American serial killer 1906 - 1984
Many compulsive murderers in modern history took a greater death-toll, but few of their atrocities were as horrific as Edward Theodore Gein's. In a time when serial killings were not an oft encountered phenomenon, the arrest and subsequent investigations of Eddie Gein, as he was known to his neighbors, shocked the entire world. Being the first serial killer to get masssive media coverage, Gein became a popular icon of sorts.
On August 27, 1906 Gein was born in the city of La Crosse, Wisconsin as the son of George and Augusta Gein, who owned a small grocery store in the city. Gein had an older brother named Henry. Shortly after his birth, the family relocated to a farmhouse in the small rural community of Plainfield, Wisconsin. In that house, Eddie was to live until November 17, 1957, when sheriff Arthur Schley accidentally bumped in to the dismembered torso of Bernice Worden in Gein's kitchen.
Raising a monster
The Gein family was no ordinary one by any measure. Father George was a spineless alcoholic who had no particular voice when it came to raising the two boys. Augusta Gein, on the other hand, was a strong woman with a fanatic reverence for the word of God. The boys were raised on her tedious ravings about the sinfulness of all women. Augusta implored the boys never to get married.
Augusta hated and oppressed her weak husband. On many an occasion, Augusta prayed for him to die. Her prayers were answered in 1940. Henry and Eddie took jobs to support their mother and tended the farm. Eddie was particularly fond of babysitting.
At a later age, Henry felt that he had been limited in his development by Augusta's rigid upbringing.
On a few occasions, he voiced this criticism to his younger brother. Ed, on the other hand, could not fit his brother's opinions to the immaculate image he had of his mother. This is likely to have cost Henry his life in 1944. During a fire on the farm Henry got lost and was later found dead by the police with severe head trauma. No one suspected Ed at the time because both boys had a very decent reputation in the neighborhood.
In 1945 Augusta passed away. Gein, now a 39 year old with the mind of a child, was the only remaining member of the family. Thanks to federal subsidies, Ed didn't need to farm the land anymore to make a living. He sealed up the upper rooms of the house, where his mother had lived, and took residence in the lower areas. There he quietly spent the next decade on his macabre hobbies..
Having been an avid reader since early childhood, Ed delved into a wide area of subjects, his favorites being female anatomy, which he studied through medical literature, horror fiction and porn magazines. Part of Ed had always wanted to be a woman. He had a lifelong obsession with one woman in particular: Augusta. Upon her passing he had masturbated over her cadaver. He wanted to be with her and he wanted to be her.
He devoured books about the medical experiments by Joseph Mengele in the Nazi deathcamps. When he began to dig up freshly buried female corpses from the local cemetery, he persuaded his rather trusting friend Gus to help him carry the bodies home by convincing him he was doing research on them to advance science.
Gein, who had the reputation of being the town's benign weirdo, made a name amongst the local children when he showed several boys his collection of shrunken human heads. None of the adults actually believed their kids' stories.
Ed continued to dig up fresh bodies by regularly checking the obituaries. He crafted many bizarre objects from the remains, including soup bowls of skulls, an arm chair with real arms, a mobile made of noses and lips, jewelery made out of nipples, a dress and jackets made entirely out of women's skin, in which he would dress himself up as a woman. He also prepared female genitalia in such a way that they could cover up his own.
Handiwork wasn't the only reason for Ed's trips to the graveyard. On many occasions, he stripped the flesh of the women and kept it for consumption. He would sometimes bring venison around to his neighbour's house as a gift. After his arrest he said to have never hunted in his life. Although he admitted later to having sexual fantasies about the corpses as well, he never had intercourse with the bodies because of their odour.
After Gus was taken away to an asylum, Eddie was by himself again. With his buddy no longer watching over his shoulder, Gein no longer took supplies from the graveyard. Instead, he began gathering 'fresh' ingredients for his art- and kitchenwork...
Ever since the mysterious disappearance of eight year old Georgia Weckler in 1947, the local police had been confronted with a series of brutal, unsolved murders in the Plainfield area. Aside from Georgia, another little girl, two men and local innkeeper Mary Hogan were reported missing. Evidence of violence was found at each scene, but of the bodies was no trace. When Gein was told about Hogan's disappearing by a townsman, he had casually replied that she wasn't actually missing. He stated that she was at his farm. Obviously, the townsman didn't take it seriously. Hogan turned out later to be Ed's first confirmed kill. He confessed to shooting her at close range.
On November 16, 1957 local hardware store owner Bernice Worden disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The next moring, her son, assistant deputy Frank Worden, remembered a conversation he had with Gein earlier about his need for duct tape. Sheriff Arthur Schley and some of his men set out to question Gein at his farm to see if he had visited the hardware store, hoping that he could help in the investigation. In the kitchen, the sheriff bumped into what appeared to be a large deer carcass that Gein was preparing, already gutted and dismembered. After a while, it struck him that it was in fact a human cadaver: Bernice Worden's.
After his arrest, some 15 corpses were excavated at the Gein residence. Ed maintained that many of them were stolen from the graveyard. The earliest murder he confessed to was Mary Hogan's. There was no conclusive evidence to prove his involvement in the other cases.
Gein was found unfit for trial because of his mental condition. Ed spent ten years in an institute for the criminally insane before being tried and found guilty on two counts of first degree murder. He was found legally insane and he was acquitted because of this. Gein spent the rest of his life quite happily in a mental institution. He died of cancer on July 26, 1984.
Gein long held a prominent position in the public spotlight. Many devoted Gein fans took a pilgrimage to his old farm house, to the dismay of the townspeople. Eventually, the house burned down and arson was suspected. Immediately after the media picked up on the Gein story, morbid Gein jokes, called Geiners started to wash all over the country.
This macabre case inspired many movies; about Gein's person as well as many fictive serial killers. The character of Norman Bates from Alfred Hitchcock's classic Psycho was one example. Bates has a twisted relationship with his dead mother, whom he keeps in his large house. Other notable ones include the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where a whole family commits Gein-like crimes, and Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs. Bill skins his victims and dresses up in clothes made of their skin.
To this day, Gein has an avid fanclub that meets regularly. Slayer 'honored' Gein in the song Dead Skin Mask. Gein is thought to have inspired other serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and Richard Ramirez to their deeds.
..and many, many, many others.