Unspeakable Crimes Terrifying Characters Based on Ed Gein, Real Life Nightmare  

Jacob Shelton
135.3k views 11 items

Most of the monsters in horror films are pure imagination. Unless the world gets a whole lot more interesting, you’ll probably never have to worry about a vampire trying to suck your blood, or your best friend turning into a werewolf. But there are real monsters in the world, and Ed Gein was one of them. In fact, his crimes were so heinous that a lot of writers and directors who grew up hearing about his murders ended up creating characters based on Ed Gein. Get ready to delve into a world of madness (and a boy’s love for his mother) and take a look at the terrifying characters based on Ed Gein, real life nightmare.

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? is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Terrifying Characters Based on Ed Gein, Real Life Nightmare
Photo: Biography.com

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 listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Terrifying Characters Based on Ed Gein, Real Life Nightmare
Photo: Cannon Films Inc.
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

Also Ranked

#62 on The Greatest Movie Villains of All Time

#60 on The Greatest Mortal Kombat Characters

#13 on The Fictional Monsters You'd Least Like to Have After You

#3 on The Greatest '70s Horror Villains

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Buffalo Bill is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Terrifying Characters Based on Ed Gein, Real Life Nightmare
Photo: Orion Pictures
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

Also Ranked

#31 on The Best Blonde Villains

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Norman Bates is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Terrifying Characters Based on Ed Gein, Real Life Nightmare
Photo: Paramount Pictures
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

Also Ranked

#16 on The Greatest Movie Villains of All Time

#8 on The Creepiest Characters in TV History

#39 on The Best Movie Characters of All Time

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