The Man Who Inspired it All: Edward Gein

Edward Gein | Credited by Mistyday22

Edward Gein went from being known for being a sweet and innocent boy who would not hurt a fly to a murderer and a necrophiliac. Edward lived on a 195-acre farm in Plainfield, Wisconsin, with his parents Augusta and George Gain, and his older brother Henry. Gein’s actions caused him to be known as “The Butcher of Plainfield.”1 Edward’s father was an alcoholic and very abusive. Thus Edward grew up being extremely close to his mother. When his father passed away in 1940, Edward was not significantly affected by the loss, due to the lack of connection he had with his father. Four years later, his brother Henry passed due to a fire near their home; police suspected that Edward had had something to do with his death because he led them directly to his brother’s burnt body.2 The following year his mother Augusta also passed away, leaving Edward all alone on a big farm. After Augusta’s passing, Edward blocked off rooms in the house where his mother had spent most of her time, creating something of a shrine for her. With Edward being all alone it is said that this is what drove him into having psychopathic behavior.3

Edward’s first known victim was Bernice Worden in 1957. Worden worked in a hardware store in town. Edward went to the store as he usually did on Friday’s right before closing time, and asked Mrs. Worden to fill up his jug with antifreeze. Edward had recently started to question Mrs. Worden on whether or not she would like to go roller-skating or “try out the floor” in his words. When she declined, he left, and then he quickly returned to ask about a rifle she had on the wall. When Mrs. Worden handed Edward the rifle he desired, she proceeded to look out the window. While she had her back turned, Edward loaded the rifle with the .22 shells he had in his overall pockets. The next morning Bernard Muschinski, Sr. found something strange with Mrs. Worden’s store. It had seemed that the store had been closed for the weekend, but she had left the lights on, which was something she usually didn’t do.4

Edward Gein’s Headstone | Credited by Wikimedia Commons

When police were tipped off by Mrs. Worden’s son that Edward was the one that had kidnapped and killed his mother, the police took off to find him. While Edward Gein was in custody, police officers went to explore his land to try and find Bernice Worden’s body. While examining the house for any signs of Mrs. Worden’s body, the two officers made their way into the summer kitchen and started making their way to the other side. Officer Schley stepped back and felt something rub against his jacket. When he beamed his light towards what was rubbing against him there, in the beam of light hung a large corpse. While looking at the body that was in front of them, they noticed that it was attached by its feet and was split open and decapitated the way a deer would be. Before running out from the sight of it, Schley had managed to get out a couple of words, “My God, there she is.” They had finally found the missing body of Bernice Worden. After other officers were called, they began exploring the central part of Gein’s house. While they were looking around the house, the officers found many ghoulish things, from a human skull to things like lampshades, wastebaskets, bracelets, and even a belt made from human body parts. Officers on the scene also found a chair upholstered from human flesh along with many other gruesome things. While being interrogated Gein was asked many questions regarding the strange things in his house, which he answered in a calm, truthful manner. When he was asked whether or not he would put on the skin face mask that was found in his home, Gein responded that he did without hesitation.5

With Gein admitting to the crimes and the evidence in his home, it was easy for the officers to charge him with murder. At the time of his trial, he was considered unfit to stand trial and was admitted to the Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Wisconsin on January 6, 1958. After a decade of being charged with first-degree murder, Gein was finally considered to be fit to stand trial; he was then found not guilty because of insanity and went back to the State Hospital. Edward Gein’s crimes have subsequently become the basis for many Hollywood horror movies, including Psycho (1960), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and Silence of the Lambs (1991).6

  1. Harold Schechter, Deviant: the shocking true story of the original “psycho” (New York, NY: Pocket Books, 1998), 61.
  2. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2018, s.v. “Ed Gein,” by John Philip Jenkins.
  3. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 2016, s.v. “Ed Gein,” by Charles Avinger.
  4. Harold Schechter, Deviant: the shocking true story of the original “psycho” (New York, NY: Pocket Books, 1998), 67.
  5. Harold Schechter, Deviant: the shocking true story of the original “psycho” (New York, NY: Pocket Books, 1998), 122, 124.
  6. Salem Press EncyclopediaResearch Starters, EBSCOhost, 2013, s.v. “Serial killer,” by  Kathy Warnes.
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79 Comments

  • Ed Gein should of completely been found guilty no question about it. For starters he had absolutely no motive for killing the people, hw just did it because he felt like it. The fact he was deemed as insane is correct, no doubt. But he should of been deemed insane and been sent to jail or even death row. But it is also wrong that they deemed him insane because there are actually people who are mentally challenged and do not know what they are doing. Gein knew exactly what he was doing. I also didn’t know about the movie inspirations which is interesting, overall great article to read I really did enjoy reading it.

  • I liked this article, I just wished it was longer. Ed Gein should have been found guilty, no question about that. I do not believe that mental illness is something that should be taken lightly. And for him to claim insanity was a bit rude. It is crazy to think that an innocent boy could turn into murder, but when you look at someone childhood it would tell you a lot about their future. He killed simply because he wanted too, which is such a horrible thing to say.

  • I liked that you mentioned the movie inspirations because I had never heard of Edward Gein before and I would’ve never known that it was his malicious acts that inspired so many horror movies. It’s so odd that he went on a killing spree for a no reason at all, at least one that we know of. Sure, he had a bad childhood, but so do lots of people who don’t end up to be merciless murderers.

  • This article highlights how hard it is to draw the line between finding someone guilty and finding them mentally unstable, and thus not guilty. If Ed Gein’s childhood would have been more stable, then perhaps his life would not have turned out the way it did. It was a mistake to have Ed Gein return to society.

  • Gein should be found guilty without question or the consideration of insanity. It was evident that he had not motive for killing the people he did, he simply did it because he wanted to. I don’t agree with the fact that he was proclaimed insane because some people with actual mental health issues could be sentences legally for something they truly didn’t know they were doing. I really enjoyed the article and like the way it was written in a way to show the way he was deemed with health issues.

  • Nice article. What this man did to that poor woman is just despicable. I wonder if he had had a more stable childhood maybe he would not have developed such terrible fantasies. This crime again raises the question of whether or not he was born this way or whether or not he was like that from birth. It is really creepy that his crimes were used as a basis for many famous horror movies. That just shows how infamous and awful his crimes were.

  • Being a horror movie enthusiast “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is a movie I am very familiar with. I would never have imagined that the basis for this movie was based on Edward Gein’s crimes. It is crazy to think that an innocent boy could turn into murder, however, when looking at his hard upbringing, it can be noticed how it could have affected his mental state. Overall, this was a very fascinating and well-written article. Great work.

  • Mental health is an important aspect in our lives that gets overlooked and people usually label others with destructive words such as insane, this man was not insane, he was mentally unstable and I believe that everyone has the capability of returning to sanity. That does not mean they should return back into a society because they have shown to be a threat and Ed Gein was most definitely a threat to anyone who got into his way.

  • Ed Gein should have been found guilty without the question of insanity. He had no motive for killing people, he just did it because he wanted to. The fact that has was proclaimed insane is offensive to those who actually do have mental issues because those people actually don’t know what they’re doing. This was a great article and the mention of movie inspirations was shocking to someone who didn’t know that.

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