Ed Gein Part I: The Ghoul’s Madhouse of Death and Corpses

Ed Gein, Ed Gein, Ed Gein what a naughty boy you’ve been! 

The crimes of Ed Gein shattered a generation’s predispositions of innocence and morality. I don’t claim to be an expert on the matter but it’s pretty clear that our Eddie boy here gave birth to a whole lot of nightmares.

It was the quiet decade of the 1950s, a time for down to Earth pride and joy. The comatose Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was not only the number one show on TV – and believe you me every happy family sat themselves down to take in that little American dream playing out from the soft crackling glow of the television screen – it was the epitome of what every single goddamn little god-fearing family strove to be like. 

Dad went to work and the loving wife stayed home (and bloody well-liked it) busying her little self by maintaining the image of domestic perfection. The sons played sports and the daughters learned how to grow up and master the kitchen for her own hubby someday. And by the good Lord dad could look forward to a hot meal waiting for his smug ass on the table, a meal made with love and care, just as soon as he got home. Not saying it’s right and not saying it’s what I believe in. It’s just how things were back in those days and you can’t erase history no matter how hard you scrub.

It was the season of mom’s apple pie and everyone wanted a big, juicy slice. Yeah, the 1950s were a good and godly time and everyone just expected things to keep getting better, taking absolutely no heed to the possibilities of monsters lurking among them. Problem is monsters still hide under the bed, even a pristinely made bed, shying not a single wrinkle. Monsters don’t give a fuck how nice the bed is, they’ll still lurk underneath waiting to snatch you no matter what. 

Ed Gein, soft-spoken, slow-witted, book worming little mama’s boy Eddie one morning showed up in the papers and suddenly everyone knew it: monsters could not be swept away, folded up and neatly drawered, or shooed off by church attendance. No amount of morality or self-righteousness can exorcise evil completely from the human condition. Monsters exist and that’s just all there is to it. 

Society Woke Up To A Nightmare 

The revelation of Ed Gein – whose heinous crimes reigned between 1954 and 1957 – shook everyone’s picture-perfect little dream down to its core and revealed the macabre reality rotting underneath. Sure, everyone would have agreed that evil did exist, but hadn’t we kicked all their Nazi asses in WWII? Hitler was the Boogeyman and he was dead. Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio broadcast sure scared the living pink fuck outta everybody, made them all think the sky was falling and Martians were on the warpath with us. But that had all been just fantasy. Given the era, people assumed bad guys were either overseas or just made up. 

How could a good American boy – like Eddie here – turn into a monster who ate his Corn Flakes out of a bleached human skull? Perhaps, as is too often the case, dreams, even the best kind, are just one blink away from nightmares. And the reports coming in from Plainfield, Wisconsin were inducing a whole lot of really nasty ones.  

Freshly rifled graves were only something that happened in monster movies when mad scientists hired grave robbers to bring them new parts. Ed Gein proved such things can also happen at your local cemetery and no one’s dearly departed was safe from ghouls like him who had a fetish for wearing human skins. 

It’s now infamous how police, based on a receipt and a hunch, showed up at the old Gein home, a house of pain and sadness where a ruthless matriarch once ruled over the family with a sadist’s touch. Ed’s mom was someone who could train demons on ruthlessness as she poured paranoia and religious venom into the family. And now, though his mom had been dead for a while now, she never had a chance in Hell of resting in peace. Her ghost lingered in Ed’s mind and viciously haunted the fragile psyche of an already deranged individual. Augusta Gein cannot be solely held responsible for her son’s misbehavior, Lord knows she tried to beat into him the straight and narrah, but nobody’s denying the direct influence she held over him even long after she was buried the first time.

Augusta Gein

However, years of sexual repression and his mother’s demented opinion of all women (dirty whores of Babylon) certainly left their impression on Ed if the belt made of nipples was any indication. Finding himself on his own for the first time after mommy dearest went on to meet Jesus, Ed learned a quick way around loneliness by visiting graveyards after nightfall and bringing home corpses to keep him company. His disgusting necrophilic habits could not be kept secret for long, and by the time cops showed up Ed’s home-making skills had grown so macabre that police fled from his madhouse of death and corpses to woof up their donuts all over the driveway. 

Now Ed Gein was pretty sneaky and his flair for fashion and home decorating had been going on for years before he was caught. Call it obsession or fetish (and really what’s the real difference between them?) Ed ruled the nether-realm of graveyards, turned it into an art, and Ed’s grotesque gallery was displayed all over his home, his very own museum of the macabre. Chairs were upholstered with human skin, a couch was constructed of human bones, and human faces decorated the walls. And that was just for starters.

Problem is Ed got a taste for death, and sometimes a fresh kill serves better purposes that husks fail to provide. 

1954, local saloonkeeper Mary Hogan, unfortunately, met the business end of Ed’s gun and her disappearance shook the community. Something about the loud-mouthed and (according to locals) vulgar Hogans just rubbed Ed the wrong way. She could cuss like a sailor, that’s what regulars had to say in Hogan’s memory, and she was not shy about coughing out sexual jokes. In many ways, she was the exact opposite of Ed’s mommy dearest. She was in fact the very kind of woman Augusta warned Ed about. Or so he justified his crimes.

