“I had a compulsion to do it.”
Ed Gein (August 27, 1906 – July 26, 1984) was obsessively devoted to his mother, a religious fanatic. After her death, Gein began robbing graves—keeping body parts as trophies, and experimenting with human taxidermy. He then turned to murder, killing at least two women in 1957. Searching the house, authorities found all sorts of macabre items: human skulls mounted upon the cornerposts of his bed; human skin fashioned into a lampshade; the head of Mary Hogan, a local tavern owner, found in a paper bag; a ceiling light pull consisting of human lips, a “mammary vest” crafted from the skin of a woman’s torso… Shortly after his mother’s death, Gein decided he wanted a sex change, although it is a matter of some debate whether or not he was transsexual; by most accounts, he created his “woman suit” so he could pretend to be his mother, rather than change his sex. His case influenced the creation of several fictional killers:
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
A young F.B.I. cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer. The character of Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs enjoyed skinning females and dancing around in outfits made of their skins.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
A story about a group of young people travelling through rural Texas falling prey to a family of cannibals, including Leatherface, who wears a mask made from the skin of his victims. The house where Leatherface lived was filled with macabre items like those found in Gein’s.
Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile (1974)
Based on the Ed Gein case, a deranged rural farmer becomes a grave robber and murderer after the death of his possessive mother whom he keeps her corpse, among others, as his companions in his decaying farmhouse.