Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The King of all Ghouls
There is no single word in the English language that can describe Ed Gein. He was part ghoul, a necrophiliac with a twist, a backwoods mad scientist skilled in the art of human taxidermy, a crossdresser of sorts, a sometime murderer, and a haphazard serial grave robber. He was a monster born of extreme isolation and his Mother's warped imagination. His apprehension in 1957 shook the world. In an era of rapid change, Ed was a nasty relic from the past. His crimes inspired Milwaukee based newspaperman Robert Bloch to write PSYCHO. Hitchcock made the movie and a new genre was born. From THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, it's all Ed Gein, and just as they did to the castle in FRANKENSTEIN, the local villagers burned Gein's house of horrors to the ground.
Gein was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His alcoholic father, George, might as well have been invisible. His mother, Wisconsin native Augusta Crafter was a "fanatical lutheran". (Remember that word combination, you'll run into it again and again on these pages. Our fair State has had more than it's share of fanatical lutherans.) In 1914, she moved George and sons Ed and Henry to a remote farm outside of Plainfield, Wisconsin. The boys were not allowed to make friends and contact with any member of the opposite sex was prohibited. Every night Augusta read aloud from the bible. Only the good parts -the stuff about vengeance, torture, incest,genocide, infanticide, fratricide,whores,believe in me or suffer for eternity, etc,etc, etc. Ed's Father died in 1940. In 1944, Henry died. Ed might have killed him. Augusta passed away a year later . Ed was now alone. Inside his mind, all hell broke loose.
November 16, 1957. The disappearance of a local woman brought police to the Gein farm. They found her in the shed. Her headless, gutted body was hanging upside down from ropes - like a dressed deer carcass after a hunt. In the house they found stacks of newspapers, piled up refuse, and human artifacts. Ed's work was everywhere - shrunken heads, severed lips, skullcap soup bowls, one full sized head, a belt made out of nipples, human skin lamp shades, upholstery and socks, human skulls decorating bedposts, and more. Ed Gein never threw anything away. The house was a crowded mess with one exception - his mothers room was immaculate.
In the months and years ahead, much more was revealed. Ed liked to dig up fresh corpses. He prefered the bodies of women who resembled his mother. He would tan the bodies, cut them up and from the various parts make full body suits. Stripped naked, he then wore the body. A young couple reported seeing him dance under the moonlight in the town cemetery. They were too frightened to come forward with the tale - they thought they had seen a demon, or a re-animated corpse. Gein's capture allowed them to make sense out of what they had seen.
It took 10 years to successfully bring Ed to trial. He spent that 10 years incarcerated in Waupun,
Wisconsin. In 1968, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He died at The Mendota Health Institute in Madison, Wisconsin, July 26, 1984. Answer to FAQ - "Gein" rhymes with "Halloween".