Prolific Violence — The Killer Behind the Killers in Take Your Turn, Teddy
*Due to the graphic nature of this article, discretion is advised. This post contains discussion of murder and abuse that some may find triggering or offensive.*
“Before Strode’s eyes sealed, he had one final thought: Those people didn’t just disappear. Teddy Blackwood was a murderer, a vile, merciless killer.” — Haley Newlin, Take Your Turn, Teddy
The sixties and seventies saw an immense change in how law enforcement investigated murders. Some of the most prolific and gruesome serial killers, like Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz, and Richard Speck, lurked in highways, hiking trails, dark streets, and for some, even locked homes.
With some of the most brutal killers already captured and used as tools to study the mind of those drawn to carnage, the seventies became the perfect setting for Take Your Turn, Teddy.
The unease that plagued the air from the early sixties and bred paranoia worldwide conjured suggestions of corruption by something evil, something demonic throughout the seventies.
This fear only continued through the 1980s and onward with new killers like Andrei Chikatilo, Ed Gein, and Keith Jesperson.
While Take Your Turn, Teddy includes a paranormal entity called “the shadow,” inspired by Carl Jung’s archetype; it was humanity that opened the door and invited the evil inside.
Multiple serial killers inspired Teddy’s psychology and his and the shadow’s murder tactics in Take Your Turn, Teddy. Among them was Edward (“Ed”) Gein, also known as “The Butcher of Plainfield.”
“The Butcher of Plainfield” — Ed Gein
Crime Span: 1954–1957
Victims: Two murders confirmed, nine corpses mutilated from dug up graves
Sentencing: In 1957, diagnosed with schizophrenia and declared insane, Gein was sent to a state hospital in Wisconsin. In 1968, Gein was deemed sane enough to stand trial — found guilty and remained in the hospital.
Death: July 26, 1984 — Respiratory and heart failure
Ed Gein killed two women in Plainfield, Wisconsin, and robbed the grave of eight others in the town. After police visited his home in 1957 on suspicion of his involvement with hardware store owner Bernice Worden’s disappearance, Gein’s “house of horrors” shocked the nation and intrigued horror writers and filmmakers.
In Gein’s “house of horrors,’’ police found Worden decapitated and gutted, hanging from the rafters in his kitchen. He also had human-flesh upholstery covering furniture, make-shifted soup bowls from human skulls, and a suit made entirely of women’s skin. A suit he would wear. Geintold police his decor came from local gravesites — particularly corpses who reminded him of his mother.
While Teddy didn’t collect skin or bones from his string of victims, Gein’s mad mind inspired elements of the story — much like it has for notorious horror villains Norman Bates in Psycho, Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Buffalo Bill, and Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs.
However, it was the focus on Gein’s childhood and psychology that conjured some of the more grisly displays of violence from Teddy and the shadow.
Like Arthur Blackwood, Gein’s father was an alcoholic, and the family lived in a small, secluded farming community — after moving earlier in the boys’ childhoods.
After moving from their hometowns, Gein and Teddy felt an overwhelming sense of isolation and fear when their parents’ relationship became violent. And the two struggled to make sense of their abusive environment.
For Gein, an intensely close relationship with his mother and a growing passion for carnage after witnessing a pig slaughtered on his family’s farm, began to mold the mind of a heinous killer.
This detail inspired the inclusion of an abattoir down the road from Teddy’s new home — accompanied by an ever-present smell of copper. Though, Teddy wouldn’t find pleasure in bloodshed as early as Gein had. First, his sense of normalcy and belonging had to be stripped ever further, forcing him into the arms of “the shadow.”
Finally, like Gein, Teddy experienced excruciating loss — both ambiguous loss and death in his family. This loss made Teddy’s developing relationship with the shadow turn from friendship to fierce devotion — a relationship he would do anything to hold on to.
The same way Gien saw his brother, Henry, as a threat to his relationship with his mother, Teddy began to see the world as a threat to the close bond between him and the shadow.
The deranged sense of connection and fear of isolation turned both Gein and Teddy into murderers — vile, merciless killers.
This article is one installment of a five-part series on the killers “behind the killer,” — Teddy Blackwood in Take Your Turn, Teddy.
Robert Bloch’s Psycho, Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs, and Parcast’s original podcast series “Serial Killers” provided research and insight into the psychology of Ed Gein and other serial killers used in this article and Take Your Turn, Teddy.