Most episodes of the A&E show “Hoarders” are inherently heartbreaking because viewers get to look into the grim reality of people living with hoarding disorder. Even though the point of the show is to help, there are certainly some episodes that end without a happy resolution and some “Hoarders” stories have even ended in tragedy.
Notably, the show offers therapy for the participants. When the show did a brief stint on the Lifetime network, cleaner and “Hoarders” star Matt Paxton told The Ashley that the focus shifted even more toward helping the people with the disorder, and he estimated that 60% of people who participate in the offered therapy keep their hoarding at bay.
With the rise of minimalism and the desire to Marie Kondo our spaces, it makes sense that people may fear being judged for their cluttered homes. According to the American Psychiatric Association, hoarding is different than simply collecting as it takes over the person’s entire life and the items kept aren’t necessarily purposeful. People with hoarding disorder can ultimately become isolated, and their mess can become so encompassing that people don’t have any idea what’s in their house, like one woman (not featured on the show) who didn’t realize her son’s remains were in the home with her for nearly 20 years, according to HuffPost. Here are the stories seen on “Hoarders” that had sad endings.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.
Cats were the victims in this tragic Hoarders story
Terry, who was featured in Season 6, Episode 8, may have started hoarding after witnessing the death of her father as a child, according to her son, as described on IMDb. But animal lovers should be warned, her hoarding — one of the most disturbing collections on “Hoarders” — turned toward cats instead of possessions.
Fans of the show are used to seeing shocking things, but this episode showed Terry keeping the bodies of around 100 cats in her freezer and other parts of her home, Today reported. And she had 50 living cats at the time of filming. Of those cats, the specialists the team called in only managed to save 18. They had to euthanize the rest due to upper respiratory infections, one of the animal control specialists explained during the cleanup. During the episode, Terry said that she hoarded cats as a way to “save something.”
This sad reality is common enough within hoarding that the show “Confessions: Animal Hoarding” was created and aired on Animal Planet. While KRQE reported that another woman who hoarded 100 cats (who did not appear on “Hoarders”) was charged with animal cruelty in New Mexico, Terry was never charged.
This doll hoarder was a convicted criminal
Patrick O’Shannahan, or Sir Colonel Dr. Patrick Donovan Flanagan O’Shannahan, as he went by during his Season 3 episode of “Hoarders,” turned out to have spent time in prison after he reportedly attempted to sexually assault a young college student, The Ann Arbor News reported. He is also registered on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s sexual offenders and predators database. To top it all off, he was arrested for unlawful physical contact of an elderly woman, and the website The Smoking Gun obtained a copy of that charge sheet.
During the episode, he did not want any of the dolls in his collection removed, though he parted with most of his other items. He admitted to wanting to keep the dolls because they reminded him of his young neighbor, whom he said he loved and who had passed away.
A&E appears to have made the episode unavailable across all platforms. The episode appears in searches for Season 3, Episode 2, but when you try to watch it on A&E’s website, another episode has taken its place.
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
Police investigated this tragic hoarders home
Season 8, Episode 8 of “Hoarders” featured a couple, Ed and Connie, obsessed with Halloween who filled their home with all kinds of frightening and festive decorations, but it wasn’t their home that scared viewers — it was Peggy’s, who was also featured in the episode. According to the description of the episode, the city had seen Peggy’s home and decided it was not safe to live in. And after watching, viewers reportedly began placing calls to the Pekin police department about the dead animals displayed on the program, according to WCBU.
Pekin Code Enforcement Officer and Building Inspector Ron Sieh saw the home and participated in the program without alerting police, according to the Washington Times-Reporter, and an internal investigation led to his resignation. Peggy, whose real name is Cora Belk, was charged with a misdemeanor and fined, as reported by the Pekin Daily Times.
This former interior designer lost her home
Sandra Cowart, who appeared in Season 9 of “Hoarders,” had a huge mansion consisted of a whopping 31 rooms, and, as noted by the show’s description, she had filled the entire space.
The home, known as the Julian Price home, is featured on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as the Guilford County Landmark Properties list, according to the Greensboro News & Record. Though she owned the Tudor-style home for 40 years, the bank foreclosed on it. Cowart told the court during the foreclosure process that she was working 18-hour days to try to get out of debt, but she was 67 months past due on her loan, as In Touch Weekly reported. When the home sold, it still had trash, mold, and large furniture items that needed to be removed, and that responsibility fell on the new owners, according to the Triad Business Journal. They fixed it up so well that people can now stay in the home, and many “Hoarders” fans follow along with the mansion’s journey on the successful Instagram account that has more than 18,000 followers.
