Ed Gein, an American murderer and body snatcher, has been a macabre muse for some of the most iconic horror movies. Although Gein was not a prolific serial killer in the traditional sense (he was convicted for the murder of two women), his gruesome activities and psychological profile had a profound influence on the horror genre.
Gein’s crimes included exhuming corpses from local graveyards and fashioning trophies and keepsakes from their bones and skin. This disturbing behavior directly inspired the creation of Norman Bates in “Psycho,” Leatherface in “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” and Buffalo Bill in “The Silence of the Lambs.” Each of these characters reflects aspects of Gein’s life and crimes, though they are fictionalized and exaggerated for cinematic purposes.
What makes Gein’s influence on these films particularly intriguing is the way each film focuses on different aspects of his story. “Psycho” delves into the abnormal relationship between Norman Bates and his mother, reminiscent of Gein’s own unhealthy attachment to his mother. “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” uses the element of Gein’s gruesome crafting from human skin and bones in its portrayal of Leatherface. “The Silence of the Lambs” incorporates the skin-suit element into the character of Buffalo Bill, showcasing the horror of Gein’s actions.