Edward Theodore Gein | Killers That Inspired Movies

| On
June 08, 2019

Edward Theodore Gein is one of the most famous serial killers in the USA and he went by the name "The Butcher of Plainfield". He inspired many books and movies and became immortalised as the character Norman Bates in Psycho. He was also the inspiration for the following characters in horror movies:
  • Leatherface - Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
  • Buffalo Bill - The Silence of the Lambs. 

Attention! The content of this article or section may seem obscene or offensive to some readers.


Ed's Early Life


Ed Gein was born August 27th 1906 and was the second son of George and Augusta Gein. Gein had one older brother called Henry, and they all lived together on a farm in Plainfield, Wisconsin.

Augusta kept her sons away from outsiders, and only let them leave the farm to go to school. If Ed tried to make friends with anybody he would be punished. Ed was bullied a lot at school, and he developed a tic that made him laugh impulsively.

She was very religious and preached to the boys regularly. She would tell them about the evils of alcohol and women. She told them that all women were prostitutes except her, and when she caught Ed masturbating she scalded him with hot water. She would read the bible to them daily and would choose verses about death, murder, and divine retribution.

His father George was an alcoholic, and in 1940 he died because of his alcoholism. After their fathers' death, the two boys started to do odd jobs to help pay the bills. Ed's older brother started to question their mother, and he made it clear he wanted to date. 

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
In May 1944 Ed and his brother were working in the fields when a fire broke out. After the fire was extinguished they realised Henry was missing. They created a search party to find him, and when they did he was laying face down dead in a field. At first, it was thought he had died of heart failure because he had no burns, but after closer inspection, they noticed bruising to his head. The police suspected foul play but they had no evidence to prove it.

This left just Ed and his mother alone at the farm, but after two strokes her health deteriorated and she died in December 1945. When his mother died he was devastated and became a hermit. He boarded up all of the rooms she would use to preserve them like a shrine and lived in the kitchen and a living room. This meant those rooms were immaculate, and the rest of the house fell into squalor.

Ed's Crimes


Ed was arrested after a hardware store owner went missing called Bernice Worden. He was the last person seen with her before she disappeared. The police went to the Gein farm to make enquiries, but then decided they needed to search the property. 

When they searched the farm they found the body of Bernice decapitated and hanging upside down. Gein had shot her and mutilated her body. When they searched the rest of the property, what they saw shocked them to their core. They found the following inside the house:
  • Human bones and fragments.
  • A basket of skin.
  • 9 masks made of skin from female heads. Some had lipstick on and had been treated with oil.
  • Skulls on his bedposts.
  • A belt made of female nipples.
  • Bernice's head in a burlap sack.
  • Bernice's' heart in a bag.
  • Lips used as pulls on a window shade.
  • Lampshades and bowls made of skin.
  • Human skin covering chair seats.

When questioned Gein admitted that he visited graveyards and would exhume bodies. He would dig up the graves of women that looked like his mother. He also admitted to two murders, and again that he targeted women that resembled his mother. He denied all cannibalism allegations made against him. 

It was also discovered that Ed was creating a woman suit made out of human skin so that he could become his mother. He wanted to be her because of the power she had over men.

Ed's Trial


Gein was put on trial in November 1957, and he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.  He was also diagnosed with Schizophrenia and sent to a maximum security facility called the Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

He was not put on trial again until he was fit to participate in his own defence. This would not be until November 1968. However, Gein was deemed insane and committed to the same hospital for the rest of his life.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Gein died on July 26th 1984 aged 77. He was buried with his parents and brother in a now unmarked grave. It did have a gravestone, but unfortunately, people would take pieces of it as a souvenir and in 2000 it was actually stolen.

Final Thoughts

I knew a little bit about Ed Gein before I researched this post, but I had no idea he had inspired so many characters in horror. Each character is inspired by different aspects of Ed and his life.

