Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Necrophiles

A True Necrophile

Ed apparently just loved bodies. He was a true necrophile (also called a necrophiliac). Body parts excited him and he had no trouble having them in his home, no matter what their state of decomposition. From the bodies he dug up, he cut off the heads and shrank them, putting some on his bedposts. He also formed lampshades from the skin. Storing the organs in the refrigerator, and possibly cooking them, he made things like soup bowls out of the bones for his own use. Sometimes he had sexual contact with these bodies (though he denied it), and eventually he just went ahead and dug up his own mother. Rather than get a sex-change operation, he simply made himself a female body suit and mask out of the skin, and he would wear this outfit to dance around outside. Sometimes he even donned it to dig up a grave.

Finally, when it was clear that the skin would harden and crack, he decided to get bodies that were more pliable. That meant someone really fresh. In 1954, Gein shot a woman, Mary Hogan, who resembled his mother in size and brought her to his farm. No one suspected a thing. Three years later, he did it again to Bernice Worden, and this time the police decided to have a look.

What they found was a house of horror. Inside, they discovered numerous body parts: four noses, several bone fragments, nine death masks, a heart in a pan on the stove, a bowl made from a skull, ten female heads with the tops sawn off, human skin covering several chair seats, pieces of salted genitalia in a box, skulls on his bedposts, organs in the refrigerator, a pair of lips on a string, and much more. It was estimated that he had mutilated some fifteen women and kept their remains around him.

Policeman in Ed Gein's kitchen
Policeman in Ed Gein's kitchen

In the barn they found the corpse of Bernice Worden, hung from the ceiling feet first. She was headless and slit from her genitals to her neck, gutted and with her legs splayed wide apart. Her head was found beneath a mattress inside the house with nails in her ears.

At his disposition hearing (since he was judged incompetent to stand trial), Ed Gein was found to be insane. He seemed not to be aware that what he had done was wrong, and he died in 1984 at the age of 78 in a psychiatric institution. Since he never had actually hunted for deer, neighbors wondered what had been in the packages of fresh venison that he'd so generously brought them.

While Gein fails to display the compulsive lust characteristic of many necrophiles, he does represent the type of person who enjoys the company of the dead, sexually-speaking, as did the pair of killers we'll look at next.

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