History of Ed Gein in Plainfield, WI

Digging Up Ed Gein: Our Expedition into the Dark History of Plainfield, WI

Our latest trip to Plainfield to uncover the deranged history of Ed Gein lead us into the heart of Wisconsin’s dark side…and yielded some great photos.
Plainfield, Wisconsin, home of Ed Gein

Last weekend, we embarked on our latest pilgrimage to Plainfield to dig up Ed Gein. I mean, we weren’t actually digging up any bodies, but we did intend to exhume some disturbing pieces of local history for an upcoming feature here on Cult of Weird.

Besides, our last visit to Gein’s old stomping ground was in 2012, so we were long overdue.

Recent: Ed Gein’s cauldron featured on Deadly Possessions

The goal this time around was to capture all the locations significant to the area’s grisly past in photo and video, to document the passing of time. As I’ve mentioned in previous writings about Ed Gein, it’s a dark fairy tale many of us grow up with here – it is ingrained in our collective consciousness. The stories of Gein’s grave robbing, murders and macabre pastimes with human body parts…these aren’t Hollywood films. It really happened here, not far from our seemingly normal and carefree lives.

This man, who could be any average small town character you’ve ever encountered, was digging up the freshly buried bodies of other people’s loved ones, dismembering them, and fashioning furniture, clothing and home decor from their remains.

For me, visiting Plainfield is not about some misguided obsession with serial killers. It is a need to remember that this boogeyman was real, to touch the ground he walked on, to feel what desperate loneliness and isolation can do to the fragile human psyche.

Stepping foot in his story is walking on dangerous ground. This is where we could all go a little mad.

Ed Gein's farm in Plainfield
The place where Ed Gein’s house once stood still feels as lonely and desolate as it was for him following the death of his mother in 1945.

Also, the introvert in me is completely capable of romanticizing the thought of being holed up in a dilapidated farmhouse in the dead of Wisconsin winter, reading strange books and playing with skulls.

So…we turned the volume up on a specially prepared CD of 1970s devil music (I don’t know why that seemed like a good idea…I guess I had Mac Sabbath stuck in my head) and departed for a day of obscure Wisconsin weirdness.

Worden’s Hardware

Our first stop is always the hardware store. After all these years, it’s still a hardware store. It was Clark’s True Value the last couple of trips, but it recently changed hands and is now Plainfield Hardware Hank. A sign on the sidewalk was advertising an antifreeze sale. Seriously.

Antifreeze sale at the Plainfield hardware store
Antifreeze sale at the Plainfield hardware store.

After exploring the crumbling Woodman Opera House nearby, I had just started shooting some video when a woman came out of the store and began walking toward us. It is no secret that Plainfield residents prefer not to talk about the tragic events of their town’s past. Ed Gein babysat them as children, brought over offerings of venison despite the fact that he never hunted deer, desecrated the remains of their friends and family.

It’s a touchy subject to be sure. And to add insult to injury, news reporters, film crews, journalists and people like myself have been descending upon their small town in droves ever since the body of hardware store owner Bernice Worden was found gutted and hanging upside down inside Gein’s personal house of horrors in 1957.

Woodman Opera House in Plainfield, WI
The back of the historic Woodman Opera House in Plainfield, built in 1902.

My goal is only ever to document, though trespassing, theft and destruction of property are without a doubt quite common. Ed’s headstone is now permanently kept in storage after years of graffiti, not to mention that it was stolen in 2000 and recovered in Seattle. A corner of Ed’s mother Augusta’s headstone is missing, chipped away piece by piece over the years.

So naturally, I got a bit nervous when this woman from the hardware store approached us.

But rather than call the police, threaten bodily dismemberment, etc., she asked why we were so interested in the building. She said that, since she and her husband had purchased the business in April, upwards of 50 people had stopped to take photos. They even had one visitor enter the store and ask if he could use their computer to research the history of the building.

She didn’t know why. She was from out of town…and had never heard of Ed Gein.

