There are a lot of interesting aspects to the Ed Gein story, but the two big take aways that most filmmakers seem to use is Gein’s love for his mother and his predilection for wearing his victims' skin like a suit. These two traits have been worked into multiple characters dating as far back as 1960 and as recently as 2012, so it doesn’t look like Gein’s hold on popular culture is going to break any time soon. If there was one silver lining to Ed Gein’s terrible crimes, it’s that he was able to provide fountain of inspiration for people like Tobe Hooper, Rob Zombie, and Alfred Hitchcock, all of whom based some of their most terrifying characters on the very real boogieman of Wisconsin, Ed Gein.
Who Was Ed Gein?
Ed Gein was basically raised to be a serial killer. His mother raised him and his brother away from the general population of Wisconsin and punished Ed whenever he made friends. One of the theories for why he killed women and wore their skin is that his mother convinced him that women were "vessels of sin that cause disease." Ed allegedly killed his brother and hid the remains in the ashes of a peat marsh fire, but after his mother died he really went off the deep end and began to kill women and dress them out as one would a deer.
After Ed's arrest, the Plainfield police discovered multiple decapitated heads, a belt made of nipples, a skin apron, a box of noses, and various household items made of human flesh. Supposedly, Ed had even fashioned a curtain pull with a pair of a woman's lips sewed to the pull cord.
Leatherface is arguably the most popular character whose very existence is essentially one big reference to Gein. Not only does he have an odd connection to his feminine side, but everything in his house is made of human skin. Except for the chainsaw - that baby's made of pure American craftsmanship.
Appears In: Boogeymen: The Killer Compilation, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Texas Chainsaw 3D
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Jame Gumb, or Buffalo Bill, is probably the most overt reference to Gein on this list. Not only does he have serious mother issues, but his entire modus operandi is killing heavyset women so he can wear their skin as a suit. He's basically the Ed Gein Wikipedia page if it were a person.
Appears In: The Silence of the Lambs, Silence! The Musical
#33 on The Best Blonde Villainssee more on Buffalo Bill
No matter what Psycho's author says, there's a lot of Ed Gein in Norman Bates. From the very intense momma's boy vibes, to the whole wearing skin thing, Bates is one cabin in Wisconsin away from being the biggest news Plainfield ever saw.
Appears In: Bates Motel, Psycho, Psycho, Psycho IV: The Beginning, Psycho II, + more
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