Written By: S.P
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Edward Theodore Gein, also known as the Butcher of Plainfield, was an American murderer and grave robber. Despite the notoriety of his name, Gein had only confessed to the killing of two women. This body count may seem insignificant when compared to other murders such as Jeffery Dahmer or Ted Bundy, with Bundy having a body count of over 35 women. However, what Gein did with the bodies is what truly makes his crimes uniquely disturbing. The crimes of Ed Gein have served as inspiration for several fictional horror characters such as Normand Bates in Physco, Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Buffalo Bill in the The Silence of the Lambs.
The Gein Family
Ed Gein was born on August 27, 1906 in La Crosse County, Wisconsin into an extremely unstable home. He had an older brother named Henry. His father, George Philip Gein struggled with alcoholism while his mother, Augusta was a hard-core religious fanatic. In 1915 the family decided to move from the bustling city of La Crosse to the much quainter and isolated town of Plainfield. Augusta desired to move her family away from La Crosse because she believed that it was ridden with sin and that its population comprised of harlots and sodomites. Augusta’s religious influence over her sons was profound, convincing them that all women (excluding herself) were promiscuous and lustful monsters who corrupted men. Despite this (or perhaps because of this), young Ed came to idolize and worship his mother, believing her to be the epitome of righteousness. The boys were not allowed to integrate into society. Rather, after school, they were to come straight home and were forbidden from making any friends.
In 1940, George Gein suffered from a heart attack and died. In order to support themselves and their mother, the boys both picked up odd jobs, mainly as handymen. Around this time, Henry, disregarding the preaching of his mother, began a relationship with a woman. Augusta was sickened by her son Henry’s relationship and condemned him for his decision. Four years later, Henry died by means of a fire on the farm, leaving Ed all alone with his insane and overbearing mother. Finally, Ed had been granted what he always truly wanted: the chance to have his mother all to himself.
The Breaking Point
Unfortunately, Ed did not have much time left with his mother. Soon after Henry’s death, Augusta suffered from a paralysing stroke that left her unable to care for herself. As if he hadn’t done so enough before, now Ed spent even more of his time dedicated to caring and fending for his mother. Shortly after the first stroke, Augusta suffered from a second stroke, this time fatal.
Ed was devastated by the loss of his only friend and one true love. He boarded up his mother’s room and left her belongings untouched and preserved just the way she had left them. Ed slowly descended into madness as he was unable to bear the isolation and loss of his mother. Now completely alone with nothing but his deranged thoughts, Ed began to indulge in pornography and horror novels. He would spend hours studying books on female anatomy and took up animal taxidermy as a hobby.
Desecrating the Dead
In 1946, Ed took this newfound passion for human anatomy to the next level when he started digging up graves of women in the Plainfield cemetery nearby. He would remove their organs, heads and genitals before returning them to their graves. Sometimes he would bring back the intact corpses to his home. It is estimated that Ed had robbed the graves of over 40 women.
With the parts of the bodies that Ed had acquired, he fashioned all kinds of oddities. He made bowls out of women’s skulls, leggings out of human skin and he stuffed and mounted the faces of several women. He created furniture and body suits with human skin and there were boxes of human noses and female genitalia.
Regardless of all these gruesome acts, Ed had not yet consummated the most vile act of all: murder. However, this would change on one cold wintery night in 1954. The several years of grave-robbing and human taxidermy wasn’t enough to satiate Ed’s deranged desires anymore. Ed drove to a local tavern where he shot and killed a woman who worked there. He dragged her lifeless body back to his farmhouse and turned her body into furniture.
In November of 1957, Ed would commit his second murder. Fifty-eight-year-old Bernice Worden was opening up her hardware store when Ed walked in and shot her dead. He dragged her body back to his car and farmhouse in the same fashion as he did with his previous murder. Only this time Ed would not get off scot-free. The day following the killing, Frank Worden, Bernice’s son would notify police of his mother’s disappearance and also stated that Ed had been seen the day before entering the hardware store.
The Arrest and Mental Ward
Police arrested Edward Theodore Gein and immediately investigated his farmhouse. When police entered the barn, they were appalled at the sight. Bernice Worden’s headless and mutilated corpse had been hanging upside down, completely gutted. The atrocities only grew more gruesome as they entered Ed’s home. Investigators entered only to find a wasteland of decaying corpses. Flies swarmed around the bloody countertops, the freezer was full of human organs and Bernice Worden’s heart was found on a metal tray atop the stove.
In court, Edward Theodore Gein had claimed that he did not remember the grave-robbings simply because, when he committed them, he was in a “daze-like” trance. Ed was sent to Central State Hospital for the criminally insane and was later transferred to Mendota State Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. Ed lived out the rest of his years locked away in a mental asylum. He died in the Mendota institution on July 26th, 1984 at the age of 77 from respiratory failure due to lung cancer.
Despite having only committed two murders, the deeds of Edward Theodore Gein were so gruesomely evil that his name will forever be immortalized through his heinous crimes.
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