Ed Gein – Scarier Than Fiction

Police photo of Ed Gein, 1958
Police photo of Ed Gein, 1958

What do Norman Bates from “Psycho,” Leatherface from “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” and Buffalo Bill from “The Silence of the Lambs” all have in common?

They’re all based on the same real man.

Ed Gein.

They are all only partially based on aspects of his life. To get the true effect of Gein’s madness, you have to look at the movies together. Like Bates, Gein was obsessed with his mother; like Leatherface, he butchered human beings for parts; and like Buffalo Bill, he was confused about his gender identity and wanted to become someone else.

In 1958 his crimes came to light when authorities stormed the Gein homestead. What they found revolted and horrified them.

Ed Gein was born, lived, and died in Wisconsin. Born in 1906 to George Philip and Augusta Welhelmine, he was the youngest of two boys. His father was a drunk and a failure, and Augusta resented him and began to resent men in general. She was overbearing and controlling on the boys, and kept them from having any friends or playmates. In fact, she purposely moved the family to an isolated farm when Ed was only 8 years old. His family became his only social contacts, and he was particularly fond of his mother.

Augusta was extremely religious in an Old Testament way. She despised other women and taught her boys that women were only temptresses and whores.

When George died in 1940, Augusta was alone to raise the boys as she pleased. Ed’s older brother Henry however, began to see their mother as who she really was thanks to the time he spent working away from his mother and the farm. Ed was not so lucky, and continued to idolize his mother.

When Henry met and fell in love with a single mother and wanted to move in with her, it made Augusta furious. Henry began to warn Ed about their mother’s abuse and how it wasn’t natural. Shortly thereafter in 1944, while Ed and Henry were doing a controlled burn on the farmland, Henry happened to perish in the fire. Official cause of death was asphyxiation, but rumors have spread that he also had bruises on his head.

Now Ed was alone with his mother, but soon her health would take a turn for the worse. She had her first stroke after Henry’s death and died of another one in December of 1945. Ed was now truly alone and emotionally damaged.

In 1967, following the disappearance of Bernice Worden, authorities raided the Gein family farm. Ed’s name had been listed in her book as the last customer she had worked with.

What they found on that farm was more disturbing than any of the film representations mentioned above. From 1947 to 1952, Ed admitted he had dug up at least 10 female bodies that he thought resembled his mother from the local cemeteries and took certain parts from each.

Worden’s body was found in the garage, hung upside down and being drained of blood as though she was being butchered like a deer. Her head was missing but later found inside the house.

When the police entered, they found a house of horrors. Gein had taken skin, heads, and sexual organs from the previous bodies. Decorating his house were lampshades made from human skin, skulls adorning his bedpost, furniture upholstered with skin.

Human faces used as masks were found, in addition to a belt made of human nipples and a pull cord that utilized a pair of severed lips. Gein also had a box of 9 women’s vulva. Worden’s heart was found in front of Gein’s stove.

The investigators also found the face and severed head of Mary Hogan, who had been missing since 1954.

They also found a woman suit with the pieces stitched together from the skin of the murdered and exhumed women. Gein was trying to finish his suit so he could become his mother, and be with her once again.

Gein was arrested and found guilty of murder. He spent the rest of his life in a mental institution and died in 1984.

So next time you watch a horror move that says it was based on true events, don’t always roll your eyes. Sometimes the movie is actually toned down since the story it was based on was much too horrible to actually put on film for general audiences.


I hope you all enjoyed this post. I found out lots of people actually don’t know who Gein was, when he was actually one of the most fucked up murderers who ever lived. If you liked this segment, let me know. If so, I plan on writing about other murderers and serial killers that inspired horror movies.

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