What Happened to Ed Gein’s Gravestone?

By on November 16, 2017

For almost two decades now, visitors to the grave of Ed Gein have found the Wisconsin killer’s grave unmarked. This is why.
The grave of Ed Gein in Plainfield, Wisconsin
Ed Gein’s grave in Plainfield Cemetery

Wisconsin deviant Ed Gein was arrested on November 16, 1957, after putting a bullet in the head of hardware store owner Bernice Worden and hauling her body back to his farm outside of town, where she was found beheaded and gutted later that evening. Upon his arrest, investigators made a shocking discovery inside Gein’s dilapidated home: Shrunken human heads, bones, lampshades and suits made of human skin, and other items Gein had fashioned using remains plundered from local cemeteries.

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60 years later, Gein’s depravity still fascinates true crime aficionados and fans of movies inspired by his crimes, including Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Silence of the Lambs. That curiosity lures hundreds, if not thousands of visitors to Plainfield every year to see the property where Gein’s house of horrors once stood, visit the hardware store where his final murder was committed, and pay their respects at the gravesite of the Gein family, situated among the same empty graves whose occupants Ed exhumed decades earlier.

But many visitors to the Plainfield Cemetery are surprised to find an empty, grassy space between Ed’s brother Henry and their mother, Augusta. Where the Mad Butcher of Plainfield’s gravestone once stood, there is now only a small, hand-dug hole from which souvenir hunters have been collecting dirt for years.

Gravestone of Ed Gein
Ed Gein’s gravestone

So where is Ed Gein’s gravestone?

“Everybody says he was buried at midnight,” Betty Petrusky told Meg Jones of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “That wasn’t true because I buried him. It was 4 in the afternoon.”

Petrusky served as caretaker of the Plainfield Cemetery for nearly 30 years. She helped dig Gein’s grave and attended the graveside service after he died of cancer in the Mendota Mental Health Institute in July 1984. She was visiting the grave of her husband on a quiet Saturday in June of 2000 when she discovered Gein’s 150-pound stone was missing.

Authorities immediately began watching eBay, expecting to see it turn up for auction along with other Gein relics such as wood and dirt from the privately-owned land that once belonged to the Gein family.

A year went by with no leads. Then, in 2001, Seattle police made a strange discovery.

In May 2001 the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported the “Angry White Male Tour,” a nationwide summer tour of live punk music, art, and oddities, headed up by “ringleader” Shane Bugbee, was including Gein’s tombstone in their promotions. Seattle police arrived on the first stop of the tour and confiscated the stone, despite Bugbee’s claims that it was a fake.

“It’s a really rude, exaggerated piece of artwork,” Bugbee said. Confiscating it “is the silliest thing I’ve ever heard of. The Seattle police overreacted.”

It turned out to be the real thing. Positive identification was made by comparing the graffiti and jagged edges where visitors had chipped off chunks of the stone.

These days Bugbee is an artist, sculptor, purveyor of Darth Vader penis enamel pins, and founder of the Ed Gein Fan Club.

“I had visited geins homeland a few times,” he told me in an email, “and every time the grave would be trashed… litter, crude and prophane scrawls on the stone and every time, there would be a person trying to have a gentle and sensitive moment visiting their departed loved ones. I just felt I was providing a service, to liberate the stone and bring it to those who had a morbid interest or dark ascetic, so It was taken from those who had no interest, those who were disturbed by the presence of outsiders dancing around a serial killers grave and, I brought it to those who really, really wanted to see it… Those who reveled in it.”

The gravestone was returned to Plainfield, but police weren’t sure what to do with it.

“We could put it back in the cemetery,” Waushara County Sheriff Patrick Fox told the Stevens Point Journal, “but it would only get stolen again.”

The Waushara County Historical Society wanted to exhibit the gravestone in the downtown Wautoma museum that once served as the county jail, the place where Gein was held after his arrest. I haven’t found any information to confirm whether or not the stone was ever actually displayed, but it seems concerns over the possible controversy it might stir up lead to the decision to store it away in the basement of the police department, instead.

Ed Gein’s second gravestone

Ed Gein's second gravestone
Ed Gein’s second gravestone, via Reddit user lucisferis

Huey Long, owner of Emerald City Collectibles near Janesville, Wisconsin, displays a crude, handmade gravestone in his store that he says someone made to replace Gein’s after it was stolen.

A few years ago, someone brought the stone into Huey’s store on Highway 14 just outside Janesville,” Tim Elliot wrote for NBC 15 in 2013. “After checking with authorities to make sure he could legally buy the stone, he went ahead and made the deal.”

“There’s a lot of people who come in here that are grossed out by it but they have to touch it,” Long told Elliot. “They have to touch the headstone but some people won’t touch it whatsoever.”

Also, the stone may be cursed.

“It’s drawn blood on me at least three times before because of the nails on the backside,” Long said. “People always ask me why do they have nails on there? And I say to keep Ed down.”

The stone can still be seen in Long’s shop, though it is not for sale. He was once offered $3,000, but he hopes to eventually sell it online where he believes it will fetch much more.

Grave of Ed Gein
The graves of the Gein family in Plainfield Cemetery

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