Norman Bates was the proprietor of the Bates Motel. After murdering his domineering mother, he developed a three-way split personality. The personality of "Norma Bates" was most dominant, inspiring him to commit murder and controlled his lesser personality: "Norman Bates", which would often lose arguments against "Norma". The greater personality was sometimes known as "Mother". A third personality: "Normal Bates" was the least dominant, which focused on interacting with other human beings and keeping the Bates Motel financially solvent.
Norman's birth was complicated, causing his mother to have long-lasting physical effects.
However, Norman would later state that when he was six years old, his father died after being stung to death by bees. During the funeral, a ticklish Norman accidentally laughed in response to his mother's touch and was reprimanded by his mother for it. Following his father's death, he began to show signs of being mentally disturbed. At some point, he took up the hobby of taxidermy.
In Fairvale, Norman experienced an abusive upbringing from his mother, who preached to Norman that (aside from herself) all women were fallen and evil creatures unworthy of love and trust. As a result, he led an extraordinarily sheltered life with Norma being the only person he knew, causing him to become desperately dependent on her for companionship. On one occasion, while comforting his mother during a storm, he experienced an erection and ran to his room. His mother followed and discovered a women's undergarment catalogue and forced him to dispose of it, then stating that she would eventually wish she had been firmer with him. He began to spy on his mother, noticing that she was "losing her mind."
On another occasion, after dousing his mother with orange flower water, she playfully tackled him, causing him to have another erection, felt by Norma this time. Thrown into a rage, she put him in a dress and lipstick and called him a girl before locking him in a closet, all as a way to make him forget about his penis.
When plans were made to build a new freeway in Fairvale, directing traffic away from the motel, Norma took out her frustration on Norman, declaring that she should have killed him when he was in her womb.
Norman's home situation changed however when Norma met Chet Rudolph and began a relationship with him. As Norma's new relationship progressed, Norman's already fragile psyche began to shatter. He felt betrayed and abandoned by his mother and that she was a hypocrite for preaching to him against love and sex while she was now in an intimate relationship with a man Norman despised. The totality of his new reality caused Norman to snap and begin his descent into madness.
Norman decided to punish Norma for her betrayal by poisoning her and Chet with strychnine. He then staged a murder-suicide, complete with a forged letter from Norman. The authorities fell for the ruse, never seriously considering the shy, nervous Norman Bates as a suspect. Upon emerging from his psychotic episode, with no memory of what he had done, Norman "discovered" his mother and her lover dead. The horror of this discovery caused Norman to go into shock, leading to his being committed to a hospital psych ward. It was during this period that Norman began losing more and more of his grip on reality. He began to hear and see his dead mother compelling him to "keep her alive." To accomplish this, Norman stole his mother's corpse and weighed her casket with books. He preserved her body as best as he could and gave her half his life: dressing as her, speaking as her even having full conversations with her. He was no longer only Norman Bates - now, half of his mind belonged to Norma Bates.
Norman inherited the Bates House and Bates Motel. He ran the motel alone, but people very rarely checked in. Norman's only company was hallucinations of his dead mother, and himself recreating her voice and pretending to be her. He argued with his "Mother" side on more than one event.
One Fourth of July, a young woman named Holly checked into the motel, wishing to have sex with him. An interested but nervous Norman tried to keep her at the motel while he went to unclog a guest's toilet, but she ran off to the house. As Holly lay in his bed, Norman went to his mother's corpse and heard her tell him to kill her, or else she would do it herself. Norman dressed up as his mother and while acting in her personality, he murdered Holly.
Late one night, Norman found his way into a car with an older woman named Gloria outside the motel. While making out with her, he suddenly said he needed to give his mother her 2:00 medication. He went up to the house and after arguing with "Mother," returned as her, strangling Gloria and disposing of her body and car in a nearby swamp. As the car sank, Norman heard Gloria scream from inside the trunk.
These two murders would become unsolved missing persons cases for several years.
On a rainy evening, a woman named Marion Crane – checking in under the name Marie Samuels from Los Angeles – arrived at the motel and Norman invited her to dinner at the motel's office parlor. While she got ready, Norman argued with "Mother" and managed to refuse to listen to his mother's bidding for once. Marion overheard this and told Norman that she did not wish to upset his mother, but Norman convinced her that everything was fine. As Marion ate, Norman told her that his mother was (mentally) ill, and she suggested that Norman institutionalize her. Norman angrily refused, saying that his mother was not a bad person, she just "goes a little mad sometimes - we all go a little mad sometimes." When Marion left to get ready for bed, she revealed to him her real name to Norman and that she would be returning to Phoenix.
Later, as Marion took a shower, the "Mother" persona took control again. "Mother" walked into the room and stabbed Marion to death while she was still in the shower. Norman then returned to the room and saw what happened; he again thought that "Mother" was the killer and hid Marion's corpse in her own car. He then sunk the car in a nearby swamp.
