Ed Gein

American murderer and human trophy collector (1906-1984)

Edward Theodore "Ed" Gein (August 27, 1906 – July 26, 1984) was an American serial killer. Gein was found guilty of only two murders. Gein is considered by many to be even more well known because of several movies that were based in part on him. He was also known as The Butcher of Plainfield, The Plainfield Butcher, The Mad Butcher and The Plainfield Ghoul.

Early years


Ed Gein and his brother Henry were raised by their mother on their 160-acre farm near Plainfield, Wisconsin.[1] She was a very religious woman and was very protective about her boys. She kept them away from women and busy with farm work.

His alcoholic father died in 1940. A few years later his brother Henry died on May 16, 1944, officially while fighting a grass fire (though there was evidence he was murdered by Ed). Soon after that, his mother had her first stroke. In 1945 she had her second stroke and died. Ed was left alone.

Gein then closed off the upstairs and the parlour of the house as well as his mother’s bedroom. He lived in the one other bedroom, kitchen and shed of the large house. He stopped working the farm because a government program paid him a subsidy. He also made money by doing small jobs for people in the area.

The Graveyard


Ed read books on human anatomy and Nazi concentration camp experiments. He was very interested in it all, especially the female anatomy. His grave robbing began in 1947.[2] One day he saw a newspaper article of a woman who had been buried that day. The first corpse came from a grave very near the grave of Gein’s mother.[Indeed, one report is that among the first grave robbing incidents was that of his own mother[2] ]

Gein continued to do this for the next ten years. He would check the newspaper often for fresh bodies. He always went to the graveyard at the time of a full moon. Gein would take the whole female corpse or just the parts he wanted, put the dirt back in the grave and take home what he took from the grave.

Gein did many strange things with the dead bodies. He would build objects from the bones and skin. The organs would be put into the refrigerator to eat later. It was claimed that he also had sex with the bodies (necrophilia), a charge he denied because they "smelled too bad".

Later, Gein thought that fresher bodies would be better for his collection, and turned to murder.

The Murders


Ed Gein’s first victim was Mary Hogan, a 51-year-old divorcee and the owner of a local tavern in Pine Grove, six miles from his home. On the afternoon of December 8, 1954, he shot her in the head with his 32-caliber revolver. He put her body in his pickup truck and took her back to his shed.

A customer who dropped into the tavern found the place deserted, and a large bloodstain on the floor. A spent .32 cartridge lay near it. Bloodstains ran out the back door and into the parking lot, where they halted beside tire tracks that looked like those of a pickup truck. It looked as if Mary Hogan had been shot and taken away.

Police were not able to learn anything about what happened to her. A few weeks later, a sawmill owner named Elmo Ueeck talked to Gein about it. Gein replied, "She isn’t missing, she’s at the farm right now." Ueeck did not ask him what he meant by that.[3]

There may have been other victims in the years that followed. Nothing is known for certain about Gein until November 16, 1957 when he shot & killed Bernice Worden in her store in Plainfield. He used a .22 rifle from a rack in the store and his own bullet which he carried with him. He then locked the store and took the body home in the store’s truck. Gein also took the cash register. He later explained that he did not take it to commit robbery. He wanted to see how it worked and planned to return it later.

Bernice Worden’s son, Frank, often worked with her in the store. That morning he had gone deer hunting. When he got back, he saw that the store was closed with the lights still on and his mother was missing. He also saw that the cash register was gone and there was blood on the floor.

Frank Worden talked to the sheriff, Art Schley and told him what he had seen. He checked the record of sales made that morning. One of them was for half a gallon of antifreeze. Worden remembered that Ed Gein had stopped by the night before at closing time. He had said that he would be back the next morning for antifreeze. Ed had also asked Worden if he was going hunting the next day.

With the cash register missing, he thought that Gein had planned a robbery once he learned Frank would not be there. Worden told this to the sheriff. The sheriff and captain Lloyd Schoephoester went to the farm, seven miles outside Plainfield.

Gein’s home


The house was dark and Ed Gein was not there when the police arrived. They drove to a store where Gein usually bought groceries where they found Gein, who was just about to leave in his truck.

The sheriff stopped him and asked him to get into the police car for questioning. Sheriff Schley had not said anything about Bernice Worden’s death before Gein said that he thought someone had tried to frame him for the death, at which point Schley arrested Gein.

