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Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original Psycho Paperback – October 1, 1998

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Editorial Reviews Review

Harold Schechter is a historian: he takes old files and yellowed newspaper clippings, and brings their stories to life. Deviant is about everyone's favorite ghoul, Ed Gein--whose crimes inspired the writers of Psycho, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Silence of the Lambs. Schechter deftly evokes the small-town 1950s Wisconsin setting--not pretty farms and cheese factories, but infertile soil and a bleak, hardscrabble existence. The details of Gein's "death house" are perhaps well known by now, but the murderer's quietly crazy, almost gentle personality comes forth in this book as never before. As Gary Kadet wrote, in The Boston Book Review, "Schechter is a dogged researcher [who backs up] every bizarre detail and curious twist in this and his other books ... More importantly, he nimbly avoids miring his writing and our reading with minutiae or researched overstatement, which means that although he can occasionally be dry, he is never boring."
Also recommended: Schechter's books about Albert Fish (Deranged) and Herman Mudgett a.k.a. Dr. H. H. Holmes (Depraved). --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Top-drawer true crime." -- "Booklist"

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books; Reprint edition (October 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671025465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671025465
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.7 x 22.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (136 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Harold Schechter is an American true crime writer who specializes in serial killers. He attended the State University of New York in Buffalo where his PhD director was Leslie Fiedler. He is professor of American literature and popular culture at Queens College of the City University of New York.Schechter is married to poet Kimiko Hahn. He has two daughters from a previous marriage: the writer Lauren Oliver and professor of philosophy Elizabeth Schechter. His newest book, The Mad Sculptor, (about a sensational triple murder at Beekman Place in New York City in 1937) will be published in February 2014.


"Ambitious, bold, and evocative, Schechter's storytelling grabs the reader in a similar manner to Capote's searing In Cold Blood." --Publishers Weekly

"Perfect for readers who enjoy the stories of the sensationalistic press of the 1930s and its crass exploitation of the details of horrific murders." - Kirkus

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

99 of 103 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on December 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
In the autumn of 1957, the nation learned of a nightmare unfolding in the little rural town of Plainfield, Wisconsin. A local recluse and simpleton by the name of Edward Gein murdered Bernice Worden, the owner of the local hardware store. A murder, even in 1950's America, wouldn't grab the attention of most folks, but this crime did. Local police searching Gein's farmhouse uncovered a soul shattering house of horrors. Not only did they find murder victim Worden in the most degrading condition, the police also discovered pieces of human bodies inside the house. Gein had fashioned soup bowls out of human skulls, masks out of human faces, and furniture out of human flesh. Every hour spent in the farmhouse turned up even more horrors, enough to make even the most hardened cop sick to his stomach. As the official inquiry deepened, America learned that a human monster lived in the most unlikely of settings, a man who embodied virtually every ghastly psychopathology known to modern science. The name Eddie Gein became synonymous with evil and he quickly became part of the dark side of American pop culture. Author Harold Schechter, a professor of American culture at Queens College, decided to write a factual account of the horrendous crimes of Edward Gein in an effort to finally set the record straight about one of America's premier boogeymen. "Deviant" is the result.
The author adroitly sums up Gein's family tree in a few pages. Despite what must have been a scarcity of information, Schecter reveals Ed's father as an orphan who went on to a successful career as an alcoholic and pest. The only thing Gein's father accomplished in life was his marriage to Augusta, Eddie's mother and an all around terror.
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48 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Lawyeraau HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a well-researched book about Ed Gein, the mild mannered, Midwestern psychopath from Plainfield, Wisconsin who, in the nineteen fifties, would shock the nation with his gruesome crimes. Ed Gein would become the basis for the best selling book by Robert Bloch, "Psycho", as well as for the Hitchcock film of the same name. Accounts of Ed Gein's heinous crimes would also enter the consciousness of a young Tobe Hooper who, as an adult, would write and direct the classic cult film, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre".
The author writes a cogent, factual account of the life of Ed Gein and the grisly crimes that shocked the nation at the time of their discovery. It details the hold that Ed's domineering mother had on him, a hold that would manifest itself in unimaginable ways. It is almost hard to believe that this small, inoffensive man could be such a madman, but who but a madman would do what he did? Ed Gein, it was discovered, had turned his small farmhouse into a gruesome charnel house, replete with furnishings adorned with human flesh and bones.
Aficionados of true crime will find this book fascinating, as it is a well-written account of one of the most horrifying and bizarre series of crimes ever to be committed. Eight pages of photographs are included in the book and serve to provide the reader with a brief, visual glimpse into the life of Ed Gein, a man with a secret hobby so depraved that it would shock the entire nation when it came to light. Lovers of true crime accounts will be fascinated by this well researched foray into the life of a seemingly innocuous man from America's heartland who ended up being so deviant from the norm.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By JMack VINE VOICE on August 23, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Edward Gein, pronounced Geen, is often credited as the a forefather of America's fascination with serial killers. Because Gein is credited as being the inspiration for such films as Psycho and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, many misconceptions exist about him. Harold Schechter sets the record straight in Deviant.

Schechter begins the story in Gein's bizarre childhood which is noteworthy because of his lazy and abusive father and dominating mother. It is his dominating mother that had the greatest influence on him. She taught him that women were evil. His mother's death left a void in his life that left him longing for her and the saintly image he placed on her. This led Gein to punish women less worthy than his mother to live by killing them. Gein only admitted to killing two people. The body parts that were scattered over his property would indicate more victims. Additionally, Gein believes he has the power to will his mother back to life. While he is unable to bring his mother back from the grave, he does remove many with similarities to his mother from their graves. When Gein's crimes were discovered, little known Plainfield, Wisconsin was forever changed into a tourist attraction for gapers.

Although Gein died largely anonymously in a mental health facility, the stories of his house of horrors prospered. While his story is often obscured in films and other books, Schechter sets the record straight. This is a thoroughly researched, commendable book. It is the best book available on Edward Gein
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Seti on July 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
I found this book to be extremely well-written and informative. The details of Gein's family history and of his crimes are fairly well covered in the true-crime books that make reference to him, but the aftermath is usually not examined very closely - and this book fills in the blanks, describing not only what led up to Gein's arrest, but also the whole media madness that ensued afterwards. The way Eddie was catapulted to "stardom" literally overnight was astonishing - an estimated 4,000 cars filed past Gein's farm on a single weekend after the news of his deeds had spread throughout the nation, and his story was on the front pages of "Life" and "Time" magazines, as well as just about every major newspaper.
The details of Eddie's confessions and the quotes from psychiatric reports are very interesting as well. While it may be impossible to fully understand mental illness, this book makes an attempt to explore the workings of a demented mind.
(Note: this book has none of the usual gory photos; for these, see judge Gollmar's book.)
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