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Ed Gein, the real-life inspiration for Norman Bates in Psycho, profiled on True Nightmares: Tales of Terror on ID

Police pic of Ed Gein
Ed Gein was a horrifying real-life Leatherface who wore his victims’ skins. Pic credit: Wisconsin State Police

True Nightmares: Tales of Terror on ID is looking at the truly shocking crimes of Ed Gein, aka The Butcher of Plainfield, a notorious murderer who skinned his victims.

Gein is known to have murdered at least two women, Bernice Worden and Mary Hogan, in Plainfield, Wisconsin, during the 1950s, but he also collected body parts and horribly mutilated the remains of recently buried women.

Ed Gein became the inspiration for many author’s books and some of Hollywood’s most horrific characters. He was a direct inspiration behind Norman Bates from Psycho. And he influenced Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs.

On November 16, 1957, Bernice Worden, a store clerk from Plainfield, WI, disappeared. A sales slip she’d written for anti-freeze led the police to suspect that Gein may have been one of the last people to see her alive.

When the police went to search Gein’s farm, they came across the most disturbing scene imaginable. In a shed, they found Worden’s body; she’d been hung upside down with ropes and a crossbar at her ankles. Her torso had been dressed out in the same manner as when hunters remove the organs from a deer.

However, Worden’s remains were not the only horrific thing the investigators discovered. Throughout Gein’s farm, the police uncovered a terrifying array of body parts from up to ten different women.

Apart from numerous heads, noses, and other body parts, his house of horrors contained skulls on bedposts, a lampshade made from the skin from a human face, nine masks of human skin, a wastebasket made from skin, and bowls made from human skulls.

Among the most bizarre and sickening items were a pair of lips on a window shade drawstring, a belt made from human female nipples, and a shoebox containing nine vulvas. There was also a suit made of human body parts, which Gein used to wear in what was described as a “sick transvestite ritual.”

Ed Gein admitted to wearing human body parts

During the interrogation, Gein told the officers that he got the body parts by digging up the recently buried bodies of middle-aged women. He said that after his mother’s death, he had decided he wanted a sex change, so he set about making a “woman suit.”

During the course of the interview, Gein also admitted to shooting Mary Hogan, a local tavern worker who had been missing since 1954.

Gein had grown up on the farm with his parents and brother. His alcoholic father died in 1940, and his brother died in suspicious circumstances during a fire at the farm in 1944.

Gein’s mother was considered to be extremely overbearing and had taught her son that women and sex were evil. Gein was reportedly obsessed with his mother. His crimes began shortly after she died in 1945.

In November 1957, Gein was indicted on first-degree murder but was subsequently ruled mentally unfit to stand trial and was sent to the Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. In 1968, he was deemed fit to stand trial and was convicted of murder; however, a judge ruled him guilty by reason of insanity.

Gein spent the rest of his life incarcerated in a mental health facility and eventually died of natural causes in 1984.

More from Investigation Discovery

Follow the links to read about murderers profiled on ID.

Daron Wint massacred the Savopoulos family and their housekeeper, Veralicia Figueroa, at their home in Washington DC. He had extorted thousands of dollars out of Savvas Savopoulos’s company before killing them.

Conrad Roy was a troubled teen from the Boston suburbs who committed suicide by inhaling toxic fumes in his pickup truck. The question is, was his girlfriend, Michelle Carter, responsible for persuading him to do it?

True Nightmares: Tales of Terror airs at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.

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