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A Shitload of Corpses : Body Snatcher Ed Gein

Written by: Naomi

Trigger Warning: Implied necrophilia and child abuse

Warning: There will be no crime scene photos in this blog post HOWEVER I have linked images to appropriate text if you are interested in viewing these things. Please view at your own discretion and be aware they contain gore and bodily remains.


Edward Theodore Gein was born in 1906 and he was known as The Butcher of Plainfield for being a murderer and body snatcher.

George and Augusta Gein had two sons, Henry and Edward. Augusta hated her husband who was an alcoholic and often without a job. George had many jobs over the years and even owned a store for a period of time before selling it so the family could move to a 155 acre farm in isolation. Augusta used the distance from other families and children to her advantage and isolated her sons, running off anyone that could have an impact on them. The children were only allowed to leave for school but would otherwise being doing chores around the farm. Their mother was very religious (Lutheran) and preached to the boys that the world was immoral, that drinking was evil and all women - minus herself of course - were whores and tools of the devil. She would read them the bible every afternoon but usually focused on the old testament and graphic verses with murder, death, and retribution to scare her children into believing.

Ed was known as quiet and having strange mannerisms according to teachers like random bouts of laughter and his mother would punish him if he tried to make friends affecting his social development negatively, otherwise he was very smart and scored highly in reading. Since he was alienated and had social issues he was bullied at school so Ed could only have imaginary friends.

When Ed was 34 his father died of heart failure due to his alcoholism so he and his brother picked up odd jobs around town to help cover expenses at home. The siblings were trusted and had a good reputation around town, they worked as handymen but Ed would often work as a babysitter for the families around them which he enjoyed a lot as he could relate to children more than he could relate to adults. Meanwhile Henry was starting to date a divorced mother of two and was concerned about Ed’s unhealthy attachment to their mother, how he would view her as perfect or a saint, he felt he revered her to distract from how she abused them and Henry would speak badly of her around Ed only for him to become angry and hurt.

In 1944 the brothers were burning away some vegetation on the farm but the fire raged out of control bringing the attention of the fire department. After the flames were under control Ed reported that his brother was missing but when the search party arrived Ed led the team directly to his brother who was face down and with no burns or obvious injuries to his body. Henry had been dead for a long time from what they thought was heart failure at first but it is mentioned in autopsies that there were bruises to the man’s head. The police did not believe it was foul play and the coroner marked this as a death by asphyxiation. No investigation was done into Henry’s death but many think Ed killed his brother.

Shortly after Henry’s death their mother had a stroke that paralyzed her so Ed began to take care of her full time; Augusta continued to verbally abuse Ed by calling him a weakling and failure but other times she supposedly allowed Ed to crawl into bed with her . Ed did mention years later about a time that he and his mother had gone to a neighboring farm to buy straw but the farmer began beating a dog. At this time a woman came out of the farmhouse to tell the farmer to stop, dismissing the woman’s screams the farmer continued until he beat the dog to death in front of Ed and his mother. His mother was disturbed by the incident but not because of the brutality to which the dog was beaten, but rather the presence of the woman since they were not married and she, “had no business being there”, calling her a harlot. Augusta has a second stroke soon after this which caused her health to deteriorate faster and eventually led to her death when she was 67. This devastated 39 year old Ed and he was hysterical at her funeral, he was alone in the world without the one pillar that had held his life together despite her tyranny and how she mentally enslaved him.

Kitchen of the Gein home

Augusta's room when opened by police

Ed continued to live on the family farm alone and would pick up odd jobs to make money. He sealed off any rooms his mother had used like her bedroom, the upper floor, the lower parlor, and the living room, leaving them untouched and pristine after her death.

The rest of the house fell apart quickly, Ed lived in a small room next to the kitchen and quickly became fascinated with adventure and cult literature mainly involving Nazis, medical experiments, or cannibals. Ed began to have an obsession with intimate female anatomy fueled by porn, medical encyclopedias and horror films. He even would occasionally mention articles about sex change operations to others at the bar that would entertain a conversation with the man. Gein had mentioned later in his psychiatric evaluations that he often felt his mother would of preferred if he had been born a girl rather than a boy since she had raised them to be nothing like their father and felt detached from her son Henry when he was born before having Ed. He wondered if he could have sexual reassignment surgery to change his gender and many feel his gender identity disorder was not only from his mother's dominance but the message she had drilled into them about establishing female standards of conduct, that perhaps Ed could receive his mother's approval by not only being a woman but a good god fearing woman.

