Inside the mind of Ed Gein: How did this murderer inspire so many movies?
The infamy of Ed Gein remains shocking not because of his murders – but due to his use of human remains. The disturbing case of murderer Ed Gein has inspired numerous horror films and serial killer characters within the genre. From Leatherface to Norman Bates, there are dozens of characters who were based on the “Butcher of Plainfield”.
Edward Theodore Gein passed away on July 26th, 1984, yet his madness stays embedded in the minds of all who’ve heard of his crimes. Let’s take a look at how the unsettling case of the murderer Ed Gein, which took place deep within Wisconsin, inspired the twisted minds of slasher horror filmmakers.
Ed Gein’s murders & mutilations
It was the disappearance of hardware store owner Bernice Worden that led to the arrest of Ed Gein. The deputy sheriff, Frank Worden, was also the son of the missing Wisconsin woman. After searching through her store, Frank discovered the register open and blood on the floor. The last remaining receipt was for a gallon of antifreeze sold to Gein.
That same day, Gein was arrested at a grocery store in Plainfield, Wisconsin and the authorities began to search his farm property. What they discovered would become the legendary nightmare fuelling the horror genre for decades to come.
In a shed on Gein’s property, a deputy discovered the decapitated body of Bernice Worden hanging upside down. The authorities say that her torso was “dressed out like a deer”. As the police continued to search Ed Gein’s home, they would painfully witness what was done with the missing remains of Bernice Worden.
As if flaunting his latest hunting trophies, the bodily remains of Ed Gein’s victims were spread throughout the home. The authorities discovered the following: human skulls on Gein’s bedposts, sofa cushions made from human skin, a corset made from a female torso, lampshades made from the skin of human faces, multiple masks made of human faces, and the entire head of Bernice Worden in a burlap sack.
The list goes on & on. However, Ed Gein had murdered only two victims: Bernice Worden & Mary Hogan. The rest of the human remains were stolen from new gravesites. The murderer would go in the dead of night to dig up the remains of newly deceased middle-aged women, who he believed resembled his mother.
The inspiration for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
After learning of Ed Gein’s crimes it’s easy to see the similarities made within Tobe Hooper’s 1974 iconic film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The terrifying character of Leatherface was inspired by the masks made of human faces and skin created by Ed Gein. Additionally, the twisted family’s home is filled with human bones & skin-lined furniture similar to the interior of Gein’s property.
However, the actual use of a chainsaw-wielding maniac was an original concept created by Hooper which was not inspired by the murders of Ed Gein. In reality, Gein had shot his victims with a rifle before mutilating their bodies. While in Hooper’s film, Leatherface would sometimes mutilate his victims alive on his butcher hooks.
Tobe Hooper claimed he created the legendary use of a chainsaw while being stuck in a crowded hardware store. When he noticed the chainsaws for sale, he imagined that this method would be the most successful in minimizing the crowd.
Strangely enough, the origins of the chainsaw are almost as gruesome as their fictional depiction in this classic movie. The original use of a chainsaw was for helping women in childbirth. If a woman was having trouble delivering her baby, out came the chainsaw. And while the first chainsaws were not motorized as they are today, but rather used a hand crank, doctors nonetheless caused significant harm and distress to the unlucky patients that underwent the procedure.
Other films inspired by the murderer Ed Gein
There are countless horror films which were inspired by the Wisconsin serial killer. Most obvious are the characters of Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs and Norman Bates in Psycho. Buffalo Bill’s character targets overweight women in order to create his female skin suit which he wears in the film.
On the other hand, Norman Bates has a similar obsession with his mother which was seen in the case of Ed Gein. Bates dresses as his mother and even mimics her voice and tone in order to fulfill the illusion that she is still alive.
Less obvious is the character of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. It’s hard to imagine the suave, lady-killer Bateman as inspired by the small-town serial killer. However, although factually incorrect, Bateman quotes Ed Gein in the film. Bateman says, “You know what Ed Gein said about women? . . . He said ‘When I see a pretty girl walking down the street, I think two things.’
‘One part of me wants to take her out, talk to her, be real nice and sweet and treat her right … [the other part wonders] what her head would look like on a stick’.” If that isn’t an homage, then we don’t know what is.
Have you heard of the horrific case of Ed Gein before? Who is your favorite horror movie murderer? Let us know in the comments below!