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A boy's best friend is his mother.
~ Norman Bates' famous quote.

Norman Bates is a fictional American serial killer and keeper of the fictional Bates Motel in California.

Bates suffered from psychosis and Dissociative identity-disorder, believing himself to be his controlling Mother. At the same time, he suffered from visual and auditory hallucinations, in which his mother apparently talked him into committing acts of violence in order to appease her. When the Mother personality took over, Bates would fly into murderous rages targeting women who aroused him, usually whilst dressed in her clothing. He is known to have eventually slaughtered his mother and kept her mummified corpse in the basement of his house for many years.

He is the titular main antagonist of the 1959 suspense novel Psycho and the 1960 film of the same name and appears as the titular protagonist anti-hero of the three sequels.




Norman Bates was born in August just outside of Fairvale, California, to John Bates and Norma Spool in the early 1930s. Norma was a manipulative and controlling woman who did not allow Norman to have a social life. She was deeply religious and paranoid, possibly suffering from a severe form of schizophrenia. Norma indoctrinated her son and taught him sexuality was a sin and that all women, besides herself, were whores. When Norman was 6 years old, his father was stung to death by bees. In Psycho II and III, Norma's sister Emma Spool killed him, while in the original novel, John simply left the family when Norman was a baby.

Following his death, Norma began to practice sadistic control over her son, and on several occasions throughout his puberty sexually aroused him on purpose, only to punish and humiliate him afterward by dressing him as a woman and calling him a girl. As a result of Norma's overbearing control and obscene sexual smothering, Norman developed an extreme Oedipus Complex. Later in his adult life, Norman confessed to having had full sexual intercourse with Norma when he was a teenager, with one particular instance resulting in her becoming pregnant. Norma became repulsed by the idea that she was carrying the child, and conducted an abortion. In the novel, it's stated Norman tried to join the army once, but was rejected.

In 1949, Norma became romantically involved with Chet Rudolph (Joe Considine in the novel) whom she would eventually marry. It would be Chet who would give her the idea of opening a motel. Around this time Norman had a heated argument with her whilst hanging some washing, during which she called him a mistake and expressed extreme hatred towards him. Her new husband was crude, egotistical, chauvinistic and repeatedly teased Norman over his relationship with Norma-even beating the boy during one of their boxing lessons. Chet would repeatedly allude to his sex life with Norma in conversation. Over time Norman became extremely jealous of Chet, and on a summer night Norman poisoned Norma and Chet's ice tea with arsenic, killing them both. Chet did not go down easily and ended up attacking Norman whilst in the throes of agonizing arsenic poisoning, eventually succumbing to the toxin and falling down the stairs to his death. After both Chet and Norma had died, he dragged Norma's corpse to the basement and embalmed it.

As Norman matured into a young adult, he began to emulate Norma, believing himself on occasion to be her, even going so far as wearing her clothes and a wig. He would sometimes sit in her chair and speak in her voice, doing anything to convince himself that she was still alive.

Unlike in the film version, where Norman is depicted as handsome, tall, and in his 20s, he was presented in the novel as a short, overweight alcoholic in his 40s. Hitchcock changed this to make the character more sympathetic, as well as to make the twist more unpredictable. He was also shown in the novel to have an interest in the occult as well as satanism.

During this period, he took over ownership of the Bates Motel. Norman had several unsuccessful sexual encounters with women as a young man, with at least two known to have resulted in murder after they aroused him. One of his early victims, a teenager called Holly, snuck into his house and accidentally wandered into his mother's bedroom, where she found Norma's mummified corpse lying on the bed. Recoiling in horror, she was soon stabbed to death by Norman, who was hiding in the closet dressed in women's clothing and a wig. Norman would later strangle and drown another teenage girl under similar circumstances.

The "Mother" personality in his head eventually would become so overbearing as to consume him completely, taking over his body and committing terrible acts of violence and murder. When the Mother persona subsided, normally after committing a murder, Norman would remember very little of the act of killing, and become highly distressed and remorseful, sometimes even baffled as to where evidence such as blood and torn clothing came from. Mother is cold, calculated and panther-like, however when Norman is caught off guard and still "himself", he is clumsy, stammering and very panicked.