In 1957 Bernice Worden who was a hardware store owner went missing. The Store truck was seen leaving the store at 9:30am and the store was closed the rest of the day; people initially thought this was because it was hunting season which was important in the small town and the main pastime. But Bernice’s son came into the store at 5 pm after going hunting and found the cash register open with blood on the floor. When detectives arrived he told them that Ed had been in the night before, promising he would come back to order a gallon of antifreeze in the morning. Sure enough the last receipt they found was for a gallon of antifreeze that morning before Bernice had gone missing. Gein was arrested at the grocery store the same day, when police went to investigate his farm they discovered the horrors it hid. Bernice was decapitated and hung upside down with a cross bar at her ankles and ropes on her wrists. She was, “dressed out like a deer”, meaning he had removed her organs to keep her from decomposing too quickly which is usually done by hunters to keep game meat from spoiling. She had been shot and killed before the mutilation took place.

The farmhouse though is where the police found the rest of the gruesome evidence:

All items were photographed then destroyed at the crime lab except for some of it that was considered to be from catholic individuals so they were instead buried in a grave.

Mary Hogan was a woman who owned a Tavern in town and went missing in 1945. Ed confesses later to shooting her but not remembering much of the murder.

Mary Hogan

His crimes gained notoriety because he admitted to making over 40 visits to three local graveyards between the years 1947 and 1952 to exhume recently buried bodies while he was in a, “daze-like state” but would come out of that state on 30 of those visits- leaving with nothing and putting the grave, “back in good order” but other times he would find graves of middle aged women that resembled his mother and bring the bodies home before tanning their skin and would make things out of the remains. He admitted to nine graves he had stolen from since police found it impossible for him to have done all of these things in one night, later they dug up these graves to test if he had actually committed the crimes and were shocked to find empty or mostly empty caskets.

Apparently soon after his mother's death in 1945 he had started to make a, “woman suit” so he could, “become his mother..literally crawl inside of her skin.” Doing these things brought him gratification, with his obsession with female genitalia it was said he would even put the vulva he collected into panties he would wear around the house.

He denied having sex with any of the bodies he dug up because they, “smelled too bad” and he was considered a suspect in other disappearances in the state in 1953.

There was a 16 year old boy that used to go to baseball games and movies with Ed that had told his parents Ed had Shrunken heads in his home years earlier but when asked about it at the time Ed said they were souvenirs from the Philippines sent to him by a cousin who was there in World War II. The heads were tested when the rest of his mementos had been found and they were found to be older skins he had peeled off victims to make into masks that had shrunk over time.

Disgusted by the crimes Sheriff Art Schley assaulted Gein during questioning and beat Ed’s face and head into a brick wall. Schley died of a heart attack before the trial and the confession he had gotten from Ed through the beating was dismissed

In 1957 Ed was tried for first degree murder of Bernice but he pled not guilty by the reason of insanity. He was diagnosed schizophrenic and mentally incompetent thus unfit for trial, there are some people that feel this diagnosis was slapped on him since he didn't match any other immediate diagnosis. It is felt that he likely had psychotic depression or his actions were the result of a possible tumor since Gein had a growth on his face since childhood. He was sent to Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane (Now the Dodge Correctional Institution) which is a maximum security facility and was transferred later to Mendota State Hospital. In 1968 doctors determined Gein was, “mentally able to confer with counsel and participate in his defense” so trial began and lasted one week. Psychiatrists testified that Gein had told them that he did not know if the murder of Bernice was an accident or intentional. He had been looking at a gun in the store and was trying to load a bullet when the gun went off accidentally, he was not meaning to point at Bernice and did not remember anything else from that morning. The trial was held without jury and he was found guilty but a second trial reviewed Gein’s sanity and ruled him not guilty by reason of insanity. He was committed to the Central State hospital for the criminally insane where he spent the rest of his life until he died of cancer when he was 77 in 1984.

He was buried next to his family but his headstone has since been moved to a museum since it was constantly being vandalized and had parts of it chipped off by people looking for souvenirs. It was even stolen in 2000 then found again in 2001. The only thing marking his grave now is a hole made by people who go to the spot and take dirt.

The Gein farm was burned down by an arsonist in 1958 and Gein’s car was sold off in an action the following day to a carnival sideshow operator that charged 25 cents for people to see the car that hauled bodies from the cemeteries.

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