Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Eddie Gein

Media Frenzy

When investigators revealed the facts about what was found on Eddie Gein's farm, the news quickly spread. Reporters from all over the world flocked to the small town of Plainfield, Wisconsin. The town became known worldwide and Eddy Gein reached celebrity-like status. People were repulsed, yet at the same time drawn to the atrocities that took place on Eddie Gein's farm.

Psychologists from all over the world attempted to find out what made Eddie tick. During the 1950's, he gained notoriety as being one of the most famous of documented cases involving a combination of necrophilia, transvestism and fetishism. Even children who knew of the exploits of Eddie began to sing songs about him and make jokes in an effort to, as Harold Schechter suggests in his book Deviant, "exorcise the nightmare with laughter." These distasteful jokes became known as "Geiner's" and were quick to become popular around the world.

Back in Plainfield, residents endured the onslaught of reporters who disrupted their daily life by bombarding them with questions about Eddie. However, many of them eventually became involved in the mania surrounding Eddie and contributed what information they had. Plainfield was now known to the world as the home of infamous Eddie Gein.

Eddie Gein in court
Eddie Gein in court

Most residents who knew Eddie had only good things to say about him, other than that he was a little peculiar, had a quirky grin and a strange sense of humor. They never suspected him of being capable of committing such ghastly crimes. But the truth was hard to escape. The little shy, quiet man the town thought they knew, was in fact, a murderer who also violated the graves of friends and relatives.

After Gein spent a period of 30 days in a mental institution and was evaluated as mentally incompetent, he could no longer be tried for first degree murder. The people of Plainfield immediately voiced their anger that Eddie would not be tried for the death of Bernice Worden. Yet, there was little the community could do to influence the court's decision. Eddie was committed to the Central State Hospital in Waupun, Wisconsin. Soon after Eddie was sentenced to the mental institution, his farm went up for auction along with some of his other belongings.
Thousands of curiosity seekers diverged on the small town to see what possessions of Eddie's would be auctioned. Some of the things to be auctioned off were his car, furniture and musical instruments. The company that handled the business of selling Eddie's goods planned to charge a fee of 50 cents to look at Eddie's property. The citizens of Plainfield were outraged. They believed Eddie's home was quickly becoming a "museum for the morbid" and the town demanded something be done to put it to an end. Although the company was later forbidden to charge an entrance fee to the auction, residents were still not satisfied.

Eddie Gein's farmhouse
Eddie Gein's farmhouse

In the early morning of March 20, 1958 the Plainfield volunteer fire department was called to Eddie's farm. Gein's house was on fire. The house quickly burned to the ground, as onlookers watched in silent relief. Police believed that an arsonist was responsible for the blaze because there were no electrical wiring problems with the house. Although police carried out a thorough investigation, no suspect was ever found.

When Eddie learned of the destruction to his house he simply said, "Just as well."

Although the fire destroyed most of Eddie's belongings, there were still many things that were salvaged. What was left of Eddie's possessions would still be auctioned off, including farm equipment and his car. Eddie's 1949 Ford sedan, which was used to haul dead bodies, caused a bidding war and was eventually sold for $760. The man who purchased the car later put it on display at a county fair, where thousands paid a quarter to get a peek at the Gein "ghoul car." It seemed to the people of Plainfield that the public's fascination with Eddie would never end.

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