He had a very unhealthy relationship with his mother. Ed was devoted to his mother but she was a very dominating woman and would emasculate her sons regularly. When she passed away he was left alone. He had no friends and felt more comfortable around children due to his lack of social skills. 

However, this does not excuse what he did. The farm was a thing of nightmares, and what he did to the bodies at his farm is horrifying.  So much so that it affected the police officer that found the body of Bernice Worden.

What are your thoughts on Ed Gein and his crimes? Please share them in the comments! 
24 comments on "Edward Theodore Gein | Killers That Inspired Movies"
  1. This one is super sad but also super horrifying, I'm so conflicted. He was clearly abused as a child, but surely that can't explain away everything. I'm going to now try very hard to forget all the things they found in his house!

    Also, who do you think killed Henry? I think it was maybe the mother rather than Ed?

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    1. Thank you so much for commenting! :)

      I think that he probably killed his brother because he started to question their mother and I don't think Ed liked that. It was never proven but I think it's likely!

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  2. Clearly his unfortunate upbringing influenced his actions, but I believe there must be something that exists in the person to cross that line. Two people can have the same experience but react differently, why?

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    1. I am not so sure. I am torn between nature and nurture because of that very reason. Why do some people turn to violence? Thank you so much for commenting. :)

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  3. I can't believe I've never heard of this guy! It's sad his early life damaged him so much, but as you said, if doesn't absolve him of responsibility and someone else wouldn't have done the same things.

    Ash | thisdreamsalive.wordpress.com

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    1. Thank you so much for commenting! I really appreciate you taking the time to read my blog. :) x

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  4. I have always been fascinated with serial killers! I have soooooo many books about them. ~The Virginia Nymph

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    1. Me too! I have a pile of books and it just keeps growing haha. Thank you so much for commenting! :) x

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  5. Always been fascinated by this genre!

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    1. I am glad you enjoyed the post! Thank you so much! :)

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  6. Wow, what a horrible yet sad story. I'd be very interested in learning more about the mother and her character- had he learned certain behaviors from her maybe? I also wonder who killed his brother. Great post :)

    Renee @ Maritime Mama

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    1. I think maybe Ed killed his brother because of the way he treated their mother. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

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  7. This genre is always so fascinating to us all!

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    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

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  8. As you say his mother was a terrible influence on him, but I also agree with the other point you make, this cannot excuse his gruesome behaviour. I had no knowledge of Ed before reading this post. I always learn something from your posts! xxx

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    1. Thank you! I am so glad you enjoy reading my posts. Thank you for leaving a comment. :) x

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  9. I've always been fascinated with Ed Gein, and would even go so far as to label him my favourite serial killer (if that is a thing). I was a bit like you in that I knew alot of this information before reading, but was unaware about just how big his influence was over certain Hollywood Horror characters!

    Thank you for researching and sharing. You do an excellent job over here!

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    1. Thank you so much! I don't think it's strange to have a favourite. He is a very interesting person and his life inspired so many of the horror characters we know today! I am glad you enjoy my posts. Thank you so much for commenting. :) X

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  10. I'd never heard of Ed before, and I do wonder whether it was Ed or his mother who killed Henry! I guess that's a mystery that will never be solved.
    It's an incredibly sad story, and I do wonder how many he killed and how many he just exhumed.

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    1. There are so many things we may never know for sure about his life, but I believe he may be his brothers killer. Thank you so much for commenting! :)

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  11. This is so horrible, what a poor abused child. I've heard of him before but if not actually read very much into him, so this was a really interesting post!

    Kayleigh Zara 🌿 www.kayleighzaraa.com

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    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! :) I am glad you enjoyed my post! x

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  12. Wow! I've never heard of this before. This is horrible. It's so intense how much early childhood has an effect on our entire life.

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  13. This is truly fascinating to me. It's horrible and I just can't wrap my head around people being this insane.

    xo Simone
    www.beautymone.com

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