Adult Life & First Killing Spree: Psycho

Norman Mother

Norman revealed to be "Mother".

Years later in December 1959, realty clerk Marion Crane fled Phoenix, Arizona, having stolen $40,000 worth of her employer's money, and stopped off at the Bates Motel for a night. She had stolen the money to help pay off large debts accrued by her lover Sam Loomis, with whom she was having an affair. It was a stormy night, and Norman allowed Marion to stay in Cabin 1 at the motel. Norman found he was attracted to young Marion, and after watching her shower through a small hole he had drilled in the cabin wall, donned Norma's clothing, stormed into the bathroom, and stabbed her to death in the bathtub with a large kitchen knife. Wrapping up her body in a shower curtain, he would later stuff it into the trunk of Marion's car, and push the vehicle into a nearby swamp. Shortly after Marion's murder, her absence is reported to the police by her sister Lila and a detective named Arbogast locates the Bates Motel and questions Norman about Marion. He lies to Arbogast and denies ever having met her nor giving her lodgings. Arbogast is not convinced by Norman's story and later breaks into the Bates house in search of clues, where he is murdered by Norman, once again dressed as a woman. Lila, and indeed Marion's lover Sam Loomis, soon become concerned when Arbogast fails to report back to them, and head to Fairvale where they visit the local Sheriff, who had spoken to Arbogast just prior to his disappearance.

The Sheriff tells Lila and Sam that he was puzzled by Arbogast, who said he had intended to visit Norma Bates at some point during the investigation, despite the knowledge that she had been dead for some time. Sam and Lila rent a room from Norman and find evidence in Cabin 1 confirming that Marion had been there. Sam decides to enter the Bates house, where he is subdued, but not killed, by Norman. Lila in the meantime sneaks into the basement and finds Norma's desiccated corpse sat in a rocking chair. Dressed in women's clothing, Norman appears in the basement and attacks Lila, but is prevented from killing her by Sam who comes to the rescue.

Norman is arrested and incarcerated in a mental institution, where he would remain for 22 years. A psychiatrist declares Norman insane, and apparently completely dominated by the Mother personality of his psyche. Police later discover Marion's car under water and drag it from the swamp.

Release From Prison & Second Killing Spree: Psycho II

Norman's fate differs between the book Psycho II and it's film adaption. The novel sequel acted as a parody of Hollywood slasher films. In it, Norman escapes from the asylum after remaining there for 20 years by strangling a nun to death with her rosary beeds and using her outfit as a disguise. He then gets into a van with another visiting nun, kills her by hitting her with a tire iron, and rapes her corpse. He steals her car, drives off and picks up a hitchhiker with the intent of killing him and using his body to fake his death. He attacks the hitchhiker but the hitchhiker overpowers him and kills him, burning the car to hide any evidence. After Norman's body was discovered by his doctor, Adam Claiborne, he assumes Norman's personality and starts a killing spree on a film production of the original Psycho killings. The producers of the film version did not like the idea and chose to go in their own direction with the sequels.

In the film sequel, after a lengthy court hearing, Norman was released from custody in 1983 after 24 years. Despite protests from relatives of his victims, including Lila Crane, a judge rules Norman to be rehabilitated and orders his release. Accompanied by his psychiatrist Dr. Bill Raymond, Norman returns to his family home which he finds is just how he left it. The motel is still open, being run by the slobbish and obtuse Warren Toomey. Norman gets a job at a local diner run by the kindly Emma Spool and gets to work in the kitchen preparing meals. He is met with distrust by many but is generally accepted by Mrs. Spool and the head chef. He becomes friendly with the waitress Mary Samuels, a girl in her late teens whom he allows to stay at the motel one night after an argument with her boyfriend. Upon arrival back at the motel with Mary, Norman discovers that Toomey has been allowing prostitutes and drug users on the premises, and dismisses him on the spot. He tells Mary to go up to the house while he deals with Toomey. Despite her reluctance, she goes anyway. Back at the house, Norman prepares a sandwich for Mary but becomes unnerved when he finds a kitchen knife in a drawer. Sensing Norman's unease, Mary becomes uncomfortable and decides to leave. Norman reveals to Mary that he is lonely and would appreciate her company if she stays, and makes light of the fact that he killed his mother by poisoning her all those years ago. Mary laughs along nervously, and eventually stays the night in the spare room.

