Copyright 2019 by Gary L. Pullman
After his father's death, Ed Gein (1906-1984) was reared by his mother, a religious fanatic with twisted ideas about sex in particular and about life in general. He was unable to function on his own, and after his brother's death (as a result, some claim, of Ed's having murdered him) and his mother's demise, as a result of natural causes, Ed was left alone on the family farm outside Plainfield, Wisconsin. A man without friends, he occasionally babysat for a neighbor, but, otherwise, didn't much interact with the community.
Left alone, he read stories about the Nazis' atrocities and became interested in cross-dressing. Some believe he attempted to bring his mother back by dressing in women's clothes and adopting her personality. To improve on his female mimicry, he added a “torso vest” made from the skinned abdomen, including the breasts, he removed from a female cadaver he'd dug up from a local or nearby cemetery.
Ed also upholstered chairs in human skin, and he made a curtain pull featuring female lips; a lampshade of human skin; a belt decorated with female nipples; masks cut from women's faces; wall hangings of women's skin, breasts, and severed fingers; dresses made of women's skins; an apron made of female breasts and women's faces; and a pair of gloves made from women's skins. He collected women's ears and noses as well.
Charged with first-degree murder in the death of shopkeeper Bernice Worden, Ed pleaded not guilty and was found “mentally incompetent to stand trial” as a result of schizophrenia. He was confined in the Wisconsin Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Waupun, Wisconsin. He was later transferred to the Mendota State Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, where he died. Although he was tried only for Worden's death, Gein also admitted to having murdered tavern owner Mary Hogan.
Ed Gein inspired Norman Bates, of both Robert Bloch's 1959 novel Psycho and the 1961 movie of the same name, directed by Alfred Hitchcock; Leatherface, of the 1974 movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, directed by Tobe Hooper; Buffalo Bill, of the 1988 Thomas Harris novel The Silence of the Lambs and the eponymous1991 film, directed by Jonathan Demme; and Dr. Oliver Thredson of the television series American Horror Story: Asylum.
There's no doubt about it: Ed was a genuinely creepy guy. In fact, he was so disturbing that, to cope with the revelation of his monstrous crimes, the American public invented Ed Gein jokes of the morbid, gallows humor variety. As the Wikipedia article on this type of humor points out, it is used to make “light of subject matter that is generally considered taboo, particularly subjects that are normally considered serious or painful to discuss.” Ed's deeds certainly qualify as such a topic.
A few Ed Gein jokes can be found on the Internet. Here are a few from the Imgur website:
- What did Ed Gein say as the hearse passed by? “Dig you later, baby!”
- What did Ed Gein say to the sheriff who arrested him? “Have a heart.”
- Ed Gein [was] popular with the ladies. There were always women hanging around his place.
- Why do they let Ed Gein out on New Year's Day? So he can dig up a fresh date.
- Customer: “Bartender, give me a Gein beer.” Bartender: “It has lots of body but no head.”
- Have you heard the Defense Department has called on Ed Gein? They want him to ship arms to Vietnam.
Among others, the Tripod website offers these gems:
- Why did Ed Gein's girlfriend stop going out with him? Because he was such a cut-up.
Why won't anyone play poker with Ed Gein?
He might come up with a good hand.
- Ed Gein liked to keep abreast of things
- Ed Gein always put his best foot forward.
- Ed Gein had a grave disposition.
- At bake sales, Ed Gein's pastries didn't sell well: people feared there'd be a finger in every pie.
- As a house guest, Ed Gein expected to be waited on hand and foot.
- Ed Gein was barred from the theater after he took Mark Antony's plea to “lend me your ears” literally.
While it must be admitted that Ed Gein jokes tend to be corny (and a bit juvenile), except my own, of course, we can see how they might help people cope with the astonishingly bizarre, heinous deeds of the insane killer from Plainfield.