Please note that the subject matter covered in this article may be disturbing to readers.
Sometimes in cinema, the lines between fact and fiction are blurred, most often true facts are distorted and enhanced for dramatic effect. Every now and then a story comes along that inspires film makers to enhance certain elements and omit others because of the sheer volume of horrifying subject matter. This is the case with a lonely handyman who lived in a farm house in Madison County, Wisconsin.
Ed Gein and his house of horrors was the origin of nightmares and inspired three of the most horrifying characters in cinematic history; Norman Bates from Psycho, Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs and Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the inspiration that Geins provided to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film, Psycho.
Ed Gein loved his mother and was devoted to her health and happiness, she was a strict catholic woman who instilled the fear of god and the hatred of women into her son by preaching to him from the bible, often selecting verses from the Old Testament concerning death, murder and divine retribution. After she passed away in 1945, Gein was left alone in the world that his mother taught him to fear. He often saw women in town whom he found attractive, which confused him as his mother taught him that giving in to the needs of the flesh was the worst sin that he could commit.
After the disappearance of a local woman, Bernice Worden, the police were lead to Gein’s old farmhouse where they saw unthinkable horrors throughout the large home, but when they entered Gein’s mother’s old room it was kept in prestine condition with a layer of dust coating the neat, decorated bedroom. Her bedroom had become Gein’s way of immortalizing her, building a shrine to keep her close to him forever.
The story of Norman Bates outlines a single aspect of Ed Gein’s murderous pass times, his obsession with his mother and hatred of adulterous activities. Both Bates and Gein were close to their mothers and learned from them a disposition against
women, especially ones who they found attractive. In an interview with his therapist in the mental hospital where he was incarcerated after being found mentally unfit to stand trial, Gein said: “When I see a beautiful woman I think to myself, ‘she is beautiful, I wonder what her head would look like on a stick”. This perfectly sums up the effect that his mother had on him and the mentality of the fictional Norman Bates.