Real World Buffalo Bill

Iconic classic movies; Silence of the Lambs, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Psycho, all have one thing in common: they were modelled after killer Edward Theodore Gein. Anyone who knows the stories will be aware of how disturbing they are, but did you know that they were inspired by real events? These events took place in 1954 and 1957.


The Beginning…

After the death of their alcoholic father, Gein’s brother Henry became concerned about the unusual attachment that Gein had with their mother. Henry would speak ill of her when they were together, to which Gein responded with shock and hurt.

On a job together to burn marsh vegetation, the fire burned out of control. After responders extinguished the flames, he reported Henry as missing and a search ensued under lantern-light.  He was found face down and, unfortunately, had been dead for a while. There were bruises on his head, but he was otherwise unscathed and unburnt, so was determined accidental. However, it was suspected that Ed had something to do with his brother’s death, but no investigation or arrests were made.

Soon after the death of Henry, Gein’s mother suffered a paralyzing stroke and Gein devoted his life to caring for her. During a visit out to buy some straw for their farm, they witnessed a dog being beaten to death. Surprisingly it was not the beating that disturbed Gein’s mother, but the fact that a woman emerged from a house, to tell the man to stop. She believed it was wrong for the woman to have authority over the man. Soon after, she suffered a second stroke and her health deteriorated rapidly until her death. Gein was distraught upon his mother’s death and felt truly alone for the first time.

In 1954 the body of a woman, later identified as Mary Hogan, was discovered. The killer who was responsible wouldn’t be found for several years. During the next few years, Gein would often be seen making trips to and from local cemeteries, but his actions there would not come to light until his arrest.

The events of 1957…

On the morning of 6th November 1957, Bernice Worden had disappeared from her hardware store. Witnesses stated that her truck was driven from the back of the store that morning, presumably due to it being deer hunting season at the time. It was not until her son arrived at 5pm that they realised something was amiss. The son discovered blood stains and an open register. The last written receipt was for antifreeze and sold to Ed Gein, who was arrested later that evening. His property was searched, and Worden’s decapitated body was found hanging by the ankles in his shed and appeared to be ‘dressed like a deer’. Within the house, many items were found that were created from the bodies of the graves he robbed, including a skull that had been filled with wax to be repurposed into a decorative candle. Gein admitted only to the deaths of Hogan and Worden, despite being linked to many missing persons.

He was deemed fit to stand trial in 1968. At the request of the defence, he was tried in court without the presence of a jury for his crimes. He was found guilty of murder but during his second trial, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He described himself as being in a daze-like state whilst committing the grave robbing and other crimes. As a result, he was then institutionalised for the remainder of his life.


He died from respiratory failure due to complications of lung cancer in 1984. Although he is dead, through the influence his gruesome crimes has had on filmmakers and authors alike, his twisted legacy lives on.


By Becky Barnfather.


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