Thursday, February 22, 2007

Gein Property For Sale

This was almost a year ago now, but still of interest to any Eddie Gein connoisseur.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Ed GeinCrime doesn't pay, but will it sell?

Plainfield property where killer Ed Gein lived is up for auction on eBay

Posted: April 6, 2006

Plainfield - Forty acres of woods dotted with long rows of red pine trees are for sale near this Waushara County community. Asking price - $250,000.

That's a bit steep for wooded land in central Wisconsin far from water, even at a time when parcels are getting snapped up for hunting and recreational use. But it's not so much the land or the nice size deer that traverse the acreage that has boosted the value.

It's what happened on the property almost a half century ago.

This is the land where Ed Gein lived. Wisconsin's most famous murderer, until Jeffrey Dahmer, was arrested on this land in November 1957. Inside the ramshackle farmhouse - which burned down shortly before the property was auctioned the following March - were the remains of his last victim as well as other horrifying items such as body parts and clothing made from human skin.

Now the grandson of the man who bought the property at the 1958 auction is selling the 40 acres where Gein's farmhouse and other buildings once stood. The property was listed this week on eBay by Mike Fisher, who inherited the property from his grandfather, Emden Schey.

Ed Gein PropertyUnder the heading "Ed Gein's Farm . . . The REAL deal!" in the real estate section of eBay is a photo of the entrance to the property and a description: "40 acres of wooded land and pine plantation, includes site of Ed's home, outbuildings, well, private dump & other artifacts of Gein's life & horrific crimes. This is the first time this property has been offered for sale since the original purchase. . . . Property has electric, newer sand-point well, hunting shack & acres of pine and hardwood. This is not a joke. Serious purchase inquiries only."

Fisher said he grew up hunting and hiking on the land with his grandfather, who planted 6,000 pine trees on the property, but wants to sell it now because he's "reallocating funds."

Fisher said he wants to be respectful to the families of Gein's victims but also wants to sell the land for a price higher than comparable acreage that might not have the notoriety of this particular parcel.

"The families of the victims still live here. In all of the time we've owned it, we have never tried to capitalize on it," Fisher said in response to an e-mail inquiry.

Fisher, a real estate appraiser, said a similar piece of property would be valued at $80,000 to $120,000.

"As you can see from the ad I'm asking $250,000 because I'm guessing there's some kook out there willing to spend the money for his 15 minutes of fame," he said.

Shortly after the eBay ad was posted, the sale of Gein's old farm was being discussed in forums on skcentral.com (Serial Killer Central) and Murderauction.com, said Andy Kahan, who is leading a national campaign against sales of serial killer memorabilia. Fisher didn't know about that until a reporter told him.

Kahan said Gein memorabilia is very valuable in the small world of collectors of gruesome gimcracks.

"Ed Gein is like a Da Vinci," said Kahan, victim rights director in the Houston mayor's office. "If you own something of Gein, it's one of the top five of that industry."

Whether Fisher gets his asking price is anybody's guess. This week, the only response to the ad was from a Journal Sentinel reporter.

Kahan, whose efforts to shut down sales of murder memorabilia prompted eBay to stop listing things such as artwork by John Wayne Gacy and letters from Ted Bundy, said Fisher is capitalizing on Gein's infamy.

"You're not selling the property for the property sake itself. You're using the ill-gotten notoriety of one of the country's most famous serial killers to jack up the price," Kahan said.

But Fisher said he tried not to capitalize too much on the name of the man who inspired the Norman Bates character in Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho."

"The wording (on eBay), I tried to keep it kind of minimal. I didn't want to add any fuel to the fire that mentioning his name brings in that area," Fisher said.

Mentioning Gein in Plainfield, though, continues to dredge up bad memories. On Wednesday, several people didn't want to talk about Gein, didn't want their names used or angrily asked why another story was being written about the bachelor accused of robbing local graves.

"It's tough that that's the only thing you're known for," said Delores Zdroik, as she scraped weeds next to her sidewalk.

Zdroik was living in Milwaukee when Gein was arrested but moved to Plainfield a decade ago. One time she was wearing a sweat shirt emblazoned with the name of her community while visiting family in Milwaukee and noticed a man following her. "He stopped me and said 'Oh, that's Ed Gein's hometown.' "

If the land is sold for $250,000, the sale will help Plainfield's tax base, said Verne, who did not want his last name used. "I'm sure nobody around town will buy it."

