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Mysteries

Author Reimagines the Life and Crimes of Ed Gein as a Novel

Author Reimagines the Life and Crimes of Ed Gein as a Novel 86

Wisconsin serial killer and grave robber Ed Gein’s deviant acts are the subject of author Frank Ladd’s first novel.

Author Frank Ladd with the Ed Gein house in the background
Author Frank Ladd with the Ed Gein house in the background, via @frankwladd

I’ve been researching and writing about Ed Gein a long time. I answer questions from visitors all over the world interested in Gein, some hoping to dig up additional facts to flesh out their school reports. If fact, I recently learned that my work is apparently being taught in at least one Canadian high school classroom. For better or worse, that will probably be the pinnacle of my achievement.

I am fascinated by this particular ghoul because his story is horrific, tragic, and, most importantly, he’s local – a gruesome campfire story that really happened right in my own backyard. This isn’t ghosts or goatman. Ed Gein really exhumed freshly buried corpses and filled his farmhouse with the creations he made from those remains.

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While there is still much mystery surrounding the case, it’s a story over 60 years old and there seems to be little new to add. Gein admitted to two murders, and was only tried and convicted of one. Yet there is evidence, including unidentified body parts found amongst his collection, that he may have killed least several other young women. Two hunters who went missing in 1951, along with their entire truck, may be buried somewhere on the Gein property. Some even claim to know where, though most of those stories come second or third hand these days.

Then there is the cauldron that hit the auction block a few years ago with a dubious story that can never be confirmed because anyone who could is long dead.

The Real Ed Gein

I thought there was nothing left to get excited about when it comes to Ed Gein, until I stumbled onto an Instagram account run by Frank Ladd, a writer who set his sights on the Butcher of Plainfield as the subject of his first novel.

Ladd’s account @therealedgein showcases “research on Ed Gein and Plainfield, Wisconsin in 1957 from my novel in progress.” Posts include vintage photos and relics of Gein and Plainfield history, which would be enough to get my attention. But it’s the captions, Ladd’s inspection of a scene in which the object or location in the photo may have been involved in Gein’s story, that drew me in.

Of course, Ed Gein has inspired numerous books, movies and other media over the years. But the historical fiction Ladd is constructing feels different, deeper – a mold-covered and moth-eaten thing exhumed from the past, still stinking of damp earth and worms. The combination of photos and prose with each post captures what feels like an authentic and eerily intimate moment, the isolation and desperation of small town life in mid-century rural Wisconsin that both enabled and drove Gein to seek companionship with the deceased.

This post, written from the perspective of Waushara County Sheriff Art Schley (whose abuse of Gein during interrogation caused the killer’s initial confession to be ruled inadmissable):

Map of Plainfield, Wisconsin showing the location of Ed Gein's property and Worden'shardware store

The western bite of the county felt like a lost cause. The great dead heart of Wisconsin—Sheriff Schley had heard the old saying and found little reason to argue with it. Plainfield put on a good show with its shops and diner and crumbling theater, but the Opera House had closed a decade ago. Same for the Mitchell House. Two filling stations counted for something, he supposed. Worden’s sold most of what notions folks might need, and Gamble’s carried the rest. The bank still gave out subsistence loans. Plainfield scratched out just enough livelihood to call itself a town.

But drive six miles west and the farms sagged. Fields browned with decay. A scatter of turkey vultures kited in the distance, late for their yearly migration, stalking the scent of death. If he kept on county trunk D into Adams county, the pine barrens and wild marsh would swallow him.

Here is another example – Ed’s perspective of his mother’s room which he sealed off after her death, and the grave directly in front of the Gein family plot in Plainfield Cemetery that Ed robbed. The grave is still empty today, though the headstone marking what was intended to be Eleanor Adams’ final resting place remains.

Ed Gein house

The summer kitchen opened to the kitchen proper. Vines and berries on the wallpaper—that’s Ma. Her old lace curtains twitched in the early winter draft. This would always be her house. We kept it for her. How many times she fried tongue or creamed peas at that cook stove, we didn’t care to reckon.

A knot in the board nailed across the hall door showed into the parlor. Her rocking chair didn’t move an inch. Ma was stubborn. We’d stood at her grave until our knees locked and neck ached for a week from all the concentrating and focusing our powers on her cold body. She refused to rise. The woman next plot over was appealing, though. We’d felt something. Maybe the ground was softer there, now that we recall. Early spring of ’46 and still brutal cold.

