The Not-Quite-A-Serial-Killer That Probably Was

Poor Ed Gein… History has painted him with a very wide and severe brush.  He is the basis for many fictional monsters in movies and books.  He is one of the few serial killers that I would say got a bum deal.  By modern standards, Ed would be mentally challenged and probably taken away from his abusive, ultra-religious mother.  He might have grown up to be a nice, normal person, adopted by a family willing to take care of him or perhaps even foster care would have been better than where he did grow up.

Sadly, it was not to be and Ed Gein grew up with a woman who was a bitch.  Mrs. Gein firmly believed in discipline and her version was often brutal, even by the standards of the time.  She considered Ed lazy and stupid making him a frequent target of her wrath.  It got worse after his older brother was killed in a farming accident (and some suspect Ed had a hand in the accident).

However, around town, Ed was well liked.  Growing from an awkward teen into a shy, quiet adult didn’t lessen his popularity and many people hired Ed to work odd jobs on the farms to help supplement the income from the Gein family farm.  He even had drinking buddies that he liked to hang out with on Friday and Saturday nights.  Of course, his mother disapproved of this behavior and even as an adult is known to have beaten him on a few occasions for his lack of control when it came to drinking and God forbid he show interest in a woman.  That met with the strongest reproaches from Mrs. Gein, who is rumored to have forced Ed to take a bleach bath after she caught him flirting with one of the “whores” at the local tavern.

So, Ed might be worth a little pity, he never had a chance to be anything other than a socially awkward adult who couldn’t express normal, human urges.  In many ways, this does explain his grave robbing and necrophilia.

Gein’s case isn’t complicated by the sheer number of possible victims.  There were two; Bernice Worden and Mary Hogan.  He led police to nine graves he robbed and they even had to see for themselves that he had in fact stolen the corpses from them.  There was doubt that the slightly built Ed could dig the grave with a shovel, open the coffin, take out the corpse, close the coffin, and fill it all back in during a single night.  They asked for a demonstration and he managed to do all of it in very little time, which was surprising (maybe he should have been a gravedigger).

Therein lies the mystery of Ed Gein; did he kill anyone besides the two women he confessed to?  Most people think yes.  He had a lot of body parts lying around his house and the two murdered women plus nine robbed graves really didn’t account for all of them.  For example, he had a necklace made from human female nipples and in a box they found several vulvas, two of them from pubescent girls.   There were lampshades made from leathered human skin as well as some other furniture.  He even used the bones to make furniture (maybe he should have been a tanner or a taxidermist).  And he had dug up his mother and preserved her, turning her into a suit he could wear, which is probably a nicer fate than she deserved.

Now, it is possible that these extra body parts were robbed from graves and he just didn’t mention it.  It’s also possible that he killed a few more people, after all, he was sort of a suspect in the death of his brother.  Oddly, several people believed that it was a rumor started by his mother (not winning any Mother-of-the-Year Awards) and didn’t put much stock in the idea that Ed had assisted his brother having an accident.

To the outside world, Ed Gein was a monster of mythical portions and reviled for his sick appetites.  To those that knew him, Ed was more of a pitiful figure that had it rough.  As one can probably tell, I agree with the second evaluation.  I always picture a sort of Lennie-esque figure (from Of Mice and Men) when thinking of Ed Gein.  Abused and mentally challenged, he had no chance at leading a life that wouldn’t end tragically. Of course, I also believe Ed killed more than just 2 women and that he robbed more than 9 graves, which would technically make him a serial killer.

8 thoughts on “The Not-Quite-A-Serial-Killer That Probably Was

    1. Someone did write a biography of him that focused less on his life as a killer and more on his life as a person. I haven’t read it, but it’s been recommended to me. However, all the research I’ve done suggests that if he had been raised by someone else, he probably would not have been a killer. He didn’t have a lot of the serial killer red flags, unlike Ted Bundy and several others.


  1. I read an article by a profiler a few years ago that was debating whether a serial killer is born or “made” as a product of their upbringing. They used three examples to prove their point. Gein, Kemper, and Gacy. One of the little known facts they brought up about the Gein case which the police obviously did not pursue was that three prostitutes disappeared among the the years he was robbing graves and before he murdered the shop keeper.
    I am of the opinion that serial killers are a product of their enviornment. Because even if someone is a socio or psychopath it does not automatically make them a killer. It takes the right enviornment to either keep them from or push them over the edge.
    Do you agree?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nurture plays a huge role in it. It’s why I point out sociopaths and psychopaths who are high functioning make great surgeons, police officers, military personnel, and air traffic controllers. They can handle the stress and remain level-headed. However, there will always be the “exceptions” like a 3-year-old Ted Bundy placing knives in his aunt’s bed or a 4-year-old Andrei Chikatilo killing a stray dog. No matter how crappy the home life is, these are disturbing outbursts by children of that age.


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