"He's making himself a 'woman suit,' Mr. Crawford - out of real women! And he can sew, this guy, he's really skilled. A dressmaker, or a tailor... That's why they're all so big - because he needs a lot of skin. He keeps them alive to starve them awhile, to loosen their skin..."Some people are a bit bent in the head. These people are often living incarnation of Nightmare Fuel in any case, but the best... well... if best is the word to use here... perhaps "most effective" methods of making them even Squickier than they already are is to have them skin their victims and then use the collected skin for some disgusting purpose. The possibilities are horrific to contemplate, but include masks, clothing, lampshades, and so on. See also Flaying Alive. Related to Skeletons in the Coat Closet, Human Resources, Human Head On The Wall.
— Clarice Starling, The Silence of the Lambs
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Fate/Zero features Gilles De Rais, AKA Caster, whose Noble Phantasm is The R'Lyeh Text, which is bound with still-living, regenerating human skin.
- The Akuma from D.Gray-Man. They kill the human who summoned them and wear their skins.
- Anatolia Story: Zuwa from the Kaska/Kashga clan kills humans and sews his clothes out of the collected skin. Features include black for nubian and brown for egyptian.
- Youaltepuztli Nahualpilli from the anecdotes of Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, who did it for warmth.
- Some of the "Health Department" goons from Biomega wear aprons and masks made from the humans and zombies they've killed as trophies.
- Orochimaru of Naruto infiltrated the Chuunin exams twice by killing a person, cutting off their face, and wearing it as a disguise. This wasn't too difficult for him because his entire skin is a fake he wears over his current host body. Presumably this made for a more convincing disguise than the common Transformation Jutsu...somehow. The Transformation Jutsu can be easily dispelled, Orochimaru's version not so much.
- There's an obscure villain called Jane Doe who kills, skins her victims, and then wears their skin while assuming their identity. It needs to be specified that this isnt a Leatherface-style getup, the skin is completely preserved and looks perfectly like the original person, down to hair, facial hair and voice.
- At one point in Grant Morrison's Batman, a member of the Black Glove wears the skinned face of his victim, philanthropist John Mayhew, as a mask. It's actually Mayhew himself, wearing the face of a man who resembled him.
- And just when you thought The Joker couldn't get any more disturbing than he already is, as of 2012 he's joined this club... except it's his own flayed face that he's strapped in place. Eugh...
- In Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, security guard Aaron Cash lost a hand (and with it a lot of confidence) after Killer Croc ripped off and apparently ate it. At the climax of the story, he faces Killer Croc after the latter has been mutated by demonic power. Aaron overcomes his fears and overpowers Croc, tearing off a piece of Croc's hide in the process. In the end, Aaron has his confidence back, and a spiffy new wallet made of genuine alligator leather...
- Carrick in No Hero was shown on a variant cover in a chair made with human skin with faces.
- Neil Gaiman's The Sandman featured a one-issue story called "Collectors" that was about a Serial Killer convention. One of the killers who attends (he's been dubbed "Flay by Night" by the press) is a nationally famous doctor who has treated presidents and congressmen. The fact that he likes to wear "handmade leather ties" was once commented upon during one of his many talk-show appearances. He makes the ties himself, out of the skin of his victims. And he's got over a hundred of them.
- Doctor Doom, in what is arguably his most heinous act, murdered his former lover Valeria and made a suit of leather armor out of her skin as part of a magic spell to boost his sorcery.
- EC Comics' Shock SuspenStories had this as the ending of "The Rug!" and "What Fur?!", both Anvilicious anti-fur stories.
- Blue Devil in the New 52 wears a devil suit which he originally believed was just a high tech suit. Then Black Lightning pointed out that the wires are actually veins. The suit is really the skin of the demon Nebiros, and Nebiros wants it back.
- In an early issue of Hellblazer, John Constantine clashes with yuppie demon soul brokers. He is sitting in the house of a pair of them and thinking how normal everything looks when he notices that the lampshade has a tattoo.
- Judge Dredd:
- There was a serial killer who lured tenants to his apartment so he could use their skin to produce new pieces of garment for him to wear. His job at Resyk came in handy to dispose of the corpses.
- After the Day of Chaos left much of the city in ruins, a gang started to harvest the mass graves outside the populated areas to use the skin and bones of the dead as clothing fashion items.
- Cupcakes: Pinkie Pie wears the cutie marks of all the ponies she tortured and killed.
- The Galaxy Rangers Dark Fic "Raumjager" uses the real-life example of Ilse Koch. Doc is trapped in the "Nazis won" timeline, and sees an "antique lampshade" with a tatooed American flag and the words "Semper Fidelis" on it.
