Ed Gein Podcast

History Uncovered Episode 40:
Serial Killer Ed Gein, The Butcher Of Plainfield

Published September 29, 2023

An unhinged predator who had chairs and lampshades made of human skin and eating utensils made of bones, Ed Gein might be the grisliest serial killer in American history.

Most people have seen Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Silence of the Lambs, all of them classics within the horror genre, anchored by some of the scariest villains in movie history. But what many don’t know is that the terrifying killers depicted in all three of these iconic films were actually inspired by the same real-life murderer: Ed Gein, the Butcher of Plainfield.

When police entered Ed Gein’s house in Plainfield, Wisconsin on November 16, 1957, following the disappearance of a local woman, they had no idea they were walking straight into a house of horrors unlike almost anything else in history. Not only did they find the woman they were looking for — dead, decapitated, and hung from her ankles — but also a number of gruesome, stomach-churning objects.

Among the things that Gein had amassed and crafted over the past decade were human bones, skulls impaled on his bedposts, and kitchen utensils carved from skeletons. Officers found human organs stored in jars, chairs made with human skin, and faces mounted on the wall. They even found the face, stored in a paper bag, of a tavern owner named Mary Hogan who had vanished in 1954, as well as the missing woman’s head in a burlap sack.

Home Of Ed Gein

Bettmann/Getty ImagesThe interior of Ed Gein’s home. Though he kept some rooms pristine in memory of his mother, the rest of the house was a horrifying mess.

And that was just the first layer. Police also discovered a corset made from a human torso, the genitalia of nine different women, a belt made of nipples, a lampshade made from a human face, and a window shade string made from human lips.

What the police would soon learn is that Ed Gein had spent the last decade collecting human bodies — some belonging to those he’d killed himself — to use for his many twisted purposes. The main purpose, as he unashamedly explained to investigators, was simple: He wanted to create a suit out of human skin, which he could use to reconstruct his deceased mother, Augusta.

Gein readily admitted to the police that he’d collected most of the body parts during dozens of expeditions to three graveyards, which he described as visiting in a “daze” starting two years after his mother’s death.

And that was just the tip of the iceberg in the story of Ed Gein, perhaps the most horrifying serial killer in American history.

Dig deeper into the horrifying story of Ed Gein.

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