Before serial killers like Ted Bundy and the Night Stalker, there were deranged killers like Ed Gein. He’s most notorious for mutilating, skinning, and preserving his victims’ body parts into a grotesque collection of the macabre with chairs upholstered with human skin. He’s the creator of the skin suit that so famously inspired Buffalo Bill of Silence of the Lambs.
So it’s shocking to know that Ed Gein had siblings — well, one, to be exact. Of course, all killers come from somewhere, but it’s hard to comprehend someone like Gein growing up as a child with a brother and parents, just like all of us. Not only did Gein have a sibling, though, but there are theories that he killed his brother.
To understand Ed Gein’s relationship with his sibling, we need to dive into his past.
Ed Gein grew up in the midwest as the younger brother of two, seven years younger than his sibling, Henry. Ed and Henry Gein lived an extremely sheltered life full of religion and abuse. Their mother, Augusta, forbade them from venturing out beyond their farm, except to go to school, and would often preach to them the immoralities of the world, especially of women.
Augusta did everything she could to keep her boys near to her and keep their family afloat when her husband, George, was an unreliable alcoholic. After their father’s death, the now-adult Ed and Henry Gein took on odd jobs in the community. And while Henry started to realize the oddities of their mother’s lack of boundaries, Ed Gein loved his abusive mother wholeheartedly.
Henry mysteriously died, so many are wondering if Ed Gein killed his brother.
The original story was that Ed and Henry were fighting a brush fire that they set to burn away marsh vegetation but eventually lost control of it. In the midst of the fire, Ed Gein supposedly lost track of this brother, and when he and the police came upon his brother’s body, Henry was already dead.
However, after Ed Gein’s reputation superseded him, many began to suspect foul play. There were no burns on his brother’s body, and he was actually quite far from where the fire was, so it’s unlikely he died from the smoke. Not only that, but his head had bruises on it.
There are many theories as to why Ed Gein might have killed his brother.
Even though it can’t be confirmed, it’s widely believed that his brother was Ed Gein’s first victim. Not only do the bruises on his head suggest foul play, but when the police called a search party, Ed Gein was able to lead them right to his brother. There was no autopsy or investigation into his brother’s death, so nothing can be confirmed.
However, many believe Ed Gein killing his brother is not in line with his other victims. For one, Ed Gein only became a murderer after his mother’s death, which was clearly his trigger. But the incident with Henry happened before their mother died. Not only that, but Ed Gein seemed to kill because of his fascination with the human body and misplaced love for his mother. Yet, Henry’s body was not at all mutilated.
While Henry’s death does not quite match up with Gein’s MO, Gein was not a methodical killer. He was chaotic and emotional and confessed to his crimes immediately, claiming he entered into so-called “dazes” when he did them. He was later diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia, so it’s very likely his brother could have said something that set Gein off into one of his “dazes.”
The main theory is that Henry was leaving to live with a divorced mother of two and had been openly criticizing Augusta Gein to his brother. Knowing how much Ed Gein loved his mother, how much he killed for her and tried to make her out of corpses’ skin, it’s likely that this would be the motive for him to kill his brother. However, we’ll never know the truth.
Stream Ed Gein: The Real Psycho on Discover Plus now.