**WARNING** This article contains very graphic content in both text and image form. If you are easily disturbed, please pass on this week’s story.
Good evening gals and ghouls! Welcome back to Nightscrawlers. This week we are going to talk about one of the most influential murderers of all time, Ed Gein. When I found out that my father had never heard of Ed Gein, I knew that I had to inform the masses about this guy. I’m sure you will be surprised about how much you indirectly know about Gein and his case.
Edward Theodore Gein was born on August 27, 1906 in La Crosse, Wisconsin to father, George Philip Gein and mother, Augusta Wilhelmine Gein. He had one older brother named Henry George Gein, with whom he was very close. His father was known in their community as a “timid” alcoholic who generally kept to himself and wanted no part in community or family functions. His mother, on the other hand, was a devoutly religious woman who would constantly push her beliefs on her children. She was known to preach about sins of lust and carnal desire.
Ed was very much seen as a momma’s boy in the eyes of the community. When his mother passed away in 1945, his obsession with his mother intensified.
Although he is most well known as a murderer or “serial killer”, Gein’s history of crime started in a much more secretive way. He was initially a grave robber, and eventually a body snatcher. He told police that on hundreds of occasion he would leave his house in the middle of the night and go to the local cemetery to dig up the fresher graves of young women. He would remove body parts to keep as literal trophies, and then place the bodies back in their original grave. When questioned about the crimes, he insisted that he did NOT participate in necrophilia with the bodies that he stole because they “smelled too bad”.
In 1957, Ed Gein was imprisoned for the murder of one woman, later confessing that he had actually murdered a total of two women, although he could not remember actually murdering the first victim. His first victim was a local tavern owner named Mary Hogan.
Hogan went missing in 1954, but it was not revealed until his arrest in 1957 that Gein was involved in the disappearance. When it was discovered that she was missing, all that was left behind was a pool of her blood in Hogan’s Tavern. Gein was known around the time of her disappearance to joke, saying that she wasn’t missing that he “had her hanging up” back at his place. Of course, no one took him seriously. Unfortunately, he had shot her at the bar with a .32 caliber shotgun and did have her dismembered back at his family’s farm in Plainfield, Wisconsin.
The final, and most investigated murder was that of local hardware store owner, Bernice Worden. On November 16th, 1957, residents of Plainfield, Wisconsin were shocked to find that the only local hardware store, Worden’s, was closed all day. When some people decided to call the Deputy Sheriff, Frank Worden (Bernice’s son) to tell him about the strange occurrence, he decided to stop by the store at around 5:00pm to make sure everything was in order. What he found however, was very concerning. He found the cash register open, with nothing reported missing, and a large blood stain on the floor. Upon further investigation, he noticed that the last and only transaction that occurred that day was with one Ed Gein, who purchased a gallon of antifreeze.
Gein was arrested at a local grocery store under suspicions of kidnapping and assault, but what the police would soon find would shock millions. Upon investigation of the Gein family farm, Worden’s decapitated body was found hanging by her ankles with a crossbar holding her legs open and rope tied around her wrists. It was also reported that she was “dressed out like a deer”, referring to her body being slashed open as if she were prey that was caught on a hunting trip. The fatal wound was that of a .22 caliber shotgun to her head, meaning that all of the mutilation was completed post-mortem. Her body had been sexually violated post-mortem and seemed to be prepped for taxidermy.
The Crime Scene
As if this lovely sight wasn’t enough, the inside of Gein’s home was filled with even more disturbing artifacts. The only clean room in the house was that of his deceased mother, which he had boarded up in order to preserve it. The remainder of the house reeked of death and held some very disturbing sights. Some of the things found amongst the dirt and filth included:
- fingernails from female hands
- whole human bones and fragments
- Bernice Worden’s head in a burlap sack
- Mary Hogan’s face, turned into a mask
- furniture that had be reupholstered in human skin
- skulls decorating his bedposts
- bowls made of female human skulls
- Bernice Worden’s heart in a plastic bag in front of his stove
- four noses
- nine vulvae contained in a shoe box
- a lampshade made of the skin of human faces
- leggings made of the skin from a woman’s legs
- a corset made from the skin of a woman’s torso
- a belt made from female nipples
… and that’s not even all of it! Detectives from the Sheriff’s department described it as one of the most horrific scenes anyone could possibly imagine, many of them needing psychiatric counselling following the investigation and trials. All of the items found were photographed in a laboratory and destroyed immediately after.
During questioning, Gein confessed that many of the remains came from bodies that he had dug up in the local grave yard. He admitted to stealing from 9 graves. He also admitted that on at least 30 different occasions he entered the cemetery in a daze and left in the same confused state, however empty handed.
Investigation and Trial
On November 21, 1957, just 5 days after being arrested and the discovery of his appalling living conditions, Ed Gein was set to stand trial for one count of first-degree murder, to which he plead “not guilty by reason of insanity”. Upon psychiatric evaluation, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was deemed not fit to stand trial and was sentenced to a mental health facility, then called the Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane (now the Dodge Correctional Institution).
Fun little side note of something that occurred during questioning, the detective in charge of questioning a rather compliant (as much so as a severely mentally ill man can be) Art Schley, deemed all of Gein’s initial confession inadmissible in court because he violently smashed Gein’s head and face into a brick wall. Unfortunately, by the time the case officially went to trial in the late 60s, Schley passed away due to heart failure, which many people blamed Gein for.
Anyway, in 1968, doctors finally agreed that Gein was mentally stable enough to participate in his defence in a court setting, and his trial date was set for November 7, 1968 and the entire trial and deliberation lasted one week. When asked in court about the murder of Bernice Worden, Gein’s doctor stated that Gein was unable to recall whether the murder was intentional or not. He recalled examining a shotgun (.22 caliber) in the hardware store, and then he remembered attempting to load it when it discharged. He remembered that he was not aiming at Worden, but was unable to remember anything else that occurred throughout the rest of that morning, before his arrest in the evening.
At the request of Gein’s defence lawyers, the trial was held without a jury, and Gein was found guilty of one count of first-degree murder for the murder of Bernice Worden on November 14th. There was then a second trial that focused on Gein’s sanity and sentencing, where the same Judge (Judge Gollmar) found him “not guilty by reason of insanity” and he was sentenced to spend the remainder of his life in a Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. When asked why Gollmar did not convict him of two counts of murder, Gollmar stated that it was due to “prohibitive costs”.
Aftermath and Death
When it was revealed that Gein’s family farm and home were to be auctioned off in November of 1958, many people were noticeably aggravated and the house was burned down. It was suspected arson.
Ed Gein died at the Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane on July 26, 1984 at the age of 77 from respiratory failure caused by lung cancer. His body now lies in a family plot, but in an unmarked grave, as the tombstone was stolen in the year 2000.
The horrors of Ed Gein’s crimes still haunt many to this day, but they have also inspired many stories and movies that have seen immense popularity since their release. Some of the characters inspired by Ed Gein include;
- Norman Bates (Psycho and Bates Motel)
- Jame Gumb (Silence of the Lambs)
- Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre)
- Dr. Oliver Thredson (American Horror Story: Asylum)
That’s all for this story! I know that this one is a lot longer than usual, but there was a ton of information and I didn’t want to miss anything important. If you want more posts like this, please let me know! I’m thinking of doing a post about the psychology behind famous murderers and the difference between a murderer and a serial killer… Comment down below if those are things you would be interested in seeing in the future.
Also, I now have an Instagram! Follow me @Nightscrawlers for updates on stories and other exciting things to come. I also have a Twitter account specifically for the blog @_Nightscrawlers.
Until next time… Keep it spooky!