Ed Gein and the Origin of 20th Century Horror


Many horror films of the ‘slasher’ variety, usually contain some nuggets reality pertaining to ‘true’ events, but what many do not know is that most (if not all) of these so-called ‘true’ events can be traced to the extraordinary behaviour of just one man. This man was US born Edward Theodore Gein (1906-1984). This one time babysitter and popular and well-known personality in his local Wisconsin area, Ed Gein was not conscripted during WWII, but continued to work on his father’s farm, together with his brother – Henry – although Henry would be found dead in suspicious circumstances following a crop burning incident in 1944 (although Ed was not suspected at that time). The basis of Ed Gein’s later pathological behaviour appears to have been his dominating mother, who as a devout Christian, controlled her sons through the use of misogynistic theology learned in her youth. As a consequence, Ed and Henry were continuously subjected to the false propaganda that all women were evil because Eve in the bible had led Adam astray. All women were ‘Jezebels’ who only wanted to corrupt and mislead all men, and cause a catastrophic collapse in their lives. The answer, according to Mrs Gein, was for her sons to remain devoted only to her, and work for her on the family farm. To do this, her sons had to ‘reject’ all women as being demonic, and not pursue their normal emotional and sexual desires and drives. When Henry died in 1944, Ed’s father – George Gein – had already been dead 4 years, and this meant that as WWII came to an end, the abusive psychological pressure and emotional manipulation exerted by Mrs Gein upon her remaining on increased dramatically. This had the desired effect of preventing Ed from forming any genuine or appropriate relationships with the opposite sex. However, Augusta Gein died in late 1945, and Ed Gein inherited the farm and his slip into abhorrent behaviour began.

Ed Gein later told police that earlier in 1945 he had witnessed a local man beating a dog to death and that this had shocked him deeply. Following the death of his mother, Ed began to experience an ever macabre inner world of distorted imagination which initially was sated through the purchase of pornographic magazines, and magazines which dealt with ‘death’ as a subject. One particular subject that fascinated Ed was the atrocities carried-out by the Nazi German regime, and this appears to have been the impetus behind Ed using female human body parts to make seat covers, lampshades, waste paper baskets and belts, etc. Between 1947 and 1952, Ed Gein made at least 40 nighttime visits to the local cemetery, where he would dig-up the bodies of recently deceased girls and women, fill in the graves neatly, and take the bodies homes. He would ‘gut’ the bodies and hang them in the barn for ‘processing’. Although he wanted to have sexual intercourse with the corpses, he stated that the smell and decomposition prevented this from happening. Instead, Ed would cut out the vaginal areas and wear them next to his genitalia. He would often do this whilst eating and drinking out of bowls he had made from skull-caps. After his arrest, Ed Gein admitted to murdering two local women (as a means to pleasing his deceased mother), but stated that most of his crimes were committed against the dead – this included making ‘masks’ out of the faces of his victims and wearing them whenever he felt the urge.

Oddly, it was accepted that Ed Gein was beaten-up by local police and his initial confessions were set aside. and in 1957 he was found to be mentally ill and sent to a local psychiatric hospital. However, in 1968, doctors stated that he was now able to participate in a trial (which was held behind closed doors with no jury). Ed Gein was found guilty of one murder by the judge (to save money, Ed Gein was not charged for the second murder). In a subsequent trial, Ed Gein was found not guilty by way of insanity and he spent the rest of his life in a psychiatric hospital until his death in 1984.

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