Edward Theodore Gein (/ɡiːn/; August 27, 1906 – July 26, 1984), also known as The Butcher of Plainfield, was an American murderer and body snatcher. His crimes, committed around his hometown of Plainfield, Wisconsin, gathered widespread notoriety after authorities discovered that Gein had exhumed corpses from local graveyards and fashioned trophies and keepsakes from their bones and skin. Gein confessed to killing two women – tavern owner Mary Hogan in 1954, and a Plainfield hardware store owner, Bernice Worden, in 1957. Gein was initially found unfit to stand trial and confined to a mental health facility. In 1968, Gein was found guilty but legally insane of the murder of Worden, and was remanded to a psychiatric institution. He died at Mendota Mental Health Institute of cancer-induced liver and respiratory failure at age 77 on July 26, 1984. He is buried next to his family in the Plainfield Cemetery, in a now-unmarked grave.
Gein, circa 1958
Edward Theodore Gein
August 27, 1906
|Died||July 26, 1984 (aged 77)|
|Cause of death||Respiratory and heart failure due to cancer|
|Resting place||Plainfield Cemetery|
|Other names||The Butcher of Plainfield|
|Criminal penalty||Institutionalized in the Mendota Mental Health Institute|
|Victims||Bernice Worden and Mary Hogan (officially confirmed)|
Many corpses from graves dug up and mutilated
|November 16, 1957|
Ed Gein was born in La Crosse County, Wisconsin, on August 27, 1906, the second of two boys of George Philip Gein (1873–1940) and Augusta Wilhelmine (née Lehrke) Gein (1878–1945). Gein had an older brother, Henry George Gein (1901–1944). Augusta despised her husband, an alcoholic who was unable to keep a job; he had worked at various times as a carpenter, tanner, and insurance salesman. George owned a local grocery shop for a few years, but sold the business, and the family left the city to live in isolation on a 155-acre farm in the town of Plainfield in Waushara County, Wisconsin, which became the Gein family's permanent residence.
Augusta took advantage of the farm's isolation by turning away outsiders who could have influenced her sons. Edward left the farm only to attend school. Outside of school, he spent most of his time doing chores on the farm. Augusta was fervently religious, and nominally Lutheran. She preached to her boys about the innate immorality of the world, the evil of drinking, and her belief that all women (except herself) were naturally prostitutes and instruments of the devil. She reserved time every afternoon to read to them from the Bible, usually selecting graphic verses from the Old Testament concerning death, murder, and divine retribution.
Edward was shy, and classmates and teachers remembered him as having strange mannerisms, such as seemingly random laughter, as if he were laughing at his own personal jokes. To make matters worse, his mother punished him whenever he tried to make friends. Despite his poor social development, he did fairly well in school, particularly in reading.
On April 1, 1940, Ed's father George died of heart failure caused by his alcoholism; he was 66 years old. Henry and Ed began doing odd jobs around town to help cover living expenses. The brothers were generally considered reliable and honest by residents of the community. While both worked as handymen, Ed also frequently babysat for neighbors. He enjoyed babysitting, seeming to relate more easily to children than adults. Henry began dating a divorced, single mother of two and planned on moving in with her; Henry worried about his brother's attachment to their mother and often spoke ill of her around Ed, who responded with shock and hurt.
On May 16, 1944, Henry and Ed were burning away marsh vegetation on the property; the fire got out of control, drawing the attention of the local fire department. By the end of the day – the fire having been extinguished and the firefighters gone – Ed reported his brother missing. With lanterns and flashlights, a search party searched for Henry, whose dead body was found lying face down. Apparently, he had been dead for some time, and it appeared that the cause of death was heart failure, since he had not been burned or injured otherwise. It was later reported, in Harold Schechter's biography of Gein, Deviant, that Henry had bruises on his head. The police dismissed the possibility of foul play and the county coroner later officially listed asphyxiation as the cause of death. The authorities accepted the accident theory, but no official investigation was conducted and an autopsy was not performed. Some suspected that Ed Gein killed his brother. Questioning Gein about the death of Bernice Worden in 1957, state investigator Joe Wilimovsky brought up questions about Henry's death. George W. Arndt, who studied the case, wrote that, in retrospect, it was "possible and likely" that Henry's death was "the "Cain and Abel" aspect of this case".