- In The Dresden Fillies , Harry Dresden travels to Equestria. Being herbivores, ponies don't use leather at all, so when Rarity and Applejack inquire about his trademark coat, he finds himself in quite a bind.
- In Friendly Fire, Rarity threatens to do this to Apple Bloom if she breaks Sweetie Belle's heart.
- The Silence of the Lambs has Buffalo Bill (so named because he likes to "skin his humps") trying to make a "woman suit" out of the skin of his victims in a strange attempt at transformation. Hannibal Lecter also wore a policeman's faceskin in one scene.
- Repo! The Genetic Opera has Pavi, who cuts off women's faces, keeps them fresh, and wears them over his own, attached with straps and staples.
- Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre makes his namesake mask from human skin. And since dead skin goes bad over time, he's in constant need of new material.
- In Men in Black, the alien villain spends most of the movie wearing the skin of Edgar, a farmer he killed and skinned.
- The Necronomicon as seen in the Evil Dead movies is bound in human skin, with the face forming the front cover.
- In Con Air, serial killer Garland Greene claims he once killed a little girl and then drove through the state wearing her face as a hat.
- In the film adaptation of Clive Barker's Book of Blood, a man with ghostly writing all over his body is captured by a mercenary, who's been paid to collect his skin as an occult curiosity.
- One of the Creeper's throwing stars from Jeepers Creepers 2 has a piece of human skin embedded on one side. To ensure that potential victims recognize its source, it's got a belly button in it; to make sure viewers know who it came from (Darry from the previous movie), it's also got a bit of tattoo.
- In the film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, one of the minor Orc commanders wears a human head as an adornment atop his helmet. This is best seen in the scene where Aragorn arrives at the quayside in a ship conveying the Army of the Dead.
- In Mad Max: Fury Road, Coma the Doof Warrior wears a weird leather mask... made from his own mother's head skin. Sources disagree whether he made it himself or received it from Immortan Joe.
- In Masques, the protagonist finds an instruction for how to summon a demon, written on human hide. However, her companion Wolf decides to only tell her what it is for, not what it is written on, and burns it, letting her believe that it was animal skin parchment.
- The Eelfinn in the Wheel of Time series wear a lot of decorative leather. It is strongly implied that they obtain this from people who forget to negotiate the price for their services.
- As part of the Voigt-Kampff psychological battery in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Deckard directs a subject's attention to his briefcase, then declares it to be "100% genuine babyhide" to gauge her reaction.
- The Canim sorcerers from the Codex Alera series wear clothes made from enemies. That means human skin for a part of seen cast. They also use it to write letters on, including supposedly-friendly diplomatic messages to humans. One high rank priest slept on a pile of human scalps.
- In Cornelia Funke's Reckless, Jacob fights the Tailor, a blade-fingered monster who wears the skin of his victims.
- House Bolton in A Song of Ice and Fire is associated with this. Their sigil is a flayed man and older lords of the Dreadfort would wear cloaks of human skin.
- Ramsay Snow (aka the Bastard of Bolton) seems to have taken up the tradition, sending Asha Greyjoy a patch of her brother's skin and claiming to have made Mance Rayder a cloak from the skin of his six spearwife companions.
- When Ramsay tells his dad he wants to flay an ally of theirs he doesn't like and make boots out of her skin, his father is horrified, but not for the obvious reason. He knows from experience that human leather is too thin and weak for such purposes, and they'd wear out within weeks. What's more, their allies, should they find out, would object rather forcefully, and Pragmatic Villain Roose Bolton would prefer to keep those allies on his side.
- It's also revealed that the Faceless Men use the faces of the people who die in their temple (plus some Applied Phlebotinum) to disguise themselves.
- In Gregory Maguire's Son Of A Witch, sequel to Wicked, dragons have a penchant for peeling the skin off their victims' faces and bringing them back as trophies. As if this weren't bad enough, the Emperor has the faces stretched over frames, and plans to put them on display to intimidate a rebellious faction.
- In Our Man in Havana the local police chief, Captain Segura, is rumored to carry a cigarette case made of human skin. It's true, though to make it slightly justifiable, the skin came from the guy who murdered his father.
- At one point in the Mallorean, Belgarath finds that the scroll holding a prophecy he seeks was made of human skin. This frustrates him, however, because human skin is terrible at holding ink, and the prophecy is now unreadable.
- A minor villain in a Brad Thor novel wears boots made of American soldiers he killed. The badass operative going after him is not amused.
