Ed Gein was born in Wisconsin
, the youngest son of an unhappy marriage dominated by an abusive and religiously fanatical mother. Initially raised in the town where his mother operated a grocery store, the family moved to a secluded farm when Gein was eight because his mother wanted to keep the influence of outsiders on her children to a minimum. She constantly preached her strict moral code to the children, instilling in them the belief that women were prostitutes, that the world was inherently wicked and sinful, and that they themselves were destined to be failures just like their father. She frequently abused the children, and forbade them from making friends. Because of this Ed was withdrawn at school, which was compounded by the bullying he suffered there due to his odd behaviour and shy, effeminate nature. Despite this, he was an intelligent and fairly well-behaved child by all reports. His father died when he was 34, followed by the death of his elder brother Henry four years later. Both died of heart attacks, and though some speculation, both contemporary and modern, suggests that Ed murdered Henry, this has never been proven to any satisfactory degree. During this time Gein was extremely close to with his mother, and stayed mostly isolated on the farm, though he occasionally babysat for neighbours, a task he apparently enjoyed. He also took odd jobs in the area, though never held any notable stable employment. In late December of 1945 his mother died after suffering a series of strokes. Gein was devastated by her death, and began creating shrines to her around the house by boarding up rooms that she had used, leaving them untouched and living in a small part of the house.
He continued to support himself with odd jobs, mainly working as a handyman or babysitter. He also became fascinated with death cult and pulp magazines. He took an interest in reading the local papers, focusing on the obituaries. Around this time he developed a desire to undergo a sex change operation, and beginning in 1947 he began making nighttime visits to nearby cemeteries. For the next five years he made an estimated forty trips to the cemetery. There, he claimed that the majority of trips ended in failure- he did not disturb the grave and returned home empty-handed. However, on ten of the trips he dug up the graves of freshly-buried middle aged women, all located through the local obituaries, and stole their bodies, intending to use the salvaged parts to create himself a "woman suit," as well as tanning their skin and using various parts as decoration around the house. He displayed his collection of shrivelled severed heads to at least three people, all of whom believed them to be relics from the South Seas or Halloween costumes. Nonetheless, rumours about Gein began to circulate in town. In the winter of 1954 Gein shot a tavern keeper named Mary Hogan and absconded with her body, all while in a "daze." This was followed in mid-November of 1957 with the murder of Bernice Worden, a hardware store owner. Gein drew police interest as the last person documented to have seen Worden prior to her death. Police officers travelled to the farm, where they found the various curios and items created from human body parts, as well as the decapitated and disembowelled body of Worden, and Hogan's head in a bag
Gein was arraigned on the 21st of November for only one count of murder, that of Worden. He plead not guilty by reason of insanity, and was found unfit to stand trial. Between 1957 and 1968 he was held in a maximum security hospital. In 1968 he was determined to be mentally fit to stand trial, which lasted between November 14th and November 21st, 1968. He was found guilty, but also to be legally insane, and so was again incarcerated in a maximum security hospital. He died at the Mendota Mental Health Institute of complications from cancer on July 26th, 1984. He was 77.
In Other Media
Despite the fact that his confirmed body count was so low as to rule him out of most traditional definitions of serial killing, he has nonetheless had an impact on the pop cultural landscape, especially in the area of American horror, where characters based on him include Norman Bates from Psycho, Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series of films, and Buffalo Bill from the Silence of the Lambs film and book. His story has been featured in a number of films, including Deranged, Ed Gein and Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield. He has also featured in a number of books and television series. His name is often exploited for shock value.