'Lost Tapes' director: 'Psycho' inspiration Ed Gein knew he was a monster

New episodes of "Psycho: The Lost Tapes of Ed Gein" air Sunday nights. Image courtesy of MGM+
1 of 2 | New episodes of "Psycho: The Lost Tapes of Ed Gein" air Sunday nights. Image courtesy of MGM+

NEW YORK, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- James Buddy Day says his new docuseries, Psycho: The Lost Tapes of Ed Gein, sheds new light on the notorious 1950s-era serial killer and grave robber, who inspired numerous horror movie villains including Norman Bates, Buffalo Bill and Leatherface.

Airing Sunday nights on MGM+, the program shares recently discovered and never publicly heard audio of Gein talking to local officials the night he was arrested, as well as black-and-white, dramatic recreations of scenes from his life.


"What's so unique about the tapes and hearing his actual voice is that you really get a sense of who this guy was," Day told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

"You can hear that he is this simple, meek, mild farmer from the Midwest, who understands he is a monster, but doesn't understand why or how he became one and he is almost working with the authorities to try and kind of get insight into himself."


The four-part series chronicles how Gein was raised in Wisconsin by an abusive father and controlling mother and became a loner, obsessed with gory pulp magazine stories, who eventually dug up corpses from the local cemetery and used women's body parts to make clothing and furniture.

Convicted of murdering two women and suspected of killing seven others, Gein died in a psychiatric facility in 1984 at age 77.

His deeds served as the basis for the killers in fictional films such as Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and House of 1,000 Corpses.

Day said Lost Tapes distinguishes itself from other accounts of Ed Gein's shocking actions.

"It's not exactly a new story," he laughed.

"When you are looking at a historic story, especially one that has become part of Americana -- kind of infused into the culture -- you really want to bring new insight that scares people and is engaging in a completely different way."

The existence of the tapes was a revelation, even to true-crime experts who have long studied Gein's exploits.

"This isn't an interview a journalist did 10 years later or 15 years later. This is happening in real time. On the tapes, you're hearing the judge saying things like, 'Oh, my God, they just found more heads at your house,'" Day said.


"The search of his house and the revelations of the atrocities he's committed, this is all happening [during the interview]," he added. "The tapes are like a window in time, like this scene into the Ed Gein story. That's so unique. I can't even think of another instance like that."

Day said it is usually difficult to decide what to put in a film or series and what to leave out. But not this time.

"We left everything in!" the filmmaker said. "One of the great parts of streaming [services] is that there are no time constraints, so you really can prioritize the story above the platform. I've made a lot of [TV] series where they give a clock."

MGM+ didn't tell him how many episodes his series should be, how long they should run or how they should be formatted.

"We really were unconstrained," Day said. "We really just focused on telling the best story."

Day -- whose other credits include Myth of the Zodiac Killer, Floribama Murders, Blumhouse's Compendium of Horror and Fall River -- said he is fascinated by stories about "monsters in plain sight."


"The myth is that serial killers are like Hannibal Lecter [from Silence of the Lambs] or Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, that they are these malicious supervillains," Day said.

"That really isn't the case. What we are learning now with familial DNA and geographic profiling is there are many, many more serial killers than we thought, and they are hiding in the most unlikely people you would expect. That's what's so scary about Ed Gein."

So many people are turning to true-crime documentaries, series, podcasts and books because they want to understand aberrations in society, Day said.

"When you look at humanity on a bell curve, almost everyone is in the middle," the filmmaker said.

"But, on one far side, you're going to get this very small group of altruistic, beautiful, compassionate people like the Dalai Lama and, on the other side, you're going to get a small group of psychopaths who will explore the darkest parts of humanity."

Day said he hopes his true-crime film and series help viewers consider how people, who view the world in such completely different ways, leading them to commit horrific crimes, should be dealt with.

"When we discover monsters like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy -- and the thousands of other serial killers that have been brought into the light -- what do we do with them?" Day asked.


"How do we treat them? How does the justice system treat them? Is there academic validity in keeping them alive and interviewing them? Should they be put to death?

"There are so many interesting questions, and that all comes back to we don't understand them. So, if I can make a project that gives us some insight, I'm happy with that."

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