The property is much like any other in this part of Wisconsin. It's surrounded by cornfields waiting to be planted. Numerous "No Trespassing" signs are nailed to trees. Pine boughs litter the ground next to stumps in an area recently logged.

On Wednesday afternoon, it was quiet. Almost 50 years ago, in the days after Gein was arrested in the slaying of hardware store owner Bernice Worden, hundreds of cars clogged the rural roads as tourists drove by to glimpse the farmhouse. Then thousands more showed up in March 1958 for an open house held before the auction. By then the house had burned down. Eight sheriff's deputies controlled traffic at nearby intersections.

At the auction on March 30, 1958, Schey bid $3,883 for Gein's farm plus another $775 for the homestead site, outbuildings and 40 acres. At the same auction, Gein's 1949 Maroon Ford was bought for the then-princely sum of $760 by a man who later drove it around the state, charging people a quarter to see it.

Schey later sold off some of the land to relatives and friends, and the 40-acre homestead site was passed down to Fisher and his brother. Now, it too, is on the auction block.

Fisher prefers prospective buyers to contact him only through the eBay site.

"I really don't want to turn this into a circus," he said.

Map to Plainfield, WI----------

From the Janesville Gazette:

The man trying to sell the land where Ed Gein - the grave robber and murderer whose story inspired the movie "Psycho" - was arrested said Monday he received one offer before eBay yanked his ad off its online auction site.

Mike Fisher said the offer was far lower than his $250,000 asking price. Fisher said eBay pulled his real estate advertisement on Saturday, five days after it was first listed, calling it a violation of the site's murder memorabilia policy.

"It was bound to be controversial," Fisher said.

The 40-acre property near Plainfield about 70 miles south of Wausau once contained Gein's ramshackle home and part of his farm, where Gein was arrested and body parts and clothing made from human skin were found in 1957.

Fisher, who inherited the land from his grandfather, listed the property on eBay on April 4 under the heading, "Ed Gein's Farm ... The REAL deal!"

Fisher's sales pitch drew the attention of a man leading a national campaign against sales of serial killer memorabilia. Andy Kahan of Houston said Fisher was wrong for trying to use a horrible crime and the notoriety of it to "hook a higher price" for his land.

Kahan said Monday he purposely didn't contact eBay about the ad to see whether the company was enforcing its policy.

"It finally got pointed out to them," he said. "Obviously, they passed with flying colors. We applaud eBay for being a consistent watchdog and not allowing the sale of murderabilia."

In a telephone interview from his home in southern Wisconsin, Fisher said his eBay ad received more than 10,000 hits before it was pulled. He refused to disclose details about the lone offer, which he did not immediately accept.

The property remains for sale, he said. "I have a number of interested parties. We have yet to exchange information. They want to take a look at the place, that type of thing."

Fisher said he doesn't plan to list the property with a real estate company.

"The word is out. If someone is truly interested, they can track me down," he said. "Public records will show where I am at. As with any real estate deal, price is always negotiable."

Kahan said he was not surprised Fisher's ad attracted 10,000 hits.

"It's human curiosity. People are always fascinated with the morbid and the macabre," he said.

Gein was arrested for murder when the headless body of a hardware store owner was found hanging at his farm home. The woman's body was dressed out like a deer carcass. Investigators also found parts of other bodies. They concluded Gein had robbed graves and may have murdered other people.

50 years of Ed GeinGein, eventually ruled guilty but criminally insane, died in a mental hospital in 1984 at the age of 77.

Fisher's grandfather, Emden Schey, bid $3,883 for Gein's farm plus another $775 for the homestead site, outbuildings and 40 acres in 1958. The farmhouse on the property burned down before the auction.

Schey later sold off some of the land, and the 40-acre homestead site was passed down to Fisher and his brother. Fisher, 40, said he bought out his brother's interest.

The 40 acres is covered with trees, planted by his grandfather to try in some way to redeem it from its ugly past, the grandson said. Fisher and friends have hunted deer on it for more than two decades.

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