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Images of furniture and fashion accessories with designs that appear to contain body parts have been shared on social media alongside misleading claims they show items made from human remains by American serial killer Ed Gein, who died in 1984. Five of the pictures actually show the work of Australian special effects artists, who told AFP they are “Ed Gein-inspired creations” made with latex.
Warning: Graphic images
The pictures were posted to Facebook on November 3 with a caption in the Sinhala language that reads: “Items created by serial killer Ed Gein using skin and other body parts of his victims.”
Gein was a murderer and body snatcher from the US state of Wisconsin who used human remains to make household items, clothing and masks (archived link). His gruesome crimes in the 1950s have inspired horror films and books.
Comments left by social media users suggest they believed all the items were made by Gein.
“Clearly he was very artistic and skilled but his talent was put to the wrong use. How sad,” wrote one user.
Another called Gein “a creative murderer”.
However, most of the images actually show artwork made by special effects experts in Australia.
Two of the pictures show an armchair and a notebook. Reverse image searches on Google found identical photos advertising these items on the website of Butterfly Fx Studios, which is owned by Australian special effects artist Kayla Arena (archived link). The seller describes them as “Ed Gein-inspired creations”.
Below are screenshots of the images from the misleading posts (left) alongside the originals from Arena’s website (right):
AFP has previously debunked other posts that claimed the chair and a leather jacket created by Arena were made from human skin.
Speaking to AFP in 2021, Arena said: “I made this chair. It’s been shared worldwide by many people so it’s gotten out of hand. A lot of my works people try to ‘clickbait’ as if they have been actually made by a serial killer.”
‘Award-winning special effects’
A reverse image search for the other seat with two faces on its back led to another Australian special effects creator, Slaughter FX, where the “Custom Ed Gein Skin Chair” was previously listed for A$350 (archived link).
The product description reads: “Inspired by the American murderer and body snatcher Ed Gein (Edward Theodore Gein).”
“Timber chair covered in skin (latex) all stitched together,” it says.
Below is a screenshot comparison between the image of the chair in the misleading posts (left) and the original photo from the Slaughter FX website (right):
Reverse image searches for the handbag and shoes found the items featured in an article from British newspaper the Daily Star titled: “Grave-robbing serial killer Ed Gein inspires range of human skin furniture” (archived link).
The story was published on the tabloid’s website in June 2015 with the pictures credited to Slaughter FX.
It describes Slaughter FX as an “award-winning special effects company”.
Below are screenshots of the pictures from the misleading posts (left) alongside the photos in the Daily Star (right):
Chris Sun, director of Slaughter FX, told AFP on November 13: “The bag and shoes were made by Kayla Arena, I think she now goes by Butterfly Fx, an amazing artist. The chair was made by Kayla and myself at Slaughter FX.”
Gloves and cutlery
AFP was unable to independently verify the veracity of the three other images, which show a pair of gloves, a belt and a random assortment of items including cutlery.
According to the article, these items were genuinely created by Gein.
“Ed Gein gloves: A pair of gloves made from casts of my own hands. Based on paraphernalia found in the possession of Ed Gein, America’s most bizarre murderer, in Plainfield, Wisconsin in 1957,” says the product description from Devos.
Devos did not respond to a request for comment from AFP.
AFP could not find evidence linking the belt to Gein or any artist.