One of the names that resounds with more echo in the history of criminology in the United States is that of Ed Gein. Along with other murderers such as Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy or Richard Ramirez, Ed Gein is part of a group infamous for the horrible crimes committed.
In the next few lines we will thoroughly analyze the case of what was known as “the Plainfield butcher” , what atrocities he committed and what repercussions he had on American society at that time and after him.
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A difficult life in deep America
Edward Theodore Gein was born in 1906, on a farm near Plainfield, a small town in La Crosse County (Wisconsin). Ed was George’s youngest son, a reckless and neglectful alcoholic who abused his family; and Augusta, a fervent servant of God who wanted to keep her two children away from any lifestyle that would lead to sin. It was within this dysfunctional family that Ed and Henry, four years older, grew up .
Augusta Gein’s beliefs were the result of American society at the beginning of the 20th century, where she had a strong morality regarding sex and all kinds of excesses. Due to her mother’s strong character, the two brothers grew up underthe prohibition of maintaining any type of contact with the outside in general and with women in particular, considered impure.
In this way, isolated as they were on that farm in the middle of the countryside, the boys were deprived of any prosocial lifestyle that would enable them, when the day came, to adapt to the lifestyle in society, accepting responsibilities and complying with the laws as two more citizens.
The dark adolescence of Ed Gein
Ed and Henry spent their teenage years subjected to constant beatings for contradicting or not obeying the overprotective matriarch, reluctant to any kind of affection towards her children., fruit of his contempt for the entire male gender. In addition, they also lacked a solid paternal reference (too busy spending their days in the village tavern), so Augusta was the highest perceived authority.
Ed Gein spent his puberty days reading magazines, comics and books with high doses of violence: from the cartoons of Tales from the Crypt, to stories about the horrors experienced in Nazi concentration camps. Fascinated by these readings, and having the option of making friends vetoed, this morbid and sadistic hobby became his way of escaping from reality , finding refuge in each page in which he immersed himself. Undoubtedly,Such a tendency to withdraw would mark their behavior forever.
The tragic losses in the life of Ed Gein
Finally, his abusive father died in 1940, when he was 66 years old. George’s death was decisive for Ed’s and his mother’s dependency relationship to tighten even more; something that did not go unnoticed by Henry.
Four years later, the older brother died in an apparently accidental fire when he and Ed were burning stubble on the land adjacent to the farm. Although the cause of death in the death report was stated as “asphyxiation”, it was obvious that his body had severe blows to the head , surely caused pre-mortem.
A year after the incident, Augusta Gein left this world due to the consequences of a heart attack that she had suffered months before and that had left her disabled, being left in charge of the helpful Ed. After what happened, Gein closed the door of the room of Augusta with a key so that no one could access the interior , in an attempt to keep it as she had left it and preserve it that way, like a stamp frozen in time.
Although Ed Gein was now free to live the life that had always been denied him, his mother’s departure left such a void in him that he refused to accept his loss, so he began to nurture the illusion that his mother was still alive. alive .
The Plainfield Butcher Murders
Although we could talk about three, if we count the “accident” that cost his older brother his life, Ed Gein is considered responsible for two murders .
The disappearance of Mary Hogan
It was on December 8, 1954, when one of the residents of Plainfield noticed that the tavern run by Mary Hogan was deserted, that at that time it was always open. What alarmed Seymour Lester was the trail of blood behind the bar and running towards the back of the bar . Outside, the trail led to tire tracks in the snow, leading away from the site.
Suddenly, Plainfield, the place where nothing out of the ordinary ever happened and that no one knew how to locate on a map, was grabbing all the front pages of the local newspapers by becoming the scene of a crime that threatened to destabilize the pillars of the quiet style of life. American life , until that time considered almost ideal.
The murder of Bernice Worden
After that, calm seemed to have returned to Plainfield. No one was surprised by Ed Gein’s comments when he was talking to other neighbors about what could have happened to Mary Hogan, when she said things like “she’s not missing, she’s on my farm!” Given the lack of evidence, the tavern keeper joined the list of missing persons.
However, the horror struck the small town of Wisconsin again. It happened on November 16, 1957, when Ed Gein killed the owner of a hardware store named Bernice Worden. Armed with a powerful hunting rifle, the hermit farmer shot him in the head and moved the body to the back room , where his truck was ready to flee the scene of the crime.
