Just a Boy and his Mother: Ed Gein

Historically, it is the mom who is blamed when things go wrong with her son. Perhaps it is because the devotion of a mom is perceived to be the most primitive of bonds. If a child goes astray it must be a lack of discipline or love at home. The accepted belief today is that a combination of biological predisposition and lack of support at home that cause maladaptive relationships. However, it is still commonly accepted that a boy’s most powerful influence in his attitudes towards women, is his relationship with his mother.

Although Ed Gein was not technically considered a serial killer, he is notable because his story inspired the moviesPsycho and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The police in Plainfield, Wisconsin had no idea what was in store when they began to search Gein’s home in search of a missing woman, Bernice Worden. Not only did they find the butchered body of Worden, there was an entire house filled with various body parts. Gein had created several masks and reupholstered furniture with human skin. In the kitchen, there were bowls made from human skulls. As police searched each room it seemed that the gruesome discoveries would never end. When police reached a door that had been sealed shut, the anticipation was excruciating. Inside was the bedroom of Gein’s mother, completely untouched. It has been kept as a shrine after her passing.

When researching this case, it is easy to focus on the outlandish discoveries made in the home. Many report that it was the abnormal relationship with his mother that was the cause of Ed’s behavior. Augusta Gein is described as an overbearing, strictly religious person. She often lectured her sons on the evils and temptations of the world. Ed’s father was an abusive alcoholic who would often fight with Augusta. Because Ed Gein was socially isolated, his bond with his mother was his entire world.

According to Gein, after the death of his mother, he began to dig up bodies of middle aged woman. He created a suit of skin. This in someway allowed him to feel closer to his deceased mother. Eventually, Ed graduated to murder and admitted to killing two women. Ed Gein was diagnosed as schizophrenic and remained in a psychiatric facility for the remainder of his life.

It’s my opinion that Augusta Gein was disproportionately blamed for her son’s behavior. She was a woman who acted as the head of the household in a time when this was out of the ordinary. Augusta ran a business and tried to educate her son’s in a way she felt was morally responsible. Perhaps this did contribute to the disturbing thoughts and attitudes of her son, however, the schizophrenia was the determining factor in my opinion. I was also impressed while researching the case, the lack of information about Ed Gein’s father. His emotional “absence” is surely just as big a factor as Augusta’s domineering ways.

Ted Bundy

It all began in 1989. I was a “tween” before the phrase was coined. The evening news was broadcasting a tailgating atmosphere outside the execution of Ted Bundy. Bystanders held signs and cheered waiting for the moment to arrive.

Of course I had no idea of the atrocities he had committed. I was just upset by the behavior of the crowd. It was shameful, I thought. That’s when my mom decided it would be a good idea to let me in on the story of Ted Bundy.

A few years later she gave me a copy of Ann Rule’s popular book, “Stranger Beside Me”. Needless to say, I read that book within the next 24 hours. For a week I was terrified to even walk to the bathroom at night. I lay awake just replaying the scenes in my head. What had happened to Ted Bundy that created the monster he became? Was he just born evil or were there circumstances that set him on his destructive path? More importantly, how could I stop this from happening again ?

The Evolution of the Unimommer

After my introduction to the true crime genre, I was hooked. I read anything I could find related to serial killers and their victims. John Wayne Gacy, the Gainesville Ripper and the Green River Killer haunted my mind. What drove these people and how did they hide in plain sight from the rest of us?

This of course led to an interest in psychology. Child development to be exact. Back in those days, people believed that who you would become was determined by the time you were five-years-old. I began studying theories of attachment, temperament and development and eventually settled into a career as an Early Childhood Educator.(Logically) Of particular interest to me was Carl Jung’s idea of the shadow. The idea is that we all have a darker side which we repress in order to conform to societal expectations. With very young children the shadow is not so far in the dark. They are impulsive and self-centered and often do not attempt to hide these traits. I tend to believe that serial killers are just people who have not properly integrated their “shadow” .

After having my own children, I was keenly aware of my role in socializing them in a way that would integrate their ” shadow” in a healthy way. I began developing my own “parenting manifesto” and developed a paranoid attitude towards the outside forces which could influence my children into the darkness. In a sense I became isolated in my own cabin in the woods.

Eventually, I realized that isolating myself was not the answer. How could my children learn to socialize appropriately if they were not exposed to others? We are currently happy and healthy and enjoy time with friends and family. However, after filling my head with all the true crime I could find, the Unimommer is still there.