What makes this a tragic “Hoarders” story is obviously the fact that she lost her home, but also the sad truth that she used to be a very successful interior designer. In the ’90s, Cowart would host guests during the annual International Home Furnishings Market who wanted to stay in her historic home, as the Chicago Tribune shared.
Betty went back to hoarding fast
One of the main concerns experts have with massive clean-outs in a short period of time is the idea that the people who are forced to throw everything out quickly will go back to hoarding, according to NPR. That sadly appeared to be what happened when it came to Betty from Season 1, Episode 3. Fans of the show might remember that her tragic hoarding led to her husband being removed from the home by Adult Protective Services, and she had to clean the space in order for him to have a chance to come home.
She was known for being one of the more difficult hoarders that Dorothy Breininger dealt with (via YouTube). In a follow-up episode, Betty noted that the attention from neighbors impacted her negatively, and she said that she should put a sign in front that read, “Driving by and gawking $1,” to charge people to look at her now-famous home.
Entertainment Weekly reported that only one of the people featured in the follow-up episode was successful in continuing to recover from hoarding, and it wasn’t Betty. By the end of the update episode, Betty was estranged from her family, and she admitted she went back to hoarding a month after the show ended.
A father whose family sought to help him died after filming
“Hoarders” Season 11 featured Carol, who surprised viewers and expert organizer Dorothy Breininger with her cold behavior and attitude about husband Dave, who’d previously shared the house with his late first wife.
In a YouTube preview of the season, we saw that the entire home, including the stairwell, was filled with Carol’s possessions to the point that Dave only had a small space to sit on a coach with his oxygen tank. Some fans expressed that Dave would be better off getting a divorce and removing Carol from his home.
Though Dave’s children and Carol fought throughout the episode, Dr. David Tolin expressed, “Maybe this house can be what pulls this family back together,” as A&E shared on Facebook. By the end of the episode, it seemed like the family was on the path to healing. But sadly, it was revealed that Dave had passed away and no one in the family was speaking to Carol.
Jill and the rotting pumpkin
Fans of “Hoarders” will remember that Jill hoarded food far past its expiration date, and her refrigerator got so bad that any food that was put in her fridge became contaminated. The first time we saw Jill, she had, among other messes, a pumpkin rotting in her living room, and The A.V. Club guessed that, when she grabbed some seeds from the puddle of pumpkin during the episode, it might have been to plant more.
In the same follow-up episode that featured Betty, fans saw that Jill had unfortunately gone back to hoarding food, as Entertainment Weekly reported.
When the crew came back after the initial filming for the update episode, fans saw that Jill had expired food in the fridge again. When they walked into her living room, she had a rotting pumpkin on the table, and she laughed about it being two years old. This is all especially tragic because, as the IMDb description for her original episode notes, Jill started hoarding food because she was raised poor and struggled with her finances while raising her children.
One tragic hoarder's story ended in murder
Glen Brittner from Season 3, Episode 20 of “Hoarders” was known for his heartbreaking story. He had rats as pets before losing his wife, but he eventually lost control over up to 2,500 critters, as the IMDb page for his episode explained. What made matters more complicated, psychologist Dr. Robin Zasio noted (via a YouTube preview), was the fact the Glen saw the rats as his children. One Reddit user explained that, out of all the episodes, Glen’s touched them the most because of how much emotional pain he was clearly in.
He was a kind man, and the Los Angeles Times revealed that it might have been his open heart that led to his murder. KTLA 5 reported that he was using a wheelchair at the time of his death, and he was found tied up with zip-ties and his head was bleeding from a large wound. According to the LA Times, police never found signs of forced entry, but items were taken from the home, which led them to believe his kindness was taken advantage of. The case still hasn’t been solved, despite pleas from the family on the third anniversary of his death in 2018, The Antelope Valley Times reported.
The children of some of the stars of Hoarders have suffered
On many of the episodes of “Hoarders,” the family and children of the hoarders are the ones who reach out for help. Suzanne A. Chabaud, Ph.D., wrote about her experience helping children of hoarders for Psychiatric Times. She said that one child of a hoarder said, “How can you feel worthy when your own parent chooses garbage over you?”
