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The Plainfield Ghoul


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How could someone who appeared so simple-minded and docile be responsible for the horror that terrified a small community, and soon, the world?  What could possibly be responsible for the creature that was Edward Gein?


Edward Gein was born August 7th, 1906 to Agusta and George Gein (pronounced "geen", as in "green"), in Plainfield, Wisconsin.  Edward, and a second child, Henry, were raised in a strict religious home, where their domineering mother instilled values that there difficult to live up to.

George died when Ed was relatively young, and Henry died when the brothers were young men.  Henry's body was found behind the path of a forest fire.  Ed had escaped the fire easily, and when he returned with help, Henry's body had strange injuries to the face, as if he had been burned there worse than anywhere else, or as if he had had wounds on his head before being touched by the blaze.  Henry's death was deemed accidental.

Ed Gein was very attached to his mother, who still made all of her grown son's decisions.  As a relatively simple man, Ed was quite dependant on his remaining family member.  When she died, he was devastated.

Though Gein was always willing to help neighbors with repairs or chores, he rarely had visitors in his home.  After his mother died, he closed up her room, and let the house fall to disrepair.

Gein lived with no electric lighting, and with so much garbage and filth in his house that anyone who stepped into the dim foyer had to make an effort not to vomit from the horrible smell.


When two women vanished in 1957, a store clerk helped the police trace the disappearances back to Gein.  Ed had bought motor oil the previous day in the store, and had made a comment that he would not be out deer hunting like many people enjoying the start of the season.  When the woman working in the store the next day vanished, her son suspected Gein.

At his home, authorities found the body of a woman strung up by the ankles, beheaded, and gutted in much the same way one would clean a deer.  In the dark and cluttered ranch house, the mutilated remains of 15 women were found.  Chairs had been upholstered in human skin, and Gein had made himself a suit of clothing with the human leather from his victims.  Sex organs floated in formaldehyde in the kitchen, human lips were found attached to the blinds of a window, the top of a skull lay on the table after being used as a soup bowl, and the faces of several victims had been embalmed like crude masks.

When Gein was arrested, he went quietly and cooperated with police.  He did, however, deny the murders, saying that the remains in his home were those of bodies he had dug up in the local cemetery.  Gein claimed to be an actual ghoul.

During his confessions, he was calm and collected, only wincing when he complained that the cheese on this apple pie was too sharp. 

In the end, Ed Gein was charged with 2 murders, though it would be twelve years between his capture and his trial, as he was found incompetent to stand trial when he was first arrested.

Gein spent the rest of his life in mental institutions, always impressing staff as a friendly, helpful patient. 

During his commitment, multiple women wrote to him requesting things as odd as locks of his hair.  An official fan club was started. 

On July 26th, 1984, Gein died of respiratory failure after a fight with cancer.

Ed Gein was buried in the Plainfield Cemetery in a plot next to his beloved mother.  The cemetery where he now rests is the one he allegedly robbed multiple times.  His stone has been stolen and replaced one.  Scrawled on his marker: "evil never dies".



Edward Gein inspired several movies, including "Psycho", "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", cult film "Deranged", and the character Buffalo Bill in Thomas Harris's book and movie "The Silence of the Lambs".  A movie titled simply "Ed Gein" is available as a rough account of his life, possibly making him the killer most applied to the big screen. 

Site visitor Donnie recommends: Deviant, by Harold Schechter
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