Over the years I've researched the lives of many serial killers, however none have peaked my interest more than Ed Gein.

Of all the best-known American serial killers, none has had a greater cultural impact than Ed Gein, the Wisconsin maniac whose reign of terror began in 1947. Shortly after his arrest in 1957, LIFE sent photographers to Plainfield, Wis., where Gein passed most of his troubled existence, and documented the riveting details about his case as they unfolded. WARNING: Some of what follows is highly disturbing.