Here’s another:

Ed Gein wearing lipstick

We lit a candle by Ma’s cloudy mirror. Unwrapped the secret we’d borrowed from Georgia—found among her oddments and sundries, the powders and scenty waters laid atop her dresser. Soft wax packed in a bullet shell. We unscrewed the base and a round stick rose like butter, red for a tart’s lips and dark as dried blood. Tasted of burning fat. Bitter as wormwood. We slid the lipstick across our mouth: a bright slippery gash. It was still our face staring back. A wash of moon through sooted lace mottled our skin with shadow, like the tattooed savages we’d read about in magazines, island tribes who ate their own.

You’ll notice throughout the posts that anytime Gein is referring to himself, Ladd uses “we” instead of “I” – an interesting choice I’m eager to explore.

With his work, Ladd is weaving the historical details and desolate reality of life in Plainfield into a compelling narrative of Ed Gein’s state of mind as he committed the crimes that still scar the town and its people. I feel like I can swipe a finger through the dust and grime accumulating on the garbage piled up in Gein’s house, and smell the mildew on the discarded human remains mouldering within.

If these posts are any indication of what to expect from the novel, I’ll be first in line for the pre-order.

Follow @therealedgein to keep up on Frank Ladd’s work and Ed Gein research.

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Mysteries

There are many mysteries in the Sahara Desert but scientific and archaeological expeditions are prohibited

There are many mysteries in the Sahara Desert but scientific and archaeological expeditions are prohibited 87

Throughout the history of this African desert, tens of thousands of people have gone missing in its vicinity, and this is only according to official data. The sand is much more destructive than the ill-fated Bermuda Triangle. This is understandable, five thousand kilometers covered with sand.

Scientists know for certain that millions of years ago there were rivers, lakes, flowering gardens and, most likely, even the ocean in the desert, since numerous whale fossils were found in the sands.

There are many mysteries in the Sahara Desert but scientific and archaeological expeditions are prohibited 88

The ruins of cities, underground canals, through which water once flowed, were discovered. In one of the Sahara caves, ancient drawings and hieroglyphs were found, depicting humanoid creatures, around which there was greenery and water. There are a lot of mountains in the desert, where people have never been.

Perhaps the most mysterious place in the Sahara is rocky terrain with melted earth and traces of radiation. At this place, according to scientists, an explosion of incredible power thundered. There is a theory that all this is due to the fall of a meteorite.

This is confirmed by the chemical elements that scientists find in glass and iron. These elements are of unearthly origin, and most likely came to us with a meteorite. Moreover, the crater itself is hidden somewhere under the sands, and has not yet been found.

There are many mysteries in the Sahara Desert but scientific and archaeological expeditions are prohibited 89

If you look at the desert from space, then the first thing that can be seen is the rings, called the eyes of the Sahara, with a diameter of more than fifty kilometers. There are rocky rocks near the rings that are not found anywhere else on Earth. The stones themselves are most likely solidified lava.

But all these secrets and riddles are not studied in detail, since archaeological and scientific expeditions are officially prohibited on the territory of the Sahara, due to safety. On the territory of the desert, armed conflicts constantly occur, which are a great risk for scientists. This is what official sources say.

There are many mysteries in the Sahara Desert but scientific and archaeological expeditions are prohibited 90

The desert can be easily studied from space, by analogy with, for example, Mars, where in the infrared range, with the help of orbiting satellites and telescopes, you can recognize artifacts, as well as make new discoveries. Unfortunately, this does not happen.

The Sahara Desert, along with the oceans of the Earth, remains the least studied.

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Mysteries

Subconscious Games: Eliza Müller’s Martian Language

Subconscious Games: Eliza Müller's Martian Language 91

The Swiss psychologist Theodore Flournoy did not know that, having accepted an invitation from a colleague to attend a seance, he would spend five years of his life studying the secrets of the medium’s subconscious. A tall, beautiful woman sat at a round table, glaring at those who came.

Eliza Müller recently turned 33 years old, but she never got married. At the end of the 19th century, this was considered a tragedy. Eliza did not take money for the sessions, earning good money in the accounting department of a famous trading house. Talking about her, Flournois hid her real name, giving Frau Müller the pseudonym Helen Smith.

During the session, she was transformed, falling into a trance. Her eyes opened wide, her gaze rushed into space or wandered senselessly. At this moment, Eliza’s dilated pupils did not react to the bright light, and her face turned into a lifeless mask. A few minutes later, Eliza began to speak on behalf of the “spirit” that had infiltrated her – Cagliostro, Marie Antoinette, Victor Hugo and other celebrities.

At the same time, her voice completely changed, imitating those whose “spirit” was embodied in her. Sometimes Eliza spoke in a normal voice, describing the visions that appeared to her. In a trance, Frau Müller spoke to only one of those present, answering his questions. The rest of the people did not exist for her.

