Beyond the 1978 original, I have close to zero interest in the Halloween franchise filled with numerous sequels, a partial reboot, a remake, a sequel to the re-make, and now another partial reboot sequel (I think; details on the new film remain unclear at this point). The only other film in the Halloween series that interests me is Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which has no connection to any other series installment. However, Halloween III is ultra-bizarre and it has the benefit of making the best use of the holiday.
The only “slasher” franchise that I’m actually a fan of is Psycho. The original Alfred Hitchcock Psycho is a masterpiece, obviously, but it wasn’t a slasher horror film in the way we define these movies now (i.e. define them post-Halloween). It was one of the critical building blocks of what slasher films would become. Its sequels, however, were released when the slasher film was a firmly established genre. And bizarrely, I’m way into them.
Since I recently did a write up on the original Halloween, it became imperative… imperative … that I chronicle the killing spree of the grandfather of the screen slashers, Norman Bates. Because lists are fun.
Norman Bates kills eleven people over the course of the events of the original series of films: Psycho (1960), Psycho II (1983), Psycho III (1986), and Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990). For the purposes of this list, I’m only including these movies, because they form a coherent single chronology featuring Anthony Perkins’s version of Norman Bates. The recent Bates Motel Showtime series takes place in an alternate Psycho-verse.
Oh, spoilers, of course. But only Psycho II is really “spoilerable” because 1) you may not have seen it already, and 2) it’s absolutely worth seeing, and the twists are solid. Psycho III is enjoyable schlock, but primarily it will interest horror aficionados, and Psycho IV: The Beginning is completist-only territory. You can purchase the three sequels in a DVD pack that includes the 1987 TV pilot Bates Motel, which you should watch only if you want to hate life. (It’s alternate canon and nobody dies in it anyway. Yes, a Psycho franchise project where nobody is killed. Good use of the source material, there. Bravo.)
Norman Bates’s Victims
The victims are listed below chronologically by film universe order, not film release order.
1. Chet Rudolph
Norma Bates’s fiancé. Norman poisons him with strychnine poured in the tea that he and Norma drink. He dies a few minutes before Norma, expiring on the floor of the fruit cellar of the Bates house after assaulting Norman. Chet’s death is first mentioned in Psycho, although he’s unnamed. His death is shown and name revealed in Psycho IV, where he is played by Thomas Schuster.
2. Norma Bates
Norman’s infamous mother, and the future identity and personality that would drive him to murder the majority of his victims. Norman poisons her with strychnine mixed into her tea during a hot summer evening. Norma survives long enough after the initial poisoning to chase Norman downstairs to the fruit cellar, where she dies in the rocking chair that Norman would later use as the main resting place for her mummified corpse. Norma’s murder is first mentioned in Psycho, where it’s the final shock revelation, and is a touchstone for the whole series. Norma Bates is first seen alive in Psycho IV (played by Olivia Hussey), where her murder is depicted. The rest of the time she’s a taxidermied corpse, with various actresses (most notably Virginia Gregg) supplying her “voice.”
A young women around Norman’s age who is his first post-matricide victim, slain some time in the early 1950s. (A radio identifies that the Korean War was happening.) Holly attempts to seduce Norman and convinces him to go up to the house to have sex. Norman’s arousal triggers Mother’s emergence, and he stabs Holly to death when she enters Mother’s room searching for him. Holly’s murder is mentioned in the coda to Psycho, where she is one of two unnamed missing girls whom Norman confesses to killing when in the Mother persona. Holly is first named and her murder shown in Psycho IV, where she is played by Sharen Camille.
The second person Norman kills in the Mother persona. Gloria is an older woman who seduces Norman in her car parked before the Bates Motel. Mother takes over and strangles Gloria with a rope twice, then drops her body into the trunk of her car and sinks it. Gloria, still not dead from the double strangulation (Norman should stick to knives), finally drowns. Like Holly, Gloria is mentioned as a missing person in Psycho whom Norman confesses to murdering. Bobbi Evors plays Gloria in Psycho IV, where she’s first named and her death shown.
5. Unidentified victim
This is the big question mark in Norman’s bloody career. At the close of Psycho in 1960, Norman is identified as having murdered six people; two during the events of the movie and the four mentioned above. At the start of Psycho II, which takes place twenty-two years later, Lila Loomis notes in the courtroom scene that Bates has killed seven people, all apparently on legal record.
