The 1960 Alfred Hitchcock psychological horror film ‘Psycho’ was based on the Wisconsin killer and graveyard robber, Ed Gein. For his hideous crimes, he was nicknamed the “Butcher of Plainfield” or the “Plainfield Ghoul.”
On the morning of Nov. 16, 1957, the Plainfield hardware store owner Bernice Worden disappeared. A resident reported that the hardware store truck was driven away by 9:30 a.m. The store remained closed the entire day and some area residents thought the hardware store was closed for deer hunting season.
Around 5 p.m., Bernice’s son, Deputy Sheriff Frank Worden, entered the premises to find the cash register opened and blood stains covering the floor. He later told investigators that handyman Ed Gein had been in the store the night before his mother’s untimely disappearance.
Returning the next morning, Gein bought a gallon of antifreeze. A sale slip written out by Bernice Worden was found on the sales counter, which the last thing she would write out.
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That same evening, Ed Gein was arrested at West Plainfield grocery store. When the Waushara County Sheriff’s Department investigated the Gein farmhouse, they discovered the decapitated body of Bernice Worden hung upside down by her legs with a crossbar at her ankles and ropes at her wrists in a shed on his property.
Her torso was “dressed out like a deer.” Later, it was determined by the coroner office that she had been shot with a .22-caliber rifle, and mutilations were made after her death. When the authorities investigated Ed Gein’s farmhouse, they found the remains of Mary Hogan, a tavern owner who went missing a few years earlier. A human face mask of the Hogan woman was in a paper bag, and her cut-off skull in a box.
That day, the police found a wastebasket made of human flesh; female skulls with the tops sawed off; human skin covering several chair seats; skulls on his bedpost; and a woman body suit made from human skins.
If this morbid scene sounds like something you saw in horror movies, “The Silence of the Lambs,” or “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” you’re not mistaken. Film serial killers, Buffalo Bill and the infamous Leatherface were also created out of the Ed Gein case.
This 1969-1972 family sitcom was based on the 1963 MGM film directed by Vincente Minnelli. Both the film and ABC television series were adapted from the best-selling novel “The Courtship of Eddie's Father” by Mark Toby.
At his trial, Ed Gein admitted to killing only two women, and robbing graveyards for his other human collection. He was found mentally insane by the court and sent to the Central State Hospital for the criminally insane.
His neighbor, Robert Bloch, created a fictionalized 1959 novel, “Psycho,” that was loosely based on the Ed Gein murder case. He introduced the general public to the serial killer Norman Bates, who ran the rundown Bates Motel. After reading Bloch’s suspense novel, Alfred Hitchcock decided it’d make an excellent movie. He acquired the rights to the novel for $9,500 and bought all the books up, so moviegoers wouldn’t know the ending.
This would be a real departure from Hitchcock’s previous 1959 spy thriller movie, “North by Northwest.” However, Paramount executives scoffed at Hitchcock’s film proposal and refused his usual budget.
In his response, Hitchcock offered to film “Psycho” swiftly and cheaply in black-and-white using his “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” television series crew. James P. Cavanagh, a staff writer on the mystery anthology TV program, wrote the original draft.
Back in 1978, Glen A. Larson had a deal with Universal Studio to make a pilot episode of “Buck Roger in the 25th Century” for the NBC network.
However, the movie director felt that Cavanagh’s script dragged and read like a TV short horror story. He went with a less experienced film writer, Joseph Stefano. As the two men worked on adapting Bloch’s novel for film, they found the book’s Norman Bates an unsympathetic character for their target audiences.
Bates was a middle-aged, overweight man and overtly unstable with a fascination for the occult. When Anthony Perkins was offered the Bates role, Stefano was excited that a much younger man was considered for the part.
More changes came in the film adaption. Mary Crane was the original name used as the novel’s Phoenix, Arizona guest, who checked into the Bates Motel. For legal reasons, Mary’s name was changed to Marion. At the time, there was an actual Mary Crane living in the Phoenix area.
In the novel, the Crane woman was a minor character. Her movie role gave Marion Crane 30 minutes of screen time and began with her story. Film censors had a problem with Janet Leigh flushing a piece of paper with figures written down on it. Movie audiences rarely saw toilets in film scenes of this era.
Nevertheless, Hitchcock convinced the film censors that this scene was necessary for the plot of the film’s story.
Carl G. White lives in Napa and enjoys classic TV shows and movies.
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