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Robert Bloch's Psycho captivated a nation when it appeared in 1959.
The story was all too real-indeed this classic was inspired by the real-life story of Ed Gein, a psychotic murderer who led a dual life. Alfred Hitchcock too was captivated, and turned the book into one of the most-loved classic films of all time the year after it was released.
Norman Bates loves his Mother. She has been dead for the past twenty years, or so people think. Norman knows better though. He has lived with Mother ever since leaving the hospital in the old house up on the hill above the Bates motel. One night Norman spies on a beautiful woman that checks into the hotel as she undresses. Norman can't help but spy on her. Mother is there though. She is there to protect Norman from his filthy thoughts. She is there to protect him with her butcher knife.
“I think perhaps all of us go a little crazy at times.”
When Mary Crane stops for the night in a tiny, obscure little motel she thinks nothing of the odd but seemingly nice manager Norman Bates. All she’s concerned about is getting cleaned up and resting before she sees her fiancé the next day. The two are going to finally be able to start their life together after Mary stole $40,000 from her employer. Unfortunately, things don’t go according to plan for Mary Crane.
Psycho is one of those mandatory readings for any horror fan and while this one isn’t completely terrifying, it’s realistic enough to get under your skin. Norman Bates’ character is in fact based off a real life murderer, Ed Gein, who in the 1950s killed two women but dug up the graves of many women in order to practice human taxidermy. When police searched his house, things like a wastebasket made of human skin and bowls made from human skulls were found. Bloch didn’t have Norman Bates share the obsession with human taxidermy, however, both men did have a strange obsession with their mothers. The victims Gein dug up were said to all resemble his own mother. Bloch did an impeccable job at introducing Bates as a sympathetic character. He’s been misguided his entire life by his overbearing mother who constantly instilled a belief in sin and that women are nothing but evil. The man is a murderer yet is he worthy of the sympathy felt? Quite the moral conundrum.
‘Mary started to scream, and then the curtains parted further and a hand appeared, holding a butcher’s knife. It was the knife that, a moment later, cut off her scream.
And her head.’
Personally, I hadn’t even seen the film before reading this so shockingly enough I went into this completely oblivious to the truth behind the story. What a fantastic twist.. even if I did see it coming. Bloch’s writing is incredibly fluid and despite the time that has passed since its original publication manages to read without the feel of a classic. It’s a shame that Bloch didn’t write more horror novels but I’m definitely going to have to seek out some of his short stories.