The inspiration behind Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and Silence of the Lambs!
For more than a century, movies have brought our most vivid nightmares to life, and this story is no different. The 1974 movie “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was based on a true story and although the story was adapted for movie viewers, the events from the movie’s inspiration were just as gruesome. Edward Theodore Gein, more commonly known as Ed Gein, was the man that inspired the legendary horror flick.
Ed Gein committed his crimes in and around the area of his home town of Plainfield, Wisconsin, USA. His horrendous crimes were committed to both the living, and the dead. Starting in 1947, he exhumed corpses from graveyards and made “trophies” out of the bones and skin, as well as committed murder.
On November 16, 1957, a hardware store owner named Bernice Worden went missing. When her son told authorities that Ed Gein had been in the store the evening before, and claimed he would return the following morning for a gallon of anti-freeze, police immediately suspected him. Further more, they discovered that the last written receipt by Worden was for a gallon of anti-freeze, on the day of her disappearance. A few hours after Worden had been reported missing, two deputies went out to Ed Gein’s isolated farmhouse which sat on 200-acre of land.
The doors to the property were locked so officers decided to investigate the wood shed. With only the light from their torches, officers started to try and looks around when one of them felt a bump on their shoulder. To the deputy’s surprise, and disgust, it was Bernice Worden, hanging upside down from the rafters. She had been decapitated and gutted. Ed Gein was taken into custody that night. It is unclear where he was apprehended, but it wasn’t in his home. Gein was unknown to police until this November day of 1957, but when police gained access to his home and went inside, they realized this wasn’t a first offence. Gein had been body-snatching, murdering, and mutilating bodies for many years.
When officers entered the property they found a hoard of human remains. The full search of the house uncovered a waste basket made from human skin, chair seats upholstered with human skin, skulls on bedposts, bowls made from human skulls, leggings made from skin from a female’s legs, masks made from the skin from female’s heads, a belt made from female nipples, four noses, a pair of lips on a window shade drawstring, a lampshade made from human skin, and nine female’s genitals in a shoe box, some of which Gein admitted to sticking on his body to pretend to be a woman.
Three more items were discovered inside the house… A brown paper bag, a box and a burlap sack. The burlap sack contained the head of Bernice Worden which had been placed there that day, the box and brown paper bag contained remains of someone police recognized. The box had the skull, and the brown paper bag had the face mask, of Mary Hogan, a tavern owner who had been reported missing on December 8, 1954.
The November day when Gein kidnapped and murdered Bernice Worden, hoards of reporters arrived in Plainfield, WI, to cover the story and he was labeled “The mad butcher of Plainfield”. This sling-shotted him from an unknown psychotic to a cultural icon across America. Gein was initially found unfit for trial. He was confined to a mental health facility and stood trial 11 years later, in 1968, where he was found guilty for the murders and was placed in psychiatric institutions.
Just a few years after his incarceration, Texas Chainsaw Massacre was released and the movie re-ignited the gruesome story, not only that, but the movie itself stunned audiences because of it’s brutality. The character of Leatherface, played by Gunnar Hansen, was inspired by Ed Gein and his bizarre crimes where he made masks from human body parts, similar to Leatherface’s actions in Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Gein died at Mendota Mental Health Institute (MMHI) on July 26, 1984 due to cancer-induced liver and respiratory failure, he was 77-years-old. He is buried in the Plainfield cemetery in a now un-marked grave after someone stole his headstone. The stone has been recovered but is now kept in storage at the Sheriff’s department.
In addition to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie, the 1960 movie Psycho, and Norman Bates‘ character stemmed from the Gein case also. Further more, Silence of the Lambs‘ character, Buffalo Bill, was also inspired from the Gein case. The Silence of the Lambs character kidnapped and killed women, and made a body suit from their flesh. With Psycho and Texas Chainsaw Massacre being on a short list for the best slasher movies in horror history, and Silence of the Lambs arguably being the greatest thriller of the 90’s, Gein’s story will live on forever.