By: Courtney Henson and Autumn Webster
Ed Gein was born on August 27, 1906 in La Crosse County, Wisconsin. His mother, Augusta Wilhelmine Gein and his father George Philip Gein soon picked up Ed and his older brother Henry George Gein, and moved to an isolated 155 acre farm in Plainfield, Wisconsin. During their time at the farm, Ed and Henry rarely left the house. Augusta was very religious and preached the impurity of the outside world. This led to the boys only leaving to go to school, still at school their mother made sure they never made friends.
After roughly 30 years at the farm, Ed Gein’s father George died of heart failure caused by his alcoholism, at age 66 on April 1, 1940. After this, Ed and Henry began to take on odd jobs to take care of living expenses on the farm. After their fathers death, Henry worried about his brother’s attachment to their mother and often spoke ill of her around Ed, who responded with shock and hurt. On May 16, 1944, Henry and Ed were burning a pile of brush when the fire got out of hand. When things cleared up, Ed reported his brother missing. After a while, Henry was found lying face down, dead. The official cause of death was asphyxiation, no burns, but many bruises were found on Henry’s head. The police did not look into this.
This death left Ed and his mother alone, shortly after Henry’s death his mother had a paralyzing stroke. Ed devoted all of this time to taking care of his mother. About a year later, after an incident with a woman neighbor, Augusta had another stroke. She died on December 29, 1945, at the age of 67. This devastated Ed. Over time, Ed’s obsession with his mother grew. He boarded up the rooms in the house she used and left all of her stuff untouched.
Ed committed his first murder on the December 8th of 1954. After robbing Pine Grove Tavern, Ed shot and killed the owner, Mary Hogan. He brought her body home to the shed on his land.
On the Morning of November 16, 1957, a Plainfield store owner Bernice Worden went missing. After a substantial amount of evidence was uncovered against Ed, he was arrested by the Waushara County Sheriff’s Department. The department searched Ed’s house, where they discovered human bones, fingernails, human skin, along with many more gruesome human remains made into “souvenirs.” In a shed on Ed’s property, Bernice Worden’s decapitated body was found. He had shot and killed her.
When interrogated Gein told investigators that between 1947 and 1952, he made as many as 40 visits to local graveyards to dig up recently buried bodies while he was in, what he referred to as, a “daze-like” state before returning home and dismembering the bodies. Ed also said that one roughly 30 of these visits he broke out of this daze like state and returned home empty handed. The bodies Ed made it home with, often were middle-aged women who resembled his mother. While being interrogated, Gein admitted to killing Mary Hogan, but later denied knowing the details.
During questioning, Waushara County Sheriff, Art Schley, reportedly assaulted Gein by banging his head and face into a brick wall. As a result, Gein’s initial confession was ruled inadmissible. Schley died before Gein’s trial.
On November 21st, 1957, Ed was brought to court on one court of first degree murder in Waushara County. Ed pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Ed was soon diagnosed with schizophrenia and found mentally imcompetent making him unfit for trial. He was then sent to The Central State Hospital For The Criminally Insane, and later transferred to The Mendota State Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. He stayed here for about 10 years.
In 1968, doctors decided that Ed was “mentally able to confer with counsel and participate in his defense.” This led to another trial which began on November 7, 1968, and lasted a mere one week.
By request of Ed and defense the trial was held without a jury present. Judge Robert H. Gollmar found Ed guilty of killing Bernice Worden. He also admitted to killing Mary Hogan. A second trial for determining Ed’s sanity found him “not guilty by reason of insanity” and ordered Ed to Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Ed spent the rest of his life in a mental hospital.
Ed died in the Mendota Mental Hospital due to respiratory failure and lung cancer on July 26, 1984, at the age of 77. Ed is buried beside his parents and his brother Henry.