I can’t imagine buying one of the most infamous crime scenes in American history…without a clue as to what atrocities were committed there. While some of the older locals liked to come in and chat about such mundane details as changes to the exterior of the building, she said, none mentioned the murder.

So we brought her up to speed, and she graciously allowed us to explore the store. I think it’s safe to say, however, that she won’t feel comfortable there by herself ever again.

Plainfield Cemetery

The grave of Ed Gein in Plainfield Cemetery
The graves of Ed Gein and his family in the Plainfield Cemetery.

After leaving the hardware store (and neglecting to get that video I needed) we set course for the Plainfield Cemetery, where the Gein family is buried amidst Ed’s victims. Directly in front of his grave is that of Eleanor Adams, whom he exhumed just days after she was buried. Nearby are the Wordens, Bernice and her son Frank, who was a deputy sheriff at the time his mother went missing.

Before we left, Christina left flowers for Ed and Augusta.

More: What happened to Ed Gein’s Gravestone?

After that we made stops at two more cemeteries (three if you count the one we found when we got lost because of my terrible hand-drawn map), another murder scene, and, of course, the site of the old Gein farm. We managed to find the final graveyard at dusk, then made one last stop back at the Plainfield Cemetery to wish the Geins farewell before heading home.

An abandoned house in Plainfield, WI
An abandoned house just down the road from the old Gein property. The architecture is nearly identical to the Gein house that burned down in March of 1958.

After several excursions into the backwoods over the years, we have finally managed to locate each of the stops on the unofficial Ed Gein tour. This will probably be the last trip there for a while, unless I miraculously have money for better film equipment one day, or invent some other excuse to return.

There is nothing Gein-related left unexplored. Right?

Well, there may still be a few mysteries remaining in Plainfield, even after 58 years. But I’ll save that for the next post.

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Ms. B
Ms. B
6 years ago

I enjoyed reading this blog post. My dad grew up in Plainfield and used to tell us kids how he sat on Ed Gein’s lap. He also said Ed seemed fairly normal, at least enough that people wouldn’t have guessed the truth. For those who insist Plainfield isn’t a poor town, well, it really IS a poor town and it’s just a fairly typical small Wisconsin town. I don’t see how that’s anything to be defensive about or ashamed of. I’ve lived in central Wisconsin my entire life, and it’s only been in recent years that I’ve started traveling to… Read more »

henryedwardotto
6 years ago

>>”There can’t be anything left to discover after all these years.”<< There absolutely are facts about the case that have still not been made public, very significant facts that will change the way the story is viewed. Even facts that would provide closure to affected families. I understand -for those whom have a link to the victims- there may still be a degree of sensitivity, but this is not so much about Plainfield as it is about the Degeneration of the Mind. Done with decency, there is an opportunity to learn AND pay respect here. Because it will NOT fade… Read more »

J. Nathan Couch
6 years ago

Another fine article, and an interesting perspective.

I feel for the people tangled up in this history, but I don’t understand the attitudes displayed here, particularly the whole “something bad happened so let’s never mention it again” mentality.

Ignoring the past is dooming it to be repeated. As long as the infamy of Ed Gein exists, perhaps others with similar problems will get the help they deserve before they turn into monsters.

Bobbi
Bobbi
6 years ago

As a resident minutes away from Plainfield Wisconsin, I can honestly say this shouldn’t be such a big deal. If Dracula, who is also a real piece of history, can be on a cereal box year round with no complaints I don’t see why Ed gein and questions about what he did has to be an issue. It’s an amazing piece of history in the fact that he was trusted in the community and babysat and whatnot, yet did what he did behind everyone’s nose. It’s amazing that his mental state was not questioned and he functioned “normally” around the… Read more »

Valynn Schlicht
Valynn Schlicht
3 years ago

my grandmother used to babysit Ed when he was living in Lacrosse wi they have old photos of himbefore he turned 12 and moved to plainfield.

