Edward Theodore Gein (August 27, 1906 - July 26, 1984),was one of the most notorious serial killers of the United States. Although he may have committed "only" two murders, the particularly bizarre and morbid nature of his crimes shocked the world.
Ed Gein was born to George and Augusta Gein on August 27, 1906 in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The Geins were a notably dysfunctional family. George was a violent man who could not keep a job. He usually spent his days brooding on the front porch and consuming liquor. Gein rejected his violent, aimless father, as did his older brother Henry and especially Augusta, who treated him like a non-entity. Despite her deep contempt for George, the atrophic marriage persisted, for, under Augusta's strict moral code (with its roots in fanatical Evangelicalism), divorce was not an option. She operated the small family grocery store and eventually purchased a farm on the outskirts of another small town by the name of Plainfield, which thereafter became Ed's permanent home. He often liked to dance the jig at town socials. Augusta decided to move to this desolate location to prevent outsiders from influencing her sons. Gein only left the premises to go to school and Augusta blocked any attempt he made to pursue friendships. Aside from school, Ed spent most of his free time doing chores on the farm. Augusta, who was fanatically religious, drummed into her boys the innate immorality of the world, the evil of drink, and - above all -- that all women (herself, of course, excepted) were whores. According to Augusta, the only acceptable form of sex was for procreation. She reserved time every afternoon to read scriptures from the Bible to them, usually selecting graphic verses from the Old Testament dealing with death, murder, and divine retribution. When Ed reached puberty, Augusta became even more fanatical towards her son, once dousing him in scalding water after she caught him masturbating in the bathtub.
Considering Ed's effeminate demeanor, it's no surprise that he was a target for bullies. Ed was also notorious for a permanent lopsided grin that was even displayed during serious conversations. Classmates and teachers recall other off-putting mannerisms, such as seemingly random laughter, as if he was laughing at his own personal joke. Despite Ed's poor social development, he managed to do fairly well in school, particularly in reading. It is argued by some researchers that Ed's detrimental childhood experiences were a contributing factor in his later behavior.
By the time George died in 1940, Henry had begun to reject Augusta's warped view of the world. He had even taken to bad-mouthing her within earshot of his mortified brother. In March of 1944, the brothers found themselves in the middle of a brush fire on the farm. When Gein ran to get the police, he told them he had lost sight of Henry, but then led them directly to his brother's corpse. Although there was evidence Henry had suffered blunt trauma to the head, police decided he died of asphyxiation while fighting the fire.
What little holds Ed had left on rational behavior and reality were lost when, on December 29, 1945, Augusta died of cancer. At the funeral, the 39-year old sobbed uncontrollably, utterly devastated. Ed had grown up terrified of human contact, especially women; he never dated, and was almost certainly a virgin. While she sometimes berated him for being a failure like his father, more often than not, Augusta nurtured the bizarre, Oedipal devotion she had planted into his psyche decades ago. She would talk softly to Ed, tell him that he was a "good boy", and let him sleep with her. Police would later find every room in the Gein house a filthy mess, save for the sitting room and Augusta's bedroom, which Ed had kept spotless in homage to her.
Police investigating the disappearance of a store clerk named Bernice Worden in Plainfield, Wisconsin on November 16, 1957 suspected Gein to be involved. Upon entry to the shed on his property, they discovered Wordon's corpse, decapitated, hanging upside down by the ankles and split open down the torso like a deer. The mutilations had been performed post mortem; she had been killed with a close-range rifle blast.
Searching the house, authorities found severed heads acting as bedposts in the bedroom, skin used to make lampshades and chair seats, skullcaps made into soup bowls, a human heart in a brown paper bag beside the stove (often mistakenly believed to have been found in the frying pan), a necklace of human lips, a waistcoat made up of a vagina and breasts, and many more items fashioned from the parts of human bodies including a belt fashioned from nipples. Above all, Ed Gein's most infamous creation was an entire wardrobe fabricated of human skin consisting of: leggings, a gutted torso (including breasts) and an array of tanned, dead skin masks that looked leathery and almost mummified. All of these items were confirmed to be used as props for his late night rituals, in which Gein would dress himself as a woman and dance beneath the moonlight while banging pots and pans.
Under questionning, Gein freely admitted that he would dig up the graves of recently buried middle-aged women he thought resembled his mother and take the bodies home where he tanned their skin to make his macabre possessions. He also practiced cannibalism, devouring pieces of the exhumed corpses; Gein believed that by eating pieces of the women, he could keep his mother's soul alive inside his own body. Gein also participated in a stunted form of necrophilia, achieving sexual pleasure by playing with the mutilated sexual organs of corpses. After he began to practice cannibalism, Gein occasionally assumed his mother's identity and would carry on conversations with himself in a falsetto voice. During interrogation, Gein also admitted to the murder by shooting of Mary Hogan, a local tavern employee who had been missing since 1954.
Gein was pronounced insane and spent the rest of his life in a mental institution where he died in 1984 of natural causes. He was buried in the graveyard he had spent much of his life desecrating.
Vandalism to Ed's grave site near his parents' included many years of stone pieces chipped off for souveniers until his gravestone was finally stolen. His grave is now unmarked.
He lived in Wisconsin
Gein underwent many physcological examinations after his incarceration and it is still highly argued whether he was criminally insane (which he was found to be by the doctors). Some see Gein as a cunning, tactful fox of a man who carefully hides himself behind his lopsided grin, whilst others (throughout his life, the citizens of Plainfield) percieved Gein as a sort of village idiot.
His motive for killing could also be argued however one could guess, through just seeing his house (his living area an absolute squalor including a sink filled with sand, or the areas which he boarded up and isolated from the rest of the house - these where his mothers living area, kept immaculately clean) that Gein dug up the bodies and such and crafted the women suit for 2 main reasons:
1) To gratify and immortalize his mother, in a gesture of showing and tangibly seeing how much he loved her, and having her be with him instead of the terrible disheartining isolation he endured.
2) To get back at her, in a vegenful sense, for all the trauma and suffering she put him through with his developing years. In a "Take-this-you-bitch" sort of way.
"Physco" - The controlling, insane, motherlike figure dominating her son.
"Texas Chainsaw Massacre" - Perhaps the most influenced by Ed Gein. The squalor in which the family leaves whilst some areas remain immaculately clean (The grandparents room with the little preserved doggy). Furniture like Gein who fashioned soup bowls out of skull caps, chairs out of skin, drums out of skin, a drawshade made of human lips. And of course, Leatherfaces mask bearing striking resemblance to Geins own 9-12 masks he had in the pileup of rubbish.