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Ed Gein

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Edward Theodore Gein (August 27, 1906 – July 26, 1984), was one of the most notorious murderers in United States history. The particularly bizarre and morbid nature of his crimes shocked the world, even though it may never be known if he committed more than two murders. Besides the death of his brother in 1944 under puzzling circumstances, between 1947 and 1957 six people disappeared from the Wisconsin towns of La Crosse and Plainfield; Gein could be linked to only two. (See link to "Crime Library" below-for reference only.)

Contents

Childhood

Ed Gein was born to Augusta T. Lehrke (1878–1945) and George P. Gein (1873–1940) on August 27, 1906, in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His parents, both natives of Wisconsin, had married on July 7, 1900, and their marriage produced both Ed and his older brother, Henry G. Gein (1901–1944). Ed's father was a violent man who was frequently unemployed, usually spending his days brooding on the front porch and consuming liquor. Ed rejected his violent, aimless father, as did his older brother and especially Augusta, who treated him like a nonentity. Despite her deep contempt for her husband, the atrophic marriage persisted. Divorce was not an option, due to the family's religious beliefs. Augusta operated the small family grocery store and eventually purchased a farm on the outskirts of another small town, Plainfield, which became the Gein family's permanent home.

Augusta decided to move to this desolate location to prevent outsiders from influencing her sons. Gein only left the premises to go to school, and Augusta blocked any attempt he made to pursue friendships. Aside from school, he spent most of his time doing chores on the farm. Augusta, who was a Lutheran and fanatically religious, drummed into her boys the innate immorality of the world, the evil of drink, and above all that all women (herself excluded) were whores. According to Augusta, the only acceptable form of sex was solely for procreation. 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. At the age of 10, Gein experienced an ejaculation upon viewing his mother and father slaughtering a hog in a nearby shed.[1] When Gein reached puberty, Augusta became increasingly strict, once dousing him in scalding water after she caught him masturbating in the bathtub.

With a slight growth over one eye and an effeminate demeanor, the young Gein became a target for bullies. He was also notorious for a permanent lopsided grin that was displayed even during serious conversations. Classmates and teachers recall other off-putting mannerisms, such as seemingly random laughter, as if he were laughing at his own personal joke. Despite his poor social development, he managed to do fairly well in school, particularly in reading. Some researchers argued that Gein's dysfunctional childhood experiences were a contributing factor in his later behavior.

Deaths of family members

By the time George Gein died in 1940, Henry had begun to reject Augusta's view of the world. He had even taken to bad-mouthing her within earshot of his mortified brother. In March 1944, the brothers found themselves in the middle of a brush fire on the farm. When Ed ran to get the police, he told them he had lost sight of Henry, but then led them directly to his brother's corpse. Although there was evidence Henry had suffered blunt trauma to the head, police decided he died of asphyxiation while fighting the fire.

On December 29, 1945, Augusta died from a series of strokes, leaving Ed alone on the isolated farmstead. At her funeral, 39 year old Gein sobbed uncontrollably, devastated and extremely depressed.

Arrest

Police investigating the disappearance of a store clerk, Bernice Worden, in Plainfield on November 17, 1957, suspected Gein to be involved. Upon entering a shed on his property, they made their first horrific discovery of the night: Worden's corpse. She had been decapitated, was hanging upside down by the ankles and had been split open down the torso like a deer. The mutilations had been performed post-mortem; she had been killed with a close-range blast from a .22-caliber rifle. Template:Citeneeded

Searching the house, authorities found:

  • severed heads acting as bedposts in the bedroom;
  • skin used to make lampshades and upholster chair seats;
  • skullcaps made into soup bowls;
  • a human heart (it is disputed where the heart was found; the deputies' reports all claim that the heart was in a saucepan on the stove, with some crime scene photographers claiming it was in a paper bag);
  • a face mask made out of real facial skin found in a paper bag;
  • a necklace of human lips;
  • a waistcoat, called a "mammary vest," made up of a vagina and breasts;
  • and other items fashioned from the parts of human bodies, including a belt made from nipples.

Above all, Gein's most infamous creation was an entire wardrobe fabricated of human skin consisting of leggings, a gutted torso (including breasts) and an array of tanned, dead-skin masks that looked leathery and almost mummified.

