Grave of Ed Gein in Plainfield, Wisconsin

Ed Gein Roadtrip: 6 Things to do in Plainfield

Take a roadtrip to Plainfield to walk in the footsteps of infamous Wisconsin murderer and grave robber Ed Gein.
Plainfield Cemetery
The Gein family buried in Plainfield Cemetery, surrounded by Ed’s victims.

Ed Gein was arrested in Plainfield, Wisconsin on the night of November 16th, 1957. While investigating the disappearance of local hardware store owner Bernice Worden, authorities uncovered a dark secret inside Gein’s dilapidated farmhouse. Besides Worden’s body, a trove of macabre artifacts were discovered amidst the garbage and clutter in the house. The town of Plainfield was horrified to learn that since his mother’s death in 1945, Ed had taken up a gruesome hobby: digging up fresh graves, exhuming bodies, and using the remains to craft various household items.

Related: Ed Gein’s cauldron featured on Deadly Possessions

The State Crime Lab removed a ghastly collection of evidence from the Gein home, including a chair upholstered in human skin, a belt made of nipples, numerous skulls and shrunken heads, a box of vulvas (salted for preservation) masks made from faces, and a suit made from the skin of a female torso. Ed later admitted to wearing the skin and masks, sometimes dancing around outside in the moonlight.

The details of Gein’s desperate acts have been captivating and nauseating the world for almost 60 years. While some Plainfield residents are comfortable sharing their own personal connections to the Gein legend, others seem frustrated with the inescapable reality that the tragedies their families suffered have made their quaint hometown the quintessential destination for dark tourists. Please be mindful of that when visiting these locations.

We visited in September to research and photograph the area. As the comments on my subsequent blog reveal…Plainfield residents are still pretty upset about Ed Gein.

This list of things to do in Plainfield is meant only as entertainment. If you do actually go, be sure to respect the history and obey the “no trespassing” signs.

Buy Antifreeze at Worden’s Hardware Store

Worden's Hardware store in Plainfield, WI
This building in downtown Plainfield is one of America’s most infamous crime scenes.

Bernice Worden went missing from her hardware store on opening day of deer hunting season, November 16th, 1957. Though Gein was known to give packages of “venison” to neighbors, he never hunted deer. He claimed he couldn’t handle the sight of blood. Instead, his target that day was Mrs. Worden, a woman whom his mother’s religious views lead him to believe was a sinner with a bad reputation. Early interviews revealed Gein’s belief that Worden’s fate was sealed, and he was merely the messenger.

After buying a jar of antifreeze, he then loaded a .22 caliber rifle from the store with a shell he had in his pocket. Though he has always contended it was an accident, the bullet found its way into Mrs. Worden’s head. The amount of blood found by investigators on the floor suggests Gein then cut her throat before dragging her body out to the back dock and loading it in the store’s delivery truck. He then returned the used rifle to the rack (with spent shell still in the bolt) grabbed the cash register, and drove off with the body.

Worden's Hardware store in Plainfield, Wisconsin
A modern photo of the building juxtaposed with a historical view of Worden’s hardware store as seen from Spee’s service station across the street, taken shortly after Gein’s arrest in 1957.

Though it has undergone some remodeling, the building is still a hardware store. It is located in downtown Plainfield near the historic Woodman Opera House.

Find the Site of Mary Hogan’s Tavern

The property where Mary Hogan's tavern once stood

Mary Hogan was the owner of Mary’s Tavern, located north of Plainfield near the town of Bancroft. Hogan was a large, bawdy woman whose crude demeanor earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary.” On the night of December 8th, 1954, after the bar closed, Gein shot Hogan with his .32 caliber Mauser pistol, loaded her body into his old Ford pickup truck, and took her back to the farm.

Her disappearance remained a mystery for years, until police recognized her head in a paper bag among the piles of macabre evidence recovered from Gein’s home after his arrest.