Sheriff Schley & Captain Schoephoester went back to Gein's house with other officers. The doors to the house were locked, but the door to the shed behind the house was not. Inside they found a naked corpse of a woman hanging upside down from a crossbeam. The legs were spread wide apart and there was a long cut from the genitals almost to the throat. The throat and head were missing. The genitals and the anus were also missing. Bernice Worden had been cut open & dressed out like a deer.

There was no electricity in the dark house. They had to search it with oil lamps, lanterns, and flashlights. The place looked like it had not been clean in years. The few rooms that were not nailed shut were full of books, old papers, magazines, utensils, tin cans, cartons and other junk. Searching the house, authorities found:[4]

  • Whole human bones and fragments[5]!
  • Wastebasket made of human skin[6]!
  • Human skin covering several chair seats[7]!
  • Skulls on his bedposts[8]!
  • Female skulls, some with the tops sawn off[9]!
  • Bowls made from human skulls[6]!
  • A corset made from a female torso skinned from shoulders to waist[7]!
  • Leggings made from human leg skin[6]!
  • Masks made from the skin of female heads[10]!
  • Mary Hogan's face mask in a paper bag[8]!
  • Mary Hogan's skull in a box[11]!
  • Bernice Worden's entire head in a burlap sack[12]!
  • Bernice Worden's heart "in a plastic bag in front of Gein's potbellied stove"[13]!
  • Nine vulvae in a shoe box[14]!
  • A young girl's dress and "the vulvas of two females judged to have been about fifteen years old"[15]!
  • A belt made from female human nipples[16] !
  • Four noses[4]!
  • A pair of lips on a window shade drawstring[4]!
  • A lampshade made from the skin of a human face[4]!
  • Fingernails from female fingers!

These artifacts were photographed at the state crime laboratory and then destroyed.[17][18]

When questioned, Gein told investigators that between 1947 and 1952,[19] he made as many as 40 nocturnal visits to three local graveyards to exhume recently buried bodies while he was in a "daze-like" state. On about 30 of those visits, he said he came out of the daze while in the cemetery, left the grave in good order, and returned home empty-handed.[20] On the other occasions, he dug up the graves of recently buried middle-aged women he thought resembled his mother[21] and took the bodies home, where he tanned their skins to make his paraphernalia.

Gein admitted to stealing from nine graves of deceased women from two [three{?}[22] ] local cemeteries[23] and led investigators to their locations. Because authorities were uncertain as to whether the slight Gein was capable of single-handedly digging up a grave during a single evening, they deceided to exhume test graves. Allan Wilimovsky of the state crime laboratory participated in opening three test graves identified by Gein. The caskets were inside wooden boxes; the top boards ran crossways (not lengthwise). The tops of the boxes were about two feet (60 cm) below the surface in sandy soil. Gein had robbed the graves soon after the funerals while the graves were not completed. They were found as Gein described: One casket was empty, one Gein had failed to open when he lost his pry bar, and most of the body was gone from the third, but Gein had returned rings and some body parts[24] thus apparently corroborating Gein's confession.[22][25][26][27]

Besides the remains of Worden from the shed,[28] the remains of Mary Hogan were the only other identified remains found in Geins House.[29] The bodies of 15 different women had been used to create Gein’s trophies. It is also said that sometimes Gein brought gifts of fresh venison to his neighbours but Gein said he had never shot a deer in his life.

In November 1957 burned remains of at least one woman were found in an ash pit behind Gein's house; the largest bone piece was three inches long.[30]
Remains of another woman were found in a garbage pit[31]

In 1995 on the site of the old Gein farm remains of 10 females and 1 male were found in an old well[32]

It is not known for certain if there were other murders committed by Gein beyond the known deaths of Hogan and Worden-after his arrest a search of the house revealed newspaper clippings of murders of Wisconsin women whose killers had not been caught.[33]

Between 1947 and 1957 there were several "disappearences" of persons at or near Plainfield, Wisconson:

  • May 1, 1947 Georgia Jean Weckler age 8 of Ft Atkinson Wis "Vanished"[34]
  • November 1, 1952 Victor Travis age 42 and Ray Burgess, two locals going deer hunting near Geins farm "Vanished"[22][29][35]
  • October 24, 1953 Eveleyn Grace Hartley age 15[36][37] of La Crosse, Wisconsin apparently abducted while baby sitting.[38] Blood stains, her shoes and her bloody clothing was found-but she "vanished"[39][Gein was visiting relatives in La Crosse at the time of Hartley's dissapearence;[40] likewise they were located very near where Hartley was babysitting][41] Gein also made odd remarks about Hartleys disappearance-similar to Mary Hogan's "vanishment"][3][42]
  • June 1954 James Walsh age 32 a neighbor of Geins "vanished"[29][35]
  • August 1956 Irene Keating age 30 "vanished"[29]

