“Edward Gein had two faces. One he showed to his neighbours. The other he showed only to the dead”
Edward Theodore Geth — the inspiration for Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs — lived with his father, George, brother Henry, and overpowering mother, Augusta, on their farm in Plainville, Wisconsin. In 1914 Augusta Geth had moved her family onto a 79-hectare (195-acre) farm because she feared the “moral depravity” of the locals would affect her beloved sons — and they stayed in splendid isolation for 25 years.
George Gein died on 1 April 1940. Henry Gein died in a brush fire on the farm on 16 May 1944, leaving Ed and Augusta together — they often shared a bed. Augusta died on 29 December 1945 and he kept her room exactly as she had left it (although he did not keep her corpse — that was a Hollywood invention).
Gein began to dig up dead people to study them and cut off, and kept, bits of their bodies. He liked to create “clothes” from their skin and would often wear them around his by now filthy home. In 1954 dead people no longer sated his lust and he began to murder to get fresh flesh. On 16 November 1957 Bernice Worden, a 58-year-old widow, disappeared from her hardware shop. Gein had been asking about her, which aroused the suspicion of the police.
When they went to question him, he was not at home so the police entered the property. They were horrified by what they saw at his farmhouse. There were parts from at least 15 bodies in his fridge, skulls decorated a bed, lampshades were made from human skin, a belt was studded with nipples, a patchwork shirt was made of human skin, there was a shoebox of human noses and female genitalia and on the kitchen stove was a heart in a pan.
Also in the kitchen was a naked, headless female torso — later identified as Bernice Worden. Gein initially denied any knowledge of the happenings at his house, later confessing to 11 counts of grave robbery when he was arrested. He was committed to an institution for the criminally insane on 23 November 1957. Two days after his incarceration a local newspaper opined, “Edward Gein had two faces. One he showed to his neighbours. The other he showed only to the dead.”
Plainville, Wisconsin, USA
Saturday 16 November 1957
On 27 March 1958 his farm mysteriously burned down as it was being prepared for auction. Having been judged competent to stand trial, Gein finally had his day in court on 7 November 1968. A week later, on 14 November, Gein was found guilty of first-degree murder and returned to the institution. In February 1974 he was refused a hearing to show that he was sane, pending release from the institution. He died, still incarcerated, on 26 July 1984.