WHEN police raided Ed Gein’s remote farmhouse in search of a missing shop owner, they could never have imagined the horrors they were about to uncover.
As well as the body of Bernice Worden – decapitated, strung up and gutted “like a deer” – they discovered a hoard of macabre keepsakes, from bowls made from human skulls to a belt made from female nipples and a lampshade covered with a face.
Gein – from Plainfield, Wisconsin – had also used the skins of various women to stitch a suit, which he told police he wanted to climb inside to “become” his dead mother.
On his arrest in 1957 Gein – known as the Butcher of Plainfield – admitted to the murders of Bernice and local bar owner Mary Hogan, who had disappeared three years before, as well as digging up female corpses from the local cemetery to use their body parts in his gruesome trophies.
His sick crimes inspired numerous horror characters including Psycho’s Norman Bates – who keeps the corpse of his mother at home – Leatherface in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the Silence of the Lambs serial killer Buffalo Bill.
But they have also haunted the quiet town of Plainfield, with a population of around 900, where some have reported hearing disembodied voices, seeing shadowy figures and even being attacked by an unseen spirit.
In the new Discovery channel documentary, the Real Psycho, psychic investigator Steve Shippy and medium Cindy Kaza visit the town to look into the reports of paranormal activity.
Using specialised equipment the pair visit the site of Gein’s now demolished house and the cemetery where his family and his victims are buried and even meet a man who claims his animals and family members died after he bought a knife belonging to the killer.
Local historian Dave Bignell tells Steve: “People think this area is haunted. They see shadows where they shoudn’t be. They hear screaming and wailing, mostly female.”
Dominated by abusive mother
Ed and his older brother Henry grew up with an alcoholic father and a domineering mother who regularly beat them, punished them for making friends and refused to let them leave the farm unless it was for school.
Fanatically religious, Augusta Gein preached lessons from the Bible and told the boys that the world was evil and all women were prostitutes.
After their father’s death, in 1940, the two men took over the running of the farm but Henry, who was dating a local woman, became increasingly worried about Ed’s closeness to his mother, and would mock him about their intense relationship.
In 1944, Ed reported his brother missing after a fire on the farm and Henry was later found face down, apparently dead from inhaling smoke.
But a subsequent investigation found he had died before the fire and had bruises on his head and, while some suspected Ed had killed him, no charges were brought due to lack of evidence.
A year after Henry’s death, Augusta died from a devastating stroke leaving Ed, who had been her carer in her later years, alone in the farmhouse.
Stricken with grief, he boarded up every room that had been used by his mother and instead moved into a single bedroom beside the kitchen, which soon became cluttered and filthy.
Chairs upholstered with skin and lips used as blind cord
Although locals described him as “odd”, most felt he was harmless – until November 1957, when hardware store owner Bernice Worden disappeared.
At the store, Bernice’s son Frank, Plainfield’s deputy sheriff, discovered the cash register open and bloodstains on the floor.
He told investigators Ed Gein had been in the store the night before, and had said he would come back the following day for a gallon of antifreeze.
Bernice’s till showed the last sale was antifreeze – and police headed to Gein’s farm to search the house.
What they uncovered was a true house of horrors – with human skin and body parts employed in almost every aspect of daily life.
The bowls were made from human skulls, utensils from bones and chairs were upholstered with human skin.
A wastepaper basket was covered in skin, a lampshade was made from a human face, a belt from nipples and a corset made from a human torso.
A pair of lips was even being used as a drawstring for a window shade.
Police also found various dismembered body parts including fingernails and ears, four noses, the genitals of nine different women and masks made from faces.
In the barn, 57-year-old Bernice Worden – who had been shot dead at the store – had been hung from the rafters, upside down, and sliced open.
Her head was found in a sack and her heart was hanging in a plastic bag near the stove.
The face of Mary Hogan – the bar owner who had disappeared three years earlier – was also found.
After his arrest, Ed Gein admitted the murders of Bernice and Mary and told police the other bodies, which numbered between ten and 40, had been dug up from the graveyard.
Initially ruled mentally unfit to stand trial, the killer was tried in 1968, 11 years after his arrest, where he was declared criminally insane at his trial and ordered to spend the rest of his life in a secure mental hospital.
He died at the Mendota Mental Health Institute at the age of 77 on July 26, 1984.
Cursed knife and voices from the grave
Six decades after the horrific events, some locals believe the killer’s spirit is still haunting Plainfield.
In The Real Psycho, local psychic Michelle Butler tells Steve Shippy she was attacked by an unseen presence in Waushara county jail, where Gein was held.
“I could hear him say Edward,” she says. “I felt a sensation on the back of my neck, a burning sensation from the right to left, like I was being scratched.”
Another local, named as Tom, bought a knife and another tool believed to have been used by Gein at auction and claims it brought tragedy to his home.
He claims that shortly after storing them in the garage he began to see a “tall, skinny shadow” moving around his garden.
“The birds started getting sick and dying, two a day, and then the rest of my animals died, my mum died, my dad died on father’s day and my wife died the following Christmas,” he says.
He added the objects were “most definitely” to blame – although he offers no explanation of why he kept them.
In creepy scenes at the jail and the former hardware store, Cindy and Steve use ghost-busting gadgets to measure activity and appear to capture the voice of Ed and his mother, Augusta.
In the woods surrounding the farmhouse site they use a Mel Metre – which measures electromagnetic fields and temperature changes – and claim to see a figure touching the knife.
Cindy says she feels Gein committed the sick crimes to please his mother, adding: “I feel his mother everywhere. I hear screams.”
Touching the ground, she says: “I just keep seeing blood, throats being slit and blood pouring out.
“I feel there are bodies buried there, and pieces of remains spread out on this land.”
Cindy claims she can hear screams and sees a woman – who she believes is Mary Hogan – standing in the woods.
Speaking through a GeoPort, a device used as a portal to the spirit world, a female voice is apparently heard ordering them to “be gone”, and calling Ed “possessed”. They also hear the woman, who they believe is Augusta, saying “put on the suit” and “demon.”
Cindy believes Augusta was the reason for Ed’s crimes.
“His mother will never let him have a voice or thought of his own,” she says. “It was always from her.
“She’s evil and, as a young child, I’m sad for him because I don’t think he was born this way. I feel like she created a monster.”
The pair eventually flee the wood in terror, with Steve concluding the killer and his mum were still roaming the whole town.
“Plainfield is definitely haunted,” he says. “I believe Ed, Augusta and possibly Ed’s victim Mary are still present in this community. Plainfield, Wisconsin will always be known for Ed Gein’s heinous crimes.”
Ed Gein: The Real Psycho airs on Discovery on April 9
View more information: https://www.the-sun.com/news/2646381/real-psycho-ed-gein-murder-human-skin/