Ed Gein

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Edward Theodore "Ed" Gein (pronounced /ˈɡiːn/; August 27, 1906 – July 26, 1984) was an American murderer and body snatcher. His crimes, which he committed around his hometown of Plainfield, Wisconsin, garnered widespread notoriety after authorities discovered Gein had exhumed corpses from local graveyards and fashioned trophies and keepsakes from their bones and skin.

After police found body parts in his house in 1957, Gein confessed to killing two women: tavern owner Mary Hogan in 1954, and a Plainfield hardware store owner, Bernice Worden, in 1957. Initially found unfit to stand trial, following confinement in a mental health facility, he was tried in 1968 for the murder of Worden and sentenced to life imprisonment, which he spent in a mental hospital. The body of Bernice Worden was found in Gein's shed; her head and the head of Mary Hogan were found inside his house. Robert H. Gollmar, the judge in the Gein case, wrote: "Due to prohibitive costs, Gein was tried for only one murder—that of Mrs. Worden."[1]

With fewer than three murders attributed, Gein does not meet the traditional definition of a serial killer.[2] Regardless, his real-life case influenced the creation of several fictional serial killers, including Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Norman Bates from Psycho and Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs.



Gein was born in La Crosse County, Wisconsin.[3] His parents, George and Augusta Gein both natives of Wisconsin, had two sons: Henry George Gein, and his younger brother, Edward Theodore Gein. Despite Augusta's deep contempt for her husband, the marriage persisted because of the family's religious belief about divorce. Augusta Gein operated a small grocery store and eventually purchased a farm on the outskirts of the small town of Plainfield, Wisconsin, which then became the Gein family's permanent home.[4]

Augusta Gein moved to this location to prevent outsiders from influencing her sons.[4] Edward Gein left the premises only to go to school. Besides school, he spent most of his time doing chores on the farm. Augusta Gein, a fervent Lutheran, preached to her boys the innate immorality of the world, the evil of drinking, and the belief that all women (herself excluded) were prostitutes and instruments of the devil. She reserved time every afternoon to read to them from the Bible, usually selecting graphic verses from the Old Testament dealing with death, murder, and divine retribution.[5]

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