*Warning – The information you are about to read includes discussions of true crimes, graphic details, and crime scenes, this may be too graphic for some people, please use discretion when reading*
Wisconsin can lay claim to the real life inspiration for Buffalo Bill (Silence of the Lambs), Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and Norman Bates (Psycho). Plainfield, WI, is a small village located near the center of the state. This was also the stage for Edward Gein to make good on his morbid curiosities. And we aren’t talking about your average arts and crafts, Edward enjoyed grave robbing, preserving human flesh, and murder.
Ed Gein was born in LaCrosse, WI to George and Augusta Gein. He was the youngest of two boys, his older brother Henry was born in 1901, Ed born in 1906. George was an alcoholic and Augusta was a domineering and strict woman especially with her sons. When Ed was young the family permanently relocated to Plainfield, Wisconsin, on a 155 acre farm. The farm was fairly isolated and Augusta turned away anyone who may have negatively influenced her boys.
In 1940, George died at age 66 due to his alcoholism. Henry and Ed began to do odd jobs around town to cover expenses and were considered reliable and honest, Ed even babysat for his neighbors. In 1944, while burning marsh vegetation, Henry died. His death wasn’t from the fire but from heart failure. It was later stated that there were bruises on Henry’s head, it would be suspected that Ed had aided in his brothers demise.
Ed and Augusta were now alone. In 1945, Augusta suffered a stroke and was solely in Ed’s care. After a second stroke, her health deteriorated quickly and she died in December of 1945 at 67 years old. Ed was now alone in the world, and he had lost his only friend and love of his life. He remained at the farm and sold the parcel of land his brother had owned, and worked odd jobs to support himself. The rooms his mother had occupied were sealed off and turned into a shrine. The rest of the house would become unkempt.
In 1957, Plainfield Hardware store owner Bernice Worden disappeared. The last receipt written was for antifreeze to Edward Gein. When they went out to Gein’s farm, they discovered a macabre sight. Bernice Worden was dressed out like a deer, hanging in the shed, with her head in a burlap bag. Mutilations were made after her death. Edward was then arrested.
When authorities searched the Gein farmhouse they discovered more grisly evidence:
- Whole human bones and fragments
- A wastebasket made of human skin
- Human skin covering several chair seats
- Skulls on bedposts
- Bowls made from human skulls
- A corset made from a female torso, skinned from shoulders to waist
- Masks made from female heads
- Mary Hogan’s face mask and head
- Nine vulvae in a shoe box
- A belt made from female nipples
- A lampshade made from the skin of a human face
These items were all photographed at the state crime laboratory, and then decently disposed of.
After his arrest, Ed was questioned by investigators, and admitted to visiting numerous graves as many as 40, and taking parts or the whole body back to his home, where he tanned their skins, to make a “woman suit” so that “he could become his mother – to literally crawl into her skin.”
Ed also admitted to the shooting death of Mary Hogan, a tavern owner who has been missing since 1954, and whose head was found in his house. Her body was never recovered from the Gein farm.
Edward faced trial and was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was sent to the Mendota State Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. He remained in the mental hospital the rest of his life, passing away July of 1984 at the age of 77. He is buried in Plainfield near his mother, father, and brother. His grave stone has been stolen several times, and now his grave remains unmarked.
The house and possessions of Edward Gein were destroyed by fired in 1958. A garbage fire was set near the home by the cleaning crew to dispose of refuse. Arson was suspected but never confirmed.
Be ever alert, make good choices, stay safe