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Wisconsin Serial Killers and Their Dark Knack for Notoriety

Illustrated  silhouette of one person attacking another with a knife against a red background
The real-life inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" was from La Crosse, Wisconsin. Some would describe his acts as pure evil. A Mokhtari / Getty Images

Wisconsin is known for its cheese, beer and ... terrifying serial killers? It turns out some of the most notorious serial killers in the United States hail from America's Dairyland.

While there are some particularly infamous Wisconsin serial killers true crime fans will want to know about, the state does not have the most serial killers of any state — not by a long shot. Wisconsin just happens to be where some of the biggest names (for the worst reasons) come from.

Ed Gein

You may not have heard of Ed Gein, but you probably know the horror movies his life inspired: "Psycho" (1960), "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" (1974) and "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991).

Known as the Butcher of Plainfield and the Plainfield Ghoul, Gein was born in 1906 in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and spent most of his life on his family's farm in Plainfield, Wisconsin.

The first death Gein was associated with was that of his older brother Henry in 1944. Although Henry's death was ruled an accident, Gein led the police to the body, which was bruised and burned.

In 1957, hardware store owner Bernice Worden was reported missing, and her body was found at Gein's farm. In their investigation, police also found the head of Mary Hogan, who was reported missing in 1954, and body parts Gein had collected from graves and used to make masks and other items.

Gein admitted to the two murders but was deemed insane and spent the remainder of his life in a mental hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, where he died in 1984.

Jeffrey Dahmer

Jeffrey Dahmer, known as the Milwaukee Cannibal, is one of Wisconsin's most infamous serial killers and probably the most infamous Milwaukee resident. Born in 1960, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Dahmer committed his first murder in 1978 in Ohio.

Between 1987 and 1992, Dahmer killed 15 more people, most of whom were young men and boys of color. Dahmer is one of the State's most notorious serial killers not only due to his crimes, which included necrophilia and cannibalism, but also because of how long it took the Milwaukee County Police Department to arrest him.

Critics of the police department argued that Dahmer walked free for so many years because his victims were often gay and people of color, and they claim police cared less about what happened to them.

In 1992 Dahmer was finally convicted and received 16 consecutive life sentences. A fellow inmate murdered Dahmer at the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, Wisconsin, in 1994.

Walter Ellis

Walter E. Ellis, known as the Milwaukee North Side Strangler, strangled and killed seven female sex workers between 1986 and 2007. He was finally arrested in 2009, sentenced in 2011 and died of natural causes in 2013 at a hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

LaVerne McCoy, a retired Milwaukee police officer, told NPR in 2009 that part of the reason police took so long to arrest Ellis was that they saw sex workers as a "disposable portion of society."

According to then-secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections Rick Raemisch, the holdup was due to DNA evidence stuck with the FBI. "Unfortunately that information was not given back to us by the Department of Justice — so it basically sat there, frankly, for years," Raemisch told NPR.

Unsurprisingly, no one wants to shoulder the blame for delay in apprehending one of the worst serial killers the country has ever known (nor the serial killers who have never been caught).

Original article: Wisconsin Serial Killers and Their Dark Knack for Notoriety

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