Ed Gein was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin on August 27, 1906. His mother, Augusta, was very repressive, convincing all of her children that sex was evil and would send them to hell. Shortly after Ed's birth, she decided to move the family to Plainfield, Wisconsin, where outsiders would have less of a chance of influencing her children. In Plainfield, Ed never left the family farm and lived with his brother and mother until they had both died by 1945.
The day his mother died, Ed was thirty-nine years old and still a bachelor. He stopped farming and began to live on federal subsidies and doing odd jobs for people in town. Alone in the large house, he kept his mother's room untouched and locked, just as it had been before she died. He also sealed off most of the other house, choosing to live only in a bedroom and the kitchen.
Free of his mother's prying eye, he soon began to take an interest in the female anatomy. Ed found medical books, horror novels, pornographic magazines, and books on the Nazi medical experiments. Through this media he was able to thoroughly study that which his mother had hidden from him for so long. He fantasized about having his own woman to study, but his social inhibitions disallowed him from meeting women. A desperate Ed took things a little too far.
Ed went to local cemeteries and began digging up female corpses to take home. He would spend hours studying the corpses and removing parts via dissection. Sometimes, after removing internal organs and the head, he would remove the skin and wear it around the house. He also enjoyed fondling the removed female genitals, sometimes putting them into a pair of women's underwear, which he wore around the house.
Ed's behavior made him very careful about keeping people away from his farm to hide his secret activities. He quickly became a recluse in the community and was referred to as "weird old Eddie". His condition took a turn for the worse when he began to seek fresh females to study.
He decided to hunt for another woman in her fifties (about the same age as his mother when she died) and perform the same practice. His only known victim was Bernice Worden, who happened to be the mother of the sheriff's deputy. The deputy heard about Ed being in town (a rare event) on the same day his mother disappeared and went out to the Gein house.
After some snooping around, the man found what would arouse the interest and horror of the entire nation and set a new standard for disturbing behavior. Worden's body was naked and beheaded, hanging upside down in the barn, with the chest cut open. Inside of the house, her head and intestines were found in a box and her heart on a plate.
Other monstrous items included:
Preserved skins from ten human heads
A rolled up skin from a woman's torso
A belt made of excised nipples
A chair covered in human skin
Soup bowls made of the crowns from human skulls
Lampshades made of stretched human skin
A table with human leg bones as legs
A refrigerator filled with human organs
Bracelets made from human skin
A shoebox filled with female genitalia
The entire skin from a woman's torso, including the breasts
The police estimated that the remains came from at least fifteen bodies. Ed only confessed to murdering Bernice Worden and claimed that all of the other items had come from corpses that he had dug up from the local graveyard. Ed was subsequently arrested and sent to a mental hospital. After ten years, he was considered mentally fit to stand trial and was found guilty of murder while criminally insane. He was put in more mental hospitals, until he died of heart failure in 1984.
The story of Ed Gein became the inspiration for a number of horror movies, including the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Silence of the Lambs. Articles were published in Time and Life magazines in December of 1957, informing the entire nation about his "house of horrors". Ed Gein remains one of the most notorious criminals in human history.