The next morning, a drunken Toomey picks a fight with Norman whilst he is working in the kitchen, and later follows him back to the motel, where a dark figure slashes his face and then kills him. Meanwhile, Norman starts getting bizarre phone calls from a woman claiming to be his mother and ends up seeing the specter of her looking out of the bedroom window one day. He runs up to the bedroom, where he finds that it is furnished how it used to be two decades ago. Moments later, somebody locks him inside. A short while later, a teenage couple break into the basement to have sex and are disturbed by a dark figure in women's clothing. The male is murdered, however, the female manages to escape. After a suspicious note is found in the diner kitchen, allegedly from mother, Norman starts to believe that he is slipping back into insanity. Meanwhile, Lila Crane arrives in Fairvale and it is revealed that Mary is Lila's daughter. She chastises Mary for her friendship with Norman, and in a private conversation between the two, it is revealed that Lila had been toying with Norman, making the phone calls, dressing up as his mother and even went as far as furnishing Norma's bedroom in an attempt to drive Norman to the edge again. Mary is revealed to have been complicit in this, but shows regret at being involved, much to Lila's annoyance. Lila then becomes focused on the alleged death of the teenage boy at Norman's house, after hearing of the missing person report filed by his terrified girlfriend. Sheriff Hunt refuses to investigate apparent connection to Norman due to the lack of evidence, adding to Lila's dismay. Despite Lila's apparent complicity, the strange goings-on continue at the Bates house, with the line between reality and insanity becoming increasingly blurred when Lila is herself murdered by a dark figure whilst in the process of donning her Norma outfit.

Mary is present when the police discover Toomey's body stuffed into the trunk of his car, and runs to warn Norman that the police are on the way to arrest him as a suspect. She finds Norman having a psychotic episode at the house; he is on the phone talking to his psychiatrist, yet believes he is talking to Norma. Mary is fearful that he may be spiraling back into madness, so she dons Norma's clothes and pretends to be her in an attempt to have him snap out of it. Whilst talking to Norman on another house phone, she is surprised by Dr. Raymond, and accidentally stabs and kills him. Norman meanwhile can no longer cope and fails to distinguish between what is real and what is not. Mary ultimately becomes the one and only suspect in the killings, when she is caught red-handed by the police whilst appearing to intend to stab Norman. She is shot dead, and the case is closed with her named as the murderer. Norman's involvement remained unsolved, as he was never able to differentiate between reality and his visual and auditory hallucinations. He is allowed to return home by the authorities since he was innocent.

Learning the Truth

Sometime after Mary's death at the hands of the police, Norman's former boss Emma Spool paid him a visit and confessed to him that she was his real mother, with Norma having been actually his aunt who looked after him whilst she was institutionalized. Norman was too young to remember the transition and had always assumed Norma was his mother. Emma had been the true killer, having murdered Toomey, Lila and the young boy who entered the basement, trying to protect Norman from any harm. As Emma sat and explained everything to him, Norman murdered her by hitting her with a shovel and took her body upstairs to embalm it, creating a new mother effigy for himself. He then opened the motel with "Mother" sitting in her chair watching him from the window of her room.

Third Killing Spree & Second Incarceration: Psycho III

Approximately one month after killing Emma Spool, Norman encountered and became infatuated with, defrocked nun Maureen Coyle, who had fled her convent after having accidentally killed a fellow nun whilst trying to take her own life. Around the same time, Norman employed aspiring musician Duane Duke as a desk clerk at the motel, without realizing that Duke and Coyle had met some days before on the highway, and Duke had tried to rape her. Norman gives Coyle an extended stay for no fee in Cabin 1 but becomes increasingly unnerved at her resemblance to Marion Crane, especially when he realizes they share the same initials. After watching her shower through the spy hole in the wall, Norman assumes his Mother disguise and attempts to kill her. However, upon arriving in the bathroom, he finds that Maureen has run herself a bath and attempted suicide by cutting her wrists. As she fades into unconsciousness, she sees Norman's disguise but does not stay awake long enough to realize it is him. Instead, she has a hallucination of her own, seeing Norman as the Virgin Mary.

