Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ed Gein - A real horror tale

Eduard Theodore Gein, known as Ed Gein, is probably the most gruesome and famous serial killers in America. He was born in 1906 and although he only had two certain victims, he still remains an inspiration for horror movies like Psycho or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But let’s take a look first at his childhood and how his upbringing led him to be one of the most feared killers. He was born in Wisconsin in a family with a dominant, very religious and controlling mother. He lost his father and brother in 1940 and his mother died after a stroke in 1945.  Gein’s sexual interests were very ambiguous and he was having problems with his sexual identity also considering sex change operation, but also wanting to amputate his penis. After his mother died, he remained all alone and was able to pursue his bizarre hobbies.

He raided several graves and used the remains of the deceased as home decorations. Apparently, he even used skullcaps as bowl and human skin was used to construct lap shades and different waste-baskets. His ambiguous sexuality led him perform certain rituals, such as dancing under the moon while wearing a woman’s scalp and face. This way, he was able to put on another sexual identity and even another personality. After a while, these perversions stopped satisfying Gein and on December 8th, 1954, Mary Hogan disappeared from a tavern she managed and Gein was called as a suspect. Police didn’t arrest him but on November 1957 another woman, Bernice Worden, disappeared in almost the same circumstances.  Her son told the police that Gein asked her for a date and one day before she disappeared. Police started investigating Gein and found Bernice Worden decapitated, hung from the rafters, and gutted and with her genitals carved out. Her heart was found in a saucepan on the stove and Gein apparently made an ornament out her head, and  other of her organs which were placed in a box. In Gein’s house, the police also found costumes made of human skin, 10 human skulls(with the tops sewn off above the eyebrows) and different ornaments made from bones and skin such as bracelets, a purse made from human skin, leggings, chairs with seats that were decorated with skin, a shoe-box containing salted vulvae including the one of his mother which was painted silver. They also found a suit that Ed wore made of human skin, complete with breasts and a mask.

 Gein confessed the two murders but the judge declared him incapable for trial. After a decade, he was trialed again but found innocent due to insanity.  The police suspected that Gein killed more than the two women as there were many disappearances linked to him. Also, there were a lot of organs that couldn’t be matched with the victims or the remains from the cemeteries and the ten human heads. He died of respiratory failure on July 1984.


The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers (Pocket Books True Crime)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross - 5 Stages Of Grief Model

According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, in her book called “On Death and Dying”, there are five stages of grief. However, one should not conclude that these stages only apply in case of personal death or somebody else’s death. We can experience the stages in other traumatic life events such as social rejection, divorce, break-up, disease, etc. Although she is popular for her grief model, she also did a lot of research on other aspects associated with death, dying and overall personal trauma.

Why are these theories applied in other aspects of life? First of all, let us analyze the concept of social death or psychosocial death. Social death can be defined as experiencing a profound sense of loss, but that loss cannot be publicly acknowledged if the person is still biologically alive. Some of the traumas previously named can be characteristic for social death. The grief process that follows a divorce, for example, is usually similar with the grief process one experiences when they physically lose their significant other. In other words, any type of loss or rejection feels like dealing with death and also reminds us, from an existentialist view, that we are alone in the world and there is no stability. These stages don’t respect an order of appearance, each person experiences grief differently and may skip or switch certain stages. The stages we previously talked about are described as:

Denial – During this stage, things will feel overwhelming so, as a coping mechanism, the person will try to deny their state because they feel a shock. This shock has changed everything in their life and it usually doesn’t make sense at first. Actually, although it would seem like a negative aspect, denial is actually good because it helps us cope and survive and understanding your pain begins with denial.

Anger – A very important stage in the healing process, anger is not endless no matter how much you think it is at the moment you experience it. Actually, the more anger you express, the better you will cope with your problem afterwards, because it helps you let go of your pain somehow. Anger is much better as despair because it gives you a focus towards an object, while despair is just a feeling without structure. Try not to suppress your anger.

Bargaining – this is a form of temporary truce, you will make certain promises to yourself, to God, or whatever you believe in that certain things will happen if you get through the traumatic event. In this stage, you will experience regret a lot and often think about times when you could have done things differently. 

Depression – depression is a state of mind characterized by the present, unlike bargaining which is characterized by the past. Depression is the appropriate response to a great loss and should be understood while experiencing it because it’s an important step in your grief.

Acceptance – although most people have the misconception that acceptance means being all right with your current situation, it is not the case when analyzing grief. Acceptance during the grief process is about seeing the reality just as it is and coping with it in an authentic way. In other words, acceptance is not denying our feelings, trying to recreate meaningful relationships, despite the loss you endured.

From an epistemological point of view we can notice that these stages of grief are very similar to the structure we use when we gather new information that contrasts the old information we believe in. It seems that our thought patterns are constructed to resemble the stages of grief whenever we learn something new, leading, more or less, to an emotional roller-coaster. Even if the stages of grief have been criticized by scientists who consider that there is no pattern similar to most people, but there is evidence that points to the fact that most people have the same way of integrating traumatizing or controversial information while experiencing some or all these stages.

Further reading:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Joel-Peter Witkin - Extremely Taboo Art

Joel Peter Witkin is one of the most fascinating contemporary artists. His works are not only controversial but also extremely powerful and distinct. If you’ve seen one his works you will remember it for life. 

Although most of his portrayals are taboo, depicting either sexual, strange scenes or outsiders such as dwarfs, hermaphrodites and physically deformed people, they struck us with a grasp of the harsh reality concerning human darkness and grotesque. He sees beauty where others don’t and manages to capture seemingly random moments, but at a second look we can realize how everything makes sense. Joel-Peter Witkin is inspired by the technique used for  Daguerreotypes and by  E. J. Bellocq. Words are absolutely useless in this case, I don’t have the talent to describe or praise his work so I invite you to see it with your own eyes.