Ed Gein: the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre

After viewing Leatherface, which I reviewed in yesterday’s post, I thought I would take it upon myself to do some research and determine whether or not the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise was inspired by true events.

To my complete horror, I learned that it is, loosely.

Ed Gein lived in a farmhouse in Wisconsin, which would later be referred to as the farmhouse of horrors. Son of George, who was a raging alcoholic, Ed and his brother, Henry, along with their mother, Augusta, kept their distance from their father. Augusta operated a small grocery store and purchased the farmhouse in Plainfield that would soon become their permanent home.

The reasoning for making the move was Augusta’s obsession to control her son’s minds. A fanatical Lutheran, she strived to keep her boys away from others due to her fear of them being influenced by the outside world, and she manipulated them into believing they were only safe in the comfort of their own home and family. She permitted Ed to leave the farm strictly for school, and nothing else.

She taught her boys the evils of alcohol and further convinced them to believe that all women were prostitutes and whores, except her. She instilled the belief that sex was only for reproductive purposes, and read bible passages to her boys every afternoon form the Old Testament, focusing on death, divine retribution and murder.

Ed soon became the target of bullies due to a growth over one eye. After his father’s passing in 1940, he started to reject his mother’s teachings and rebel. There is speculation that Ed killed Henry when the two of them were caught in a brush fire on their neighbouring property; Henry had experienced blunt-force trauma to the head, but the coroner determined he died from smoke inhalation. Two years later, Augusta passed, leaving Ed in isolation on the farm.

Belief developed amongst police in the town that Ed was responsible for the disappearance of Bernice Worden, a store clerk in Plainfield. On Nov. 25, 1957, police entered a shed on Gein’s property and found Worden’s corpse, decapitated, hanging upside down, with her torso split open and her organs removed. It was determined the mutilations occurred after Worden’s death, and she was shot at close-range with a .22-caliber rifle.

Upon searching Gein’s house, authorities found:

  • “Human skulls mounted upon the cornerposts of his bed
  • Human skin fashioned into a lampshade and used to upholster chair seats
  • Human skullcaps, apparently in use as soup bowls
  • A human heart (it is disputed where the heart was found; the deputies’ reports all claim that the heart was in a saucepan on the stove, with some crime scene photographers claiming it was in a paper bag)
  • The head of Mary Hogan, a local tavern owner, found in a paper bag
  • A ceiling light pull consisting of human lips
  • A “mammary vest” crafted from the skin of a woman’s torso
  • A belt made from several human nipples, among many other such grisly objects
  • Socks made from human flesh”

Gein further created “shrunked heads,” made with human skin and worn as masks.

Later, under questioning, he admitted that he had dug up graves of middle-aged women whom he thought resembled his mother and took them to his home, using their skin to make possessions.

“Gein was found mentally incompetent and thus unfit to stand trial at the time of his arrest, and was sent to the Central State Hospital (now the Dodge Correctional Institution) in Waupun, Wisconsin. Later, Central State Hospital was converted into a prison and Gein was transferred to Mendota State Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. In 1968, Gein’s doctors determined he was sane enough to stand trial; he was found not guilty by reason of insanity by judge Robert H. Gollmar and spent the rest of his life in the hospital.

While Gein was in detention, his house burned to the ground. Arson was suspected. In 1958, Gein’s car, which he used to haul the bodies of his victims, was sold at public auction for a then-considerable sum of $760 to an enterprising carnival sideshow operator named Bunny Gibbons. Gibbons called his attraction the “Ed Gein Ghoul Car” and charged carnival-goers 25 cents admission to see it.

On July 26, 1984, Ed Gein died of respiratory and heart failure due to cancer in Goodland Hall at the Mendota Mental Health Institute. His gravesite in the Plainfield cemetery was frequently vandalized over the years; souvenir seekers would chip off pieces of his gravestone before the bulk of it was stolen in 2000. The gravestone was recovered in June 2001 near Seattle and is presently kept in storage” (http://www.wisconsinsickness.com/ed-gein/)


There you have it, folks. The story that inspired the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise.

Image from https://allthatsinteresting.com/edward-gein

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