Gein and his mother were now alone. Augusta had a paralyzing stroke shortly after Henry's death, and Gein devoted himself to taking care of her. Sometime in 1945, Gein later recounted, he and his mother visited a man named Smith, who lived nearby, to purchase straw. According to Gein, Augusta witnessed Smith beating a dog. A woman inside the Smith home came outside and yelled for him to stop but Smith beat the dog to death. Augusta was extremely upset by this scene; however, what bothered her did not appear to be the brutality toward the dog but rather the presence of the woman. Augusta told Ed that the woman was not married to Smith so had no business being there. "Smith's harlot", Augusta angrily called her. She had a second stroke soon after, and her health deteriorated rapidly. She died on December 29, 1945, at the age of 67. Ed was devastated by her death; in the words of author Harold Schechter, he had "lost his only friend and one true love. And he was absolutely alone in the world."
Gein held on to the farm and earned money from odd jobs. He boarded up rooms used by his mother, including the upstairs, downstairs parlor, and living room, leaving them untouched; while the rest of the house became increasingly squalid, these rooms remained pristine. Gein lived thereafter in a small room next to the kitchen. Around this time, he became interested in reading death-cult magazines and adventure stories, particularly those involving cannibals or Nazi atrocities.
Gein was a handyman and received a farm subsidy from the federal government starting in 1951. He occasionally worked for the local municipal road crew and crop-threshing crews in the area. Sometime between 1946 and 1956, he also sold an 80-acre parcel of land that his brother Henry had owned.
On the morning of November 16, 1957, Plainfield hardware store owner Bernice Worden disappeared. A Plainfield resident reported that the hardware store's truck had been driven out from the rear of the building around 9:30 am. The hardware store was closed the entire day; some area residents believed this was because of deer hunting season. Bernice Worden's son, Deputy Sheriff Frank Worden, entered the store around 5:00 pm to find the store's cash register open and blood stains on the floor. Frank Worden told investigators that Ed Gein had been in the store the evening before his mother's disappearance, and that he would return the next morning for a gallon of antifreeze. A sales slip for a gallon of antifreeze was the last receipt written by Worden on the morning she disappeared. On the evening of the same day, Gein was arrested at a West Plainfield[a] grocery store, and the Waushara County Sheriff's Department searched the Gein farm. A Waushara County Sheriff's deputy discovered Worden's decapitated body in a shed on Gein's property, hung upside down by her legs with a crossbar at her ankles and ropes at her wrists. The torso was "dressed out like a deer". She had been shot with a .22-caliber rifle, and the mutilations were made after her death.
Searching the house, authorities found:
These artifacts were photographed at the state crime laboratory and then destroyed.
When questioned, Gein told investigators that between 1947 and 1952, he made as many as 40 nocturnal visits to three local graveyards to exhume recently buried bodies while he was in a "daze-like" state. On about 30 of those visits, he said he came out of the daze while in the cemetery, left the grave in good order, and returned home empty-handed. On the other occasions, he dug up the graves of recently buried middle-aged women he thought resembled his mother and took the bodies home, where he tanned their skins to make his paraphernalia.
Gein admitted to stealing from nine graves from local cemeteries  and led investigators to their locations. Allan Wilimovsky of the state crime laboratory participated in opening three test graves identified by Gein. The caskets were inside wooden boxes; the top boards ran crossways (not lengthwise). The tops of the boxes were about 2 feet (60 cm) below the surface in sandy soil. Gein had robbed the graves soon after the funerals while the graves were not completed. The test graves were exhumed because authorities were uncertain as to whether the slight Gein was capable of single-handedly digging up a grave during a single evening; they were found as Gein described: two of the exhumed graves were found empty (one had a crowbar in place of the body). One casket was empty; one casket Gein had failed to open when he lost his pry bar; and most of the body was gone from the third grave, but Gein had returned rings and some body parts. thus apparently corroborating Gein's confession.