A few days after, private investigator Milton Arbogast arrived at the motel to ask Norman if he had any knowledge of the whereabouts of Marion. Nervously, Norman lied that she had not been to the motel. Eventually, he admitted that she had been there, but stated that she had only been for the night and had barely spoken to him. Arbogast wanted to meet Norman's mother, but Norman refused to let Arbogast do so and told him to leave. Arbogast secretly snuck up to the house and attempted to meet Norman's mother. However, he was attacked on the stairs by Norman, dressed as "Mother." He slashed Arbogast, causing him to fall down the stairs and ran down and stabbed Arbogast to death.
Marion Crane's boyfriend, Sam Loomis, later came to the motel, searching for Arbogast. Norman heard his calls from the swamp but did not respond. He then moved his mother's corpse to the home's fruit cellar "against her wishes."
Marion's sister, Lila Crane, along with Sam arrived at the motel eventually, posing as a married couple. They suspected that Norman had killed Marion for the money that she had stolen. Sam distracted Norman in the motel office while Lila snuck up to the Bates house. The conversation between Sam and Norman quickly became a heated argument. When Norman realized where Lila was, he incapacitated Sam with a vase and fled to stop Lila. He hurriedly dressed up as "Mother" and ran into the fruit cellar where he had placed his mother's corpse. Lila had just discovered the corpse and screamed in horror, alerting Norman to her location. As "Mother" entered the room, knife in hand, Sam ran in behind him and grabbed "Mother" from behind and they fell to the floor. Norman was then taken into custody by the police.
The "Mother" persona took control of Norman completely. As "Mother," he thought about how to prove "her" innocence by refusing to swat a fly crawling on "her" hand. "Mother" stated in Norman's thoughts that Norman was always "bad" and deserved to be locked up like he had been. As complete control of his mind and actions fell away to "Mother," Norman managed a sinister smile to show that he was no longer himself.
He stood trial for the murders and was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Twenty-two years later, Norman was released from the asylum, now a perfectly sane man. Lila, now named "Lila Loomis" after marrying Sam, protested the release of Norman. She started a petition and had it signed by 743 people, mainly relatives of Norman's victims. However, Norman was released anyway because he had been deemed sane. Norman was taken back to his only home, the Bates Motel, as well as the house that he grew up in and was given a job as a busboy/dishwasher at the nearby Statler's Cafe. Norman's aunt, Emma Spool (a relation unknown to him) worked as a waitress at the diner.
Another waitress at the diner, Mary Samuels – in reality Mary Loomis, Lila and Sam's daughter – was kicked out of her apartment by her boyfriend, so Norman offered to let her stay at the motel. However, he soon discovered that while he was institutionalized, the motel's manager, Warren Toomey had changed the motel completely. Under his management, wild parties were held at the motel, with illegal drugs that guests could use, much to Norman's disapproval. Toomey had allowed the drugs to be used because of the money that he received from guests who flocked there. Norman, angry that his childhood home had been completely wrecked by Toomey, fired the new manager and extended his offer by letting Mary stay at the house.
Norman soon started getting notes and phone calls from "Mother" and an individual dressed as her killed Toomey. When Norman saw this figure while renovating the motel, he started to wonder if he was going crazy again, in addition to entering his mother's room and seeing that it was unchanged.
After Norman was lured to the house's attic and was locked inside, a teenage couple, believing the house to be abandoned, snuck in through the cellar window. As they were making out, they noticed a human female figure dressed in black pacing in the next room and heading towards the cellar trapdoor with a large kitchen knife. The girl tried to climb through a small window, but knocked over a pile of logs. As they tried to climb out, the window slammed down on the boy's hands and he was stabbed to death. The girl escaped and alerted the police. Mary eventually found Norman in the attic, finding the door to be unlocked, confusing Norman.
Minutes later, Sheriff John Hunt arrived at the house and questioned them about the boy's murder, finding the cellar neat and orderly. As Norman prepared to admit that something suspicious was going on, Mary claimed that she had cleaned up the basement herself. After the sheriff left, Norman asked Mary why she lied and she explained that she had to save him from being arrested. Norman collapsed into a chair with his head in his hands and moaned, "It's starting again!" horrified that he was losing his sanity once again.
Later, as Norman entered the bathroom he called for Mary, and the two were horrified to find a bloody cloth that had been stuffed down the toilet, causing it to overflow. Norman appeared confused and believed that he may have committed another murder. Mary told Norman it could not have been him as he was in the attic and asked Norman to make them both a drink.
After Norman went back downstairs, Mary called out to Norman, and he rushed to her aid when she let out a scream after spotting an intruder. Upon his arrival, Norman discovered that Mary had a gun, thinking it was because of him that she carried it, to Mary's denial.
Norman grabbed a knife and went to look for the intruder. Hearing a voice calling to him, he went back up to Mary. He believed that his mother was downstairs and was trying to kill Mary; he locked the door to protect her. Mary tried to go see because of her belief that it was Lila Loomis, but Norman stopped her defensively.
Later, Norman's psychiatrist, Dr. Bill Raymond called him to tell him about Mary's parentage and Norman stated his belief that his "Mother" was alive. Raymond then ordered Norma's corpse to be exhumed to prove that Norman was not being haunted by his mother.