Ben Hurle
4 years ago

Ed Gein is certainly a character unlike any other. The fantasists who imagine him in his darkened and dank “house of horrors” ( myself included), who think he’s a “legend”. Need to consider the actual reality of eviscerating a dead woman’s vagina, salting it, and keeping it in a box. Think about that for a minute.. A cold Wisconsin night. An early stage purifying cadaver.. A hunting knife and a hell bent intent… Not the domain of the “normal” well adjusted person.. Ed was no doubt a troubled soul.. His victims did nothing to deserve their ignominious ends… The whole… Read more »

Fantasia
Fantasia
5 years ago

For those of you who see Ed Gein as only a monster, I recommend you seriously stop thinking that way. He was much more than just a killer and a body snatcher. I have studied serial killers and I know what type of people they are. They are not monsters. They are human beings who never got the right love in their life or have severe mental issues. And I know that this man meaning Ed is much more than just “the guy who kills and snatches graves”. He babysat. He worked hard. He nurtured children. And nobody seems to… Read more »

Mary
Mary
6 years ago

People complaining about the author visiting the town Ed Gein lived in surely must know that the movie Psycho and the song “Skinned” by Blind Melon are both based on the story of Ed. Its not going away. Sorry it happened in your village, sorry it happened at all, but it did and its part of your history. Hiding it, being ashamed of it, or badmouthing those who have an interest isn’t going to do anything but have a bad effect on you. It happened, it was horrible and people are not going to forget it ever. It seems to… Read more »

Becca Darnick
6 years ago

Ed babysat my grandma and my great aunt too when they were small. From what I was told he was good with kids but they just weren’t allowed in the house. I understand how families can be touchy but if it brings you that much pain to be there, maybe you should consider moving or learn to ignore them. Hate to say it, but chances are, they’re not going anytime soon. Too many movies, books, etc have been based on Ed’s story. It makes me wonder ,though, if people would be so bitter if they’d seen him as more than… Read more »

Jackie
Jackie
6 years ago

Charlie, How would you feel if a loved one of yours had been murdered? Would you want continual reminders to be brought up to and relive those feelings and emotions? Think o f the worst thing that has happened to you in your life. Would you want continuing reminders and people poking and asking questions for the rest of your life? The people who experienced the actual events of your so called fascination, would just like to move on and not have these memories, feelings and emotions brought to the surface over and over by others who have no clue… Read more »

lisa
lisa
6 years ago

Bad things happened, people are intrigued not a resident only been through stopping for gas. But seriously people relax every body is way too uptight if you don’t like people snooping and digging up the past MOVE. It’s that simple

Cody
Cody
6 years ago

I believe the past needs to be preserved and talked about regardless of what bad it did.yes many things in history are bad but it should not be hidden.also I understand the bitterness and sadness.

Patience
Patience
6 years ago

I’m the grand daughter of the couple that where the private investigator lived at while they were waiting to arrest Ed Gein. My mother was just a kid and remembers the investigator staying at my grandparents house in Bancroft WI.

|| Max ||
|| Max ||
4 years ago

I respect Ed Gien if only I can goback in time and be his friend, I could have done that years ago

Sam
Sam
5 years ago

Ed Gein’s body is not actually at the Plainfield cemetery. It was moved secretly to a cemetery in a neighboring town to prevent the body from being dug up by those trying to get revenge or just curious. My grandpa was part of the group that had to move him. Interesting stuff.

Susan Arthur
Susan Arthur
6 years ago

What I would like to know is how is it that some of the residents of this town would be on this site? They don’t seem like the types to like a site called “Cult of the Weird”.

Joseph Gallicchio
Joseph Gallicchio
6 years ago

Why is everyone getting do worked up over this?

Amber
Amber
6 years ago

It’s a quaint little town. A bit creepy if you have to drive through it at night. My parents have owned the grocery store there for around 10 years now.

