Friday, November 11, 2011

Inside Ed Gein Serial Killer's House

Edward Theodore Ed Gein (August 27, 1906 - July 26, 1984) was an American murderer and body snatcher. His crimes, committed around his hometown of Plainfield, Wisconsin, gathered widespread notoriety after authorities discovered Gein had exhumed corpses from local graveyards and fashioned trophies and keepsakes from their bones and skin. 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.

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 imprisonment, which he spent in a mental hospital. The body of Bernice Worden was found in Gein's shed, her head and the head of Mary Hogan were found inside his house. 

Robert H. Gollmar, the judge in the Gein case, wrote: "Due to prohibitive costs, Gein was tried for only one murder that of Mrs. Worden." With fewer than three murders attributed to him, Gein does not meet the traditional definition of a serial killer. His case influenced the creation of several fictional serial killers, including Norman Bates from Psycho, Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Jame Gumb from The Silence of the Lambs.

On July 26, 1984, Gein died of respiratory and heart failure due to cancer at the age of 77 in Stovall Hall at the Mendota Mental Health Institute. His grave site in the Plainfield cemetery was frequently vandalized over the years; souvenir seekers chipped off pieces of his gravestone before the bulk of it was stolen in 2000. The gravestone was recovered in June 2001 near Seattle and is now in a museum in Waushara County.

Of all the best-known American serial killers, none has had a greater cultural impact than Ed Gein, the Wisconsin maniac whose reign of terror began in 1947. Shortly after his arrest in 1957, LIFE sent photographers to Plainfield, Wis., where Gein passed most of his troubled existence, and documented the riveting details about his case as they unfolded.

The Gein story gripped the national consciousness, perhaps because the man was so very average — a small-town farmer and handyman. His case took many years to unravel, and he was eventually convicted of only two murders, but police suspect there were far more than that. When they examined his house they found the remains of around 40 people, most of whom Gein claimed to have collected through graverobbing.

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