Under questioning, Gein eventually admitted that he would dig up the graves of recently buried middle-aged women he thought resembled his mother and take the bodies home, where he tanned their skin to make his macabre possessions. After his mother died, Gein had begun to think often of castration and even considered a sex-change operation, but couldn't afford it. One writer describes Gein's practice of putting on the tanned skins of women as an "insane transvestite ritual."[2] Gein also participated in a stunted form of necrophilia, achieving sexual pleasure by playing with the mutilated sexual organs of corpses. Gein denied having sex with the bodies he exhumed, explaining, "They smelled too bad." During interrogation, Gein also admitted to the shooting death of Mary Hogan, a local tavern employee who had been missing since 1954.

At some point, Gein decided he wanted a sex change, although it is a matter of some debate whether or not he was transgendered; by most accounts, he created his "woman suit" so he could pretend to be his mother, rather than achieve a change in gender identity. [3]

Harold Schechter, a leading expert on serial killers, wrote a best-selling book about the Gein case called Deviant. In this book, Schechter mentions a tragic footnote: Plainfield sheriff Art Schley physically assaulted Gein during questioning by banging Gein's head and face into a brick wall; because of this, Gein's initial confession was ruled inadmissible. Schley died of a heart attack at the age of 43 shortly before Gein's trial. Many who knew him said he was so traumatized by the horror of Gein's crimes and the fear of having to testify (notably about assaulting Gein) that it led to his early death. One of his friends said, "He was a victim of Ed Gein as surely as if he had butchered him."

Gein was found mentally incompetent and thus unfit to stand trial at the time of his arrest, and was sent to the Central State Hospital (now the Dodge Correctional Institution) in Waupun, Wisconsin. Later, Central State Hospital was converted into a prison and Gein was transferred to Mendota State Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. In 1968, Gein's doctors determined he was sane enough to stand trial; he was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent the rest of his life in the hospital.

While Gein was in detention, his house burned to the ground. Arson was suspected. In 1958, Gein's car, which he used to haul the bodies of his victims, was sold at public auction for a then-considerable sum of $760 to an enterprising carnival sideshow operator named Bunny Gibbons. Gibbons called his attraction the "Ed Gein Ghoul Car" and charged carnival-goers 25 cents admission to see it.

Death

Gein died of respiratory failure in 1984 at the age of 78 in the Mendota State Hospital in Madison.

His body was interred at Plainfield Cemetery in Plainfield. Vandalism to the grave site, near his parents', included many years of stone pieces chipped off for souvenirs until his gravestone was finally stolen in 2000. It was recovered in June 2001 near Seattle and now is displayed in a museum in Wautoma, Wisconsin.

Popular culture

Films

Music

  • Bands Killdozer, Slayer, Mudvayne, Macabre, The Fibonaccis and Dahmer have composed songs about Ed Gein called "Ed Gein," "Dead Skin Mask" [4], "Nothing to Gein", "Old Mean Ed Gein," and "Edward Gein," respectively. There is an extreme metal band by the name of Ed Gein. "Gidget Gein" was the stage name of former Marilyn Manson bassist Brad Stewart.
  • In 1995, the alternative rock band Blind Melon released the song "Skinned," which is sung from the point of view of Gein.
  • A politicaly fused upstate New York trash metal/punk trio goes by the name of 'Ed Gein'
  • In the 1980's, there was a New York City based punk rock band named "Ed Gein's Car".
  • There is also an instrumental psychobilly/surfpunk band in the US by the name Ed Gein and the Graverobbers.
  • Swedish death metal band Deranged took its name from the eponymous film.
  • From First to Last's song "Ride The Wings of Pestilence" contains reference to the activities of Ed Gein.
  • Dir en grey references him in the song JESSICA
  • There is a track on John5's album "Songs for Sanity" titled "Gein with Envy", obviously named after the killer.
  • There is a Slayer tribute band whose name was inspired by the Slayer song, Dead Skin Mask, from the 1991 album Seasons In The Abyss.
  • The title track on the Swans's EP Young God was supposedly written as if it were from Ed Gein's perspective.

Computers

  • Harvester, a 1996 adventure game, involves "Gein Memorial School" that is named after Gein.
  • There is a Deathrow OpenVMS cluster named after him, gein.vistech.net .

See also

References

External links