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Ed Gein
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Ed Gein

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" three murders, what he did to his victims additionally shocked the world. His crimes included murder, mutilation, grave robbing, cannibalism and necrophilia.

Table of contents
1 Childhood
2 The murders
3 Cinematic and musical influences


Ed Gein was born to George and Augusta Gein on August 27th, 1906 in the midwestern city of La Crosse, Wisconsin. The family life of Ed Gein was notably dysfunctional. George, Ed's father, drifted from job to job in a vain attempt to provide for his family. Mostly, he spent his days loafing on the front porch and consuming liquor. George Gein was frowned upon by the entire family, and even considered a non-entity by Augusta. Despite Augusta's deep contempt towards George, the atrophic marriage persisted. Under Augusta's strict moral code, divorce was not an option. Augusta assumed the role as head of the household on account of George's lack of leadership. 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 homestead

The reason Augusta decided to move to this desolate location was to prevent outsiders from influencing Ed and his older brother. Ed only deviated from the premises to go to school and Augusta blocked any attempt Ed made in pursuing a friendship. Aside from school, Ed spent most of his free time doing chores on the farm. Augusta, who was fanatically religious, made a point to reserve time every afternoon to read scriptures from the bible to Ed and his brother. Of all the things she preached about, she relentlessly emphasized the sinful nature of women and sex. According to Augusta, the only acceptable form of sex was for the purpose of procreation.

Considering Ed's effeminate demeanor, its no surprise that he was a likely 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.

The murders

Police investigating the disappearance of a store clerk named Bernice Worden in Plainfield, Wisconsin on November 16, 1957 suspected Gein to be involved. When they entered his house, they found the body of the store clerk butchered in the summer kitchen like a recently killed deer. Searching the house, they found severed heads in the bedroom, skin used to make lampshades and chair seats, skulls made into soup bowls, a human heart in the frying pan, a necklace of human lips, a waistcoat made up of a vagina and breasts which he used in rituals, 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 transvestite rituals.

Under questioning, Gein freely admitted that he would dig up the graves of recently buried middle-aged women and take the bodies home where he tanned their skin to make his macabre possessions. He was pronounced insane and spent the rest of his days in a mental institution where he died of natural causes. He was buried in the graveyard he had spent much of his life desecrating. Vandalism to Ed's grave site was also reported.

Cinematic and musical influences

The crimes of Ed Gein became widely known because they inspired--at least partly--the novel Psycho by Robert Bloch, which became an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

The crimes largely inspired the film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as well as parts of Thomas Harris's The Silence of the Lambs (in the form of the character Buffalo Bill), and Red Dragon (in the form of the character Francis Dollarhyde).

A non-fiction account of the story of Ed Gein is Harold Schechter's Deviant.

Bands Slayer, Mudvayne, and The Fibonaccis composed songs about Ed Gein called "Dead Skin Mask", "Nothing to Gein", and "Old Mean Ed Gein," respectively. There is also a grind/metalcore band by the name of Ed Gein and The Misfits song "Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?" is most likely influenced by Gein's history and ghastly acts.