Soon after his mother's death, Gein began to create a "woman suit" so that "...he could become his mother—to literally crawl into her skin". Gein denied having sex with the bodies he exhumed, explaining: "They smelled too bad." During state crime laboratory interrogation, Gein also admitted to the shooting death of Mary Hogan, a tavern owner missing since 1954 whose head was found in his house, but he later denied memory of details of her death.
A 16-year-old youth, whose parents were friends of Gein and who attended ball games and movies with him, reported that Gein kept shrunken heads in his house, which Gein had described as relics from the Philippines, sent by a cousin who had served on the islands during World War II. Upon investigation by the police, these were determined to be human facial skins, carefully peeled from corpses and used by Gein as masks.
During questioning, Waushara County sheriff Art Schley reportedly assaulted Gein by banging his head and face into a brick wall. As a result, Gein's initial confession was ruled inadmissible. Schley died of heart failure at age 43 in 1968, before Gein's trial. Many who knew Schley said he was traumatized by the horror of Gein's crimes, and this, along with the fear of having to testify (especially about assaulting Gein), caused his death. One of his friends said: "He was a victim of Ed Gein as surely as if he had butchered him."
On November 21, 1957, Gein was arraigned on one count of first degree murder in Waushara County Court, where he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Gein was diagnosed with schizophrenia and found mentally incompetent, thus unfit for trial. He was sent to the Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane (now the Dodge Correctional Institution), a maximum-security facility in Waupun, Wisconsin, and later transferred to the Mendota State Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin.
In 1968, doctors determined Gein was "mentally able to confer with counsel and participate in his defense". The trial began on November 7, 1968 and lasted one week. A psychiatrist testified that Gein had told him that he did not know whether the killing of Bernice Worden was intentional or accidental. Gein had told him that while he examined a gun in Worden's store, the gun went off, killing Worden. Gein testified that after trying to load a bullet into the rifle, it discharged. He said he had not aimed the rifle at Worden, and did not remember anything else that happened that morning.
At the request of the defense, Gein's trial was held without a jury, with Judge Robert H. Gollmar presiding. Gein was found guilty by Gollmar on November 14. A second trial dealt with Gein's sanity; after testimony by doctors for the prosecution and defense, Gollmar ruled Gein "not guilty by reason of insanity" and ordered him committed to Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Gein spent the rest of his life in a mental hospital. Judge Gollmar wrote, "Due to prohibitive costs, Gein was tried for only one murder—that of Mrs. Worden. He also admitted to killing Mary Hogan."
Gein's house and property were scheduled to be auctioned March 30, 1958, amid rumors the house was to become a tourist attraction. On March 27, the house was destroyed by fire. Arson was suspected, but the cause was never officially determined. When Gein learned of the incident while in detention, he shrugged and said, "Just as well." Gein's car, which he used to haul the bodies of his victims, was sold at public auction for $760 to carnival sideshow operator Bunny Gibbons. Gibbons later charged carnival goers 25¢ admission to see it.
Gein died at the Mendota Mental Health Institute due to respiratory failure secondary to lung cancer on July 26, 1984, at the age of 77. Over the years, souvenir seekers chipped pieces from his gravestone at the Plainfield Cemetery, until the stone itself was stolen in 2000. It was recovered in June 2001, near Seattle, and was placed in storage at the Waushara County Sheriff's Department. The gravesite itself is now unmarked, but not unknown; Gein is interred between his parents and brother in the cemetery.