In the sixth episode of Season 2, Deborah, who hoards, thought her kids might be taken away from her, again, due to her hoarding problem, as noted in the episode’s Rotten Tomatoes description. While that doesn’t seem to have happened, the family reportedly did face some dark times.
On a Reddit AMA from 2013, one user claimed he was Deborah’s youngest son from the episode, offering proof in the form of a photo. He said that his mother went back to hoarding, his parents got a divorce, and he now struggles with messes and hoarding himself. This is supported by the “Hoarders: Where Are They Now” episode that took place two years after the first, as Deborah told the crew, “A lot of what you’re gonna see may be reminiscent of what we had before.” In the episode, it was revealed that their home was foreclosed.
One brother died while filming a Hoarders episode
Ray and Tony were two elderly brothers living together. In a clip of the “Hoarders” episode seen on YouTube, Ray shared that his San Francisco home would be worth around $2 million … if it wasn’t filled to the brim with Tony’s hoard. In the clip, Ray walked around town with a smile on his face, chatting with neighbors. That is, until it was time to come back to his home, where he had to climb over piles of clothes and stuff, barely able to open the door.
The pair of brothers went on the show because Ray’s hoard caused the home to catch flame, and it could have burned down the neighbor’s home as well, according to the episode’s description.
The tragedy of this “Hoarders” story was when Ray shared that Tony had tragically passed away. He didn’t get time to grieve because he had to power through with the clean-up in order to not lose his home.
A terminally ill hoarder died after filming ended
Laura from Season 3 was a terminally ill cancer patient. She lived surrounded by so much clutter that she could only manage to sleep on the sofa (via IMDb). In the “Hoarders” episode, one of her daughters (via A&E), Michelle, said, “I always felt like she was ruining our lives because the house was like that.” At one point, Laura broke down crying because of her relationship with her family, noting that she believed she had to clean her mess in the house so that her family can live in a clean home.
Notably, the rest of the family’s health was at risk because of the condition the house was in. Michelle said during the episode that she struggled with bronchitis, pneumonia, allergies, and other breathing issues while she lived there. At the end of the episode after the cleanup, one of her daughters said, “I think the future for my family’s a lot more hopeful now.”
Sadly, after filming, the end credits noted that Laura’s health had declined, and she died in September 2010.
Augustine lost her relationship with her children
While most “Hoarders” episodes feature two hoarders, this case was so intense that they only featured Augustine’s story. As a child, Jason was removed from mother Augustine’s care due to her hoarding, and Child Protective Services never cleared him to return to the home (via A&E). He wasn’t even living in the same state, but he still came back to help his mother with the process of clearing out her home. In the episode (via YouTube), Jason thanked his mother for nurturing his passion for nature and supporting his interests as a child. Despite everything he went through as a child because of his mother, he still had kind words to say to her.
Tragically, not even the chance to save their relationship could keep Augustine from hoarding, as fans saw on the “Hoarders: Where Are They Now?” special. At the beginning of the episode, Augustine admitted that she hadn’t really been trying that hard to keep the house clean. At the end of her section of the follow-up, it was revealed that Jason hadn’t come back since the cleanup and wasn’t planning to. In 2010, he shared a rather sad note on Facebook that detailed how growing up in that house impacted him as a kid, sharing that he was picked on in school because of his mother’s hoarding.
One hoarder revealed her kitchen had gotten worse
Viewers might remember the episode with married couple Dennis and Nadene from Season 2 of “Hoarders.” Dennis was so depressed about the house that he had expressed to his daughter that he wanted to take his own life, and she was worried. Nadene also said he had threatened to kill her, and his daughter feared he might “snap.” The house got so bad that Adult Protective Services became involved, and Dennis stopped leaving his bedroom, which was full of his collection of weapons.
When the crew returned, Dennis was still in bed and had lost weight due to his depression after his gun collection was removed, as seen on YouTube. When Nadene and Dr. Zasio went into the kitchen, Nadene admitted that the mess had gotten “worse” because she didn’t like doing the dishes. But the home wasn’t just messy — there was a bag of old hamburger meat on the ground. Dennis ultimately shared that he felt the house was going “back to the way it was.”
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