However , the murderer had left evidence that would give him away: her name was on the accounting record that her clerk kept for her, from whom he had bought antifreeze liquid before murdering her.
The truth is uncovered
That clue was enough to lead the police to the old Gein farm. Nevertheless,little did they imagine that what they were going to find in the place was a whole “Museum of Horrors” that would reveal a disturbing truth.
The macabre findings at Ed Gein’s farm Searching
the area, the agents found the body of Bernice Worden when they entered the tool shed: the body appeared decapitated, naked and without clothes, hanging from both heels of a beam . In a macabre butchery, Ed Gein had managed to extract the viscera through a deep cut that ran from the chest to the abdomen, leaving only the outer carcass. Her head and guts were stuffed into two esparto bags, nearby.
the mausoleum of death
Once inside the house, Ed Gein’s sadistic collection came to light. Not only was it confirmed that the farmer had been living in absolute filth, but they also discovered that he had made a seemingly endless collection of furniture, utensils, and objects from human remains .
This list of objects included, among other things:
- Pieces of clothing made with human skin
- Chairs whose backs and seats were also lined with corpse skins
- Various one piece skinned skin masks
- Entire human skulls without brain covers that had been used as soup bowls
- boxes full of bones
- The head of Mary Hogan , the first victim, inside a bag
- Bernice Worden’s heart in a boiling pot
- A silver painted vagina , decorated with two red bows
With a mixture of bitterness and relief, the authorities could finally breathe easy, because with Gein’s arrest, it came to light not only that he was to blame for the disappearances; but he was also the cause of the looting of tombs that had been occurring for years in the local cemetery and that had been attributed to simple vandals.
Ed Gein’s fantasies
That ode to death, added to all the sample furniture covered with bones, and the piles of garbage that had accumulated around the place, were nothing more than a reflection of the chaos that reigned in the head of the unbalanced loner .
In his extensive confession at the police station, Ed Gein recognized an urgent need to go to the cemetery andtake away from there the corpses of women who reminded him of his mother . He admitted that he read the obituaries in the newspapers and, when he found out about the death of some lady who reminded him of Augusta, he went that same night, taking advantage of the fact that the ground was still soft, to exhume her body.
So obsessed was he with her, that he said he heard her voice in her ear, that he urged her to kill the women who led a sinful lifestyle and contrary to the values that she had imposed on him with the fist of a knife. iron. In the end, a life away from all human contact, along with his delusions and increasing hallucinations, caused Ed Gein to break with reality, leading him to fantasize about bringing his mother back to life . But his plan went further: Ed wanted to be his mother.
The feelings of love-hate towards Augusta, added to her maladjusted and late psychosexual development, strongly repressed for years; They generated an internal conflict in him that combined contempt and admiration for his mother, to the point that they pushed him to try to be her by all means: he admitted having made a woman’s skin suit in which he wore at night, walking around the house imitating Augusta’s voice and gestures, sitting in her chair and having conversations with her two selves.
Ed Gein’s Influence on American Pop Culture
Ed Gein was confined to a Mendota, California, nursing home in 1984. He never got rid of hallucinations in which he heard his mother’s voice from him.
It may not have been the murderer with the highest number of victims, but the Gein case was a direct blow to the heart of America that inspired writers and film directors to create some of the most prominent antagonists in fiction:
1. Norman Bates ( Psycho, 1959)
The protagonist of Robert Bloch’s novel, later made into a film by the great Hitchcock, gestured using elements from Ed Gein’s biography as far as the unhealthy relationship he maintains with his “mother” is concerned, clearly dominant and despotic with him.
2. Buffalo Bill (The Silence of the Lambs, 1988)
The serial killer in Thomas Harris’s work is a sadist who skins his victims, all of them women with similar physical features, to make dresses. In addition, both in the book and in the 1991 film, it is revealed that he is a frustrated subject who cannot carry out his plan to change his sex .
3. Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974)
One of the most emblematic horror film killers also takes references from the Ed Gein case.
Leatherface (“Leather face”), hides his face behind several human skin masks , each of which serves to play the absent female roles in his family of cannibals. Together with the rest of the members, former slaughterhouse workers, he lives ina house whose main furniture is decorated with human bones and various animals.
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