Maybe Ed felt it was his duty to punish the woman. Or maybe it was a full moon and the opportunity for murder presented itself and Ed just couldn’t resist. Whatever the reason Hogan wound up as one more decoration in his house of horrors.

For years the town was haunted by her sudden disappearance. Ed, as is the case with other psychos, was mighty proud of himself and would often joke about keeping poor Mary back at home with mother. No one took him seriously and just assumed it was Ed’s sick sense of humor. Ed kept up the joking and the fact that no one laughed made his smile broader. 

1957, Bernice Worden would join Gein’s gathering back home, but Ed got sloppy this time around. Left a bit of blood and a receipt behind at the hardware store Worden owned. With her going missing and him being the last person known to be in her company, all they had to do was put two-and-two together to make a murder. Sure Ed had a taste for death and when needed he fed, but you could say Gein shat a little too close to where he slept and it didn’t take long for the pigs to come sniffing. 

Plainfield’s finest stumbled upon the threshold of a very real Hell built on God’s good Earth. The Gein home would go on to inspire gothic culture and haunted house enthusiasts across the globe. Furniture built out of human body parts, human bones used as display decorations, and human faces made to be lamp shades. Not to mention skulls lined the kitchen counter, skulls used as bowls and cups. These are just a few tangents from Gein’s trollheim, a ghoulish vision of what the human mind can dig up out of a deep and dark place of the soul. Dead bodies were set up like dolls arranged aesthetically for a grotesque tea party. I mean let’s be real since Ed brought mommy dearest home from the grave all those years back it only made sense for her friends to be brought home as well to keep her company. 

Seeing the horrific extent – and number – of cadavers, and in various stages of decay, made it disturbingly clear to anyone who knew the man why Ed took such interest in scouring the obituary section of the papers. His was an open house to the recently deceased. It was also crystal clear that Eddie boy’d been up to his naughty habit for a very, very long time. 

Ed, for all his shortcomings in the brains department, proved to be very skilled and creative. For example, he made himself a fine pair of gloves and a leather dress from his assortment of cadavers and would frolic outside play-pretending to be Augusta herself. Ed also had made for himself, what experts came to call, the mammery suit (given its name you can imagine for yourself why) that he’d wear around the house pretending to be a woman in.

And when Ed wasn’t dressing up in his Sunday’s best he busied himself with reading. I bet he settled down on one of those cadaver couches he built and read a bit of Dickens while sipping coffee out of someone’s head. Best part of waking up if you ask me. 

Aforementioned cops first stumbled upon what they initially thought to be a gutted deer. I mean the carcass they stumbled upon had all the making of one. Except for the human anatomy stuff. Once their eyes adjusted to the dark it didn’t take long before they realized they were looking into the open cavity of their missing VIP Bernice Worden.

She’d been hollowed out like a wild animal. Rumor has it Ed intended her to be dinner, maybe he’d already had the stove warming too. Cops had other plans for supper though (or whenever they got their appetites back) and made their arrest. Ed never showed the first hint that he suspected what he had been up to was in any way wrong either. 

As more details of the Gein house were released the less safe people across the country felt. People who knew Ed were the most perplexed. This was a man who babysat their children. People said he might have been a little bit of an oddball but no one would have figured him to be a monster.

Ed Gein confessed to his crimes, had been all along if his jokes were to be taken seriously. And the more he talked the more listeners he got. A macabre fascination was building around the meek little ghoul and he liked it.

Ed Gein would spend the rest of his life in a mental institution for the criminally insane. In true ghoul fashion, Eddie would get a little weirder whenever the moon was full, or so the doctors would say. The house of horrors he’d built would not be long for this world though as, due to very mysterious circumstances, just out of the blue the Gein house, all alone by itself on the outside of town, caught fire and burned to the ground. 

Town’s folk chalked it up to one of those acts of God and tried their damnedest to just let things go back to normal. But, as the Joker said in Dark Knight, there’s no going back. Not after this kind of a mess. Remember, you can’t erase history, especially a stain like this one left on time. And you can’t kill a demon like this with fire either. They may have all pretended like nothing ever happened, and burned that fucking house to the ground to make sure no sickos like me would ever drive up and pay it a visit, but the legacy of the Gein Ghoul has endured and has haunted every single generation to come since.

You can’t fuck with nature and disturb the Reaper’s garden as much as Ed did and it not leave a mark on the world. It’s simply not natural.

It wouldn’t take long either before culture tried making sense out of this senseless horror and cinema-goers would bear witness to a whole new breed of monsters and madmen. All thanks to Ed’s creativity.

Gunnar Hansen, also known as Leatherface from “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” makes his first appearance in Connecticut at CT HorrorFest in Danbury.

Stay tuned because in Part II we’ll be talking about the impact our boy Ed here has had on horror as a whole and how one man’s legacy gave birth to generations of monsters

Manic out! 

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