We typically assume serial killers to be menacing and blood hungry creatures of the night, stalking their prey and striking them down for the glory of it. This, peculiarly, is not the case of Eddie Gein. Although Edward Gein inspired popular films such as Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, there seems to be a more psychological reason for his killings, of which only amount to two found victims contrary to popular belief.
Gein was born August 27, 1906 on a farm in Wisconsin, La Crosse County to Augusta and George Gein, seven years after his older brother Henry.
Augusta Gein was an overpowering and insanely religious woman who almost literally took the reins when it concerned raising her children. Their father was a cowardly and alcoholic man who made no attempts to resists the control the Augusta desired. As common with most fanatically religious women, she despised other women and the influence they might have over their children.
She insistently, “..warned her sons of the immorality and looseness of women, hoping to discourage any sexual desires the boys might have had, for fear of them being cast down into hell.” (CrimeLibrary, Bell and Bardsley) Needless to say, Augusta’s personality affected both Henry and Eddie. It is not well known of what happened to Gein’s father, as Augusta took over the financial and religious responsibilities of the the boys. The year Eddie was born, his mother started a grocery business in La Crosse, as aforementioned, to provide for the boys.
She worked long and hard, determined to accumulate enough money to move her and the boys to a farm away from the “immorality of the city and the sinners that inhabited it” (CrimeLibrary, Bell and Bardsley).
Eventually, Augusta got her dream and moved her and the children out to a 195 acre farm in Plainfield, Wisconsin. With her children safely away from the immorality of the open world, Augusta made the strongest attempts to keep Henry and Eddie away from the outside world; her efforts of course failed as the boys were required to attend school. At school, Eddie was very shy and reclusive and talked to no one; the other children also shunned Eddie, which made it even more challenging for him to make friends in the school yard.
Even when Eddie attempted to make friends, his mother would scold him. Gein tried valiantly to please his mother, as he worshipped her and believed her to be the perfect ideal of goodness, yet he and Henry were only reprimanded and and verbally abused by Agusta. And so, Gein developed “approach-avoidance” (World of Criminal Justice) feelings towards his mother, desperate for her approval yet fearful of her reproach.
Eddie had no dad, and although he worshipped his mom, it is normal for a boys to find a sort of father figure in their lives. Therefore, Gein looked up to his brother Henry, someone he considered respectable and hard working; both of the boys were known in the town as diligent and trustworthy workers, taking on odd jobs in the town, most involving hand work. Eddie though did freelance as a babysitter, which he did love intensely as, “It was babysitting that Eddie really enjoyed because children were easier for him to relate to than his peers. He was in many ways socially and emotionally retarded.” (CrimeLibrary, Bell and Bardsley).
Henry did not feel as strongly about his mother as Eddie did, and would openly insult her in front of his younger brother. This astounded Eddie, as his mother as a sort of goddess to him, the only woman he most likely had consistent contact with. Though it was never given much thought, it is hinted that this disagreement upon their mother’s image was possibly a factor in Henry’s suspicious death. On May 16, 1994, Eddie and Henry were out and about on the farm fighting a brush fire in order to prevent it from affecting the house or coming close to their home; somewhere along the way the boys went in separate directions to combat the blaze and the night time feel quickly.
After the fire was put out, Eddie, apparently worried about the well being of his brother Henry, phoned the police to help him search for him. What was strange was that, upon the arrival of the police, Eddie quickly lead them to the deceased body of the missing Henry. Even stranger, where Henry was found showed no signs of being affected by the fire, yet there were apparent bruises on his head. Although it is not confirmed, Henry could have been Gein’s first victim.
Shortly after on December 19th, 1945, Augusta Gein died in their farmhouse due to a series of terrible strokes. Eddie had absolutely no idea how to cope with his mother, the epitome of goodness and possibly his only true friend besides his brother, so he shut himself within his farm house and lived off whatever meager earnings were left form the jobs he performed. “A keen reader, Gein became obsessed with the atrocities committed by the Nazis in World War Two, and the medical experiments carried out by them on the Jews”. (Adam Wilkinson). It seems as though the death of Gein’s mother kickstarted his career as a grave robber and serial killer.
He became fascinated with the female anatomy and the book books he read, often recounting the horrific things he read to the children he babysit. Gein also began to sneak nightly visits into the graveyard, where he would remove the bodies and body parts of women and take them back to his ranch in order to peel off their skins as well as their breast and vaginas. A boy Eddie often babysat paid a visit to his farm, where he was greeted by the shrunken, preserved heads of women and though he recounted these findings to the townspeople, though no one entirely believed him; he returned later with two men who also spotted the heads residing at Gein’s ranch. They believed that they were simply Halloween props, although uncertainty spread and rumors circulated.
Multiple disappearances sprung up around Wisconsin, two young girls, two young men, and a woman, although Gein was tied to none at the time, as there was little evidence and no bodies. Then, Bernice Worden, the owner of a local tavern disappeared in 1954 on November 16th, traces of blood found on the floor of the tavern she operated; Gein was the last to be seen soliciting around the premises of the tavern as well as a local hardware store, with what was assumed to be a .22 caliber rifle.
Bernice Worden happened to be the mother of the Frank Worden, the Deputy of Plainfield; the disappearance of his mother worried Frank, and an immediate search was conducted, lead by Plainfield sherif Arthur Schley. Schley approached Gein’s home on the day following Bernice Worden’s disappearance, which by the time was so ill cared for, it had begun to fall apart. Schley was apprehensive of what he might find. Gein had changed from the hard working and respectable man the town saw him as, to a sort of local weirdo, shut up alone in his home.
What the search officers found both astounded and sickened them. Bernice Worden’s dead corpse hung from the beams of Gein’s living room ceiling, vacant of it’s organs and intestines as well as it’s skin. As the police continued to search the premises, “they found a house of horrors” (World of Criminal Justice). Gruesome items such as skulls cut to resemble bowls, lampshades made from human skin, female nipples preserved in a box as well as genetalia, and last but of course not least, Gein’s famous suit made entirely of humans skin.
The police found countless other body parts, whole and dismembered, with skin and without; they arrested Gein and brought him in for questioning as they scoured his land, hoping to tie him to the other previously mentioned missing cases. Eddie was disorientated and dazed upon questioning and could not admit the full details of what he had done, simply that he had killed Worden with the .22 rifle and brought her body back to his house. Try as they might, Gein only confessed only to the murder of Mary Hogan. He then swore that the remaining body parts on his farm were from local graves; after much resistance from the town, the police were given permission to dig up the graves of the bodies Gein named. As Ed said, the bodies were either missing or the parts were missing.
Gein, it seemed, could not comprehend what he had done, and told the horrific tales in an almost cheerful way; the trial date came November 7th, 1968. Gein was ruled incompetent by the end of the trail, and sent to an array of facilities. It seems the thing most precious to him, his beloved mother Augusta Gein, was the very downfall of Gein. Her overbearing authority forced him to become a secluded man overly interested in the body parts of women, and, eventually, a serial killer.