Serial Killer Profile: Ed Gein
Ed Gein is one of those serial killers whose crimes were so extreme that the killer and his crimes become a matter of fascination for many and begin to take on a sort of folklore status.
Ed Gein was born on August 27, 1906, in La Crosse, Wisconsin to a violent father and extremely religious mother. Ed Gein's mother made sure that her son knew her views on what she saw to be the evils of the world including drink and stressed that all women should be considered whores. Ed Gein was once caught masturbating and to teach him a lesson his mother poured scalding water over his genitals. Ed Gein is also reported to have experienced an episode of sexual arousal when he watched his mother and father slaughter a hog.
Ed Gein's father died in 1940 and his brother Henry had started to turn his back on the teachings of their mother. In 1944 Ed Gein and his brother found themselves caught up in a brush fire. Ed Gein ran to get help and told the police that he had lost sight of his brother in the blaze. However, when he brought the police to the fire he brought them straight to the location where his brother's dead body was located. The official report of Henry Gein's death said he died of asphyxiation from the fire even though he had received strong blows to the head. In December 1945, Ed Gein's mother Augusta died and Ed Gein was left an emotional wreck.
On November 17, 1957 police searched Ed Gein's property in connection with the disappearance of a woman named Bernice Worden. The police may have suspected Ed Gein but they couldn't have been prepared what they would see when they entered his home. The first thing they saw was the corpse of Bernice Worden. She had been killed by being shot with a .22-caliber rifle but it wasn't just her death that shocked the police but instead it was the condition of her dead body. She had been decapitated, split open like a deer and left to hang from her ankles.
When the police searched the rest of Ed Gein's property they found the following sickening items:
* severed heads acting as bedposts in the bedroom;
* skin used to make lampshades and upholster chair seats;
* skullcaps made into soup bowls;
* a human heart (it is disputed where the heart was found; the deputies' reports all claim that the heart was in a saucepan on the stove, with some crime scene photographers claiming it was in a paper bag);
* a face mask made out of real facial skin found in a paper bag;
* a necklace of human lips;
* a waistcoat, called a "mammary vest," made up of a vagina and breasts;
* and other items fashioned from the parts of human bodies, including a belt made from nipples.
Of all the items discovered during the investigation into Ed Gein the most infamous was a wardrobe Ed Gein had made for himself that was made of human skin. The wardrobe included leggings, a gutted torso (including breasts) and an array of tanned, dead-skin masks that looked leathery and almost mummified.
Ed Gein claimed that he would dig up the graves of women that had recently died and then take their bodies back to his home where he tanned their skin to make the items in his wardrobe. Importantly, he admitted that the women he set about digging up were those that held a resemblance to his own mother. According to accounts, Ed Gein had begun to desire a sex change shortly after the death of his mother. It is thought that Ed Gein created this 'woman suits' from the bodies of dead women so that he could put them on and have the body of a woman.
Ed Gein was at first found was found mentally incompetent and unable to stand trial and therefore was sent to a mental hospital. However, in 1968 Ed Gein was said to be sane enough to stand trial. At this trial, Ed Gein was found not guilty by reason of insanity and he spent the rest of his life at Mendota State Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin.
Ed Gein died of respiratory failure in 1984 at the age of 77. However, the legacy of Ed Gein’s crimes have been captures many times in popular culture and therefore will carry on for years to come. Ed Gein is largely thought to be inspiration for the character of Normal Bates in the book and resulting film Psycho. Ed Gein's crimes were also inspiration for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and parts of The Silence of the Lambs. Click Here for Video.