Some murderers seem to haunt Americans forever, and Ed Gein definitely is among this chosen lot. While not as well known as Charles Mason or Ted Kaczynski, Ed Gein, aka the Butcher of Plainfield, committed truly horrific crimes in his day. In fact, the murderer and grave robber was the inspiration for characters in some of the most chilling films in history, including Norman Bates in Psycho, Jame Gumb in The Silence of the Lambs, and Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Born in the early 1900s in Wisconsin, the infamous criminal grew up in an unstable home. As the story goes, his mother loathed his father, an alcoholic who couldn't hold down a job. When Ed was in his 30s, his father died (from alcoholism), and Ed was left with his fanatically religious mother and his older brother. A few years later, his brother died and his mother had a stroke. Initially, it was thought that his brother had died in a fire, but as years passed, and more information about Ed came to light, it's come to be believed that Ed, in fact, killed him, as well.
When his mother passed away a year after the death of his brother, things spun out of control even more. Ed kept his mother's room perfectly tidy and neat, while the rest of the home was a complete disaster. (Sound familiar?) Also, bizarrely, the infamous killer was able to support himself as a handyman, and shockingly, a babysitter. During that time period though, people began disappearing from the area in which he lived. Among them? Mary Hogan, who ran a tavern that he regularly frequented.
In 1957, Bernice Worden went missing from the hardware store she ran in Plainfield. The cash register was gone as well, and her son Frank, a deputy sheriff, found a trail of blood leading to the back. Immediately, Frank was suspicious of Ed and when authorities were sent to his home, they were shocked by the gruesome sight.
Ed confessed to killing Bernice and Mary three years prior. He also admitted to digging up corpses in order to cut off their body parts, practicing necrophilia, and making masks and suits out of skin to wear around his home.
Ultimately, it was determined that he was unfit to stand trial, so Ed spent the remainder of his life in mental institutions, where he caused no problems. In 1984, he died of cancer and respiratory illness at Mendota Mental Health Institute. That said, his horrific crimes will continue to haunt people for lifetimes ahead.