even the planet.

Imagine you're like this at 25. Millions of twentysomethings are in the exact same boat.
posted by aaron at 10:25 PM on May 11, 2001

It's time for DSL...
posted by poodle at 10:47 PM on May 11, 2001

We are talking about a man who obviously did not want to know his neighbors. There is no tragedy in a man living and dying as he pleased. It sucks for the people who had to peel him off the chair, but I have to imagine the guy resting undisturbed for 4 years might have been rather pleased.

I myself wish the lady next door and her house would implode so I can buy the lot on the cheap and expand my garden. I like the guy on the other side, only because we established early on that we were not here to be friends and our obligations to each other are minimal. He and I have said maybe 1000 words to each other in the last 4 years, and we have managed to squeeze 3 mutually beneficial projects out of that Spartan exchange. The rest of the time we pretend not to know each other. THAT is a good neighbor! We pick our friends and live where we can, why is that so hard? I am polite to the people who ring my bell, but I hate the waste of my time. The upside is, the general tone of my street breaks the spirit of the perky. This summer there was a block party that 3 families organized, and they begged people to participate for a month in advance. They got the city to block off the street, and 3 families had the most pathetic block party you ever saw, nobody else joined in. I went to the movies with my friends that day, and had a human experience of my choosing. Someone like me might be bad news in your immediate community, but if you feel that way I guarantee that you would be much worse news in mine. Live and let live.
posted by thirteen at 11:02 PM on May 11, 2001

I hope one day you have your island, thirteen. If I lived on the other side of the island and we were separated by a wall guarded by dogs and bees and dogs that and we were to be neighbors, I wonder what kind of neighbor I would be.
posted by sudama at 11:47 PM on May 11, 2001

posted by ZachsMind at 12:47 AM on May 12, 2001

Your street party, assuming you had them (streets) would be quite a buzz.


Sometimes elderly people are scared that if they don't keep to themselves, they will attract attention and perhaps be put into a home. While some people prefer to be in some sort of communal setting with medical and daily-living assistance, to others it means everything to them that they should live and die in their home, that they keep their independence.

The best way to alleviate situation is if people who wish to are offered support services that allow them to live at home.

Of course some people just want to be alone. In Western societies, people who live in over-populated areas seem more likely to wish to withdraw from the company of others. We assume this person was unhappy, but we don't know that for a fact. In all, this might be a sad situation, but for us, not for him. Our reactions to this say more about us and our views about death and society (obviously) than it does this old man and the circumstances of his death. He stopped thinking about these sorts of issues the day he died (given that fact, I do feel sad when these sorts of things occur)
posted by lucien at 12:48 AM on May 12, 2001

Do you know a scene in a movie called ....(post a name),s apartment,don,t remember the full title ,it,s a shitty movie anyway ,B-Rated as hell but ,nobody can get a decent Richard Pryor nowadays ,and no , Richard Pryor,s not in this movie,Ok ,back to the question ,in that movie there,s a character , a so called pseudo-faux "where,s my 15 minutes " enterpreneur sans the Warhol haircut ,
cover himself with fake blood and lay in an alley ,to time how long will he be found , it took him 5 days to be found ,and that,s in NYC ,man ! ,i assume the aforementioned dead guy in this link lives in a suburb ,that would just change my view of the world , hehe,.. well no ,i ,ve known it all this time.
posted by DimasT-Bone at 1:40 AM on May 12, 2001

I wish I had more neighbors like him. No, not dead -- though an old cemetery is a lovely thing -- but self-contained.

Neighbors should say hello and smile, but they should also mind their own business and not expect people to associate just because they happen to share a dividing wall or a lawn.

Better to die in your own home and become a study in decomposition than to die in a hospital or 'rest home' and be immediately whisked away to make room for the next person waiting to die.
posted by pracowity at 5:05 AM on May 12, 2001

Just to refer back to the similarity between this situation and that of Kitty Genovese...

I was always told that part of the reason why no one paid any attention to the murder of Kitty was because she was related to the Genovese crime family, and her murder was mob related, which helps to explain why, according to official reports, no one wanted to get involved.
posted by crunchland at 8:15 AM on May 12, 2001

(Welcome, DimasT-bone. Be advised around here we prefer people to take the time to compose complete sentences and use punctuation. Do so and you'll get a better reception. Either that, or adjust your meds...)

crunchland, I've never heard that, and nothing online indicates that anyone has ever pursued that question. Besides, while this was a celebrated instance, such neighborly uninvolvement is increasingly common and almost unremarkable; you don't need a "mob hit" explanation by Occam's Razor. Winston Mosely, the murderer, doesn't seem to have been treated as a mobster, and has admitted to being a psychotic serial assaulter. See more on the details here. Also, Kitty was recently from Connecticut, and not a New York native, so it seems unlikely she'd be closely related to the gangland-style mob of those days.
posted by dhartung at 9:35 AM on May 12, 2001

could all 38 of Kitty Genovese's neighbors have recognized her from their windows and dismiss it as "just the murder of a Genovese"? if her murder was mob-related, isn't it just as eerie that they could acknowledge and accept her murder along with all the rest?
posted by register at 9:44 AM on May 12, 2001

from dhartung's first link:

"The killer was Winston Moseley, who explained to cops he just came down with this urge sometimes to go cruising for some random woman to cut up.

'Oh, I knew the neighbors wouldn't do anything," Winston Moseley said. "People never do. That late at night, they just go back to sleep.'"
posted by register at 10:15 AM on May 12, 2001

I like DimasT-bone's writing style. It's Faulkner-esque.
posted by ktheory at 11:19 AM on May 12, 2001

Sudama: If you were on the island, I would make you dinner everynight. I like you lots, and have no problem with you. If you have nothing to talk about other than sports and beer, well, I have a lamp waiting to be rewired. It is defacto community that I find useless. There is a place for this, I do value my immediate neighbor's more than those of the surrounding streets, and the city more than the rest of the state. I can zoom this out as far as you want, but you have to realize that from my perspective, I am the center of the universe. My time and privacy are valuable to me, and I don't want to abuse that by putting out for any goober smart enough to come knocking on my door.

Anybody hear this American life today? I thought of all of you when they were profiling the old lady from Washington, with all the rats in her house. She was a bad neighbor because she let her situation become a problem for those around her, but I chose to focus on her desire to do things on her own, and the interviewers indignation at having her help refused. It spoke volumes to me.
posted by thirteen at 12:37 PM on May 12, 2001

well no ,i ,ve known it all this time.

No, no, the other curly thing is the apostrophe. Why do so many people online put commas where apostrophes belong? I see it constantly.
posted by kindall at 1:19 PM on May 12, 2001

> Why do so many people online put commas where
> apostrophes belong? I see it constantly.

I give him or her much credit for at least knowing what the shift key is for. Do people who write online like this -- "yeah well i go 2 george washington u." -- also write like that on paper? Or don't they write on paper anymore?
posted by pracowity at 1:11 AM on May 13, 2001

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