Who is this seventh victim? No name or gender has ever been revealed. The most likely scenario is another woman’s body was later discovered in the swamp, and Norman confessed to the murder from the sanitarium. It’s unclear why the Mother persona didn’t identify this specific killing in the first place. Later body counts in the films indicate this murder remained canonical, particularly Norman saying he has killed “almost a dozen people” in Psycho IV. If this murder wasn’t counted, Norman would have said he killed ten people.
This leaves open the possibility for a prequel movie called Psycho: The Seventh Corpse. However, please don’t make this.
Norman’s most famous victim — indeed, the most famous movie murder victim ever. Marion (played by Janet Leigh) is a secretary at a real estate firm in Phoenix who steals $40,000 from the office to flee to start a new life with the man she loves in Fairvale, CA. She stops at the Bates Motel during a rainstorm, meets Norman, who spies on her undressing in her room. Norman changes into Mother’s persona and butchers her in the shower in arguably the best-known kill in any horror movie. Norman then cleans up “Mother’s” gory mess and sinks Marion’s car into the swamp with her body in the trunk, the same way he disposed of Gloria. Marion’s murder occurs in Psycho, appears in flashbacks in both Psycho II and Psycho III, and is re-created with Anne Heche playing the part in the 1998 remake.
7. Milton Arbogast
Arbogast is the only other on-screen victim in the original Psycho. Arbogast is a private detective (played by Martin Balsam) tracking down the disappearance of Marion Crane. He follows clues to the Bates Motel, and when he enters the house to attempt to see Norman’s elusive mother, Norman in full Mother mode pounces on him at the top of the main staircase, stabbing him. Arbogast falls to the bottom of the stairs, whereupon Mother-Norman stabs him repeatedly. Norman sinks the body into the swamp as well. Arbogast’s killing is restaged in Psycho (1998) with William H. Macy in the role.
8. Emma Spool
Plenty of people die in Psycho II, including Lila Crane and her daughter Mary. But Norman commits only one of the film’s murders, that of an elderly woman named Emma Spool (played by Claudia Bryar). Ms. Spool is a waitress at the diner where Norman works a part-time job after his release from the sanitarium. She claims that she’s Norman’s real mother, and that Norma Bates, her sister-in-law, took on raising Norman as an infant when Ms. Spool was institutionalized. Ms. Spool is responsible for many of the murders in Psycho II, dressed in the classic “Mother” garb, which she does to protect Norman.
When she comes to Norman to tell him the whole story in the film’s final scene, Norman poisons her with strychnine, but bashes in her head with a shovel before it can take full effect — because whacking an old lady over the head with a shovel is the ideal way to end a horror movie. Her dead body then takes the place of the Mother persona: Norman, insane once more, needed his mother back as an argumentative corpse. Ms. Spool’s killing is also shown in flashback in Psycho III, where a reporter discovers that Spool actually isn’t Norman’s real mother (retconning a retcon), but was responsible for killing Norman’s father and kidnapping the infant boy because she was in love with the man. She came to believe she was Norman’s real mother.
Norman’s first victim in Psycho III is a young woman whom drifter and temporary Bates Motel assistant manager Duane Duke picks up from a bar for a one-night stand. While in a phone booth trying to call someone to pick her up after Duke kicks her out of the motel room, she’s stabbed to death by Norman, apparently because “Mother” was displeased at sexual activity in the motel. (“I don’t talk about disgusting things because they disgust me!”) Norman drops her body in the swamp. She’s played by Juliette Cummings, and her full name isn’t revealed.
10. Patsy Boyle
Patsy is one of the young partiers gathered at the Bates Motel in Psycho III to watch a local football game. The only guest who remains sober, she uses the bathroom in the parlor of the hotel office, where “Mother,” again displeased with the sex-filled partying, knifes Patsy to death on the toilet. (There’s a terrible, terrible joke line associated with this.) Norman stores the body in the ice cabinet outside the motel, leading to excellent suspense scene where the sheriff almost finds it. Norman later sinks it into the swamp in Duke’s car. She is played by Kat Shea.
