Bernice Worden disappeared from the Plainfield, WI, hardware store she owned on the morning of Nov. 16, 1957. Her son, Deputy Sheriff Frank Worden, arrived at the store around 5 p.m. to look for his missing mother. He found the cash register open and blood stains on the floor. Frank reported to investigators that local handyman and farmer Ed Gein had been in the store the night before Bernice, 58, vanished, leading them to his farm to look for her.
A deputy soon found Bernice’s body in a shed on Gein’s farm. She had been decapitated and was hung upside down by her legs. Her body had been “dressed out like a deer.” She’d been shot with a .22-caliber rifle and then had her internal organs removed. Inside Gein’s home, officers found human bones, a trash can made of human skin, chairs covered in human skin, bowls made from skulls, and the skull and face of a woman named Mary Hogan.
Once in custody, Gein told police he robbed graves from 1947-1952 to get the skin and other body parts necessary for his projects. Gein claimed he was trying to build a “woman suit” so he could become his mother, who died 12 years earlier. Gein went on trial in 1957 and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He was sent to a state mental hospital where he remained for 11 years. In 1968, doctors found Gein fit for trial and he was charged with killing Bernice. At the trial, Gein testified he did not know whether he meant to shoot Bernice. He said he put a cartridge in the gun and it went off, killing her. He was unsure whether he aimed the rifle or not. Gein was found guilty, but a second trial determined he was not guilty by reason of insanity. He spent the rest of his life in a state mental hospital. He died of natural causes in 1984.