The Plainfield Ghoul

The Plainfield Ghoul

Katie Gary

Edward Theodor Gein was born on August 27, 1906, in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Edward Gein had an alcoholic father and a fanatically religious mother. Gein grew up alongside his older brother, Henry, in a household ruled by their mother’s puritanical preachings about the sins of lust and carnal desire. 

Around 1915, his mother moved the family to a farm outside Plainfield, Wisconsin. After his father died in 1940, both brothers began working odd jobs to support the family. In 1944, the brothers were burning brush on the property when the fire raged out of control. Henry was found dead, and although it was initially believed to be the result of the fire, the circumstances surrounding his death, as well as Gein’s later activities, led to rumors that the younger brother was responsible. 

The monster came out when Gein started to obsessively devote his time to his mother. Gein never left home or dated women. However, after she died in late 1945, he became increasingly deranged. Now living alone, he left her room near and untouched, while the rest of the home fell into squalor, and he developed an interest in anatomy books. 

Gein managed to support himself as a handyman and despite his odd behavior as a babysitter. Meanwhile, a few residents from the general area mysteriously disappeared over the years. Among them was Mary Hogan, who ran a tavern in nearby Pine Grove that Gein frequently attended. 

On November 16, 1957, Bernice Worden was reported missing from her hardware store in Plainfield, with the cash register gone and a trail of blood leading out the back. Her son Frank, a deputy sheriff, was suspicious of Gein, and the reclusive man was soon apprehended at a neighbor’s house. 

The authorities sent to Gein’s home that night were greeted by the gruesome sight of Worden’s headless, gutted body hanging from the ceiling. Further investigation yielded more shocking discoveries, including organs in jars and skulls as soup bowls. 

Under questioning, Gein confessed to killing Worden and Hogan, three years earlier. Additionally, he admitted to digging up numerous corpses for cutting off body parts, practicing necrophilia and fashioning masks and suits out of skin to wear around the home. With that sort of evidence, authorities attempted to connect him to other murders and disappearances from recent years but were unable to draw any definitive conclusions. 

Gein’s lawyer, Wiliam Belter, entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and in January 1958, Gein was found unfit to stand trial. He was committed to Central State Hospital, where he variously worked as a mason, carpenter’s assistant, and medical center aide. 

In early 1968, Gein was determined fit to finally stand trial. That November, he was found guilty of the murder of Worden. However, he was also found insane at the time of the murder, and as such he was recommitted to Central State Hospital. 

Save for his attempt to petition for a release in 1974 which was rejected, the mild-mannered Gein made virtually no news while institutionalized. Later that decade, his health started failing, and he was transferred to Mendota Mental Health Institute, where he died of cancer and respiratory illnesses on July 26, 1984.