By Kristen Winiarski

With Mother’s Day upon us, it can be hard to feel anything but love for our own mothers when we grow up in a loving home. How about people who didn’t? Serial killers seem to be notorious for hating their mothers, and their relationships were often strained or complex. These women were often troubled or led lives that were less than ideal, so is it really any surprise that their sons turned out to be as messed up as they did? Check out these serial killers who had the worst mothers.

Ed Gein. Courtesy of Plainfield, Wisconsin Police Department

Ed Gein

Due to his mother’s over-the-top eccentric religious beliefs, she stayed with Gein’s father, who was a violent alcoholic who abused his kids. Not only that, his mother would often abuse them as well since she believed they would grow up to be like their father. He loved her fiercely while she was alive, but once she was dead, he began his obsession with people’s body parts. Often, his victims were middle-aged women who resembled his mother.

The story of Ed Gein formed the basis for the novel Psycho (which was quickly turned into the famous horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock) and it was written by a Wisconsin author, Robert Bloch. Make sure to check out Bloch’s old apartment on our “Saints and Sinners of Brady Street” tour in Milwaukee!

H.H. Holmes

As the first serial killer, it is hard to know exactly what his childhood was like. He killed at least 27 women during the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. His murder house of trap doors, torture chambers, and hidden passages is disturbing. His father was an alcoholic, who physically and mentally abused him, and his mother was very religious. She would mentally abuse him as well. His punishments usually involved food deprivation, isolation, and his father holding kerosene-soaked rags over his mouth to quiet him while he cried. 

You can visit the haunts of H.H. Holmes on our Devil In The White City tour in Chicago…

David Berkowitz Mugshot courtesy of Netflix

David Berkowitz

During a killing spree from 1976 to 1977, Berkowitz murdered six people. He and his adoptive mother had an often obsessive bond because she was so happy to have a child. She doted on him, but also put insane expectations on him to be perfect. Berkowitz was heartbroken when she died when he was 14, and also blamed himself for his birth mother’s death until he was 22. When he found out his birth mother was still alive, he was both angry and disappointed because they didn’t connect anywhere near the level he’d connected with his adoptive mother.

Mary Bell and her Mother
Mary Bell and her mother

Mary Bell

As a child killer, Bell murdered two little boys when she was just ten years old. This may stem from her mother’s severe rejection that happened as soon as the poor girl was born. Her mother’s first words after her birth was, “Get that thing away from me!” Not only that, her mother often pawned her off on relatives, tried to give her away, and gave her drugs to make her sick.

Charles Manson

As the leader of the cult who murdered Sharon Tate and others, Manson had a very rough relationship with his mother. She was 16 years old when he was born, and an alcoholic who tried to get rid of him at just about every opportunity. One famous story alleges that she once sold him for a pitcher of beer. Despite all of these things, he ran away from his school to get back to her, but she yet again rejected him, leading him to live on the streets for years.

Learn more Los Angeles ghost stories (as well as seeing some of the locations from Quentin Tarantino’s Charles Manson fable, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood) on our Hollywood Ghost Walk.

Reading about how awful these mothers were makes us more grateful for ours, doesn’t it? When mothers are abusive or absent, their children face the consequences, and it can mold them into monsters. Your mom is someone you hold in high regard and should give you unconditional love. Unfortunately for some, this isn’t the case, and their own lives, and their victims, are destroyed because of it. Happy Mother’s Day!