America’s Strangest Serial Killer – Ed Gein (The Butcher of Plainfield)

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free browser extension. Once again, we are going to take a walk on
the dark side of the human psyche. So far, we’ve covered perhaps the most well-known
serial killer in Jack the Ripper, the most beastly in Ted Bundy, and now we are about
to enter the realm of perhaps the weirdest savage ever to hold a place in the serial
killer Hall of Infamy. He was the inspiration behind the Hitchcock classic movie, “Psycho”,
as well as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” and, to some extent, “The Silence of the
Lambs”. There hasn’t really been anyone that shocked the world as much as this guy,
just ask the cops that discovered his house of horrors – the ones that didn’t succumb
to a nervous breakdown, anyway. If you haven’t heard of him, you’re in for a surprise,
so welcome to this episode of the Infographics Show, America’s strangest serial killer – Ed
Gein. First of all we should say that Mr. Gein was
not close to someone like Ted Bundy on the nasty scale, nor was he as brutal as Jack
the Ripper or as despicable as H. H. Holmes. If anything, the man was warped beyond comprehension.
Also known as, “The Butcher of Plainfield”, Gein was no doubt mentally ill to an unfathomable
degree. So, many of you will have heard of the movie
Psycho. It’s rather old and most likely older than most of you watching. You might
have heard of the series The Bates Motel, which is based on that movie. Well, the main character in the movie was
based on Ed Gein, and indeed Gein was said to have been brought up in an abusive family
with a very oppressive and hyper-religious mother. He was born on August 27, 1906, in
a place called La Crosse, Wisconsin. According to serial killer websites, Gein had a beleaguered
childhood, having to listen to his mother’s frantic preaching regarding sin and lust and
the inevitable hell that they lead to. It’s said his childhood was very isolated and he
had few friends. He had a brother, who died in an accident when Gein was still young (some
people have conjectured that Gein killed him, but there’s no proof). People have ventured
that Gein, being the shy and weaker brother, killed his sibling and this could be compared
to the Old Testament thriller, Cain and Abel. But let’s stick with what we know. One bio tells us at school he rarely socialized,
although we are told, “His teachers remembered that he had demonstrated queer mannerisms,
such as laughing randomly.” Later in life, his family moved to a farm, and there Gein
became even more isolated. His mother may have been strict, but it’s said Gein was
obsessed with her; he adored her. She told him that having relationships with women was
a sin, and that all other women besides herself were prostitutes, and dating them essentially
meant being in league with Satan himself. This was not a good start for young Ed, especially
if you’ve read Freud on overbearing mothers. Gein’s father died, and so it was just him
and the zealous mother. But then she had a stroke and Gein ended up having to look after
her. He took odd jobs around town and was known as a quiet, decent guy who was reliable
when you wanted something fixed. Apparently, he was quite a capable handyman. His devotion to his mother was unerring, but
it’s said that Gein had become fascinated with stories about Nazis and cannibals, which
he read in various books and death-cult magazines. His mother then passed away in 1945, leaving
Ed alone on the farm. It’s said he kept the rooms where she had stayed in the same
condition, and locked them so they would stay that way. He continued working his odd jobs
and doing work on the farm, but a few years after his mother’s death, Gein took up a
new hobby. To some extent, that hobby was trying to become her.
Now for the gruesome part. As we said, Gein was not a prolific serial
killer, but what he did do makes up for the low body count. In 1957, a woman that worked
at a local hardware store went missing. Her name was Bernice Worden. Her son told police
that one of the last people to be seen in the store with her was none other than the
habitual hat-wearing Mr. Gein. He was arrested shortly after and police received a warrant
to check-out the Gein farm. This is not one of those serial killer stories
with twists and turns, because the cops found what they were looking for immediately upon
searching the farm. That was Mrs. Worden’s dead body – shot with a .22-caliber rifle
– hung upside down in a shed like an animal. The torso had been what’s called in hunting
“dressed out”, meaning it was opened and the organs had been taken out. The body was
also mutilated from head to toe. Captain Lloyd Schoephoester, who saw this grizzly sight
said, “Tendons in the ankles had been cut and a rod had been placed through them. The
body was drawn up in the air by a block and tackle. The body was dressed out and the head
was missing.” Her head was later found in a burlap sack. Ed had a thing for heads, as
you shall see. This was obviously a sickening sight for the
deputy that found the body, but inside the house police got the shock of their lives.
As we said, he liked to keep the heads of his victims. Police found 5 heads inside plastic
bags, as well as four skulls. But more stomach churning, they also found masks, whereby Gein
had carefully cut off the faces and kept them in tact so he could wear them. One police
officer told the press, “Some of them have lipstick on and look perfectly natural…If
you knew them, you’d be able to recognize them.” In fact, Gein was a handyman in many
ways, and we are not talking about fixing creaking doors. Police found all sorts of things, and not
just human remains. Gein had made lamp shades, chair covers and wastebaskets out of human
skin. He had human skulls sitting atop bed posts, and in the kitchen you could find bowls
made from skulls. A la Psycho, he’d made a skin corset that he could get into, and
thereby be a woman, or more specifically, his mother. He didn’t leave out the bottom
half, having made leggings out of skin as well as skin socks. Perhaps his piece de resistance
in terms of fashionable items was a belt made from women’s nipples. He also had a collection
of noses and vulvas. If Ed wanted, he could become a woman by wearing all of this. But
it wasn’t all about dressing up; he even had lips he could grab hold of on the end
of curtain draw strings. According to one website, Gein would wear a death mask and
the skin clothes and then go and dance around in the garden with his costume on. We cannot
confirm this, though. It doesn’t really matter, because Gein admitted he liked to
wear the suit to become his mother, so just the thought of him watching TV in his face
mask and skin suit is horrifying enough. Now, Gein didn’t kill people for all of
his handy work. He told police that much of his raw material was gathered by robbing local
graves. He did, however, admit to at least one more murder, and he was suspected of having
killed more women. A famous quote of Gein was this: “When I see a pretty girl walking
down the street, I think two things. One part wants to be real nice and sweet, and the other
part wonders what her head would look like on a stick.” Well, some websites, and even
the movie American Psycho, attribute this to Gein, but other websites tell us it was
another strange killer named Ed Kemper that said it. Such strangeness and brutality left its mark
on Plainfield, which would never be plain again. Many people say the sheriff of the
town died fairly young as a direct result of the trauma from investigating this case.
In fact, one of the sheriff’s friends said, “He was a victim of Ed Gein as surely as
if he had butchered him.” Gein was unsurprisingly found by the courts
to be insane; he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and a severe Oedipus complex. He died in 1984
from lung cancer in Mendota Mental Health Institute. It’s thought he said this about
his time in one mental institution, “I like this place, everybody treats me nice, some
of them are a little crazy though.” He was buried in Plainfield, although it’s
said parts of his grave are now missing because people wanted to take a souvenir home with
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