I almost fell out of my chair while reading this vintage newspaper article. Maybe Ed Gein took lessons from this guy:
'It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again' - Buffalo Bill in 'The Silence Of The Lambs'
HUMAN LEATHER, 1907
Alton Evening Telegraph, Alton, Illinois - 27 February 1907
It is a fact well known to a very few skilled workmen, and not known at all to the world at large, that human skin can be prepared, tanned, and made into durable articles quite as successfully as can the skin of our four-footed friends. You can say over and over again to yourself that there is really no reason why human skin should not be so utilized, and you can be told by the workmen who handle it that there is nothing gruesome in the work; you can reason and argue with yourself about the matter, and try to be “matter-of-fact and sensible,” and still there will be be little shudders running through you and creeping up and down your spinal column at the thought of having the skin taken from a human body and made into some article of wearing apparel.
The only way to overcome this sensation, if you want to overcome it, is to examine some of the articles made from the skin, and you will find that the leather is very much like dogskin or pigskin. Mr. William Hansell, of Philadelphia, has the largest article which has ever been known to be made from human skin. He was particularly fortunate in getting enough of one grain, and succeeded only after a long and systematic search. The article is a beautiful pure white saddle, and anyone examining it would be at a loss to tell the kind of skin from which it is made. When you are told, you realize that the pores show a familiar look; but when you are given a bit of the skin, of which Mr. Hansell has retained a few samples, you are amazed at the thickness. Three layers of skin you know you have, but knowing how easily a needle prick will draw blood, you are astonished to find what a good, thick covering these three thicknesses make. This saddle is made from the skin of one man. A woman’s skin, generally speaking, would be too delicate.
Now, it is not to be supposed that there is a general trade in human leather. Human skin is an exceedingly rare article. Sometimes a physician will have a piece made into a cover for an instrument case, and occasionally medical student get enough to be made into a purse or pair of slippers. Patients sometimes have a bolt or a book cover or some such article made from a limb which has been amputated. It seems a peculiar mind that would take pleasure in “souvenirs” of this order.
The wearing public are not alone in their aversion to the use of human skin for the purposes to which they unhesitatingly put the hides of animals. It is very hard to get workmen to handle the “leather.” Mr. Hansell gave his piece of skin, after it had been tanned, to an old workman who had always made up all his leather goods, and told him to make it into a saddle.
Three weeks the workman kept the skin, and one day he brought the partly finished saddle to Mr. Hansell with question about finishing. “By the way, Hansell,” he remarked as he was leaving, “I wish you would tell me what this skin is. It is the most contrary stuff I ever worked with; it is worse than pig or goat skin.”
Very injudiciously Mr. Hansell informed him that it was human leather. At that the workman dropped the half-finished saddle and left without a word. He never returned, and nothing would induce him to finish his job. Mr. Hansell, after waiting three months, hoping he would change his mind, turned the unfinished saddle over to another workman, but he took good care not to tell him what kind of leather the “contrary stuff” was.
The work of tanning human skin is pretty much the same as the of curing any other skin. Curiously enough, tattooing goes through the epidermis to the under skin, and not a little of the tanning of human skin is done for the purpose of preserving the designs tattooed upon it. Human skin may, however, be tanned with the hair on it, in which case the epidermis is not removed. Scalps so tanned are said to m ake the best wigs known, and because the tanning is done with alum instead of with oils, as is the case with furs and most of the hair covered skins of commerce, the resulting leather is much more durable.
NOTE: Here's a company in the UK that make products from human skin. Also - Top 10 Bizarre Uses for Human Skin. Lon
The Silence of the Lambs [Blu-ray]
Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original Psycho
Acres of Skin: Human Experiments at Holmesburg Prison
Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (R-Rated & Unrated Versions)
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