Friday, November 19, 2010

I am Ed Gein's widow

I had a great time reading as part of the Encyclopedia Show last night. There was singing, there was dancing, and since the theme was Serial Killers, there was a lot of gore. Thank you to Ralphie and Mike for having me.

Here's the story I read, "I Am Ed Gein's Widow." The people seemed to enjoy it.
I am Ed Gein’s widow. Not a lot of people know that Ed was married. Even fewer people know that I am his widow. It’s not something you tell people at dinner parties. Ed was not a well-understood man. He was passionate, and he was reserved, and there were certain things about his life that when they came to light were not looked upon entirely favorably. In fact, when the spotlight shown down upon him, the world was horrified. But the man I knew was a different man, and that is what I have come to discuss here today: my Ed Gein.

You can say a lot of things about Ed that may or may not explain him. That he lived in Wisconsin. Plainfield, to be exact. Really, there isn’t much to say about Plainfield other than that Ed lived there. Everything else sort of pales in comparison. His real and full name was Edward Theodore Gein, but no one ever called him Teddy. After it all came out, they called him The Plainfield Ghoul. He loved his mother, Augusta. Augusta did not love his father. Augusta had strong feelings about things. For example: all women are whores. This is the background in which Ed was raised.

Augusta was not kind to Ed or his brother, Henry. Eventually, Henry turned on his mother. Then Henry turned up dead. Some people say Ed did it, but it’s hard to say when you weren’t there. Eventually, Augusta died. And that’s when the trouble began.

On November 16, 1957, a local Plainfield woman, Bernice Worden, disappeared. One way or another the police investigators ended up at Ed’s house. There, they found Bernice. She was strung up by her ankles in the shed, naked as a jaybird, and no head. She had been cut wide open, like a deer. In the house, they found things: a collection of masks made from human skin, four noses, nine vulvas in a shoebox. Bernice’s head. The heads of ten more women, their tops lopped neatly off. Human organs in the ice box.

Ed wasn’t a serial killer. He was an artist. He didn’t want to kill. He wanted to transform. He wanted to be his mother, he wanted to become a woman, he wanted to be someone other than who he was. Haven’t you dreamed of the Resurrection? Of some kind of total transformation? Of waking up one day and finding you are not a giant cockroach but a beautiful, beautiful butterfly? That’s what Ed was after. Unlike most of us, he was willing to get what he needed from the graveyard in the middle of the night, if that’s what it took. To make suits of women. To transvest himself.

After the trial, they sent Ed to the Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. He died in 1984. For a time, those who visited Ed’s grave would chip off a little piece of his headstone, like a trophy. Like they wanted a piece of him for themselves. Finally, someone stole his tombstone. When it turned up again, they put it in a museum. I haven’t gone to see it. It’s not the same. Ed wasn’t some slab of stone.

Our love story is a simple one. We met in high school, and we married in secret when I was 19 and Ed was 23. We never consummated our relationship. We never lived together. We told no one. Ed didn’t think people would understand. He was a man who needed his space, so I let him have it. I didn’t go over to his place much, and when I did, I focused on him, not what was there, or what he did or didn’t do. That’s how it is with men. You have to let them be.

So, you can talk to me about those four noses, those nine masks made of human skin, those hollowed out skull bowls, those heads that lost their tops, those chairs upholstered in DNA, Mary Hogan's head in a paper bag, Bernice Worden's head in a burlap sack, those nine vulvas in that shoe box, those skulls on those bedposts, those human organs in that refrigerator, and that pair of lips on the draw string for the window shade, but you can’t tell me about love.

People say there are good men and there are bad men, but it’s because of Ed that I know there’s no difference between the two. Good men do what bad men do to somebody other than you.