Ed Gein

I took a morning stroll through man’s disturbing past and read some articles about Ed Gein recently. If you’re planning on reading through this man’s history, you should probably do so a little later in the day. Gein is the man who inspired such characters as Buffalo Bill (Silence of the Lambs), Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and (purportedly) Norman Bates from Psycho. I knew both the Chainsaw Massacre and Silence of the Lambs were based upon true stories, but I didn’t realize they came from the same person. History remembers Gein as a notorious serial killer. Gein wasn’t actually very notorious at all. The nature of his crimes were such that the news took a liking to the morbidity and peoples’ fascination with it. The entertainment business picked it up from there with books and movies. I always pictured a “notorious” criminal as being someone who had notoriety during the act of their crimes. Gein wasn’t really known at all outside of his local area of Wisconsin. His notoriety was actually America’s obsession with the grotesque ability of one man. I also had to check on the legal use of the term “serial killer” to understand what that entailed. I knew that police used terms like serial, mass, and spree for specific types of crimes. While Gein was certainly an insane individual and, in my mind, one who would undoubtedly be a serial killer – it doesn’t sound as though his crimes were quite to that level. No doubt he was developing the patterns that would inevitably lead him to serial killings. The investigations at the time were not to the level of forensic science we have today, and it sounds a little like there was pressure to wrap up some un-solved cases. My point is not that we mis-marked Gein, but rather that Gein’s crimes represented a sort of celebrity status in criminal cases; as such there was a certain sense of expansion to the situation. The horror movies we all know so well today certainly exemplify the weight of his crimes, but they overplay the malicious attitude of the real character. If they had made a movie about the Gein family from the beginning up to the point of Ed Gein’s first victim, it would have been more frightening. And Ed Gein’s heinus crimes might have been overshadowed by the seemingly more wicked upbringing he was subjected to. I know of only one writer that could write the story in a far too realistic manner of disturbing mental images…Chuck Palahniuk.

A Good Write-Up on Gein

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