Unspeakable Times
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Unsurprisingly, Killer Ed Gein Had A Really Messed Up Childhood

Updated September 1, 2020 126.3k views13 items

In 1957, Plainfield police arrested Edward Theodore Gein, 51, for the murder of Bernice Worden. In searching his remote Wisconsin farmhouse, investigators discovered Gein had collected body parts from graves - to which he used to create lamps, clothes, and human masks. Authorities also uncovered the severed head of Mary Hogan, who had been missing for three years. Gein confessed to the murders, but the courts deemed him unfit to stand trial due to mental insanity. The courts then confined Gein to psychiatric institutions. He didn’t stand trial for the murders until 1968. After his conviction, Gein returned to the psychiatric facility. 

Although Wisconsin authorities only charged Gein with two murders, the circumstances surrounding Gein’s childhood and later crimes created the portrait of a prolific killer. Gein served as inspiration for the murderers depicted in such defining horror films as Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

  • Kept Away From Other Children, Gein's Only Friend Were Imaginary

    Because she was a religious fanatic, Ed Gein's mother believed that everyone - especially girls - was out to corrupt her children. Because of this, Gein couldn't have friends. If he tried, she would call other kids "sinners" and refuse to let him socialize with them. He wound up having a number of imaginary friends in order to make up for this hole in his life.

  • His Father Was Constantly Derided By His Mother As An Alcoholic Failure

    George Gein, a reported alcoholic, was often employed. Throughout Gein's childhood, his father worked a number of jobs, including as a tanner and a carpenter. In 1909, George owned a small meat and grocery shop. Due to his excessive drinking, George signed the shop over to Augusta in 1911. Reportedly, Augusta became a “domestic tyrant,” charged with taking care of the home as well as the family’s shop. 

    She often derided her husband, whom she viewed as “worthless.” Henry and Ed grew up in a tumultuous family environment in which their quiet yet violent father chose to respond to his wife’s criticisms with silence. George died in 1940, to which Augusta reportedly remarked her late husband “went to hell.”

  • Gein's Mother Drove His Father To An Early Death

    Augusta Gein was an unreasonably opinionated and religious woman and clearly the matriarch of the family. Augusta insisted the family move from the "sinkhole of filth" that was La Crosse, Wisconsin, to Plainfield and then to move again to the farm outside of Plainfield when the town proved too full of sin.

    Augusta did not allow her husband any say in her parenting methods. Among the things August abhorred, anything relating to sex was top of her list. Her frigidity and heavy hand were likely what pushed George Gein to drink and certainly played into his early death.

  • His Mother Obsessively Raises Money To Move To The Country

    Before the Geins moved to the remote Plainfield farmhouse in 1914, they lived in La Crosse, Wisconsin. In line with her religious beliefs, Augusta wanted the family to move to a more rural area - such as the 195 acre Plainfield farm - and “away from the immorality of the city.” Augusta held the deed to the new farm, just as she had with the Gein’s grocery store. Both of Gein’s parents were from La Crosse, and the matriarch initiated the relocation. Although her husband was often in-between work, Augusta - "a no-nonsense businesswom[a]n” - managed to save the money necessary to purchase the new property. 

    In 2011, an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse created “Ed Gein, The Musical” to tell the story of La Crosse’s infamous native.