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 "Connie" 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 II - Psycho 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 created by Robert Bloch in his 1959 novel Psycho, and its 1960 film of the same name directed by Alfred Hitchcock, its sequels, and the television series Bates Motel portrayed by Vera Farmiga. She is the mother of serial killer Norman Bates. Although despite playing a major role, she only appears as a corpse and a voice in the films, and is not depicted as a living character until Psycho IV: The Beginning originally portrayed by Olivia Hussey.

Film portrayals[edit]


After the death of her husband John Bates, Norma raises her son Norman with cruelty: she forbids him to have a life away from her, and teaches him that sexual intercourse is sinful 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 murders 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, forbids him to have friends, 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. Bill Raymond, shows him Mrs. Bates' corpse and reveals to him that Mary Samuels is actually Mary Loomis, Sam Loomis's daughter, and is plotting with her mother, Lila, to drive him crazy in order to get him recommited 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 Warren Toomey, 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, Mrs. Bates, 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; this is the same tea he used to kill Mrs. Bates when he was a child. Mrs. Spool begins to cough and Norman bludgeons her to death with a shovel, 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 twenty-two 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. Emma killed John in a jealous rage after Norma stole him away from her, and abducted the young Norman, convincing herself he was the child she had with John. Emma was arrested and institutionalized, 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. Tracy finds Norman and tells him the truth about his parentage, and Norman attacks his aunt's preserved corpse. He is arrested and sent back to the institution, but proclaims that he is finally free.

Psycho IV[edit]

The fourth and final film in the series, retcons the revelations of the second and third film, supplying that Norman's father was stung to death by bees, removing all references to Emma Spool 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 schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder, 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, Connie, 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) by putting strychnine in their 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 (aged 40)
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 Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film Psycho, based on Robert Bloch's novel of the same name. Norma is portrayed in the series by Vera Farmiga. As in the novel and film, 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 was born and raised in Akron, Ohio.[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) in Arizona. 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] After Norma marries Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell), Norman, wanting his mother all to his own, releases carbon monoxide into the house to kill his mother and himself, but is rescued by Romero, who fails to revive Norma.[citation needed]


Norma Bates 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.

To appease the press, Hitchcock claimed that his film, Psycho, would tell the story of "a young man whose mother was a homicidal maniac".[citation needed] In another teaser, Hitchcock allowed the leak of photos from the set of a director's chair emblazoned with the words "Mrs. Bates". There were individual photos of Hitchcock and every major cast member taking turns sitting in the chair, except for Anthony Perkins.[citation needed] Hitchcock claimed that, for the role of the mother, he considered casting a theatrical grand dame, such as Helen Hayes or Judith Anderson, who portrayed Mrs. Danvers in Hitchcock's film, Rebecca. Norma Varden, from the Hitchcock film, Strangers on a Train, had read the reports and lobbied the director for the role.[citation needed] To keep the plot of the film as a secret, Hitchcock started a hoax rumor about a casting call for Mrs. Bates.[citation needed]

Hitchcock wanted Norman Bates's mother to have a very mysterious ether, grandmother, mother appearance, so that audiences were not quite sure about the age bracket of the character. He wanted a small printed kind of fabric, and the feeling of an older person that, in audiences minds, lived a long time.[citation needed]

To confuse the audience, Hitchcock hired six uncredited people to play the mother. Mrs. Bates was played by Mitzi Koestner, Anna Dore, and Margo Epper as body doubles; and voiced by Virginia Gregg, Jeanette Nolan, and Paul Jasmin (a friend of Perkins). The voices were throughly mixed, except for the last speech, which is all Gregg's. Nolan also provided screams for Lila's discovery of the mother's corpse.[citation needed]

Norma Bates was introduced as a living character in Psycho IV: The Beginning. Olivia Hussey was directly offered the role. It was the intention of screenwriter Joseph Stefano, writer of Psycho, to make her at a young age as attractive as Norman had been in the original film.[citation needed] Mrs. Bates' appearance as a living character in the fourth film is different then her appearance as a corpse in the first film. Psycho IV reveals that after his mother died, Norman couldn't make his voice to sound as sweet as her's, and that in his mind, she grew old.





  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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