Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Fact or Fiction
“…an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare…”-Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
With Halloween upon us, my mind turns to those great slasher movies of my childhood. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a gory staple of the standard Halloween horror movie line up. Out of all the films, it unnerves me the most. It begins with a gruesome introduction followed by a macabre of red and black sequences while a news broadcast sounds speaking of ravaged graves and mutilated corpses. It becomes more sinister when the group of friends picks up an insane hitchhiker, and from there, the characters fall downward into a spiral of blood, gore, and madness.
The films over the years have been marketed to be based on a true story. The horror that the story behind Leatherface being a factual entity has worked to bring the franchise a substantial earning margin over the years and a large fan base. But did it really happen?
The answer is, Yes, it did happen, just not in Texas.
This time, our story will leave the strange realm of the Lone Star state and slither northeast to Wisconsin, which is no stranger to sinister happenings.
It is November 1957; winter has descended on the rural town of Plainfield, Wisconsin. Bernice Warden has been missing for days. Her son, the town sheriff, searches frantically for her. Then his suspicions turn to sweet but odd Eddie Gein.
The people of Plainfield tolerate Gein with an uneasy kindness. He makes a living by handyman work and unbelievably babysitting for some of the braver parents. Even so, he has become quite unhinged since the death of his beloved mother in 1945. The whispers among the townsfolk are that even though his once neat house is falling around him, he keeps HER room immaculate. There is no disrepair when it comes to his mother’s room. Oh no! He would never allow that.
The exhausted sheriff has nothing more than assumptions when he takes a small group of townsmen to Gein’s home. They find poor Bernice Warden’s corpse strung up from Gein’s rafters, beheaded and gutted like a pig. The horrors did not end there.
Grandfather of Gore
If a nightmare had a home, it would reside in the house of Eddie Gein. Organs in jars, soup bowl skulls, and a skin suit complete with female breasts and genitalia were all found in Gein’s possession. Dark beginnings triggered a very dark end for Gein. What happened to him to turn him into such a monster?
Eddie was born to Augusta Gein and George Philip on August 27, 1906. His life was hard and turbulent. His father was a neglectful alcoholic, while his mother was fanatical about her faith and a burden to live with. In school, Gein was harassed for being feminine. He formed no attachments or friends. Only an unhealthy relationship with his unfit mother. All of these factors later fueled his fall into utter madness triggered by his mother’s death in 1945, the same year as his first documented victim, Mary Hogan.
It is thought that he may have even killed his brother. One evening the two boys aided in stopping a brush fire. Eddie’s brother disappeared and was found later in an area where the fire did not reach, covered in bruises. Perhaps Eddie alone wanted his mother’s love.
The story of Eddie Gein inspired not only the Texas Chainsaw Massacre but also The Silence of the Lambs and Psyco. Unlike the Texas Chainsaw massacre, Gein did not kill his victims with a chainsaw but with a pistol. Unlike Leatherface, who wore his human skin face because of skin disease, Gein’s skin obsession was more kin to Buffalo Bill’s woman skin suit. Both wore a skin suit because they wanted to be a woman.
Out of the three movies Texas Chainsaw Massacre, frightens me the most. At least Hannibal Lector had some class when he ate people. Stay Strange!