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The man in the mask

'Texas Chainsaw 3D' and the murderous film legacy of Ed Gein

By David Walker
Special to MSN Movies

Before cinematic serial killers Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees donned their iconic masks in the "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th" films, respectively, there was the granddaddy of masked killers, Leatherface. Wearing a mask made of human skin, the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface shocked and terrified audiences when he first cut a bloody swath across the screen in 1974's "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre." With the release of "Texas Chainsaw 3D," Leatherface continues terrorizing hapless teenagers looking to party in the Lone Star State. Both the 1974 version and the 2004 remake claim to be inspired by true events that took place in Texas on August 18, 1973. In reality, the exploits of Leatherface and his cannibal family were inspired not by a chainsaw massacre in Texas, but by the grisly deeds of a man in Wisconsin named Ed Gein.

Bing: More about 'Texas Chainsaw 3D'

At the time of his arrest in 1957, Ed Gein's crimes shocked the nation. Inside Gein's dilapidated farmhouse in Plainfield, Wisconsin, police found a real life house of horrors. Bowls made out of skulls, furniture upholstered with skin, heads in bags, masks made of faces, and a heart cooking on the stove were among the terrifying discoveries. A grave-robbing cannibal who turned to murder, Gein was obsessed with sexual reassignment, and took to wearing suits of clothing made from the flesh of women. He became a real life boogey man as reports of Gein's grisly deeds made headlines across the country. It wouldn't be long before the world of film turned to the unassuming man from Wisconsin for inspiration.

Arriving in theaters in January 2013, "Texas Chainsaw 3D" is the most recent in a long list of movies inspired by the crimes of Gein. Here is a glimpse at some of the films that have derived their demented devilishness from Ed Gein, the Plainfield Ghoul.

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(Lionsgate)