A 16-year-old youth, whose parents were friends of Gein and who attended ball games and movies with him, reported that Gein kept shrunken heads in his house, which Gein had described as relics from the Philippines, sent by a cousin who had served on the islands during World War II.[43] Upon investigation by the police, these were determined to be human facial skins, carefully peeled from corpses and used by Gein as masks.[44]

During questioning, Waushara County sheriff Art Schley reportedly assaulted Gein by banging his head and face into a brick wall. As a result, Gein's initial confession was ruled inadmissible.[45] Schley died of heart failure at age 43 in 1968, before Gein's trial.[46] Many who knew Schley said he was traumatized by the horror of Gein's crimes, and this, along with the fear of having to testify (especially about assaulting Gein), caused his death. One of his friends said: "He was a victim of Ed Gein as surely as if he had butchered him."

Gein was sent to the Central State Hospital for the Criminally insane. He was proven insane. The doctors thought that he loved his mother but he hated her, so that is why he killed older women. It is said that Mary Hogan looked similar to his mother.

Gein said he was not a cannibal or necrophiliac. He did admit grave robbing.

Many people became interested because of the true nature of the crime. Thousands of people drove to Plainfield to look at the 'murder farm'. Eventually the place was burned down by person or persons unknown March 20, 1958[47] Plainfield citizens felt the old farmhouse was a place of evil. After the arson, an auction was held of the relics of the farm-the highest item sold was Gein's Ford "death car"[18]

At Christmas, 1957, Gein was judged insane. In 1968, Gein was found guilty but legally insane of the murder of Worden,[48] was committed to Waupan State Hospital for the rest of his life. Gein died of cancer in Madison, Wisconsin on July 26, 1984, at the age of 78. He was buried in Plainfield next to the graves of his family.

The movies


Because of the true nature of Gein's crimes, Hollywood had a lot of ideas to work on.

The movie Psycho was based on the Robert Bloch book and made into a Hitchcock movie. Bloch got most of the ideas for Psycho from Gein's life. With the overpowering mother and horror of the movie, it was one of the first of a kind.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was based in some parts on Gein. The story is about a group of teenagers who go to a horror house. The people that live in the house are a family of strange homicidal cannibals who also like grave robbing and building furniture made of bones and skulls. The lead bad guy is called ‘Leatherface’. Leatherface likes chasing teens around with his chainsaw and wearing a mask made from the faces of his victims. The 1990 episode "The Long Road Home" of the fantasy horror series "Friday the The 13th [The Series]" is in homage to this movie.[49]

The Academy Award-winning movie The Silence of the Lambs also uses part of Gein's life. It is about an FBI agent who is tracking down a serial killer. To find him she must get the help of an intelligent cannibal, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The serial killer she is trying to catch is called ‘Buffalo Bill’. He likes to kill women and make clothes of their skin. He also wants to be a woman and made a skin costume like that of Gein.


