Edward “Ed” Gein (1906-1984), also known as the “Butcher of Plainfield,” murdered two women in the 1950s and stole bodies from the local graveyard in Plainfield, Wisconsin. His victims were Mary Hogan (killed in 1954) and Bernice Worden (1957).
Gein, a middle-aged farmer and handyman, claimed to have been in a “dazed” state when he murdered his victims and stole cadaver parts from the graveyard. Even so, when Worden’s body was discovered in November 1957, her decapitated corpse was hanging upside down by the heels, badly mutilated. A human heart was found in a pot on the stove, leading investigators to suspect cannibalism.
Among the stolen remnants of the fourteen cadavers found were ten heads, which had been skinned and preserved as masks. Remains of Mary Hogan, who had been missing since 1954, were also found, and Gein later confessed to killing her. In addition to the masks, other items in Gein’s home were also made from human skin, including a vest, chair upholstery, and belts, among others. Gein’s two murders, numerous grave robberies, and creation of clothing from human skin were said to be motivated by his desire to be a woman.
Gein was initially found unfit for trial. However, in 1968 he was convicted of the murder of Bernice Worden but found not guilty by reason of insanity. He spent the rest of his life in a mental institution and died in 1984.
Psycho (1960) and Silence of the Lambs (1991) are just two of the many films inspired by Gein’s life.
Learn more about the Ed Gein Murders through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.