Number 1: Ed Gein


In a way Ed Gein—or “Eddie” to his friends-- is the godfather of all  psychopaths (or godmother of all psychopaths, depending on whether he wanted a sex change or not at the time). What makes Gein famous isn't the number of his victims or how he killed them, but his complete disregard for the sanctity of human remains, as well as his tyrannical, zealot mother, who's childrearing skills probably haunted Gein until the day he died (at the ripe old age of 77, I might add).

Gein’s story has struck a chord with the popular imagination, being the basis for the killers in the movies Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Silence of the Lambs. If you included all of the movies, novels, TV shows, songs, or videogames that he has "inspired" over the years, they'd probably number in the hundreds, probably enough to give Jack the Ripper a run for his money. In a more perfect world we could throw these two into some kind of arena to fight for the title, but alas that kind of technology is months and months away.

It isn't just that he was crazy, but that he went crazy in a big way. Bat-crap-black-tie-gala-with-acrobatics-4th-of-July-suit-made-out-of-women-insane. When police broke into his premises, they found a collection of human remains, most of which he had personally dug out of their graves. Some people collect postcards or pre-Prohibition coin-op machines, Ed Gein collected body parts. The police also found his most recent victim which had been, to put it politely, done up like a trout. Oh, he also occasionally babysat neighborhood children. The 1950's certainly were a more innocent time.

I imagine that when police stumbled into this crime scene, it must have been like the first time people ever heard improvised jazz. They must have been all, "Woah! I didn't know you could do that!" Except that instead of getting applause, people vomited in the aisle and asked what kind of a world is this to make monsters like Ed Gein. So, even though we got some great movies out of his story, I think it's safe to say that the world would be much better off if freaks like Gein just picked up a saxophone instead of a shovel.

Besides being convicted of the murder of two women, there's also a chance that he was involved in the death of his own brother, putting Gein on the same level as another famous fratricidal maniac: Cain (who would probably have been put on this list had there been anyone else on earth for him to serial kill).

James Kislingbury for Citadel Interactive © 2009 

Photo courtesy of Time & Life Pictures, by Francis Miller

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