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.

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