These 3 Major Horror Films Were Inspired by the Same Serial Killer

Horror movies are obviously made to scare audiences. But one of the most comforting things about most horror movies is the fact that they aren’t real so the monsters under the bed and things that go bump in the night probably aren’t coming to get you. But in some cases, the monsters are very real. Three of the biggest horror franchises ever, were based on the same serial killer.

Ed Gein with his attorney Arthur Schley
Ed Gein with his attorney Arthur Schley | Bettmann / Contributor Getty

Ed Gein

It takes a lot of heinous crimes to even inspire one movie, but serial killer Ed Gein’s actions were so horrible that he inspired, Buffalo Bill, Norman Bates, and Leatherface.

As many serial killers do, Gein had a rough upbringing. His father was an alcoholic and his mother was verbally abusive. For some reason, despite her abuse, Gein still loved her deeply. Gein’s weird relationship with his mother was concerning to Gein’s older brother Henry and he tried to put a stop to their weird behavior. Henry later died mysteriously in a fire near the family’s farm. Gein reported his brother missing but led police directly to his brother’s burned body.

After Gein’s mother died in 1945, he had little interaction with other people. In 1957, Bernice Worden went missing and police were notified that Gein had seen her before her disappearance. Her body was found on his farm. After searching his home, police found that he had been robbing graves and stealing body parts to make clothing, masks, and other items. Police also found the head of a woman named Mary Hogan at his home.

Gein eventually admitted to killing the women but pled insanity. He was put in a mental hospital and stayed there until he died in 1984.

Norman Bates

Norman Bates was a fictional character created by author Robert Bloch in the 1959 book Psycho. The book was made into a film of the same name which grew to be one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous movies and inspired subsequent shows like Bates Motel.

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Norman was molded after Gein in that he also had a troubled childhood where he became eerily close to his mother. In the film, Norman actually murdered his mother after she planned to marry someone else. After this incident, he developed a split-personality, ocasionally taking on the identity of his mother and killing other women.

‘Silence of the Lambs’

Though Hannibal Lecter is one of the most famous names in Silence of the Lambs, it’s serial killer Jame Gumb who was inspired by Gein. He captured women and starved them. He then removed their skin and created suits of their skin. Gein also made suits from the skin of corpses that he stole.


Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre was also modeled after Gein. The character’s name came from the human skin that he wore over his deformed face. Though Gein’s face was not deformed, he did wear the skin of his victims.

The Leatherface character is also thought to have inspired the archetype of killers in the slasher genre, making masked, silent killers the norm.

Though some of the characters mentioned also drew inspiration from other serial killers like Ted Bundy, Ed Kemper, and other notable killers, Gein’s story has more than enough heinous details and brutal murders to inspire several more films.