The story of Ed Gein has had a lasting effect on American popular culture as evidenced by its numerous appearances in film, music, and literature. The tale first came to widespread public attention in the fictionalized version presented by Robert Bloch in his 1959 suspense novel Psycho. In addition to Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film of Bloch's novel, Psycho, Gein's story was loosely adapted into a number of films, including Deranged (1974), In the Light of the Moon (2000) (released in the United States and Australia as Ed Gein (2001)), Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield (2007), Hitchcock (2012), and the Rob Zombie films House of 1000 Corpses and its sequel, The Devil's Rejects. Gein served as the inspiration for myriad fictional serial killers across different mediums, most notably the likes of Norman Bates (Psycho), Leatherface (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), Buffalo Bill (The Silence of the Lambs) and the character Dr. Oliver Thredson from the TV series American Horror Story: Asylum.
American filmmaker Errol Morris and German filmmaker Werner Herzog attempted unsuccessfully to collaborate on a film project about Gein from 1975 to 1976. Morris interviewed Gein several times and ended up spending almost a year in Plainfield interviewing dozens of locals. The pair planned secretly to exhume Gein's mother from her grave to test a theory but never followed through on the scheme and eventually ended their collaboration. The aborted project was described in a 1989 New Yorker profile of Morris.
At the time, the news reports of Gein's crimes spawned a subgenre of "black humor". Since the 1950s, Gein has frequently been exploited by transgressive art or "shock rock", often without association with his life or crimes beyond the shock value of his name. Examples of this include the song titled "Dead Skin Mask" (1990) from the Slayer album Seasons in the Abyss, "Nothing to Gein" (2001) from Mudvayne's album L.D. 50, and "Ed Gein" (1992) from The Ziggens' album Rusty Never Sleeps. There was a band named Ed Gein.
Ed Gein, the handyman whose home became known as a "house of horrors" 11 years ago, was found guilty today of first degree murder.
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Beginning in 1947 - He saw a newspaper article of a woman who had been buried that day. The first corpse came from a grave very near the grave of Gein’s mother. Indeed one report is that among the first grave robbing incidents was that of his own mother.
Ed Gein, 62, the recluse who horrified the nation in 1957 when the remains of 11 bodies were found on his farm, was ruled today to have been insane when he killed a Plainfield, Wis., woman.
For the politician, see Dan Davies (politician)
Daniel Joseph "Dan" Davies (born December 25, 1965) is an American actor, screenplay writer and producer. He wrote, co-produced and starred in the 2010 comedy film Ed Gein, the Musical, about cannibalistic murderer and graverobber, Ed Gein.Deranged (1974 film)
Deranged (also known as Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile) is a 1974 Canadian-American horror film directed by Alan Ormsby and Jeff Gillen, and starring Roberts Blossom. Its plot, loosely based on the crimes of Ed Gein, follows Ezra Cobb, a middle-aged man in a rural Midwestern community who begins a string of serial murders and grave robberies after the death of his mother, a religious fanatic who raised him to be a misogynist. Though based on Gein, the film's title is misleading since Gein never experimented with necrophilia; although a necrophile is also defined as "an obsessive fascination with death and corpses."
Funded by an American concert promoter on a small budget, the production took place in Oshawa, Ontario in the winter of 1973, with a largely Canadian cast and crew. The film premiered in Los Angeles on March 20, 1974.Disorganized offender
In criminology, a disorganized offender, also sometimes called a maniac, is a classification of serial killer.
The distinction between "organized" and "disorganized" offenders was drawn by the American criminologist Roy Hazelwood.The disorganized offender is usually of low-average or below average intelligence. They often have poor work ethic and are apt to be regularly fired from or reprimanded at work; in the cases where a disorganized offender has a steady work ethic, they work blue collar jobs or jobs which require little or no use of reasoning or intelligence. They are socially inadequate and possess little or no interpersonal skills; most disorganized offenders have never been married or in a serious relationship. Although a disorganized offender may claim to be heterosexual, evidence will usually suggest that they are either a virgin or that their sexual conquests have come in relation to a paraphilia, such as necrophilia, bestiality, or pedophilia. Some disorganized offenders have exhibited homosexual tendencies, but in such cases, any homosexual contact they may have had will usually be either as a symbolic act of dominance or as an offshoot of one of their paraphilias. They most often live alone or with a family member.
