Ed Gein – The Butcher of Plainfield – The True Inspiration Behind The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and The Silence of the Lambs
For decades, movies have bought some of the most vicious crimes to the big screen, and the story of Ed Gein, The Butcher of Plainfield, is no different. The 1974 movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre was based on the true story. Edward Theodore Gein was the man responsible for the inspiration behind the legendary horror flick, as well as a couple of other blockbuster horror movies.
Ed Gein committed his crimes in and around the area of his home town of Plainfield, Wisconsin, USA. His horrendous crimes were committed to both the living, and the dead. Starting in 1947, he exhumed corpses from graveyards and made “trophies” out of the bones and skin, after he murdered his victims.
On November 16, 1957, a hardware store owner named Bernice Worden went missing. When her son told authorities that Ed Gein had been in the store the evening before, and claimed he would return the following morning for a gallon of anti-freeze, police immediately suspected him. Further more, they discovered that the last written receipt by Worden was for a gallon of anti-freeze, on the day of her disappearance. A few hours after Worden had been reported missing, two deputies went out to Gein’s isolated farmhouse which sat on 200-acre of land.
The doors to the property were locked so officers decided to investigate the wood shed. With only the light from their torches, officers started to try and look around when one of them felt a bump on their shoulder. To the deputy’s surprise, and disgust, it was Bernice Worden, hanging upside down from the rafters. She had been decapitated and gutted. Gein was taken into custody that night. It is unclear where he was apprehended, but it wasn’t in his home. Gein was unknown to police until that November day of 1957, but when police gained access to his home and went inside, they realized this wasn’t a first offense. Gein had been body-snatching, murdering, and mutilating bodies for many years.
When officers entered the property they found a hoard of human remains. The full search of the house uncovered a waste basket and lampshade made from human skin, chair seats upholstered with skin, bedposts and bowls made from human skulls, leggings made from skin from a female’s legs, masks made from the skin from female’s heads, a belt made from female nipples, four noses, a pair of lips on a window shade drawstring, and nine female’s genitals in a shoe box, some of which Gein admitted to sticking on his body to pretend to be a woman.
Three more items were discovered inside the house… A brown paper bag, a box and a burlap sack. The burlap sack contained the head of Bernice Worden which had been placed there that day, the box and brown paper bag contained remains of someone police recognized. The box had the skull, and the brown paper bag had the face mask, of Mary Hogan, a tavern owner who had been reported missing on December 8, 1954.
That November day when Gein kidnapped and murdered Worden, hoards of reporters arrived in Plainfield to cover the story, then Gein was labeled “The Mad Butcher of Plainfield”. This sling-shotted him from an unknown psychotic to a cultural icon across America. Gein was initially found unfit for trial and was confined to a mental health facility. He stood trial 11 years later, in 1968, where he was found guilty for the murders and was placed in psychiatric institution.The events of 1957 inspired the classic 1960 Hitchcock movie, Psycho. Just a few years after his incarceration in 1968, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was released and the movie re-ignited the gruesome story, not only that, but the movie itself stunned audiences because of it’s brutality. The character of Leatherface, played by Gunnar Hansen, was inspired by Ed Gein and his bizarre crimes where he made masks from human body parts, similar to Leatherface’s actions in the movie.
Gein died at Mendota Mental Health Institute (MMHI) on July 26, 1984 due to cancer-induced liver and respiratory failure, he was 77-years-old. He’s buried in the Plainfield cemetery in a now un-marked grave after someone stole his headstone. The stone was recovered but is now kept in storage at the Sheriff’s department.
Another decade and a half later, Gein’s crimes were still inspiring horror film makers, and that’s when we got the epic horror/thriller, The Silence of the Lambs. In the movie, the character of Buffalo Bill kidnapped and killed women, and made a body suit from their flesh. With Psycho and Texas Chainsaw Massacre being on a short list for the best slasher movies in horror history, and The Silence of the Lambs arguably being the greatest thriller of the 90’s, Gein’s story will live on forever.