A MONSTER IS BORN
Edward Theodore Gein was born on August 27, 1906, to Augusta and George Gein in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Eddie was the second of two boys born to the couple. The first born was Henry, who was seven years older than Eddie. Augusta was a strong willed religious woman, intolerant of her weak-willed husband, George, to whom he deferred in all things, especially, in the raising of their boys. Augusta kept a tight reign over her boys, making sure they were aware of the outside evils of the world. She was especially harsh on sexual matters, expounding the evils of sex and women to her boys. She even went so far as to punish the boys for trying to make friends. She kept them as socially isolated as possible.
It’s said that Ed Gein was especially close his mother. His older brother Henry worried about how his attachment to his mother was affecting Ed.
In 1940 George died as a result of his alcoholism. The only outside influence he really had was now his brother Henry. Both of them did odd jobs as handy men. They were reliable and trustworthy. Ed Gein was even trusted to babysit, as he did for his neighbors quite often. Henry did what he could to protect his brother, defying their mother when he could. Unfortunately, Henry passed away just four years after their father’s death, dead in a brush fire.
On May 16, 1944, Ed and Henry were fighting a brush fire on their land, they separated and, according to Ed, lost sight of one another. When the blaze was out, Ed contacted the police, concerned for his missing brother. Yet when police arrived, Ed led them right to the “lost” Henry, who lying dead on unburned ground, bruises on his head. Did Henry get disoriented in the fire, fall and bump his head? Or did Ed take advantage of a situation to get rid of the brother that defied his beloved mother? Despite the unusual circumstances of Henry Gein’s death, it was ruled death by asphyxiation. No one could believe that shy and kind Ed would harm Henry.
Augusta died a short time later, after a series of strokes. Ed Gein was now alone in the world. He was a 39 year old bachelor who had lived through his mother’s tyranny all his life. He supported himself by doing odd jobs. The farm quickly deteriorated. He boarded off most of the house keeping the rooms just the way his mother left them. He only kept the kitchen and a bedroom open for his use. The lone Gein spent his time reading pulp magazines and anatomy books. Ed was fascinated by exotic stories about head shrinking, anatomy, and grave robbing. At some point, Ed began visiting cemeteries and stealing women’s bodies. Ed was fond of peeling their skin from their bodies and wearing it. He was curious to know what it was like to have breasts and a vagina and he often dreamed of being a woman. He was fascinated with women because of the power and hold they had over men. Ed was trying to fashion himself a “woman suit”. Ed added quite a bit to his odd “collection” over the years.
Grave Robbing and Murder
An investigation to the whereabouts of Bernice Worden began after her son Frank, a deputy sheriff, returned late in the afternoon from an early morning hunting trip and discovered his mother was missing and blood was on the floor of the store. A review of the store receipts included the purchase of a half of gallon of antifreeze. Worden thought about any suspicious activity that he could recall, and one thing came to mind. He remembered that Gein had been in and out of the store the previous week and also at closing time the night before. He remembered Gein saying he’d be back in the morning for antifreeze and that Gein questioned Worden about going hunting the next day. Although Gein had never been involved in any known criminal activity, the sheriff felt it was time to pay the odd loner a visit.
The police found Ed Gein in a store near his home. They then went to his home to begin their search. They began in the shed. In the shed they found a body hanging upside down, disemboweled. It was Bernice Worden. After the discovery of Bernice Worden’s headless corpse and other gruesome artifacts in Eddie’s house, police began an exhaustive search of the remaining parts of the farm and surrounding land. They believed Eddie may have been involved in more murders and that the bodies might be buried on his land. His home was filled with junk and newspapers. And body parts, many body parts. Some used as regular household items: skulls were made into bowls, jewelry made from human skin. Chairs upholstered in human skin. Masks that were once human faces. The majority of parts came from 15 different women. Bernice Worden’s heart was found in a pan on the stove. Ed Gein swore up and down that he did not engage in necrophilia with the corpses, because of the smell. He also denied any cannibalism, despite having gutted Bernice. When Searching his house, authorities found a number of items:
* Four noses
* Whole human bones and fragments
* Nine masks of human skin
* Bowls made from human skulls
* Ten female heads with the tops sawed off
* Human skin covering several chair seats
* Mary Hogan’s head in a paper bag
* Bernice Worden’s head in a burlap sack
* Nine vulvas in a shoe box
* Skulls on his bedposts
* Organs in the refrigerator
* A pair of lips on a draw string for a window shade
Ed swore that the body parts were all from corpses he robbed from their graves. Police were skeptical. After much controversy and red tape, the police were able to exhume the graves Ed claimed he tampered with.
Gein’s sanity was in question and it was suggested that during trial he plead not guilty, by reason of insanity, or rather diminished responsibility. Gein underwent a battery of psychological tests, which later concluded that he was indeed emotionally impaired. Psychologists and psychiatrists who interviewed him asserted that he was schizophrenic and a “sexual psychopath.” His condition was attributed to the unhealthy relationship he had with his mother. Gein apparently suffered from conflicting feelings about women, his natural sexual attraction to them and the unnatural attitudes that his mother had instilled in him. This love-hate feeling towards women became exaggerated and eventually developed in to a full-blown psychosis.
The only murders that could actually be attributed to Ed Gein was that of Bernice Worden and a Mary Hogan.
Ed Gein was deemed mentally incompetent and could not stand trial. He spent the remainder of his days at a hospital for the criminally insane.
He died of heart failure attributed to cancer on July 26, 1984
Ed Gein and his House of Horrors became the stuff of legend. His story has inspired many a horror tale. The most well known media inspired by the atrocities committed by Ed Gein are:
In Psycho, Norman Bates is a Gein-like character who has an unnatural attachment to his deceased mother. He keeps her corpse in the house, and often personifies her by wearing a wig and dresses.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a blend of several different murders and serial killers. Leatherface, who also wears a masks made of human skin, was doubtlessly inspired by Ed Gein. However, Gein never killed his victims with a chainsaw.
In Silence of the Lambs, another purely fictional movie, serial killer Buffalo Bill is patterned after Gein in that he murders women and uses their skins as human masks.
There are several other movies based on Ed Gein, a few of them are actually titled, “Ed Gein”. His House of Horrors and crimes he committed are the stuff of legend. The type of story that people tell one another in hushed tones, that children tell one another in the dark over a campfire. But this Boogey man was real. By day he was a quiet, shy handyman that people trusted enough to babysit their children. By night he robbed graves and desecrated female corpses–Ed Gein, a True American Psycho.