Teena Rehwinkel
6 years ago

I married into one of the families that ED dug up and took for his amusement. They have never been able to return her to her place of eternal rest….My Mother Beverly who has sense passed 2 yrs ago would tell me all about ED and the stories that has since been told about that Horrific day.One of the arresting officers at the time was a cousin. My mother would go parking out in the cemetery at night. They would see lights out there in the mist of darkness. It was Ed digging up newly buried loved ones. Of cores… Read more »

Jessica
Jessica
6 years ago

Get over it. Much worse has been done in other towns and their citizens don’t act like snotty bitches. That is the poorest, rudest, shittiest town in WI. The man had a serious mental disorder and probably didn’t know better. You all do. You don’t see the city of Milwaukee acting this way after Dinner, or Chicago after Gacy. Maybe you all being so secretive is adding to the hype. It’s never going to end, so get used to it.

stella parce
6 years ago

he also sold apples out of the same pickup as I was told by my grandpardents

Kelly
Kelly
6 years ago

How could your first stop on Sept 11 2015 been to the hardware store? It went out of business and closed last year-

Denise
Denise
6 years ago

Some of your facts are true some are faults this is coming from the great grandchild of the family that he was arrested at also the daughter of one of the only families that he babysat

lori
6 years ago

please give us your road trip playlist!

roland
2 years ago

People there are all kinds of sick people in this world do you all agree?? But why is it so important to dwell on one place about one person ?? What about new York ? Or even Japan were they have murders that still today have never been caught with over 30 people they have killed. Or these pedifiles praying on harmless children. What is so special about ed ??. Is it because they made a made up fictional movie about it to make money ?? Wow how glorious it must feel. Just saying. Think of something new and move… Read more »

eob
eob
5 years ago

Ed Geins my hero

inquiry
inquiry
6 years ago

I’d prefer if you took the picture of the “abandoned house” off your article. Thank you for your respect of doing this as I would show the same respect of your property.

Fall.
Fall.
6 years ago

Oh my goodness. Stop. You’re all literally feeding yourselves to the wolves for viewers of this. You all seriously need to stop. Shush. Literally mind your own. Both the ones who wrote this little report/documentary and the ones commenting. All ends!!!! All of you. You all sound like children with no tolerance. This should honestly not be on here. I’m Sorry But To The Ones Who made The Trip Out there, you shouldve kept It To yourself. And to the ones from there. Again. Hold your tongue. To the ones commenting to apparently be an outright bitch (the one calling… Read more »

chris
chris
6 years ago

My grandma has a picture some place around her of her and old ed. also u know what old ed keeps in his sewing cabinet.? Belly buttons. lol she told that befor

Sharon Carlson
Sharon Carlson
6 years ago

I remember the horror of that happening. I was about 14 at the time. It needs to be left alone as far as I’m concerned. There can’t be anything left to discover after all these years.

Mike Bentley jr.
Mike Bentley jr.
6 years ago

You’re an idiot. Plainfield is a close knit community not unlike any other small town in Wisconsin. What are we supposed to have on sale at the hardware store fucking cupcakes? There are presently way more valuable things that you can do with your time than spend it honoring a murderer Who had serious psychological problems. Shame on you. You left flowers to honor what? Wish you well? Sorry you can’t be here? I’ve grown and lived in Plainfield my entire life. And if i see somebody trying to rekindle those atrocities it would take a lot for me to… Read more »

Sanra Worden Wiese ( Granddaughter of Bernice
Sanra Worden Wiese ( Granddaughter of Bernice
6 years ago

I find it interesting that you felt the need to leave flowers there!!! I don’t suppose it occurred to you that Bernice Worden and others should be the ones honored with flowers! You and people like you are a sick, despicable bunch of scum!!! The poor lady at the hardware story was probably horrified!! I was told that you were in town and thankfully warned so I wouldn’t run you over!!! STAY AWAY AND LEAVE US ALONE!!!!

Cristi
Cristi
6 years ago

As a child iof those dark, horrible days in the history of Plainfield ~ and now as a mother, grandmother, and friend of so many there ~ I would so like to see yourand all other media and/or history folks close out the saga of Ed Gein. It brought so much sadness to so many. And as long as cruel people like you keep digging it up and making headlines, family, friends and Plainfield will never heal. ~ Please find something positive, loving, and/or happy to do with your energy.