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The Real Life Villain That Inspired Fear The Walking Dead's Ed

The midseason finale of Fear the Walking Dead season 6 saw the introduction — and hasty demise — of a fresh new antagonist: Ed, the former taxidermist and enthusiastic upcycler of shambling corpses. While his tenure was short, only lasting a single episode, the impact that the character had on viewers was clear, with fans hitting the internet to applaud a very Texas Chain Saw Massacre outing for the survivors.

Ed, played by Raphael Sbarge (of basically every BioWare game set in space), did something remarkable with his brief tenure: he managed to stand out from the post-apocalyptic crowd. Just when viewers thought that they'd seen every conceivable form of undead abuse, along came a second-generation taxidermist who boldly asked the question "what if we gussied up some walkers with antlers and the like?" The result was as unsettling as it was unique, a lurching Cabela's centerpiece of groaning dead stuff.

And if an AARP-eligible woodsman playing Mister Potato Head with a bunch of decomposing corpses felt a little over the top, we've got bad news: in an Entertainment Weekly interview with Fear The Walking Dead showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss, it was revealed that Ed took some inspiration from a real guy. Trigger warning, the IRL Ed was significantly more disturbing than the dude Queer Eye-ing the living dead.

Ed takes his name from real life horror

Right up front, Goldberg let the nightmare-inducing cat out of the bag, saying they "named the character Ed after Ed Gein, the real-life serial killer," dropping a name you were probably familiar with, even if you didn't know it.

Since his 1957 arrest, Edward Theodore Gein has been a reliable well of depravity for writers looking to make a monster. The basics go like this: in November of 1957, a Plainfield, Wisconsin hardware store owner's disappearance led authorities to Gein's house, where they found human bones, body parts, and an assortment of macabre craft projects — bowls made out of people's skulls, furniture upholstered with skin, and clothing made out of body parts. He confessed to two murders, and to having dug up the graves of recently buried women who reminded him of his mother, hoping to construct a suit made out of female skin in order to "become" his mom.

If all of that sounds passingly familiar, there's a good reason. Gein's bleak recreational activities inspired Leatherface in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs, Norman Bates in Psycho, and others. He died in custody in 1984. No word on whether anyone thought to double tap him to make sure he wouldn't reanimate.