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Feature
Ten Real-life Murderers More Terrifying Than Norman Bates
The gory truth behind the on-screen serial killers

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Psycho is the daddy of all monster movies - a horror film-slash-thriller in which 'slash' is very much the operative word. That we know. What's less well known is that the inspiration for Norman Bates - as well as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre's Leather Face and Buffalo Bill in Silence Of The Lambs - was real-life killer Ed Gein. But how close did Psycho come to capturing his horrific crimes? And how close did David Fincher get to the truth of the Zodiac murders? We've taken our Taggart-like eye to analyse Hollywood's take on real serial killers. Step over our metaphorical yellow police tape to find out the real stories behind the screen killers...

WORDS HELEN BURROWS
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Ten Real-life Murderers More Terrifying Than Norman Bates | Psycho (1961)
Psycho (1961)

Real-life inspiration: Ed Gein

Status: Died in Mendota Mental Health Institute, Wisconsin, July 26, 1984

Cause of death: Heart failure

What happens in the movie: Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) steals $40,000, and, while on the lam to her lover’s home, checks into Bates Motel. Big mistake. She should have used the Travelodge down the road. Feeling sorry for the seemingly forlorn proprietor, Norman Bates, she discovers that he’s wedged under the thumb of his mentally ill, controlling mother. Then she steps into the shower and horrifically runs out of shower gel. Wait, hang on…

What really happened: Like Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Psycho was inspired by the Ed Gein murders, but while Hitch sticks closer to the reality of the crimes than Tobe Hooper’s lone star lunacy, he still doesn’t really tell Ed Gein’s story. The infamous murderer never owned a hotel or brutally butchered a pretty blonde in the shower while dressed as his mum; only Hitchcock could have come up with that. Gein may have been a cross-dressing mummy’s boy, but he didn’t keep his mother’s corpse around the house like Bates. Instead, he went digging up female bodies in graveyards in hope of finding one that resembled his mother. We are not sure which is actually creepier: the movie or reality?

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