Life And Psychological Portrait Of Ed Gein, “the Butcher Of Plainfield” (1/2)

Ed Gein was one of the most infamous murderers in American criminal history, also known as “the Plainfield Butcher” (Wisconsin), in honor of the town where he committed the crimes. His case inspired many of the best-known and iconic characters from horror and suspense literary and cinematic works of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, such as Norman Bates (“Psycho”, by Alfred Hitchcock, 1960), Leatherface (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, by Tobe Hooper, 1974) or Buffallo Bill (“The silence of the lambs”, by Jonathan Demme, 1990).

The context of Ed Gein’s life and murders

To better understand Gein’s story, we must go to deep America in the 1950s, a society very marked by prejudices and sexist ideals that are already outdated today A clear example would be the censorship that was carried out on radio and television regarding married life (many were shown in programs or television advertisements sleeping in separate beds in the same room), in addition to an evident desire to eliminate all those symbols and images that could incite one to commit ‘carnal sins’.

Ed Gein was born and raised on a farm outside a town called Plainfield (La Crosse County, Wisconsin), the result of the union of George, an abusive alcoholic who was characterized by his lack of devotion to his family, and Augusta. She, who was a religious fanatic with strong convictions who despised men, He considered women the object of sin from which he should keep his two sons away Henry (1902) and Ed (1906).

This marriage was characterized by a poor parenting style that was the first relevant factor that contributed to creating the Ed’s antisocial personality: many sociopaths are so not only because of inherent characteristics that mold them in that way, but much more importantly, because they have received an education from their parents who have distanced them from all prosocial activity and have led them towards deviant socialization, making them incapable of assume responsibilities and/or adapt to the rules and expectations of the society in which they live.

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Therefore, Ed and his brother’s childhood was very hard: their mother imposed strict discipline on them and constantly punished and beat them, unable to ever show any affection or love for her children; while his father spent all his money in the town tavern. Contrary to what it might seem years later, Ed Gein had a great aversion to blood and the killing or sacrifice of animals, activities that were typical in towns dedicated to livestock farming. In fact, he was very marked when, as a teenager, he secretly witnessed through the glass of the door of the slaughterhouse of his parents’ store how he was holding a pig by the legs while the other, armed with a long, sharp knife, He cut open its belly and removed the intestines with great skill from the animal, which was dying amid shrill screams.

Ed Gein’s personality: a stormy adolescence

Despite this, it is also true that Ed became fond of reading comics, magazines and books about murder, death or violence (“Tales from the Crypt”, among others) and even about the torture that took place in the Camps. of Nazi Concentration. These topics caused great fascination in him, absorbing and isolating him until he lost track of reality. Although he attended school, his mother forbade him from forging any friendship with his classmates (much less his classmates), claiming, Bible in hand and with verses, that they were sinners and he should stay away from them.

Although the first parental responsibility consists of providing the basic needs of the children (feeding, sheltering and protecting), the second most important function is their socialization, and can be carried out by both parents, the father or the mother. In this case, the mother. So due to Augusta’s incompetence in educating Ed, she gave him the necessary resources to be able to live in society and allow him to socialize with her peers, This increased their tendency towards withdrawal, marginality and loneliness, taking refuge in the fantasies of death and depravity of the comics and books that he read locked in his room. This hermit-like and obsessive predisposition would make up the second factor that shaped his personality and defined him for the rest of his life.

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The death of the father, George Gein

After years of drunkenness, beatings of his wife and children, humiliation and constant contempt, George Gein died in 1940 at age 66 From that moment on, the family business began to go wrong, and Ed and Henry had to look for work and bring money home. This made their relationship closer, however it became strained when Henry observed the dependency relationship and the obvious Oedipus complex developed by his little brother.

The Oedipus Complex is an expression that Sigmund Freud used to refer to the supposed conflict that children experience when feeling an incestuous desire for their mother, while towards their father and anyone who threatens that relationship the feelings are of hostility and anger. That’s why Henry chose to walk away and try to stay out of that toxic relationship, opposing his mother’s orders.

He died under strange circumstances in a fire caused by some stubble that he and his brother burned behind the garden of their farm, and although his body had obvious blows to the head made with a blunt object, the death report classified the death as suffocation. The year was 1944. Shortly after, Augusta Gein suffered a heart attack and Ed devotedly cared for her until her death twelve months later After what happened, she locked her mother’s room, keeping it intact as she had left it, and began doing small jobs for her neighbors.

The loss of his mother was the third factor that shaped Ed Gein’s personality and was the trigger for the murders and acts he committed, which had two clear reasons: the first, the desire to keep alive the idea or illusion that their mother was still alive and at home. The second, the obsession with the female gender, a product of years of repression, reprimands and punishments that Augusta had exerted on him.

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His first murders

On December 8, 1954, a town farmer named Seymour Lester entered the Hogan tavern and found it deserted despite the door being open and the lights on. Seeing that no one came out to assist him, he investigated the room and He found a .32 caliber cartridge next to a trail of dried blood that started just behind the bar and led beyond the back door.

The trail led to the parking lot behind the store, where the man could see that the owner’s car, Mary Hogan, was still parked in its usual place and that the river of blood was lost next to some freshly made tire marks on the street. snow.

(…)

Read part 2 of the Ed Gein story: Life and psychological portrait of Ed Gein, the Plainfield Butcher (2/2)