Humans are miraculous beings, capable of doing anything they set their minds to. Turns out that we’re also capable of becoming anything, as well. Ed Gein is the most popular craftsman who found practical uses of human skin, but human leather has been used for centuries, for myriad of objects ranging from clothing to literature. Today, the legality of things made of human skin is kind of up in the air. You can’t sell something you’ve made from flayed human skin, but if you own a historical relic it’s cool... probably.
Most of the wish-washiness of the human skin issue seems to stem from the overt ickiness of the subject, but the many uses for human skin throughout history are fascinating if you detach yourself from the fact that the product you’re enjoying used to be walking around with its own hopes and dreams.
At least half the items made from human skin in this macabre collection must be seen specifically from a historical viewpoint. There are beautiful items from ancient Africa and modern Japan, and look nothing like you’ve ever seen. And you’re wearing the secret ingredient! Then there are those items peeled from a human body in such a sheer state of agony it’s hard to think about anyone owning them. Keep reading for a fascinating look into all the ways you can use human skin.
Des Destinées de L'amePhoto: flickr / CC0
Everything we know about books bound in human skin comes from the Evil Dead films, so when Harvard confirmed it has multiple books bound with human skin in its collection, including Des Destinées de L'ame, you can understand why people felt conflicted. On one hand, a "book about the human soul bound with human skin," sounds awesome. But that's also how you get demons all up in your cabin.
A Pair of Two Toned Shoes
In 1878, a garrulous thief referred to as Big Nose George was hung for killing a few law men in a botched hold up. Before he was buried, his body was placed in a barrel so it could be flayed by Dr. John Osborne. The good doctor peeled the skin from George's chest and thighs and had it made into a doctor's bag, a coin purse, and a pair of shoes. Osborne liked the shoes so much he wore them to his inauguration as the first Democratic governor of the state of Wyoming.
A Lampshade That Stares BackPhoto: FX
There's no quantifying the pain the Jewish people suffered during the Holocaust; some of the most degrading stories to come out Germany's concentration camps are those of soap made of boiled human fat, and lampshades made of human skin. One such lampshade showed up in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and after thousands of dollars in testing, it was confirmed to be made of human skin.
These Handy GlovesPhoto: Top Doc / Youtube
Ed Gein may have had issues, but boy was he crafty. Despite only officially killing two people, Gein took to grave robbing in order to reinforce his hobby of building furniture and fashioning clothes from body parts and human skin. One of the most "normal" pieces of clothing he made was a pair of gloves used while he worked in the garden, or when... you know what? He probably just used them in the garden.