Norman snaps out of his persona and takes Maureen to the hospital for treatment. Meanwhile, a pushy reporter, Tracy Venable, arrives in Fairvale to investigate the disappearance of Emma Spool, convinced, as Lila Crane was similarly convinced, that Norman had killed her and is still a threat to society. Sheriff Hunt tells her to back off and leave him alone, but she persists in her harassment of him, eventually telling Maureen about Norman's past causing her to leave the motel in fear. With Maureen gone, Norman murders two guests overnight, one of which had just had sex with hired hand Duane Duke. After disposing of their bodies, the police searched the area but find nothing as Norman returns to find Spool's corpse missing. He soon finds Duke with the body, who tries to extort money out of Norman in exchange for keeping quiet. Norman sees through this with him and Duke entering a violent fight, resulting in Duke being subdued and thrown into Norman's car. Duke wakes up on the journey out of town, startling Norman causing him to lose control of the vehicle and plow into a swamp, where Duke eventually drowns.

Meanwhile, Maureen has realized her affections for Norman and comes back to Fairvale, where she and Norman share a tender moment on the staircase but "Mother" unexpectedly calls out to Norman, startling him, which accidentally causes him to knock Maureen down the stairs to her death as Tracy, who had found her way in, stands by watching in horror.

Norman tries to kill Tracy but she reveals a little more to Norman about his past, and of Spool's role in his life, contradicting some of what Spool told him before he killed her. Spool was in love with his father John Bates, even though he was married to Norma, and one day killed him and kidnapped Norman out of spite. Norman was eventually returned to his mother, while Spool was institutionalized for severe mental health issues. Spool, as it would transpire, was not his mother but his aunt. In retribution for her lies, Norman ravages Spool's corpse with a knife. Sheriff Hunt finds Norman dressed in his disguise, knife in hand, completely delirious. He arrests him where he is taken for evaluation, and incarcerated once again. As he is taken away, Norman proclaims he is "Free" implying that he is now released from his mother's influence.

The Fran Ambrose Talk Show Incident: Psycho IV: The Beginning

31 years later in 1990, radio talk show host Fran Ambrose hosted a night time special on matricide, inviting along various guests to the studio including a rehabilitated murderer and a psychiatrist, Dr. Leo Richmond, to discuss the topic. Members of the public were invited to call in and talk freely about matricide. One particular caller, a gentleman identifying himself only as "Ed" called in the early hours to talk about his violent past, and apparent sexual relationship with his abusive mother. Through an extensive conversation with Ed, Ambrose learned of a number of Ed's victims throughout the decades, and at various moments endured another persona as they spoke. Dr. Richmond knew enough of Ed's stories to convince himself that this was actually Norman Bates, who had not long been released from custody for a second time. Richmond demanded that Bates' calls are traced and the police informed, but Ambrose refuses and encourages the show to go on.

Norman, or Ed as they know him, was married to a lady called Connie, and they were expecting a child together. He told Ambrose that Mother still bubbled close to the surface from time to time, and was telling him that the child would be just like him, a killer. As he talked, Norman inadvertently gave away his identity as he admits that considered killing Connie and the unborn child to stop the Bates bloodline, but had so far managed to control himself. He soon ends the call as his temptation to perform the act gets to him.

Norman ultimately gives in to Mother and tells Connie to meet him at the old Bates house as his birthday present while he is really going to kill her. However, Connie manages to talk Norman down, convincing him that their child will be normal. In one last act of defiance, Norman has Connie wait for him outside as he torches the Bates house as he does so, he recalls all the victims he killed over the years being haunted by the guilt before he narrowly escapes the house and leaves it to burn. Reuniting with his wife, Norman proclaims to her "I'm free." before he leaves the charred site of his unhappiness. Mother's chair rocks and the doors to the cellars close as her voice is heard inside stating "Let me out of here! Norman! You hear me boy?! Let me out!!!" The cries of a baby are then heard signifying the birth of Norman's child and his release of his mother's influence.

