Norma Bates (Psycho)

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Psycho character
Norma Bates
Motherbatesmummy.jpg Norma as a corpse in Psycho (1960)
Born Norma Spool
Died 1949 (aged 40)
Fairvale, California, U.S.
Aliases "Mother"
Gender Female
Cause of death Poisoned with strychnine by Norman Bates
Race Caucasian
Spouse(s) John Bates (husband, deceased)
Children Norman Bates (son)
Other family Emma Spool (sister, deceased)
Dr. Constance Forbes-Bates (daughter-in-law)
Enemies Everyone except her son, especially other women
M.O. Taking over her son's mind, causing him to stab his victims to death while wearing her clothing
Weapon of choice Kitchen knife
Portrayed by Virginia Gregg, Jeanette Nolan, Paul Jasmin (Psycho)
Virginia Gregg (Psycho IIPsycho III)
Olivia Hussey, Alice Hirson (Psycho IV: The Beginning)
Rose Marie (Psycho (1998))
Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel)

Norma Bates (née Spool) is a fictional character in the novel Psycho by Robert Bloch and the Universal Studios Psycho franchise starring Anthony Perkins, Psycho, Psycho II, Psycho III, Psycho IV: The Beginning, and the TV prequel Bates Motel. She is not strictly a character in the novel by Bloch, and her presence is indicated only as a "ghost" voice and a corpse in the Psycho films. She is not depicted as a living character until the fourth film installment (Psycho IV: The Beginning).

Her character is loosely based on Augusta Wilhelmine Gein (née Lehrke), the mother of infamous Wisconsin murderer Ed Gein – the inspiration for Norman's character.

Film portrayals[edit]


After the death of her husband John, Norma Bates raises her son Norman with cruelty: she forbids him to have a life away from her, and teaches him that sex is evil and that all women (except herself) are whores. The novel also suggests that their relationship may have been incestuous.

For many years, Norma and Norman live together as if there is no one else in the world. When Norman is a teenager, his mother meets Joe Considine, whom she begins dating and plans to marry. Considine convinces Norma to open a motel. Norman grows insanely jealous, believing that Norma has abandoned him for her boyfriend, and poisons them with strychnine. He then forges a suicide note, making it look like Norma had killed Considine and then herself.

Unable to bear the loss of his mother, Norman steals Norma's corpse and mummifies it, and speaks to it as if his mother were still alive. He also speaks to himself in her voice and frequently dresses in her clothes; in his own mind, he becomes his mother in order to escape the guilt of having murdered her. The Mother personality is as possessive and cruel as Norma had been in life; Mother dominates and belittles him, and kills any woman that he feels attracted to. When Norman regains consciousness, he discovers the crime he is convinced his mother has committed, and destroys the evidence.

One of Mother's victims is Marion Crane (Mary in the novel), who fled to the Bates Motel after stealing $40,000 from her employer in order to marry her boyfriend, Sam Loomis. She draws the attention of private investigator Milton Arbogast to the motel and then the house, where Norman refuses to let him see his mother. Suspicious, Arbogast goes to the Bates house, where Mother kills him as well. Sam and Lila Crane, Marion's sister, soon arrive, suspecting Norman of killing Marion for the money. Lila discovers Mrs. Bates' corpse in the fruit cellar while searching the house; moments later, Norman attacks her while in his Mother persona, only to be subdued by Sam. Norman is then arrested and institutionalized, and the Mother persona takes complete, permanent control of his mind.

Psycho II[edit]

Twenty-two years later, Norman Bates, now supposedly cured, is released from the institution and returns home. He is soon confronted by notes supposedly written by Mrs. Bates and phone calls by someone who claims to be his mother. Norman takes a job at a local diner and befriends Emma Spool, the cook, and a waitress named Mary Samuels, who has boyfriend trouble and is left without a home. Norman offers Mary a room at his house, and she reluctantly accepts. At about this time, a series of mysterious murders are committed by a woman with a knife to people who come to the motel and the house.

Norman's sanity begins to unravel, as he starts to believe that it is his mother's ghost that commits the murders. His psychiatrist Dr. Raymond shows him Mrs. Bates's corpse and reveals to him that Mary Samuels is actually Mary Loomis, Sam Loomis' daughter, and is plotting with her mother, Lila to drive him crazy in order to get revenge for Marion's murder; they both dress up as Norman's mother and appear through the window of her bedroom. Mary believes that the murderer is hiding in Norman's house, and when Norman explains to Mary that the murderer might be his real mother, she speculates that he might have been adopted.

While Norman is at the swamp with the police where a car containing the corpse of the ex-manager of the motel is found, Lila sneaks in the house to dress up as Mother, but then the murderer comes in and kills her. When Mary and Norman return to the house, Norman receives a phone call from Dr. Raymond; in his mind, however, the phone call is from Mother. Mary, disturbed, tries to convince Norman to stop answering the phone by dressing up as his mother, complete with a butcher knife. Mary accidentally kills Dr. Raymond, who has come to the house to catch Mary, and Norman tries to hide her from the police. Mary discovers Lila's corpse hidden in a pile of coal, and, convinced Norman is the murderer, tries to kill him. The police intervene just in time, however, and shoot her dead.