  1. Crimes of the 20th Century: A Chronology. Publications International. 1991. ISBN 978-0-88176-717-9.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Gein, Ed" (PDF). maamodt.asp.radford.edu.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Rowan, Roy (1957-12-02). Neighbors recall Gein's Talk of Women, Murder. Time Inc. p. 28.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Ramsland, Katherine. "A True Necrophile". Crime Library.[better source needed]
  5. Gollmar, p. 192. Judge Gollmar relied on the detailed report of state crime lab investigator Allan Wilimovsky who searched the Gein house, inventoried the evidence and interviewed Edward Gein. Gollmar also quotes other contemporary investigators, including Captain Lloyd Schoesphoester (Green Lake Sheriff's Dept.) who assisted the investigation of the Worden murder and search of Gein's home.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Gollmar, p. 44.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Gollmar, p. 20.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Gollmar, p. 22.
  9. Gollmar, pp. 18, 20, 44.
  10. Gollmar, pp. 18, 20, 22.
  11. Gollmar, p. 17.
  12. Gollmar, p. 25.
  13. Schechter, p. 92.
  14. Gollmar, p. 24.
  15. Gollmar, p. 87.
  16. Gollmar, p. 46.
  17. Gollmar, p. 48.
  18. 18.0 18.1 "ED GEIN: WISCONSIN'S "PSYCHO"". www.prairieghosts.com. Archived from the original on 2008-06-25. Retrieved 2017-11-03.
  19. Schechter 1989, p. 97.
  20. "Gein Also Admits He Killed Mary Hogan; Results of Lie Tests Announced". Stevens Point Daily Journal. November 20, 1957. p. 13, col. 6.
  21. "Case File – Ed Gein". Archived from the original on October 16, 2011. Retrieved 2014-04-11.[better source needed]
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 "Augusta Gein | The Hanneman Archive". hannemanarchive.com. Retrieved 2017-12-15.
  23. "Prescott Evening Courier". Retrieved 2017-10-16 – via Google News Archive Search.
  24. Gollmar, pp. 48–50.
  25. "Empty Coffins Discovered in Graves at Plainfield; Appears To Back Up Gein's Story". Stevens Point Daily Journal. November 25, 1957. p. 1, cols. 7–8.
  26. "DA Convinced Gein Actually Raided Graves". Stevens Point Daily Journal. November 26, 1957. p. 1, col. 3.
  27. "The Milwaukee Sentinel, November 26, 1957". The Milwaukee Sentinel, November 26, 1957.
  28. "Madera Tribune 20 November 1957 — California Digital Newspaper Collection". cdnc.ucr.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 "Ed Gein". Criminal Minds Wiki. Retrieved 2017-10-16.
  30. "San Bernardino Sun 24 November 1957 — California Digital Newspaper Collection". cdnc.ucr.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  31. "San Bernardino Sun 1 December 1957 — California Digital Newspaper Collection". cdnc.ucr.edu. Retrieved 2018-01-26.
  32. "WI WI - Evelyn Hartley, 15, La Crosse, 24 Oct 1953 - Page 23 message #332 posted 2010-08-21". www.websleuths.com. Retrieved 2018-01-08.
  33. "Schenectady Gazette". Retrieved 2017-10-21 – via Google News Archive Search.
  34. Meaghan Elizabeth Good. "The Charley Project: Georgia Jean Weckler". www.charleyproject.org. Archived from the original on 2017-10-19. Retrieved 2017-10-16.
  35. 35.0 35.1 "San Bernardino Sun 21 November 1957 — California Digital Newspaper Collection". cdnc.ucr.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  36. "Evelyn Grace Hartley was last seen in La Crosse, Wisconsin on October 24, 1953. She was baby-sitting at the home of a UW-La Crosse professor on Hoeschler Drive when she disappeared. – Ghost2Ghost.Org". www.ghost2ghost.org. Retrieved 2018-01-26.[permanent dead link]
  37. Sweeney, Gary. "The Babysitter Who Vanished: What Happened to Evelyn Hartley?". the-line-up.com. Retrieved 2018-01-14.
  38. "Evelyn Grace "Evie" Hartley (1938 - 1953) - Find A Grave Memorial". findagrave.com. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  39. Schechter, p. 95, 100, 105, 177.
  40. "The Kidnapping and Murder of: Evelyn Grace Hartley -Part One". crimeblogger1983.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2017-12-19.
  41. Meaghan Elizabeth Good. "The Charley Project: Evelyn Grace Hartley". Retrieved 2019-07-29.
  42. "A Look Back at the 'Plainfield Butcher,' Grave Robber Ed Gein". The Hanneman Archive. 2014-11-04. Retrieved 2017-12-22.
  43. "Youth Tells of Seeing Gein's Heads". Stevens Point Daily Journal. November 20, 1957. p. 1, col. 6.
  44. Schechter, p. 128.
  45. Gollmar, pp. 31–34.
  46. Gollmar, p. 34.
  47. "Desert Sun 20 March 1958 — California Digital Newspaper Collection". cdnc.ucr.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  48. ""Ed Gein Found Guilty of 1957 Murder in Plainfield". The Capital Times. Madison, Wisconsin. November 14, 1958. p. 2, col. 4. Ed Gein, the handyman whose home became known as a "house of horrors" 11 years ago, was found guilty today of first degree murder".
  49. "Friday's Curse" The Long Road Home (TV Episode 1990), retrieved 2018-01-14

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