When Cagliostro moved into Eliza, she stood up, proudly straightening herself up, and began to speak, majestically crossing her arms over her chest. Her voice became loud and low, like that of a man, and her pronunciation was similar to Italian, with ancient turns. Cagliostro answered questions familiarly, referring to the interlocutor on “you”.

Subconscious Games: Eliza Müller's Martian Language 92

Another “spirit” that entered the medium was the Indian princess Simandini, the daughter of an Arab sheikh and the eleventh wife of Prince Nayak Sivruk of the Canary Islands, who built the Chandragiri fortress in 1401.

“The real daughter of the East appeared before us,” recalled Theodore Flournoy. – She sat on the ground with crossed legs; her solemn kneeling before the invisible incense burner, full of religious feeling, her arms crossed reverently on her chest and threefold bows gave the impression of inimitable naturalness; the melancholic tenderness of her songs, the free flexibility of her serpentine movements – such a varied facial expression, distinguished by a purely exotic character, all these movements bore the imprint of originality and ease. Unwittingly, bewilderment arose, how could a woman who did not know the East at all learn them.

During the sessions, Simandini uttered words and whole phrases that no one understood. When they were recorded and contacted by specialists, it turned out that she spoke Sanskrit. Once Eliza, in a trance, wrote a few words in a strange language. Experts in oriental writing told Theodore that this is an Arabic proverb: “A little friendship is already a lot.”

At the end of the session, announced by three knocks on the table, Frau Müller gradually returned to her normal state. It did not come immediately – it was preceded by several short awakenings, alternating with falling asleep. The woman who came to her senses did not remember what happened in the trance.

Flights to Mars

Subconscious Games: Eliza Müller's Martian Language 93

On November 25, 1894, immersed in a trance, Eliza saw a bright light at a high altitude. Then she felt herself pumped.

An example of a text in “Martian language” as presented by Helen Smith

It seemed to her that her head was empty and her body was gone. Some force was carrying her up. Then Frau Müller saw a beautiful ball and was on its surface.

– Where I am? – She asked the familiar “spirit” who was nearby.

“On a planet called Mars,” he replied.

Eliza began to describe her first impressions. She saw carts without horses and wheels, which, sliding, scattered sparks; aircraft similar to coach lights; houses with water fountains on the roof; people who spoke a strange language and, greeting each other, gave clicks in the nose; children who slept in a cradle, which instead of curtains had an iron angel with outstretched wings …

Frau Müller began to visit Mars during almost every trance. Little by little, she learned to speak and write in Martian. It turned out that one of the rulers of the planet, a certain Astane, lived on Earth in a past life and was familiar with Simandini.

Once Eliza in the company of Astane attended a magnificent local celebration. Dressed in a sequined dress (she imagined it was a Martian one), she entered a large square hall, lit by lamps at the corners.

Many ornamental plants hung everywhere. In the middle of the room was a grove surrounded by small, shiny tables. Inside was a cheerful crowd of young men and women, whose hairstyles bore the appearance of a pink, blue, or green moth.

At a sign given by Astane, everyone sat down at the tables decorated with flowers. Two men placed square plates and forks without handles in front of the Martians. Then they served strange-looking dishes, but the taste was excellent. The holiday ended with dances and songs.

Even stranger things were said by Eliza about her visit to the Martian foster home. In the huge hall along the walls there were “cradles” that resembled changing tables. In each “cradle” lay a child.

Martians walked around the hall with domestic animals, which had a wide, flat, almost hairless head and large kind eyes, like those of seals. Their large udders were inserted into a square tube milking unit. The Martians now and then stuck a pipe into the mouths of babies, feeding them milk.

On the way to the solution

Subconscious Games: Eliza Müller's Martian Language 94

Trying to find out as much as possible about the past of the medium, Flournoy found the family doctor Frau Müller. After talking with an elderly doctor, the psychologist showed him a note with an Arabic proverb. The doctor replied that this was his writing style. Several years ago, he traveled to Arabia and knew Arabic well.

Every time he gave a book about travel to friends, he would add an Arabic saying to his autograph. Eliza saw one of the autographs and in a trance drew it from memory from left to right, and did not write, like a real Arab woman, from right to left.

When Flournois invited a famous linguist to the sessions, the scientist said that Simandini’s language is not real Sanskrit, but a mixture of it with words similar in sound, but at the same time meaningless. The linguist got the impression that Eliza somehow saw the Sanskrit dictionary or grammar and leafed through it out of boredom.

Frau herself, of course, had forgotten everything a long time ago, but the subconscious mind kept the words it saw in its memory and then used them during the trance, plugging the blanks with words of its own invention.

