Profile of Serial Killer Edward Gein

Ed Gein
Mug Shot

When the police went to Ed Gein's Plainfield, Wisconsin farm home to investigate the disappearance of a local woman, they had no idea they were about to discover some of the most grotesque crimes ever committed. 

The Gein Family

Ed Gein, his older brother Henry, his father George and mother Augusta, lived together on their 160-acre farm a few miles outside Plainfield, Wisconsin. George was an alcoholic and Augusta was a religious fanatic who was a demanding and overbearing woman who had full control over her boys.

She loathed their father George, but due to her deep religious beliefs, divorce was not an option.

Augusta ran a small grocery store until she purchased the farm that sat outside of the small town of Plainfield. Augusta picked this location because it was secluded and she wanted to keep outsiders away from influencing her sons. This became the permanent home for the Gein family.

Gein and his brother only left the farm to go to school. Any attempt for the boys to have friends was blocked by Augusta. From as far back as Ed could remember, Augusta was either delegating farm work for the boys to perform, or quoting the Gospel. She tried hard to teach Ed and Henry about sin, especially about the evils of sex and women.

Ed Gein was smallish in size and had a growth over one of his eyes. He appeared somewhat effeminate and would often laugh randomly as if laughing at his own jokes, which left him open to being teased by the school and town bullies.

In 1940, George died as a result of his alcoholism. Four years later Henry died while fighting a fire. Ed was now fully responsible for the welfare of his domineering mother. For two years he tended to her demands until her death in 1945.

Ed, now alone, sealed off all but one room and the kitchen of the large farmhouse.

He no longer worked the farm after the government began paying him as part of a soil conservation program. Doing local handyman jobs subsidized his income.

Fantasy of Sex and Dismemberment

Gein stayed to himself. No one knew that he spent hours obsessed with sexual fantasy and reading about the female anatomy. The human experiments performed in Nazi camps also fascinated him. His mind filled with images of sex and dismemberment and as the mental images merged into one, Ed would reach gratification. Gus, another loner, was a longtime friend Gein. Gein told Gus of experiments he wanted to perform but he needed bodies. Together the two began robbing graves for the needed bodies.

This same scenario went on for more than 10 years. This included removing Gein's mother from her grave. The experiments with the corpses became more gruesome and bizarre over time and included necrophilia and cannibalism.  Gein got away with it because he would return the corpses to their graves , except for the body parts that he kept for trophies.

Gein's obsessive fantasies centralize on his over-powering desire to turn himself into a woman. He would construct items out of the skin of the body that he could then drape on himself such as a female mask and breasts.

He even made a complete body-sized female-like jumpsuit. UP to now, robbing graves was his only source of getting the necessary bodies that he needed. But that was soon to change.

Mary Hogan

Gein's needs escalated into believing to perfect his desired sex change he would need fresher bodies. On December 8, 1954, Gein, now age 48, killed Mary Hogan, owner of a local tavern. The police were unable to solve the strange disappearance of Mary Hogan, but with the blood found at the tavern, they knew she was most likely a victim of foul play. Gus was not involved in the murder. He was institutionalized before the killing began. Only Gein knew for sure how many he women he killed.

Bernice Worden

On November 16, 1957, Gein entered the hardware store owned by Bernice Worden. Gein had been to this same store hundreds of times and Bernice had no reason to fear him.

She likely thought nothing when Gein removed a .22 rifle from the display rack although her instincts probably sharpened if she saw him insert his own bullet into the rifle. Gein shot the rifle and killed Bernice, placed her body into the store's truck, returned to get the cash register, then drove the store truck to his home.

The Worden Investigation Begins

An investigation into the whereabouts of Bernice Worden began after her son Frank, a deputy sheriff, returned late in the afternoon from an early morning hunting trip and discovered his mother was missing and blood was on the floor of the store. A review of the store receipts included the purchase of a half of gallon of antifreeze.

Worden thought about any suspicious activity that he could recall, and one thing came to mind. He remembered that Gein had been in and out of the store the previous week and also at closing time the night before. He remembered Gein saying he'd be back in the morning for antifreeze and that Gein questioned Worden about going hunting the next day. Although Gein had never been involved in any known criminal activity, the sheriff felt it was time to pay the odd loner a visit.

Unfathomable Crimes Uncovered

Gein was located by police at a store near his home. Police then went to Gein's farmhouse in hopes of finding Bernice Worden. The shed was the first area searched. Working in the dark of the night, Officer Schley lit a torch and slowly swung it around the shed. Inside was a woman's naked corpse hanging upside down, the body disemboweled, and the throat and head missing.

It was the body of Bernice Worden.

Next came the search of Gein's house. The police officers waded through piles of garbage and an unfathomable amount of junk with only oil lamps to guide them. As the officers' eyes adjusted, the junk began to take a recognizable form, one that was more horrific than anyone could have ever imagined. Everywhere they looked they saw various body parts, some used as household items such as skulls made into bowls, jewelry made from human skin, lips hanging, chair seats with human skin upholstery, facial skin that was well preserved and resembled masks, a box of vulva's among which was his mothers, painted silver.

It was later determined that the body parts came from 15 different women although some parts could never be identified. One of the most shocking items found was that of fellow officer Worden's mother's heart - found in a pan on the stove. The lives of the police officers who walked through the house of horrors on that night changed forever.

Gein was committed to the Waupun State Hospital for the duration of his life. It was revealed that his reasons for killing older women stemmed from his love-hate feelings for his mother. He never admitted to his cannibalistic or necrophilia activities. At the age of 78, Gein died of cancer and his remains were buried in his family plot in Plainfield.

The property eluded evil and horrific memories for the people of Plainfield and eventually, it was torched by citizens.

Ed Gein's crimes inspired the film characters Norman Bates ('Psycho'), Jame Gumb ('The Silence of the Lambs') and Leatherface ('Texas Chainsaw Massacre').

Summary - Personal Information:

  • Born - August 27, 1906
  • Birthplace - La Crosse, WI
  • Gender - Male
  • Religion - Unknown
  • Ethnicity - White
  • Died - July 26, 1984
  • Location of Death - Mendota Medical Health Institute
  • Cause of Death - Cancer

Sources:
"​Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein by Harold Schechter"
Biography - Ed Gein DVD