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Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original Psycho Paperback – October 1, 1998
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The truth behind the twisted crimes that inspired the films Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and The Silence of the Lambs...
From "America's principal chronicler of its greatest psychopathic killers" (The Boston Book Review) comes the definitive account of Ed Gein, a mild-mannered Wisconsin farmhand who stunned an unsuspecting nation -- and redefined the meaning of the word "psycho." The year was 1957. The place was an ordinary farmhouse in America's heartland, filled with extraordinary evidence of unthinkable depravity. The man behind the massacre was a slight, unassuming Midwesterner with a strange smile -- and even stranger attachment to his domineering mother. After her death and a failed attempt to dig up his mother's body from the local cemetery, Gein turned to other grave robberies and, ultimately, multiple murders. Driven to commit gruesome and bizarre acts beyond all imagining, Ed Gein remains one of the most deranged minds in the annals of American homicide. This is his story -- recounted in fascinating and chilling detail by Harold Schechter, one of the most acclaimed true-crime storytellers of our time.
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Born to George and Augusta Gein on August 27, 1906, Eddie's sad and pitiful life was doomed from the very beginning. His father was a raging alcoholic who beat him continually, and his mother was an extremely domineering religious fanatic who never showed him any compassion or love whatsoever.
Because of his mother's twisted teachings and beliefs about society: ESPECIALLY on the subject of women, Eddie became introverted, withdrawn and didn't understand how to interact with human beings. He was socially unaccepted and teased throughout his dismal and lonely youth. Even if he did manage to find someone willing to be his friend, his mother wouldn't allow it. Men were "filthy, vile creatures who only thought of sex", and women were wicked, soul snatching abominations. In essence, his mother was the only world he ever knew.
Now, for the good stuff! (And this was my favorite part of the book because it describes in great detail the events leading up to, and the discoveries made after his arrest.)
After she died, Eddie sealed off Augusta's room and made it a shrine. He let the house decay and lived in the most filthiest of conditions. Schechter takes us on a graphic and descriptive stroll through his home where hundreds of mice are running around empty food containers, decaying body parts, and endless amounts of other debris scattered all over the floor. We dine with Eddie and eat pork-and-beans from sawed off skull tops, and afterwards, we enjoy a quiet evening alone reading pulp fiction magazines about cannibals, headhunters and Nazi sadism on a grease soaked mattress.
Eddie robbed graves at night. After digging one up, he would carry the carcass home and cut off the pieces he wanted and cremate the rest in his woodstove.
He killed Mary Hogan and Bernice Wordon because they resembled his mother.
After he killed Bernice Worden, he was arrested for her murder when the authorities found her decapitated corpse hanging upside down from the rafters in his kitchen shed. It had been gutted and dressed out like a deer (You can see the actual crime scene photos of it on the internet.)
Among the most interesting items collected as evidence were the following:
A cane chair with the seat woven from strips of human skin
Lampshades and bracelets made from human skin
A tom-tom with the head fashioned from human flesh
A hunting knife with the sheath made from human skin
A belt fashioned out of female nipples
A shade pull made with a pair of woman's lips
Several masks, faces peeled from their skulls, hanging on his bedroom wall
A shoebox filled with female genitalia
Mary Hogan's head wrapped in a paper bag and tossed in a corner
And the most shocking of all: a "mammary vest"; a female suit sewn from several large pieces of human skin which he would parade around in.
The book includes: media coverage, photos, criminal proceedings, and the sentencing of Eddie Gein to Central State hospital for the Criminally Insane.
Lastly, Ed Gein inspired author Robert Bloch to write "Psycho", which in turn, inspired Alfred Hitchcock to turn it into the cult movie classic. Throughout the years, other 'slice-and-dice' movies, such as, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", and the serial killer, "Buffalo Bill", in the ever famous "Silence of the Lambs", have all been based on the true acts of Eddie Gein.
Tactfully written, "Deviant" was every bit of repulsive and shocking as I had hoped it would be... I loved it!
It’s very well organised, firstly laying out the story of his parents and their relationship with each other. It then briefly covers the known portion of his childhood and adulthood, then on to the gruesome details of his crimes.
This is where the fiction of Psycho doesn’t come close to the horror of this true story. For whatever reason; mental illness, receptiveness to outside influences, evil – Eddie Gein dug up corpses and did unspeakable things to them (well, not literally unspeakable – this is an audiobook review, after all!) and kept little souvenirs in his home. His little spree comes to an end when he finally goes the extra step and kills a popular local woman in broad daylight.
The book then covers his court case, his incarceration and other interesting aspects, such as his psychological evaluations and the impact his crimes had on his small time and the course of their future long after he’d been locked away.
All this is very interesting but I did find it a bit sensationalist, adding a bit of artistic license when it came to his motives and some of his crimes, which feels unnecessary when the bare facts are morbidly fascinating in and of themselves.
What I also found interesting is that the psychological evaluations of the experts of the time are still considered to be gospel. Seeing as his crimes were committed in the 1940-50s, psychology has come forward in leaps and bounds since then – it might have been interesting to include a new professional take on his crimes and motivation.
R.C. Bray was a little dry for my taste and didn’t really do much to hold my attention, despite this book being in my wheelhouse. While there is a fine line to tread between dispassionately telling the facts and being too enthusiastic about the mutilation of dead women… I’m not sure the balance was really reached.
As true crime novels go, this wasn’t really my favourite – I’m sure there’s a way that this could have been presented to capture my imagination without giving me nightmares for the rest of my life.
Audiobook was purchased for review by ABR.
Please find this complete review and many others at my review blog
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