The Butcher of Plainfield
"Because every man's got to have a hobby."
How many people can look at the above image and tell me his name? How many people have heard of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Buffalo Bill From Silence of the Lambs? How about Norman Bates from Psycho and Bates Motel? Chances are you have heard of if not all, some of these familiar characters. But have you ever stopped to wonder if these characters are works of fiction or are they based on something deeper? Something truer?
To answer the first question, the above image is that of Edward Gein, born on August 27, 1906. And his strange and disturbing crimes would shape some ideas for horror movies for centuries to come.
Gein grew up on a small farm outside of Plainfield. His childhood was anything but ordinary. He was raised in an abusive household, which was also religiously oppressive. His father was an abusive and violent alcoholic, whilst his mother was a religious fanatic, who convinced her children every woman, except her, were whores. Mr. and Mrs. Geins relationship was not that of roses and butterflies. Mrs. Gein hated her husband so much that she made her sons pray for his death.
On top of having a very dysfunctional home life, they were kept isolated on their farm and were not allowed to have friends over from school to play. This resulted in the boys becoming socially awkward. Gein himself struggled with his sexuality and on many occasions considered getting a sex change, but could not afford the price of the surgery.
In 1943, Gein's brother Henry died under what was called "mysterious circumstances" during a forest fire. When officials came to locate the body, Gein claimed to not know his brother's whereabouts and said he had lost him in the blaze. When the search party began, Gein was able to lead them right to his brother's body. No charges were ever laid, nor was any further investigation done.
Two years later, after two strokes, his mother passed away, this devastated Gein. He was particularly close with his mother. Once she was gone (her husband's DOD is not clear), Gein was, for the first time, on his own in the world. Still deeply mourning the death of his mother, Gein turned to grave robbing. He would rob graves of middle-aged women who, to him, resembled his mother.
But to what purpose was there to robbing graves? It was later discovered that Gein was using the body parts to make furniture and other household objects. But we will get into that in a little bit.
Gein continued this pattern of activities between 1947 to 1954. But his urges grew stronger, soon robbing graves wasn't enough for Gein. That was when he turned to murder.
Some speculate that his first murder was that of his brother Henry, but this has never been proven. His first murder that we are sure of is that of Mary Hogan.
On December 8, 1954, Hogan went missing from a local tavern she managed in Plainfield. Police found blood on the floor, an overturned chair, and a spent cartridge from a .32 caliber pistol. Foul play was obvious. Gein was questioned in the disappearance of Hogan, but no charged were laid as they didn't have any evidence to convict him.
But his murderous tendencies didn't stop there. On November 16, 1957, 58-year-old Bernice Worden disappeared from her Plainfield Hardware Store in the same circumstances that Hogan had disappeared in just a few years earlier. Witnesses remembered Gein coming into price anti-freeze, and when a sale record for the antifreeze was found at the scene of the crime, police went straight to Gein's Farm. What they would find, would haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Inside Gein's shed, authorities found the headless body of Bernice Worden, hung from the rafters and gutted like an animal with her genitals removed. A tour of the inside of Gein's house would reveal a true horror display.
Worden's heart was found in a sauce pan on the stove. Her head had been made into a macabre ornament, with twine attached to nails drove through her ears. Her other organs were found in a box, left to rot in the corner. Police found countless "decorations" in his home made from human body parts, along with ten-plus bowls fashioned from human skulls, furniture made from human skin, and what was referred to as "costumes".
In custody, Gein revealed that he would like to remove the female body parts and dress up as a woman to dance under the full moon. He had a belt made from the nipples of women's breast that he would wear for just that occasion, along with a vest made out of human skin with the female breast still intact, the scalp and face of a women that had been hallowed out complete with the victim's actual hair, and the genitals of a women to place over his own.
On January 16, 1958, a judge found Gein incompetent to stand trial. He was sent to Central State Hospital for the criminally insane.
Ten years later, after extensive treatment, Gein was ordered to stand trial. A judge found him not guilty by way of insanity, and he was sent back to the hospital to live out the rest of his days.
Edward Gein died at Central State Hospital for the criminally insane in Waupun, Wisconsin on July 26, 1984. He was recorded as a "model patient" with good behavior.
Gein's response when police asked him why he did it, he said:
"Every man's got to have a hobby."
Please leave your thoughts and comments below. I would love to hear from the readers about what they think!