Bates Motel (2013-2017)

Main article: Norman Bates (Bates Motel)

Related Media

  1. A 1987 TV pilot titled Bates Motel was produced following the release of Psycho III, which had Norman Bates [played by Kurt Paul] in a minor part alongside fellow psychopath Alex West. It was filmed in black and white in keeping with the style of the original film. The pilot was poorly received and any plans for syndication were abandoned. Of note, the story had Bates die whilst incarcerated, and the new protagonist West inherits the motel and house.
  2. In 1990 (the same year Psycho IV: The Beginning was released) Perkins appeared as Norman in a commercial for Oatmeal Crisp & Oatmeal Raisin Crisp cereal. This along with Psycho IV would be the final time he portrayed the character.
  3. A three-part comic adaptation of Psycho was released in 1992. Although a colorized adaptation of the Hitchcock film, Norman did not look like Anthony Perkins due to the actor refusing his likeness to be used. Instead, Norman appears like he did in the novel: a middle-aged, overweight, balding man.
  4. Vince Vaughn portrays Norman in the 1998 shot-for-shot remake of Psycho.
  5. In 2016 a fourth Psycho book titled Robert Bloch's Psycho: Sanitarium was released and written by Chet Williamson. The book takes place after the events of the original Psycho novel (and before Psycho II) and explores Norman's stay at the asylum.

List of Norman Bates Victims

Book Series

  1. Norma Bates - poisoned by arsenic in Ice Tea.
  2. Joe Considine - poisoned by arsenic in Ice Tea.
  3. Mary Crane - decapitated with a butcher knife in the shower.
  4. Detective Milton Arbogast - stabbed to death with a razor.
  5. 1st nun - strangled to death with rosary beads.
  6. 2nd nun - hit in the head a a tire iron.

Film Series

  1. Norma Bates - poisoned by arsenic in Ice Tea.
  2. Chet Rudolph - poisoned by arsenic in Ice Tea.
  3. Holly - stabbed to death with a kitchen knife.
  4. Gloria - strangled with a rope and drowned in a swamp.
  5. Marion Crane - stabbed to death with a kitchen knife in the shower.
  6. Detective Milton Arbogast - stabbed to death with a kitchen knife. 
  7. Emma Spool - hit over the head with a shovel.
  8. Maureen Coyle - head impaled. 
  9. Patsy Boyle - stabbed to death with a kitchen knife.
  10. Duane Duke - hit over the head and left to drown in the swamp. 
  11. Red - stabbed to death with a kitchen knife.



  • Norman Bates was based on the American murderer and body snatcher Ed Gein
  • Psycho IV and The Godfather Part III came out in 1990. They were also the final films in their respective sagas.
  • Norman Bates' incestuous relationship with his mother is an exaggerated interpretation of the human Oedipus Complex. The psychiatrist Sigmund Freud coined the term to describe the theoretical psychosexual desires of a child, whom during his development desires his mother's love. Freud theorized that this could manifest in both male and female infants, with the female iteration being the Electra Complex.
  • Interestingly, the film Scream 3 would explore a similar concept depicted the original novel's sequel decades later, with a spree of killings occurring on a film set intended to emulate the environment of the original film's murders. The Scream series itself was, in part, inspired by Psycho, with references made to the films in dialogue.
  • Norman's pattern of killing those who arouse him is plausible in the psychological development of sociopaths. Real life murderers such as Andrei Chikatilo were known to enact extreme forms of violence in order to achieve full sexual gratification.
  • The character of Norman Bates and the Psycho mythos has been said to have inspired dozens of other horror films and is considered as the benchmark for slasher movies. The character name of Sam Loomis in Halloween was taken directly from Psycho, with the character of Billy Loomis in Scream being inspired by both characters of the same name, and even quotes Bates in the final act of the film.
  • When Norman kills Duane Duke in Psycho III, this is the only time that he is not seen acting up as "Mother."
  • Anthony Perkins was diagnosed with HIV during the filming of Psycho IV. That aside, the director of the film described Perkins as one of the most difficult actors he has ever worked with.
  • It was rumored that the middle initial of Norman Bates is "F.", because of the coincidence that the license plate on the rear of Marion Crane's vehicle is titled "NFB 418".
  • Norman's usage of the alias "Ed" in the last Psycho film may be a nod to Ed Gein, whom Norman is based on.
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