Drawing on interviews and historical records, author Harold Schechter has written the definitive true-crime story of Ed Gein, Wisconsin's psychopathic and grave robbing necrophilic monster, whose disturbing momma's boy fetish impulses shocked the nation to its core.
Before getting to the actual horror of the Gein atrocities, Schechter gives the reader a good historical foundation of Gein's upbringing and of Plainfield. From that, he springboards into the gross and unspeakable depravities as committed by the Ghoul of Plainfield. No stone is left unturned, and I hope readers have a strong stomach.
Initially, Wisconsin is portrayed as a state with lots of pride by its residents, many calling it the garden state. Sorry N.J. The heartland landscape is dotted with such earthy beauty it is only fitting that they are photographed and used for postcards. Going through the vast tilled farmlands, quaint and unassuming little villages that are bursting with flowers adorn the long and winding road. Even the village names convey a sense of community spirit and wildlife: Friendship and Wild Rose, just to name a few. Then there is Plainfield. Though the name is a good fit, it still was a village that had pride in its community activities, celebrations and hunting prowess. What Plainfield residents would not take to their bosom was their infamous resident: Ed Gein.
Quitting school at an early age, Gein was brainwashed by his religiously zealous and domineering mother, Agusta, whose philosophy was that all women-her being the only exception-were lustful, sinful and evil. When Gein's father died, he became abnormally close to his mother, viewing her as the epitome of perfection. From then on, only she knew what was best. When his elder brother Henry died under questionable circumstances and then his mother followed suite-due to a stroke-Gein was left alone in an empty farmhouse that would be a perfect setting for a Halloween party. However, he did the horrors.
Without conveying too much, a passage on page 15 illustrates the essence of the book best: "There, hanging upside down from a chain in the ceiling, was a slaughtered hog. His father stood to one side of the animal, holding it steady, while his mother slipped a long-bladed knife down the length of its belly, pulled open the flaps, reached inside, and began to work at the glistening ropes of its bowels, which slid out of the carcass and into a large metal tub at her feet. Both his parents had on long leather aprons spattered with blood." If you replace the hog with an actual person, you'll get the drift of what kind of atrocities we're talking about here. And it only gets more disturbing, especially when they find the flesh masks and furniture made from bones and parts of bodies. When all this came to light, it shocked the nation to its core, and the media-like Time and Life-descended on Plainfield like locusts. Unable to cope simply by talking about it, the residents began to tell jokes, called "Geiners", which in of itself from a psychological point-of-view, was a very fascinating part of the book. Read the grisly altering of Clement Moore's beloved poem, "Twas the Night Before Christmas" on page 155 to get an idea. Another interesting facet that is given in this book is the psychiatric analysis of Gein's wimpy and childlike personality. Clearly, his mother Agusta had a huge yet warped role in why Gein ultimately did the things he did.
Deviant was an absolutely disturbing yet absorbing read. It is a book that is certainly not for the faint of heart, and for those who are, I would not recommend this book. What can you say about a man who creatively inspired Norman Bates, Hannibal Lecter and Leatherface? Deviant has a lot to say.