Later, Mary admitted to helping Lila try and drive Norman insane again, but told Norman that she had stopped, while Lila had not. Meanwhile, Norman spoke on the phone with who he thought was Norma. Mary grabbed the phone, only to find out that nobody was on the other end; and began to fear that Lila was succeeding.
After finding the corpses of the teenage boy and Toomey Mary panicked and called Norman as his mother, as well as dressing up in a Mother costume and grabbing a butcher knife, to confront Norman and save him. In the process, she accidentally killed Dr. Raymond. Norman found her pulling the knife out of the body and promised to cover up the murder for her, as he assumed her to be his mother due to the costume.
Soon, Mary accused Norman of being the killer all along and found the murdered corpse of Lila in the basement. He denied it, claiming that "Mother" killed everyone. Mary raised the knife to stab Norman, but the police arrived at that moment and shot Mary dead, saving Norman's life. The sheriff assumed that Mary had killed everybody in order to protect Norman, thus clearing him of any wrongdoing.
Later that evening, Norman received a visit from Emma Spool, who lied that she was his real mother, and that Norma had been her sister. She then truthfully revealed that she had been the killer all along since his release, killing anyone who threatened Norman. Norman then grabbed a shovel and suddenly killed Emma, striking her over the head with it.
Once again controlled by "Mother," he reopened the Bates Motel.
Mother's dominion again
During the next month, Norman stuffed Emma Spool's corpse, using it in the same way he would Norma's body.
Norman hired Duane Duke as a second manager of the motel and offered Maureen to stay there. However, "Mother" took control and planned to kill her. However, upon sneaking into the bathroom, he discovered that Maureen had slit her wrists, the shock bringing forth Norman's personality and he took her to the hospital.
A romance began to blossom between Norman and Maureen, but the "Mother" personality remained, killing Red, a young woman brought to the motel by Duane, as well as Patsy Boyle, a guest at a party held at the motel.
The next morning Sheriff Hunt came to the motel to investigate Patsy Boyle's disappearance and a panicked Norman tried to stop him from entering "Mother's" room. However, when Hunt gained entry, Ms. Spool's body was gone, much to Norman's confusion.
Norman soon received a note from "Mother," telling him she was in the motel's twelfth cabin. There he found Duke with Ms. Spool's corpse with the intent to blackmail him for money. Norman saw through this ploy as Duke would tell anyway once he got the money. After a brief scuffle, Norman hit Duke with his guitar on the head, knocking him out. As Norman drove to the swamp to dispose of Duke, Duke regained conscious and attacked Norman as they drove into the swamp. Norman managed to survive as Duke drowned.
Maureen later confessed her love to Norman at the Bates home. At the top of the staircase, Norman was startled by his mother's angered voice, causing him to lose grip on Maureen's hands. She fell down the stairs and was stabbed in the back of the head by a cupid statue, killing her. Enraged, Norman swore his revenge on his mother.
Journalist Tracy Venable soon confronted Norman, who was again completely controlled by "Mother." She revealing to him that Spool was really his aunt who kidnapped him as a child after killing his father who chose Norma over her. Enraged by this news, Norman attacked Emma Spool's corpse violently, thus defeating "Mother."
Norman was subsequently taken into custody and Sheriff Hunt stated to Norman he would likely never be released from the mental institution again, but Norman stated that he was "finally free."
One evening, he called a radio talk show hosted by Fran Ambrose and told her about his childhood leading up to how he killed his mother, using the alias "Ed." Norman soon stated that he did not want to have a baby because he feared it would be another monster like him and later said he would kill Connie to prevent the infant's birth.
Norman then called Connie telling her since it was his birthday to come to the old Bates home. When Connie arrived he attempted to kill her, but she managed to console him, assuring him that their child would not be a monster and forgave him.
Norman then decided to get rid of the past of his unhappiness and had Connie leave the house as he took care of matters. Norman doused the house in gasoline before lighting a match and burned down the home as memories of his past haunt him. After escaping from the flamed, he declared to Connie that he was free, truly liberated from his mother's influence before he and his wife leave the charred site forever.
The following do not follow the same canon as the films or novels.
Bates Motel (1987)
During his institutionalization following the murders of Marion Crane and Milton Arbogast, Norman befriended fellow inmate Alex West and willed the ownership of his motel to West before he died of old age.
- Main article: Norman Bates (1998)
Bates Motel (2013-2017)
- Main article: Norman Bates (Bates Motel)
Behind the scenes
Bates first appeared in Robert Bloch's 1959 novel Psycho, which was later followed by a sequel, Psycho II. In these novels, he was portrayed as a middle-aged alcoholic. Both of these aspects of the character were changed for the 1960 film adaptation, in which he was portrayed by Anthony Perkins, who would reprise the role in three sequels: Psycho II, Psycho III, and Psycho IV: The Beginning. Additionally, Norman was partially inspired by murderer and body snatcher Ed Gein.
In Psycho II, a young Norman was briefly seen in flashback, played by Anthony Perkins' son, Osgood Perkins.
In Psycho IV, the teenaged Norman was played by Henry Thomas and the 6-year-old Norman by Ryan Finnigan.
In the 1998 remake of the original film, Norman was portrayed by Vince Vaughn.