Disorganized offenders have an innate fear or anxiety in regard to people, especially strangers, and usually live in a complex delusion that they have constructed in their own mind. Ed Gein, for example, exhumed the corpses of women who he believed reminded him of his mother and consumed parts of them because he believed that he could preserve his mother's soul inside of his own body, going so far as to create a "female suit" made of human flesh that he would wear when assuming his mother's identity.
Disorganized offenders, lacking confidence and the skills necessary to plan a crime, do not venture far from their homes when committing murders. Their victims are either chosen at random or are people they know personally. The murder is violent, brutal, and sadistic; the disorganized offender uses overkill. A disorganized offender may stab his victim dozens of times even after he or she is dead.Ed Gein, the Musical
Ed Gein, The Musical is a comedic musical film about the cannibalistic, grave robbing, serial killer Ed Gein. It premiered in Wisconsin January 2010 and stars Dan Davies who also co-produced and wrote the screenplay. It was directed by Steve Russell. The film aired on PBS and the Retro TV Network.Ed Gein (band)
Ed Gein was an American grindcore band, based in Syracuse, New York. The band consists of Graham Reynolds (guitar, vocals), Aaron Jenkins (bass, vocals) and Jesse Daino (drums, vocals). The band takes its name from the American murderer of the same name. The band is best known for its second album, Judas Goats and Dieseleaters (2005). The follow-up record, titled Bad Luck, was released in 2011.Ed Gein's music has been labeled as grindcore, metalcore, mathcore and noise rock, featuring influences from thrash metal.
On their third album, Bad Luck, the band shifted from their previous technical grindcore in favor of a more hardcore punk-influenced sound. The band's lyrics, primarily written by bassist Aaron Jenkins, are politically charged and features social commentary, on topics including racism in the United States, sexism, homophobia and bureaucracy.On April 11, 2018, it was announced the band had split up and the members would be forming a new band called Shadow Snakes.Errol Morris
Errol Mark Morris (born February 5, 1948) is an American film director primarily of documentaries examining and investigating, among other things, authorities and eccentrics. He is perhaps best known for his 1988 documentary The Thin Blue Line, commonly cited among the best and most influential documentaries ever made. In 2003, his documentary film The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.Gidget Gein
Bradley Mark "Brad" Stewart (September 11, 1969 – October 8, 2008), known by his stage name Gidget Gein, was an American musician and artist. He was the second bassist and co-founder of the alternative metal band Marilyn Manson. His stage name references and dichotomies serial killer Ed Gein and the fictional 1960s surfer girl Gidget.Hitchcock (film)
Hitchcock is a 2012 American biographical drama film directed by Sacha Gervasi, based on Stephen Rebello's non-fiction book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho. The film was released in selected cities on November 23, 2012, with a worldwide release on December 14, 2012.
Hitchcock centers on the relationship between film director Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) and his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) during the making of Psycho, a controversial horror film that became one of the most acclaimed and influential works in the filmmaker's career.Human skin mask
A human skin mask is a mask made of human skin, and may refer to:
The skin masks made by Ed Gein
Dead Skin Mask, a song in the album Seasons in the Abyss by the thrash metal band Slayer, about Ed Gein
The masks worn by Leatherface in the film The Texas Chainsaw MassacreOther appearances of the concept include:
The synthetic mask used by Jeffrey Hatrix
An Ekoi mask featured in the section Human Skin Mask of the second episode of the third season of Ripley's Believe It or Not!
