Ed Gein


My interest

With fewer than three murders attributed to him, Ed Gein doesn't meet the traditional definition of serial killer, although some investigators suspected that he also killed his brother. The reason I choose Mr. Gein  this week wasn't because of statistics or  raw numbers, it was the eerie, creepy, disturbing activities he practiced with the dead corpses. Gein would take the skin from the dead bodies of his victims and make lampshades, curtains, chair upholstery, vests, and belts. However, his most disturbing creations were masks made from the skin of corpses he either murdered or dug up from graves and sewn together. He would wear these masks in memory of his mother, sometimes acting out as if she were alive and well.


After police found body parts in his house in 1957, Gein confessed to killing two women: tavern owner, Mary Hogan in 1954, and a Plainfield hardware store owner, Bernice Worden, in 1957. The body of Bernice Worden was found in Gein's shed; her head and the head of Mary Hogan were found inside the house. Initially found unfit to stand trial, following confinement in a mental health facility, he was tried in 1968 for the murder of Worden, and sentenced to life in prison, which he spent in a mental hospital until his death in 1984, from respiratory insufficiency. While Gein was in detention, his house burned to the ground. Arson was suspected. In 1958, Gein’s car, which he used to haul the bodies of his victims, was sold at public auction for, a then, considerable sum of $760 to an enterprising carnival sideshow operator named Bunny Gibbons. Gibbons called his attraction the “Ed Gein Ghoul Car” and charged carnival-goers 25 cents admission to see it.
The Gein story influenced the creation of several fictional serial killers including, Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Norman Bates from Psycho, and Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs.
When the authorities searched his house they found:
  • Four noses
  • Whole human bones and fragments
  • Nine masks of human skin
  • Bowls made from human skulls
  • Ten female heads with the tops sawed off
  • Human skin covering several chair seats
  • Mary Hogan's head in a paper bag
  • Bernice Worden's head in a burlap sack
  • Nine vulvas in a shoe box
  • Skulls on his bedposts
  • Organs in the refrigerator
  • A pair of lips on a draw string for a window-shade
  • A belt made from human female nipples
  • A lampshade made from the skin from a human face