The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, Silence of the Lambs. These stories all share a common thread of DNA based on real-life events. While they differ somewhat in tone, there are similarities within the subject matter of these books and films. What connects them all is one man: Ed Gein. Think you know about Ed Gein from what’s depicted in these films? Think again, because these stories only hit the tip of the iceberg behind the truth. Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original Psycho by Harold Schechter covers the life of one the most notorious killers in history, and until you’ve read it, you haven’t seen anything yet.
The fictional properties that use Gein as character inspiration only use the highly sensational parts of the true story. The reality is most of Gein’s crimes are so heinous and grotesque that using all of the details would make the story less believable. On record, Gein allegedly killed two people but was only tried for one murder, that of Bernice Worden. Upon searching Gein’s house, the police discovered furniture covered in human skin, masks made from the flesh of graves he robbed, nine vulva hidden in a shoebox, a belt constructed of human nipples, a lampshade made from a human face, various bones and flesh scraps throughout the house, and skulls that were mounted on the bedposts. Gein had constructed a full torso made from parts he dug out of the local cemetery for a women’s body suit that he wore at night.
The quiet and shy man from Plainfield, Wisconsin grew up in a terrible environment, raised by a fervently religious woman and was taught from an early age that all women, except his mother, were instruments of the devil. His brother died early on, and for a short period during the investigation the police were looking at the death as foul play. After Gein’s mother passed away, he slid into a very secluded and reclusive lifestyle, boarding up her room in the house to leave it as she left it, while letting the rest of the home fall into disarray.
Though he was only tried for one murder, and found guilty by reason of insanity, Gein did confess to another murder, though was never tried on it. He was confined to a mental institution for the rest of his life and died 26 July 1984 of respiratory failure from lung cancer. Schechter’s book provides much insight and detail into Gein’s life beyond his crimes and lurid graverobbing sprees, leaving the reader with the feeling that his life was much more sad and desperate than the chilling accounts of his deeds would lead one to believe. Gein’s horrid crimes continue to provide the backbone of many fictional characters, though most never capture the real person, and just how tortured his life was. Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original Psycho by Harold Schechter is about as close as you’ll ever get to the real story, and it’s more harrowing than you could ever comprehend.
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