Though he was only tried for one murder (that of Bernice Worden) Gein also admitted to killing and dismembering Mary Hogan during his initial interrogation. The confession was ruled inadmissible, however, because the sheriff had slammed Gein’s head into the wall.

After Mary’s disappearance, the tavern was reopened by new owners, and then eventually converted into a residence. The building is gone now, but you can still find the driveway and the empty lot on the northeast corner of the intersection at Hwy D and Elm Rd. where Gein committed his first murder.

Commune with the Dead at Spiritland Cemetery

Spiritland Cemetery where Ed Gein used to rob graves

A few minutes north of Plainfield on Hwy D, near the town of Almond, is Spiritland Cemetery. Its name is derived from a man’s claim that he was able to communicate with the spirit of his wife there after she was buried. Gein robbed at least one grave here, and tampered with two others.

Many people have reported paranormal experiences there since, leading to the belief that Gein’s activities may have left the dead restless in Spiritland.

Explore Hancock Cemetery

Hancock Cemetery

Hancock Cemetery, just south of Plainfield on 4th Ave and not far from Gein’s farm, is another place he frequented to exhume the recently deceased. Interviews with psychiatric professionals in the months after his arrest indicated that Gein felt as though he had the power to resurrect the dead after his mother died. When locals saw headlights in the cemeteries in those days, they had no idea it was Gein attempting necromancy with disinterred remains.

Visit the Gein Farmstead

The property of Ed Gein in Plainfield, WI

In 1914, when Eddie was about 8 years old, the Gein family sold their grocery store in La Crosse and moved to the isolated farmstead outside of Plainfield. In statements following his arrest, Ed described hardship on the farm as they struggled to grow crops in the area’s sandy soil, a problem he said the locals were unwilling to help them with.

It was here that Gein’s psychosis developed and grew into a burgeoning madness, an obsessive and melancholic desperation through which he seldom saw clarity.

Loneliness, coupled with his mother’s oppressive religious indoctrination, drove Ed to commit extreme acts in the years after the rest of his family was gone. Whether freshly murdered or dug up, Ed brought his victims back to the farm where they became part of his macabre collection.

A day before the property and all of Gein’s possessions were to be auctioned off in March of 1958, a fire reduced the house to a smoldering pile of debris. The fire was never investigated, but rumors of the property being purchased and opened as a tourist attraction called The House of Horrors may have precipitated the event.

Upon his arrest, an extensive search of the property revealed no noticeable burials where he may have disposed of remains. It is likely, though, that somewhere beneath the surface of the bleak and overgrown property, some of Gein’s secrets may still be lurking.

Ed Gein's farm, where his house of horrors once stood
The entrance to the property where Ed Gein’s house once stood.

In the book Ed Gein: America’s Most Bizarre Murderer, judge Robert H. Gollmar, who tried Gein’s case in 1968, hints at the possibility of Gein being responsible for several other disappearances. Two hunters, Victor Travis and Ray Burgess, along with their car, vanished without a trace in 1951 after an evening at a Plainfield bar. The only evidence ever found was one man’s jacket and his dog, discovered in the woods near the Gein property. Gollmar speculates that Ed may have had something to do with it. When questioned, Gein said the men were killed by a neighbor, and he could lead them to the grave. For reasons unknown, he was never taken up on the offer. Just after the disappearance, a neighbor complained about a horrible stench coming from Ed’s garden.

Are the remains of two missing hunters and an entire automobile still waiting to be unearthed somewhere on Gein’s 160 acres?

The property was bought in the 1958 auction by Emden Schey. He tore down the outbuildings, planted trees, and sold off most of the land except the homestead site. Schey’s grandson Mike Fisher later inherited the property.

In 2006, a month before my first pilgrimage to Plainfield, Fisher attempted to sell the property by listing it on Ebay for $250,000 under the heading “Ed Geins Farm … The REAL deal!” Of course, Ebay removed it. I’m not sure when the property changed hands after that, but by the time I returned in 2012, the chain across the driveway with a sign that read “Fisher” was replaced by a plain metal gate.

