Inside Ed Gein's Bizarre Relationship With His Mother

Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film Psycho may be a cautionary tale to overbearing mothers everywhere, however, the story becomes eerier when you learn it was not a work of fiction. Based on Robert Bloch's book under the same title, the character we have come to know as Norman Bates, was in fact, Ed Gein, also known as, the Butcher of Plainfield, Wisconsin (via History).

Gein was a deeply troubled man, to say the least, and the real horror story lies in Gein's real-life relationship with his mother, Augusta. According to Isthmus, Augusta taught her son that all women, aside from herself, were "instruments of the devil" and that sex was immoral, leaving Gein "destined to remain a virgin, obsessively devoted to his mother," as Crime and Investigation puts it.

After devoting his life to catering to his mother's beck and call, he never moved out of his mother's home and was alone for the first time after her death in 1945. As a result of his deep and unhealthy attachment to his mother, he acted on "desire for a substitute for his mother in the form of a replica or body that could be kept indefinitely," psychiatrist Dr. Warmington said, per Isthmus.

Gein later admitted he began exhuming the graves of recently deceased women within two years of his mother's death, stating that he felt "a force built up in me," as the reason for his unthinkable behavior. Keep scrolling for more details about Ed Gein's complex relationship with his mother.

His mother's parenting led to his complicated psyche

As we know now, parenting is fundamental in a child's development, and Augusta Gein's strong disdain for the outside world definitely stuck with son Ed Gein. According to the book Firebirds Among the Psychopaths, Augusta would "severely punish" Gein if he tried to make friends and her loath towards sex was so strong, she even "grabbed his genitals and called them 'the curse of a man,'" when she once walked in on Gein masturbating in the bathroom as an adolescent.

After a lifetime of oppressing his sexual desires at the demand of his mother, he became obsessed with sex after her death. With his repressed desires plus his troubling attachment to his mother, he attempted to fill the void by exhuming the body parts of other deceased women and turning them into tangible objects. He experimented on bodies similar to those conducted at Nazi concentration camps, and when that no longer satisfied him, he admitted to killing two women, per the Sheboygan Press. He later told investigators that all of his victims reminded him of his deeply beloved mother.

For more on their twisted relationship, check out Ed Gein: The Real Psycho available for steaming on Discovery+ starting on April 9, 2021.