If you've seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, or The Silence of the Lambs, then you'll be familiar with villains who are particularly messed up.
While these movies are works of fiction, they were all scarily inspired by one man who roamed the Earth not that long ago.
Ed Gein was born in 1906 in La Crosse County, Wisconsin, United States. His dad, George, was an alcoholic who couldn't keep a job, while his mum , Augusta, was staunchly religious and despised her husband and virtually everything in the world.
Fast forward a few decades and Ed lost his mum, dad and brother in the space of five years and he was left on his own. But it was the death of his mum Augusta that truly messed him up as, according to Harold Schechter's biography, he had 'lost his only friend and one true love'.
Here's where it starts to get weird.
Police were investigating the disappearance of hardware store owner Bernice Worden in 1957 and found Gein was potentially the last person who saw her alive. When they looked through his property, they found her dead.
But not just dead; she was hanged upside down, her hands tied down with ropes and had had her head cut off. Not only that, but on her front, she looked as though she had been gutted like a hunted animal.
Well, police thought that was the extent of Gein's atrocities, until they looked through the rest of his house and found a shit ton of stuff. Here's the full list, thanks to Crime Library:
- Whole human bones and fragments
- Wastebasket made of human skin
- Human skin covering several chair seats
- Skulls on his bedposts
- Female skulls, some with the tops sawn off
- Bowls made from human skulls
- A corset made from a female torso skinned from shoulders to waist
- Leggings made from human leg skin
- Masks made from the skin of female heads
- Mary Hogan's face mask in a paper bag (a woman he admitted to murdering)
- Mary Hogan's skull in a box
- Bernice Worden's entire head in a burlap sack
- Bernice Worden's heart 'in a plastic bag in front of Gein's potbellied stove'
- Nine vulvae in a shoe box
- A young girl's dress and 'the vulvas of two females judged to have been about fifteen years old'
- A belt made from female human nipples
- Four noses
- A pair of lips on a window shade drawstring
- A lampshade made from the skin of a human face
- Fingernails from female fingers
Yeah, fucking weird that.
Apparently, he'd been going to gravesites in a 'dazed state' and digging up recently buried coffins. He'd haul the bodies back to his place where he'd take different bits and pieces to make various objects like lampshades.
Police also found a female body suit, which authorities believed Gein had made to wear so 'that he could become his mother-to literally crawl into her skin'.
Grossed out yet?
It's easy to see why his obsession with the human body served as an inspiration for Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs and Norman Bates from Psycho.
They all have elements from Gein's life, whether it be the intense relationship with their mum, or wearing or wanting other people's skin.
His story also helped develop other projects like House of 1000 Corpses, the character Dr Oliver Thredson from the TV series American Horror Story: Asylum.
Instead of being locked up in a normal prison, Gein pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He was deemed to be mentally incompetent to stand trial and a judge committed him to the Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
He died in 1984 of heart failure as a result of cancer.
Featured Image Credit: New Line Cinema/Universal/Orion Pictures