Many of us have seen Silence of the Lambs, and cringed at everything Buffalo Bill did involving skinning those girls. But did you know that there are many murderers throughout history who did exactly that (and worse) with their victims? That's right, there are killers who skinned their victim and then... did things with the skin, to quote Dr. Lector. From Ed Gein to Vlad the Impaler, these killers live on in our history books and in our nightmares. Still, it's hard not to be morbidly curious, right?
It probably goes without saying, but let's be clear: this article contains graphic descriptions of murder and torture, and even a few horrifying pictures. If you have a weak stomach, this is not the article for you. If, on the other hand, you want to learn about the more horrific parts of mankind, and learn about just how depraved a person can get, then this group of killers is sure to disgust and fascinate you.
So, hang on to your skin, or at least your lunch, as we take a look into the crimes and minds of killers who found new and terrifying uses for human skin.
Ed Gein is probably the closest the world has ever actually come to Buffalo Bill, though you might argue that he was far worse. In November of 1957, a woman named Bernice Worden vanished from her job at a hardware store. Police investigation eventually lead to Ed Gein's house, and when they went to have a look around, they were horrified by what they found. Initially, they found Worden, strung up and dismembered and gutted like a deer (done after she was already dead, thankfully), but it only got worse from there.
It seems that Gein had, for years, both been killing people and robbing graves, then skinning the bodies and using them to make all manner of utensils, furniture, and art. Findings by police included human skin chairs, lamp shades, gloves, corsets, leggings, a belt made of nipples and noses, bone eating utensils, lips hung as decoration, and many more nightmarish artifacts. The items were photographed before being destroyed, for obvious reasons. Gein died in a mental health institute in 1984.
One of America's most notorious serial killers goes by the name of Jeffrey Dahmer. He murdered at least 17 people during the 1970s, '80s, and '90s. He killed mostly young boys and men, and also raped them both before and well after death. In one case, when he murdered Anthony Sears in 1989, after he was done having sex with the dead body, he dismembered the corpse. He took the skull and boiled it to remove the skin, then painted the skull to make it look like a plastic model. He did all this while awaiting sentencing after he had already been charged for sexual exploitation!
But this wasn't the last time Dahmer played around with removing the skin from his victims. In 1991, Dahmer met a young boy named Errol Lindsey and invited him back to his apartment. Once there, Dahmer killed the boy by strangulation, then flayed the body. He took the skin and soaked it in a bath of cold water and salt for several weeks, in hopes of preserving it. After a few weeks, he says he had to discard the skin, as it was going bad.
Dahmer was killed by a fellow inmate in 1994, who claimed God had told him to do it.
Katherine Knight was the first Australian woman to ever be sentenced to life without parole, and for very good reason. One fateful night in the year 2000, Knight went to see her boyfriend, John Price, with whom she was currently having a fight. During the night, Price stabbed him at least 37 times with a butcher knife, as he bled out on the floor of his home. But, unfortunately, it didn't stop there.
Knight then skinned him and hung the skin on a meat hook in the lounge. She then butchered parts of his body and made an extravagant meal out of them, "serving up the meat with baked potato, pumpkin, zucchini, cabbage, yellow squash and gravy." When police discovered the dishes, they were set neatly at the table, with the names of his children on cards at each place setting. It appears that she was planning on serving his body parts to his own children.
Knight claimed to remember doing none of this, but a judge didn't buy it. She is still serving out her life imprisonment in New South Wales.
Michael W. Ryan is just about as deplorable a person as you can find. During the 1980s, he was a leader of a religious white supremacist group, which focused on the evilness of Jews, the destruction of authority, and the inferiority of other races. This alone makes him pretty terrible, but the reason for his imprisonment is what will really make you queasy.
In 1982, Ryan was arrested for the murder of five-year-old Luke Stice, the son of one of his followers, as well as the murder of another member of his society named James Thimm. Reports indicated that Ryan had, over the course of several days, abused the child (including forcing him to have sex with his father) before killing him. Ryan then beat Thimm, forced him to have sexual intercourse with a goat, and then eventually skinned him while he was still alive. Thim eventually died when Ryan stomped on his skinned and bleeding chest.
It's not surprising that Ryan was sentenced to death, though he died on death row in 2015 before his execution.