The story of Ed Gein is as spooky as it is surreal and for this reason, it has been hugely influential in American pop culture; the story has been adapted into multiple horror movies and TV shows including Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1960 film Psycho and 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. By 2012, Ed Gein’s story had spawned a new film subgenre of black humor. Music was not left out, Ed Gein’s life story was exploited by musicians from the “shock rock” genre, with one band even going by the name Ed Gein. Years have passed since Gein passed away, however, the frightening story of his life and crimes continues to have a solid place in history. Here is a look at the life and death of Ed Gein who was popularly referred to as the Butcher of Plainfield.
The Life of Ed Gein
The story of Ed Gein’s early life leaves little to wonder about why he turned out a monster. His parents George Philip Gein and Augusta Wilhelmine (née Lehrke) had him on the 27th day of August 1906 in La Crosse County of Wisconsin, he was given the birth name Edward Theodore Gein. He became the second of two sons that his parents had, his elder brother named Henry George Gein had been born 5 years earlier in 1901.
Gein was a product of a dysfunctional family characterized by his mother’s constant verbal abuse of his father who was an alcoholic. Despite Gein’s mother’s frequent outbursts at her husband, he did not change. At the brightest time of his life, Gein’s father owned a Grocery shop but soon sold it. The Gein family would later relocate to a 155-acre farm in the town of Plainfield where they lived in isolation.
Ed Gein would become hugely influenced by his mother but in a negative way much to the worry of his brother Henry. She’d not let him leave the house except to school and rebuked him whenever he tried to make friends for fear that they would influence him. A staunchly religious woman, she often read the bible to Gein and her brother focusing mostly on themes of death and eternal damnation. Notwithstanding, Ed adored his mother, she was her only friend.
At school, Ed Gein was a socially awkward kid often exhibiting mannerisms described as strange. His father’s alcoholism caused his death in 1940 when he was 66. The Gein brothers then began working odd jobs as handymen with Ed sometimes babysitting kids.
The trail of mysterious events in the Gein home began with Henry’s mysterious death in 1944 following a fire near their farm. Ed reported his brother as missing to the authorities who would later discover his dead body near their home. Despite the bruises found of Henry’s head, his death was ruled as accidental asphyxia. No autopsy or further investigations were carried out as the authorities didn’t suspect any reason for foul play.
Devastated by her son’s death, Gein’s mother soon had a paralyzing stroke which led to her death on the 27th of December 1945, aged 67. Ed Gein had lost his only friend and as a result, began living the hermit life. As if to preserve for a shrine, Ed sealed off the areas in the farmhouse where his mother spent the most time and limited his activity to just a small room in the house.
How Many People Did He Kill
Ed Gein’s heinous crimes came to the notice of authorities following the disappearance of a certain hardware store owner named Bernice Worden whom locales had seen with Ed earlier. Authorities visited Ed’s home to find the woman’s dead body which was fatally shot and beheaded. A further search of Gein’s home revealed that he had been in the habit of exhuming newly buried dead bodies at graveyards. He took the female bodies of women that he thought resembled his mother. He would then skin the bodies and take off body parts which he used to make clothing (including belts made from females’ nipples), household items like upholstery, bowls, dustbins, and lampshades.
One of the human skulls found in his house was discovered to belong to Mary Hogan, a tavern worker who had been reported missing in 1954. Ed Gein was taken into custody but was deemed unfit for trial for reasons that he was insane. He was then confined to various mental facilities and in 1968 was deemed able to defend himself. Ed Gein admitted to killing the two women claiming that they both looked like his mother, but plead not guilty due to being insane at the time.
As per official records, the number of people killed by Ed Gein is two, however, suspicions are that Gein’s killings could have been more including the teenage babysitter Evelyn Hartley who mysteriously disappeared.
Ed Gein’s Death – How Exactly Did He Die?
Ed Gein was tried for the murder of Worden only and not Hogan as a result of prohibitive cost. He was found guilty of the murder but upon a second trial was declared not guilty due to insanity. Gein was then committed to Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane where he spent the rest of his life before his death on July 26, 1984, at the age of 77.
His death occurred at Mendota Mental Health Institute and the cause was a result of respiratory failure secondary to lung cancer. His body was buried beside that of his parents and brother Henry.