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The True Story Behind 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' And Why It's Total BS

Updated February 10, 2020 125.2k views11 items
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In 1974, Tobe Hooper’s horror masterpiece The Texas Chainsaw Massacre began its decades-long assault on filmgoers, and while this film was advertised to be based on a true story, it’s important to know it’s completely fictional. Everything about the film, especially the character Leatherface, is totally made up. While the film is loosely based off of the crimes of multiple killers (including Ed Gein), the movie's villain has little in common with any particular person.

According to Gunnar Hansen, the actor who portrayed Leatherface in two of the films in the series, some people weren’t able to wrap their heads around the fact that a work of fiction would be marketed as a true story. In fact, in his book about the filming of the first Chainsaw movie, Chainsaw Confidential, he notes in the early 2000s, he and many horror historians had begun to receive emails from people who believed that Leatherface was a real person and that they knew actual victims of the Sawyer clan.

Many of the theories surround the existence of a real Leatherface and of a secret history behind The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and they are basically modern campfire tails that have been told so many times they’ve taken on a new life. Some people have heard variations of the Leatherface story so many times that it has to be real, doesn’t it? Other theories seem to disregard the idea that cinema plays with the concept of reality and a lot of hard work goes into creating a film that plays with what’s real and what’s fiction. Continue reading to learn more about the very frustrating and completely inaccurate theories about the backstory of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

  • Leatherface Went To Jail

    One of the big, extremely incorrect theories people believe about the "real" Leatherface is that he ended up in prison after the incident that inspired the film. The rumors got so bad, the Texas Prison Museum dedicated a page on its website to squash stories of a developmentally disable, chainsaw-wielding cannibal being interred in their prison system.

    There are probably plenty of guys nicknamed "Leatherface" in the prison system, but none of them are the skin wearing monster from the film.

  • The Police Footage From The End Of The Remake Showed The Real Leatherface

    Video: YouTube

    As a commenter on one of the many message boards on the internet says: "[I]n the TCM remake, they had footage at the beginning and at the end of two policemen going into the crime scene to do a recorded walk through. The scene wasn't properly secured and the both were killed by Thomas Brown Hewitt aka Leatherface. The voiceover explains that this is the only known footage of 'the man called Leatherface.' I was wondering if the footage was genuine, a reenactment or what? It was freaky, though."

    But here's the thing, that's just footage made for a movie edited to look like home video footage. It's not real. To be fair to people on the internet, this isn't the first time people have been fooled by footage that seems real. After the release of Cannibal Holocaust, so many people believed Ruggero Deodato actually filmed a bunch of people dying that he was put on trial to prove that he wasn't a murderer. 

  • The Film Was Inspired By Robert Elmer Kleason

    One theory that's a bit closer to reality is that the original film is based on Robert Elmer Kleason, a man who lived in Texas and chopped up two young Mormon men with a bandsaw in October 1974. While that sounds like a totally plausible backstory for the inspiration for the film, it's not what happened.

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was released in the same month Kleason chopped up his victims, and it was filmed in the summer of 1973, which means unless time travel was involved, Tobe Hooper couldn't have been inspired by Kleason's gruesome actions.

  • The Film Inspired Robert Elmer Kleason

    Another theory related to the bandsaw-wielding Robert Elmer Kleason, who carved up two Mormon missionaries in October 1974, is that he was so inspired by Leatherface's rampage, he decided to dish out his own saw based pain. While the dates technically line up, Chainsaw premiered in Austin on October 1; it's not like the film received a worldwide release.

    Kleason lived in Oak Hill, which isn't the epitome of cool now (and definitely wasn't back in the '70s), and it's not likely Kleason was checking out small theaters to see the cool new slasher film that no one was talking about. This is just a very unfortunate case of parallel thinking.