A guitarist and drifter played by Jeff Fahey who’s a central character in Psycho III and one of the movie’s high points. He takes on a job as the assistant manager at the Bates Motel, and then becomes involved in reporter Tracy Venable’s investigation into Norman’s past. He steals Mother’s corpse from the house so the police won’t find it when looking into the vanishing of Patsy Boyle, and then confronts Norman with it in his hotel room as a blackmail plot. Norman, not under the control of Mother for a change, violently reacts and bashes Duke unconscious with his guitar. He sinks Duke’s car into the swamp with Patsy Boyle’s body for ballast, and drowns Duke when he starts to recover. (Again, Norman, stick to knives. Better than guitars when it comes to sure kills.) Duke is Norman’s final victim.
On-screen deaths not caused by Norman Bates
Hey, why not? Psycho has other fun death scenes that aren’t poor Norman’s fault.
The motel manager at the start of Psycho II, played by Dennis Franz. Norman fires Toomey for turning the motel into an adult destination — in the cheap, erotic fashion of young men with cheap erotic, minds! When Toomey breaks into the office later, Emma Spool dressed as Mother stabs him to death.
A teen boy (played by Tim Maier) who sneaks into the fruit cellar of the Bates house to smoke and have sex with his girlfriend Kim. Emma Spool finds them and knifes Josh to death as Kim escapes through the basement window.
Lila Loomis (neé Crane)
A lead in the original Psycho and the prime character behind the plot to drive Norman Bates over the edge in Psycho II by making him believe his mother has come back from the dead. While looking for the Mother disguise stored in the cellar, Lila is stabbed through the mouth by Ms. Spool, who knows Lila is plotting against Norman. Her body is buried in a coal pile. She’s played by classic Hollywood actress Vera Miles in both movies.
Dr. Bill Raymond
Played by late veteran character actor Robert Loggia, Dr. Raymond is Norman’s chief psychologist in Psycho II and a key figure in his early release from the sanitarium. He comes to suspect Lila Loomis is plotting to shatter Norman’s sanity, so he enters the Bates house thinking to find her. He grabs at Mary Samuels in the Mother disguise, thinking she’s Lila, and Mary accidentally stabs him. He falls from the top of the stairs and lands on the next banister, driving the knife deeper into him and finishing the job. It’s painful to watch.
Lila’s daughter by Sam Loomis from Psycho (who died, probably from natural causes, between the first movie and its sequel). In Psycho II she’s the main weapon in her mother’s plot to drive Norman insane again, but she comes to sympathize with Norman. While defending herself from Norman in the fruit cellar after she accidentally kills Dr. Raymond, she’s shot to death by the sheriff’s deputies, who see her in the mother outfit wielding a knife and assume her guilt in the recent killings. Played by Meg Tilly.
In the opening of Psycho III, novitiate nun Maureen Coyle climbs to the top of the convent bell tower to commit suicide. She accidentally causes another nun (played by Mimi Cagnetta) to fall to her death through the center of the bell tower as she tries to stop Maureen. This is probably intended as a nod to Vertigo.
Norman’s love interest in Psycho III (played by Diana Scarwid), she stumbles down the same stairs as Arbogast when Norman’s suddenly lets go of her hand, thinking he hears his mother. She’s impaled at the bottom of the stairs on the arrow of a cupid statue. This is an accident, and although it’s linked to Mother, it doesn’t count as a real Norman Bates murder.
By the numbers
Number Norman Bates killed: 11
Number Emma Spool killed: 3
Number dead in accidents/misunderstandings: 4
Number of people stabbed to death: 9 (8 deliberate, 1 accidental)
Number of people poisoned: 2.5 (poisoning doesn’t really kill Emma Spool)
Number of people drowned: 2
Number of people who fell to their deaths: 2
Number of people shot to death: 1
Number of people killed with a shovel: 1
Number of people almost killed by a guitar: 1
Number of deaths completely without explanation: 1
Ryan Harvey is one of the original bloggers for Black Gate, starting in 2008. He received the Writers of the Future Award for his short story “An Acolyte of Black Spires,” and his stories “The Sorrowless Thief” and “Stand at Dubun-Geb” are available in Black Gate online fiction. A further Ahn-Tarqa adventure, “Farewell to Tyrn,” is currently available as an e-book. Ryan lives in Costa Mesa, California where he works as a professional writer for a marketing company. He thinks the Bates Motel has reasonable rates.