A set of masks that Marilyn Manson was accused of buying
A mask that appeared on a short-lived promotional poster for the film Hannibal
The masks in Game of Thrones used by Faceless Men from Braavos
The face of a guard used by Hannibal Lector in Silence of the LambsIn the Light of the Moon
In the Light of the Moon (also known as Ed Gein) is a 2000 American horror film directed by Chuck Parello, and written by Stephen Johnston. It is based on the crimes of Wisconsin murderer Ed Gein.Lampshades made from human skin
There are two notable allegations of lampshades made from human skin. After World War II it was alleged that Nazis had made lampshades from murdered concentration camp inmates. In the 1950s, murderer Ed Gein, possibly influenced by the stories about the Nazis, made a lampshade from the skin of one of his victims.List of songs about or referencing serial killers
This is a list of songs about or referencing killers. The songs are divided into groups by the last name of the killer the song is about or mentions.Margaret White (Carrie)
Margaret White (née Brigham) is a fictional character created by American author Stephen King in his first published 1974 horror novel, Carrie, where she is the main villain.
In every adaptation and portrayal of the character, she is the abusive and fanatically religious mother of Carrie White, who has the power of telekinesis, and thinks almost everything, especially related to the female body and sex, is sinful.
Margaret White was the fictional counterpart to Augusta Gein, the mother of Wisconsin graverobber/murderer Ed Gein.Norman Bates
Norman Bates is a fictional character created by American author Robert Bloch as the main antagonist in his 1959 thriller novel Psycho; portrayed by Anthony Perkins in the 1960 version of Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock and the Psycho franchise. He is also portrayed by Vince Vaughn in the 1998 version of Psycho, and by Freddie Highmore in the television series Bates Motel (2013–2017). Unlike the franchise produced by Universal Studios, Norman is not the principal antagonist in Bloch's subsequent novels and is succeeded by copycat killers who assume Norman's identity after his death in 1982's Psycho II. Despite wide-ranging assumptions, the character was not inspired by Wisconsin murderer Ed Gein. Bloch later revealed that he was nearly finished writing Psycho when he first became aware of Gein, and was struck by "how closely the imaginary character I'd created resembled the real Ed Gein both in overt act and apparent motivation."Nothing to Gein
"Nothing to Gein" is the third single released by the band Mudvayne. It is from their debut album L.D. 50, and was written during the last days of the album's recording. The song is inspired by the killer Ed Gein.Sally Champlin
Sally Champlin is an American character actress of film and television and singer/recording artist. Ms. Champlin attended Tamalpais High School, in Mill Valley, California. After joining choir, she began professional voice training and performed in several productions before graduating in 1962. After high school, she attended San Francisco State College.Ms. Champlin is known for appearing in such films as Die Watching, An Element of Truth, In the Light of the Moon and Family Secrets. She also had a minor recurring role on the series Heroes as Lynette, featuring most prominently in the episodes Shadowboxing and Once Upon a Time In Texas. Other television shows she has appeared in include Dallas, Murphy Brown (in 3 episodes as Maureen), Frasier and Mike & Molly. She appeared in 10 episodes of The Young and the Restless as Judge Pat Stewart. Champlin also portrayed the President of the United States in Perfect Lover. She also appears in the 2000 film Ed Gein, as the quick-witted, ("dirty-talker") barmaid, and one of Ed's unfortunate victims, Mary Hogan.Spectre Studios
Spectre Studios is a Colorado toy company headed by David Johnson.
Johnson gained controversy in 2002 for making a line of serial killer action figures that were featured on the Nation Enquirer, including an action figure of Jeffrey Dahmer.The "Serial Killer" line included Jeffry Dahmer, Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, Pogo the Clown, Lizzie Borden, and Charles Manson, and OJ SImpson.
The company also made a line of winged women with the characters Gabrielle, Dorcha, Salleene, and Frist.
David Johnson retired Spectre Studios in 2010 but has since come out of retirement with a new rebooted line of serial killers and website.Three on a Meathook
Three on a Meathook is a 1972 horror film written and directed by William Girdler and starring Charles Kissinger, James Pickett and Sherry Steiner. The film is based on the crimes committed by Ed Gein.