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Edward Theodore Gein, Edward Gein, Eddie Gein better known as Ed Gein (The Plainfield Ghoul & The Mad Butcher) was and is one of America’s most famous serial killers. Gein was born August 8, 1906 (Christening was done on August 27, 1906) in La Crosse County, Wisconsin and died July 26, 1984 at age 77 in Madison, Wisconsin. Ed Gein’s territory was around his hometown of Plainfield, Wisconsin. Gein kidnapped his victims but also exhumed corpses from the local graveyard so that he could keep trophies from the bones and skin of these victims. Gein was apprehended on November 16, 1957. Ed Gein only confessed to killing two women; Mary Hogan (died December 8, 1954) and Bernice Worden (died November 16, 1957). Gein was first thought unfit for trial but after some time in a mental health facility, he was tried in 1968 for the murder of Bernice Worden in which he received life imprisonment after being diagnosed with schizophrenia. Because his mental health was unstable, Gein was sent to the Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane (now renamed the Dodge Correctional Institution). He spent the end of his life in Mendota Mental Health Institute.

Real American Psycho

Many fictional serial killers from both movies and books have been based loosely on Ed Gein. Such characters include Norman Bates from Psycho, Leatherface from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Jame Gumb (Buffalo Bill) from The Silence of the Lambs, Erza Cobb from Deranged, Bloody Face from the horror TV series American Horror Story: Asylum and Eddie Gluskin of one of the best horror games of 2013 Outlast.

Ed Gein grew up with his mother, Augusta Gein, who punished him and his older brother Henry George Gein for having friends. She would read to them from the Old Testament Bible with the focus on death, murder and divine retribution. Ed Gein in his youth after his mother passed away would read death-cult magazines and adventure stories that included cannibals and Nazi cruelties.

Ed Gein was apprehended on November 16, 1957 for the murder of Bernice Worden. Gein was the last person to see her before she disappeared and a receipt confirmed this. Ed Geins House was searched and Bernice Wordens decapitated body was found in the shed. She was hung upside down from her ankles by a crossbar and ropes tied around her wrists. Her torso was “dressed out like a deer.” These mutilations were post-mortem after she had already been shot by a .22-caliber rifle.

Ed Gein House - House of Horrors

Searching the Ed Gein house, authorities found:

Whole human bones and fragments
A wastebasket made of human skin
Human skin covering several chair seats
Skulls on his bedposts
Female skulls, some with the tops sawn off
Bowls made from human skulls
A corset made from a female torso skinned from shoulders to waist
Leggings made from human leg skin
Masks made from the skin from female heads
Mary Hogan’s face mask in a paper bag
Mary Hogan’s skull in a box
Bernice Worden’s entire head in a burlap sack
Bernice Worden’s heart in a saucepan on the stove
Nine vulvae in a shoe box
A young girl’s dress and "the vulvas of two females judged to have been about fifteen years old"
A belt made from female human nipples
Four noses
A pair of lips on a window shade drawstring
A lampshade made from the skin of a human face
Fingernails from female fingers

The famous serial killer trophies were photographed at the state crime laboratory then immediately destroyed.

Ed Gein told his investigators that he looted local graveyards as many as 40 times between 1947 - 1952. He stated that he did this in a “dream-like” state and on a few occasions he came to and left the scene empty handed. He looked for middle-aged women who he figured resembled his mother. When he found such a specimen, he would take that body home so the skin could be tanned and immortalized as trophies (Norman Bates reference).

Ed Gein was distraught beyond words when his mother died that he decided he wanted a sex change and his goal was to make a “woman suit”. Gein denied molesting the corpses saying “They smelled too bad.”

Upon further interrogations, Gein admitted to the murder of Mary Hogan by shooting. He however claimed that he had no memory of the details of her death. Mary Hogan’s head was found in the Ed Gein house.

Ed Gein also had shrunken heads in his home according to a 16-year-old youth whose parents were friends with Gein and attended ball games and movies with the not-yet-known serial killer. The police analyzed the shrunken heads and found that they were in fact human facial skins that Gein carefully removed from the corpses so he could make masks out of them (Leatherface reference).

Gein was only tried for one murder, that of Mrs. Bernice Worden. Judge Robert H. Gollmar found Gein guilty of first-degree murder but Gein was found legally insane justifying the rest of his life in a mental institution. Judge Robert H. Gollmar wrote: "Due to prohibitive costs, Gein was tried for only one murder—-that of Mrs. Worden."

The Ed Gein house was destroyed by fire on March 27, 1958 three days before the house was to be auctioned. The fire was never officially solved but arson was suspected. When Gein heard of the Gein house fire, he shrugged and said, “Just as well.”

Ed Gein Death

Gein died on July 26, 1984 of respiratory failure due to lung cancer. He was 77 years old at the time and in Stovall Hall at the Mendota Mental Health Institute. He was buried in Plainfield Cemetery but visitors chipped the gravestone for souvenirs/trophies. Eventually someone stole the entire remaining gravestone in 2000. In June 2001 the gravestone was recovered near Seattle and is now held in storage at the Waushara County Sheriff’s Department.


Ed Gein

Famous Killers: Ed Gein



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