Aside from being a seminal classic of 20th-century cinema and one of the best thriller movies of all time, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” is a chilling on-screen representation of psychopathy.
Norman Bates, the main character of the movie played by Anthony Perkins, is a man scarred by the demented ways of his possessive and manipulative mother. Even after his mother died, she continued to live in Bates’ mind through a crippling psychosis: her sinister presence kept him from developing a meaningful relationship with any woman in his life.
“Psycho” was based on the novel of the same name written by Robert Bloch. Although the character of Norman Bates seems far too crazy to be inspired by a real person, Bates’ personality was loosely based on the notorious Wisconsin murderer and grave robber Ed Gein.
Gein committed his crimes around his hometown of Plainfield, Wisconsin, and earned the nickname “The Mad Butcher of Plainfield”. Over the course of ten years, Gein killed two women and exhumed dozens of bodies from several local graveyards. He decorated his house with a variety of items made from the bones and skin of the dead.
In 1968, 11 years after he was apprehended, Gein was found guilty but legally insane, and remanded to psychiatric institutions. He died at the Mendota Mental Health Institute in 1984, aged 77.
The modus operandi and the life circumstances of Norman Bates strikingly resemble that of Ed Gein. Both Gein and Bates were solitary murderers in isolated rural locations.
They both committed their crimes after the deaths of their domineering mothers. Another thing that connected them is the morbid obsession with their mothers: the houses of both murderers contained sealed-off rooms that were kept as shrines to their dead mothers, and both murderers enjoyed wearing women’s clothes.
However, unlike Bates, Gein is not strictly considered a serial killer, as he was charged with murder only twice and the rest of his crimes were limited to body snatching, defiling corpses and desecration of graves.
On the other hand, throughout all installments of the franchise that followed the original “Psycho”, Norman Bates’ kill count numbers approximately 20 victims.