Gein was the second son born to George and Augusta Gein on 27th August 1906. Him and his older brother Henry were raised together by a stern Lutheran mother and an alcoholic father. Their parents marriage wasn't a happy one, Augusta detested alcoholic George but was unable to divorce him because of her strict religious views. It was these views which led to the family moving to an Isolated farm in Plainfield, Wisconsin, to live a sheltered and secluded life.
Gein and his brother were only permitted to leave the farm in order to attend school and woe betide them if they even attempted to establish a friendship with another child. Not that this was an issue for Gein as he was teased and bullied by the other children, they didn't want to be his friend anyway. Augusta was determined to protect her boys from the outside influences of the world. She didn't want any hussy temptresses corrupting her boys, and living at the farm enabled her to keep outsiders away. Gein's mother would regularly preach to her sons about how all women were the devil's workers. She would literally put the fear of God into them, with routine threats of Divine retribution.
When Gein's father died, the two brothers worked hard to support their mother and the farm. Henry began dating a lady and wanting to move on with his life. He had come to realise their mother was a bit on the odd side, an opinion that Ed did not appreciate and certainly didn't agree with. In contrast to his brother, Ed was growing more and more attached to his mother and was completely dedicated to her.
A few years after their fathers passing, Henry too met his demise. Although it was recorded as an accidental death, it's always been insinuated that Ed did away with his brother. It's said that bad luck comes in threes, and it certainly did for the Gein family, as not long after Henry's death, Augusta suffered a series of strokes . Like the dutiful son he was, Gein was committed to caring for his mother, until she too died, within a year of Henry's death, leaving Gein, devastated and alone.
Gein's strict and fanatically religious upbringing and later, the devastation of his mother's death were both considered to be major contributors in Gein's mental downfall into insanity.
In the wake of his beloved mothers death, a grief-stricken and bereaved Gein embarked upon some home renovations which consisted of him boarding up all the rooms in the farmhouse that Augusta used to inhabit, so as to freeze them in time, like a shrine to his mother, exactly how she had left them. Gein lived in the remainder of the house, although housekeeping wasn't his strong point and the rooms he was inhabiting fell into disrepair. Whilst the boarded up rooms remained pristine, (if not a little dusty), Gein was living in an absolute pigsty.
For the next several, years other than doing some odd jobs in the neighbourhood, Gein mostly kept himself to himself - the time alone was not good for him. He began to to read about death and cannibalism. Still grieving the death of his mother, he was beginning becoming mentally unstable, his obsession with death consuming him. Gein later admitted that during those several years he would scour the obituaries in the local paper before visiting graveyards at night (around 40 times in total) with the aim of digging up recently buried women who resembled his mother. He described himself as being in a dazed state during those visits and that most of the time he would leave without causing any damage to the grave, however, he also confessed that on at least 9 occasions he did indeed remove the corpse and took it back to his farmhouse. When interrogated by detectives, Gein rebuffed the idea that he had engaged in necrophiliac acts with the corpses, simply because they had a bad smell about them.
Shockingly, Gein would tan the the skin of the corpses and make different items, these ranged from home wares such as lampshades, bins and bowls to items of clothing, including a belt made from nipples and face masks. Furthermore, Gein later revealed to detectives that he had been making a "woman suit"so that he could wear it and pretend to be his mother. He enjoyed wearing the skin of the women he had stolen from the graveyard and had amassed a vast collection of female body parts which he liked to display around his house, well, in the rooms he hadn't boarded up.
Gein was arrested on November 16th, 1957 for the murder of Bernice Worden. After the the bodies parts and death paraphernalia were discovered in Gein's home there was little else he could do other than confess. He admitted killing Mary Hogan and Bernice Worden, yet he vehemently denied being responsible for the disappearances or murders anyone else and was adamant the other human remains were what he acquired from grave digging. Police were able to corroborate this by checking the graves he claimed to have robbed.
Initially a Judge ruled him unfit for trial due to his mental incompetency but eventually he had two jury-less trials for the murder of Bernice Worden, where upon he was ultimately found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to the Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. He would remain there until his death, aged 77 on July 26, 1984. His cause of death was respiratory failure as a result of lung cancer.
Here is a list of items / body parts discovered at Gein's property during the search:
- Whole human bones and fragments
- Wastebasket made of human skin
- Human skin covering several chair seats
- Skulls on his bedposts
- Female skulls, some with the tops sawn off
- Bowls made from human skulls
- A corset made from a female torso skinned from shoulders to waist
- Leggings made from human leg skin
- Masks made from the skin of female heads
- Mary Hogan's face mask in a paper bag
- Mary Hogan's skull in a box
- Bernice Worden's entire head in a burlap sack
- Bernice Worden's heart "in a plastic bag in front of Gein's potbellied stove"
- Nine vulvae in a shoe box
- A young girl's dress and "the vulva's of two females judged to have been about fifteen years old"
- A belt made from female human nipples
- Four noses
- A pair of lips on a window shade drawstring
- A lampshade made from the skin of a human face
- Fingernails from female fingers
These artefacts were photographed at the state crime laboratory and then destroyed