Throughout history, human skin has been used for a number of purposes, ranging from the spiritual to the macabre to the criminal. For instance, ancient artifacts made from human skin typically have some sort of practical or religious purpose; however, more recent uses of human skin act as reminders of some of the darkest and most appalling moments in history.
Although some of these objects are disturbing to learn about, they ultimately demonstrate how humans have both evolved and regressed over time, and why it's essential not to forget the worst moments in our collective history.
A Rare Book In A Harvard Library
In 2014, a book in Harvard University's Houghton Library was discovered to be bound in human skin. The library acquired the volume, titled Des destinées de l'ame (Destinies of the Soul), in the 1930s. It was initially bound in the mid-1800s by a doctor named Ludovic Bouland.
The doctor reportedly had a female patient who died from natural causes, but her body was never claimed. Bouland used the skin from her back to have the book bound. Bouland later wrote, "A book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering."
A Pair Of Shoes Worn By A Wyoming Governor
George Francis Warden, commonly referred to as "Big Nose George" or "George Parrot," was a horse thief and train robber from Wyoming in the late 1800s. Warden was captured in 1878 and hanged for his crimes. After the hanging, local doctor John Osborne had the skin removed from Warden's chest and thighs in order to create a pair of shoes, a bag for his medical equipment, and a coin purse.
Dr. Osborne was reportedly so fond of the skin shoes that he wore them to his own inauguration when he became the first Democratic governor of Wyoming. The shoes are now displayed at the Carbon County Museum in Rawlins, WY.
A Lampshade Made During The Holocaust
One of countless atrocities committed during the Holocaust was uncovered in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A man found a lamp at a local rummage sale that allegedly had a shade made out of human skin. The man paid only $35 for the lamp, but genetic testing of the shade cost $6,000. The shade was later confirmed to be made from human skin during the Holocaust.
An NPR interview noted that lampshades made from human skin were among the many crimes against humanity discovered during the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp at the end of WWII.
The Human Skin Collection Of Serial Killer Ed Gein
Police made one of the grizzliest discoveries in true crime history when they searched the home of the now-infamous serial killer Ed Gein in 1957. Gein had reportedly taken many of his victims back to his farm in Plainfield, WI, where he would skin their bodies to make various everyday objects.
Some of the more disturbing creations in Gein's home included a lampshade, an apron, and a belt, all made of human skin. Gein also confessed to making a suit out of female human skin so that he could "become" his dead mother.