That night, Mrs. Spool visits Norman and reveals that she is his real mother, and that Norma Bates was actually his aunt; Mrs. Spool had been put in a mental institution shortly after giving birth to Norman, and her sister had adopted him and told him that he was her son. Mrs. Spool then reveals that she had committed the murders in order to protect Norman. Norman gives her a cup of tea, brewed from a poisoned batch which was kept in a beaten floral-print tin (the same one he used to kill Mrs. Bates as a child). Mrs. Spool slowly dies and Norman bludgeons her to death with a spade, and carries her body up to Mother's room, where the Mother personality takes control of his mind once again.

Mrs. Bates appears in a flashback when Norman returns home after 22 years. He remembers when he killed her in her bedroom, poisoning her tea and seeing her hand on the floor through her slightly ajar bedroom door.

Psycho III[edit]

One month later, a reporter named Tracy Venable latches on to the history of the Bates/Spool families; her research leads her to the story of a love triangle between John Bates and the Spool sisters, Norma and Emma. Driven mad with jealousy, Emma killed John Bates and abducted the young Norman, convincing herself he was the child she had with John Bates. Emma was apprehended and locked up, and Norman was returned to his mother.

By this point in the series, Norman has begun murdering young women again under the control of the Mother personality. He finds some hope for redemption when he meets and falls in love with a young woman named Maureen Coyle, but Mother eventually wins out and kills her. Venable finds Norman and tells him the truth about his parentage, and Norman attacks his aunt's corpse. He is arrested and sent back to the institution, but proclaims that he is finally free.

Psycho IV[edit]

Psycho IV ignores the revelations of the Psycho sequels and retells much of Norman's and his mother's past from the original film. It is implied in the film that Mrs. Bates suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, which Norman inherits. The film also explains that Norman has been released from the institution and is now married. When Norman finds out that his wife is pregnant, he decides to kill her to prevent another of his "cursed" line from entering the world. He relents after his wife professes her love for him, however, and decides to rid himself of the past once and for all by burning down his mother's house. During this act, he sees visions of his mother mocking and tormenting him, but perseveres and destroys the house, finally free of his mother's voice, which demands to be let out.

In one of Norman's flashbacks, he remembers killing both his mother and her boyfriend (named Chet Rudolph in this sequel) with poisoned iced tea, then dragging her to the fruit cellar where she died sitting on a rocking chair.

Television portrayals[edit]

Bates Motel[edit]

Bates Motel character
Norma Louise Bates
Born Norma Louise Calhoun
Akron, Ohio, U.S.
Died 2014
White Pine Bay, Oregon, U.S.
Cause of death Carbon monoxide asphyxiation by Norman Bates
Other names Norma Louise Massett
Norma Louise Romero
Gender Female
Race Caucasian
Spouse(s) John Massett (ex-husband)
Sam Bates (husband, deceased)
Alex Romero (husband)
Children Norman Bates (son)
Dylan Massett (son/nephew)
Other family Ray Calhoun (father, deceased)
Francine "Frannie" Calhoun (mother, deceased)
Caleb Calhoun (brother)
Portrayed by Vera Farmiga

Norma Louise Bates (née Calhoun; previously Massett) is a main character in the A&E drama-thriller television series Bates Motel, a contemporary prequel to the 1960 film Psycho. Norma is portrayed in the series by American actress Vera Farmiga. As in the novel and films, she is extremely possessive of her son and does everything she can to keep him to herself.

On the show, Norma's middle name is Louise.[1] Her parents' names are revealed to be Ray and Francine "Frannie" Calhoun,[2] and she describes her life with them as having been unhappy; her father was an abusive alcoholic and her mother was "sedated all the time".[3] She grew up in Akron, Ohio, where she was born.[4]

In the pilot episode, Norma buys a motel in the coastal town of White Pine Bay, Oregon, and moves there with Norman (Freddie Highmore) following the death of her husband Sam (David Cubitt). The motel's former owner, Keith Summers (W. Earl Brown) breaks into the Bates' house and rapes Norma. Norman intervenes and subdues Summers, but Norma kills him in a fit of rage.[5] She later reveals that Sam was physically abusive towards her and that Norman had killed him while in a dissociative state; she bought the motel and moved them away to protect him.[6]

In this continuity, Norma has another son, Dylan Massett (Max Thieriot), who was conceived when she was raped as a teenager by her older brother Caleb (Kenny Johnson). Norma used Dylan's conception to escape from her troubled home life; she married her then-boyfriend, John Massett, and passed off her unborn child as his own.[2] She would later divorce John to marry Sam, becoming estranged from Dylan and favoring Norman, her son with Sam, instead.[7]





  1. ^ "Trust Me". Bates Motel (TV series). Season 1. Episode 4. April 8, 2013. A&E. 
  2. ^ a b "Caleb". Bates Motel (TV series). Season 2. Episode 3. March 17, 2014. A&E. 
  3. ^ "Check Out". Bates Motel (TV series). Season 2. Episode 4. March 24, 2014. A&E. 
  4. ^ "Midnight". Bates Motel (TV series). Season 1. Episode 10. May 20, 2013. A&E. 
  5. ^ "First You Dream, Then You Die". Bates Motel (TV series). Season 1. Episode 1. March 18, 2013. A&E. 
  6. ^ "The Truth". Bates Motel (TV series). Season 1. Episode 6. April 22, 2013. A&E. 
  7. ^ "Nice Town You Picked, Norma...". Bates Motel (TV series). Season 1. Episode 2. March 25, 2013. A&E. 

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