See the Grave of Ed Gein in Plainfield Cemetery

The grave of Ed Gein and his family in Plainfield Cemetery

Following his death in the Mendota Mental Health Institute in 1984, Gein was buried in Plainfield Cemetery beside his family at 3am to avoid press. Directly in front of the Gein plot is that of a grave he had once robbed. It was, in fact, found to be empty when authorities dug it up during the investigation of Ed’s claims.

Since the theft of the headstone in 2000, his grave remains unmarked.

In 1962, the miscellaneous pieces of human remains collected from the house following Gein’s arrest, as well as bones discovered on the property by workers later in May of 1960, were buried in a cemetery plot purchased by the state. If the location of this burial was ever disclosed, I am not aware of it. As with the missing hunters, the death of Ed’s brother Henry, the unidentified man whom some believed helped Ed dig up graves, and other anomalies surrounding the Gein story…some things may have to remain a mystery.

18 replies
  1. Avatar
    Brittany says:

    ALL of you need to find a better hobby. To be respectful of the people Gein or Dahmer hurt I don’t take a stroll through Milwaukee and ask about Dahmer and I sure as HELL don’t walk through Plainfield asking about Gein. We are NOT a tourist attraction for this purpose, it’s why Gein’s home burned to the ground! So f*ck you all who have absolutely no respect for the living victims of this horror!

    • Avatar
      tony smith says:

      Are you a living victim? Didn’t think so. So shut your fuckin mouth!! People can visit if they want to. We will be visiting in 2 months and there is nothing you can do to stop our ” TOURISM VISIT”

    • Avatar
      Douchecanoe House says:

      He was hanging around the Worden’s Hardware store in the weeks before the killing. And when the police started their investigation they found the antifreeze receipt made out to “Eddie Gein”

    • Avatar
      Tim Rumpel says:

      HE bought antifreeze from Bernice worden and shot her in the store.That’s when receipts were hand written. His was last sale registered in her receipt book. Her son found blood on the floor and called police. I was born and raised in PlainfieldI in the 1950’s 1960’s and the 1970’s so I am quite familiar with this incident.

  2. Avatar
    Jason C. says:

    “A domineering, religious mother…” is BS. There are millions of people who go through worse than that and never go into insanity. The only people who mutter such stupidity are the opposite of the “domineering, religious ” … that would be the “domineering, atheists “…

    The “domineering atheists” are such bitter, crybaby people that I detest listening to their constant moans because they have no valid life and spend their days hating other people.

    • Avatar
      Felicia says:

      ”I detest listening to their constant moans because they have no valid life and spend their days hating other people.”
      Seems exactly like what you seem to spend you time on the internet doing. I feel the need to quote Eleanor Roosevelt; ”Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people.”

    • Avatar
      Keewatin says:

      Gein was psychologically fragile to begin with. While mentally healthy people would likely persevere, he exhibited signs of paranoia and schizophrenia which are conditions that can be easily exacerbated by mistreatment or abuse. Gein was a severely mentally ill individual.

    • Avatar
      Comeatme says:

      Clearly you are a religious clown that is so unaware of the harm your toxic religion can do to people, and continues to do to the world. This is especially true when discussing real religious extremism. The damage that religious manipulation can do to anybody, but especially an unsocialized child is vast. There are people that experience much worse, but you can not compare one individual to the next. Ed Gein was clearly unstable and had mental health issues to begin with. His mother was a religious nut (just like you), and it slowly drove him crazy over the course of his youth. You can call them bitter crybabys all you want, but there is nothing wrong with atheists attempting to insert some kind of logic and reason into our society. But your such a numbskull, you wont see it that way. Believe what you want, we are going to the same place whe we die, motherfucker. See ya there


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