Then it was the turn to find out if Princess Simandini and her husband Sivruk existed. All historians amicably answered that these names were unfamiliar to them. Flournoy was ready to give up, but then an old book on the history of India, written in 1828, fell into his hands. Everything that the princess said to herself turned out to be exact quotes taken from there!

Flournoy was able to prove that the source of information from the “spirits” were books that Frau Müller read as a child and forgot. During her trance, her brain would extract pieces of forgotten memories and build plots from them – of course, without the knowledge of her sanity.

Scientists were presented with a fantastic game of the mind and subconscious, surpassing everything that they had previously encountered. The process, when fragments from long-forgotten memories float out and are perceived by the subject himself as something alien, otherworldly, Theodore called cryptomnesia.

Subconscious games

The scientific assault on the “Martian language” was short-lived. Linguists said that the Martian language completely copies the grammar of the French language.

“This is a language that a young child could compose by replacing every word in the French dictionary with an arbitrary combination of letters and each letter with an arbitrary sign,” the experts said. “The language is childish, but as an effort of memory it is a miracle.”

Eliza Müller’s subconscious was trying to get out not only in a trance state. Sometimes she switched to the “Martian language”, not noticing that the interlocutor did not understand her. There could be several such interruptions during one conversation. Even in business correspondence, Frau Müller often inserted phrases or individual letters in “Martian” without noticing the mistake.

In 1900, Flournoy’s book “From India to the Planet Mars” was published, where the author summed up the five-year work of a team of scientists. After reading it, Eliza was furious. Since then, no specialist has received permission to attend her sessions.

A year later, a wealthy American woman gave Eliza financial support so that she could quit her job and focus on developing her mediumship. Frau Müller, who is so good at drawing, has a new talent. Going into a trance, she took up brushes and painted pictures on religious themes. Eliza’s paintings are considered a prime example of art brut – art of non-professionals, which has a spontaneous character and does not depend on cultural traditions.

Frau Müller died on June 10, 1929 in Geneva. Until her last breath, Eliza believed that she was the chosen one of spirits, aliens and saints, called to bring the truth to our lost world.

Mikhail GERSHTEIN, magazine “Secrets of the XX century”

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Mysteries

Mysterious Lake Funduji: why you can’t take water from this African lake

Mysterious Lake Funduji: why you can't take water from this African lake 95

In the northeast of the Republic of South Africa is the picturesque, but mysterious and ominous Lake Funduji. The local population considers the lake sacred and tells legends about it.

Despite the problems with fresh water in Africa, the tribes never settled on the banks of the Funduji, did not fish there and did not even replenish the water supplies from this lake.

This is because, according to local legends, it is impossible to take a drop of water from Lake Funduji, and anyone who touches the water, or even more so drinks it, will soon die. Also, people made sacrifices to the mythical monster Funduji to appease him.

The general public learned about Funduji at the beginning of the 20th century, when deposits of chrome ore were found in the vicinity of the lake. When expeditions from Europe began to come to this area, the lake was finally mapped.

Scientists listened to the stories of the locals about the ominous lake and the monster, but in the course of geological research, nothing mystical was found.

Mysterious Lake Funduji: why you can't take water from this African lake 96

In 1955, Professor Henry Burnside and his assistant Thacker decided to check the legend about strange water that cannot be carried away from the lake. Scientists collected water in several containers made of different materials – glass, porcelain and plastic, and walked several kilometers, intending to examine the samples.

But it was not possible to carry out the analysis: in the morning all the containers were empty. Then the scientists decided to return to the lake and take new samples. This time, Burnside dipped his finger into the water and tasted it: the taste of the water was bitter-rotten.

Throughout the day, scientists observed the containers, but no changes occurred, and by morning the vessels were empty again. Burnside intended to go back to the lake and examine water samples on site, but the plans were prevented by a sudden deterioration in his health: the professor was hospitalized, and a week later he died – as it later turned out, from intestinal inflammation.

It would seem that there is evidence of sinister legends, but there is still a scientific explanation for the phenomena of Lake Funduji. In fact, chromium ore deposits are the cause of the anomalies.

Chromium salts are very toxic to humans, and the concentration of chromium in the lake was so high that a couple of drops killed Professor Burnside.

Mysterious Lake Funduji: why you can't take water from this African lake 97

The disappearing water phenomenon is also explained by the high chromium content. At temperatures below 19 degrees Celsius, chromium particles in water crystallize (therefore, the water “disappeared” at night, when it was cooler). In fact, the liquid from the vessel does not go anywhere, but turns into a solid state, scattering along the bottom and walls of the vessel.

To be fair, some of Funduji’s riddles have not yet been solved – for example, it is not clear why a large number of crocodiles live in the poisonous lake. It is also unclear what these reptiles eat, because there are no fish in the lake, and other animals do not go there to drink.

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