- There's at least one comment in the Planet of the Apes novel Conspiracy Of The Planet Of The Apes about 'man pelts'.
- As there are no other animals present on the Riverworld, people wind up using human skin as leather.
- One of the more disturbing hadal artifacts retrieved from underground in Jeff Long's The Descent is a leather ball made from human skin. Several different races of human were used to craft it, so the ball would have an interesting pattern.
- Since the underplanet is so bereft of biological resources, the hadals are pretty much required to make do with each other for raw materials. Human skin, sinew and bone are vital parts of their economy — not to even mention meat. The surface people who try to colonize the underplanet either learn to adopt the hadals' methods of survival or don't (survive, that is).
- The Nightmare People hollow out their victims.
- In F. Paul Wilson's short story, Foet, the skin of aborted fetuses has become the latest fashion material due to a combination of its incredibly soft texture and the perceived transgressive nature of the product. Wilson states that the story was inspired by attempts to convince a friend that Fur is Murder.
- In Gary Jennings' Aztec, the Xipe Totec ritual (as described below, an example of Truth in Television) is described in full Squicky detail in two separate scenes. There are also scenes of scalps worn as belts and circlets made from the skin of women's vaginas, worn by the Spanish invaders.
- In the Nightrunner novel Shards of Time, the ancient dyrmagnos Rhazat appears as a beautiful woman by wearing the necromantically transferred skin of her enemy, the Hierophant Nhandi the Wise.
- In Dan Abnett's novel Salvation's Reach, a part of the Gaunt's Ghosts series, during the assault on the titular research facility, Gaunt examines a few bodies of Sons of Sek and discovers that all leather parts of their uniform and equipment are made of this material. Even the scroll tubes lying on nearby shelves are made of human skin.
- In TwilightWatch by Sergey Lukyanenko, the Tome of Eldritch Lore Fuaran is bound in human skin.
- In Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon, Flagg reads from a book bound in human skin. It is implied strongly to be the Necronomicon
- In The Book Of Human Skin by Michele Lovric, the titular book is said to bound in the skin of executed Peruvian revolutionary Túpac Amaru II.
- A non-sinister version occurs in Excession when a character picks up a leather jacket he had commissioned on a previous visit that was made out of human skin cloned from his own.
- In Courtship Rite, this is standard operating procedure. The people of the Lost Colony of Geta have few resources to start with. Human skin is too valuable to abandon. The people like to decorate their own skin with tattoos and decorative scars, knowing the art they choose will live on after them, on the leather worn or otherwise used by their loved ones and kin.
- American Horror Story: Asylum serial killer "Bloody Face" skins his victims and uses their skin to make lampshades and the mask he wears when hunting new victims.
- The Slitheen from Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures masquerade as humans by killing overweight humans and wearing their skins. And in the episode "Deep Breath," the Big Bad uses a hot air balloon made of human skin.
- Not quite human, but played the same way. On Angel's "Life of the Party", the green-skinned demon Lorne bumps into a partygoer wearing a familiar-looking blazer.
"Ah! My home dimension."
"Not made in, made from. (beat) Anyone you know?"
- Later in the same episode, another demon disguises himself as a "human bean", and seems to be wearing a face as a mask.
- The third part of the Reaver M.O. in Firefly (the first two being raping people to death and eating their flesh, and if you're lucky it's in that order) is sewing their victims' skins to their clothing.
- The Skins in Roswell.
- Sherlock villain Jim Moriarty informs the person who was so inconsiderate as to phone him during his climactic showdown with Sherlock that he will have the caller skinned and made into shoes.
- In Supernatural, the book containing the spell to open a door to Purgatory is covered in human skin.
- CSI NY 'Yarzheit' references the concentration camp officer's wife mentioned in the Real Life section.
- In the fourth series of Being Human, the Warchild prophecy is written on human skin. So that the nature of the skin is obvious, one of the pieces has a nipple on it.
- Horrible Histories' William Wallace song:
Celebrated Stirling Bridge, another Scottish win
By decorating my sword with the English general's skin!
- In the Warehouse 13 episode "The Ones You Love", a tattoo that transfers to people's skin and turns them into living bombs is contained on a leather box that the team suspects is made from the skin of Ignacy Hryniewiecki (who assassinated Tsar Alexander II with a bomb).
- The Grimm episode "The Silence of the Slams" has a luchador mask-maker who very rarely creates a Mask of Power out of the flayed face of a Wesen. Since the magic ritual brings out the victim's Game Face, no-one who wasn't in on The Masquerade could guess it was human(oid) skin.
- Beyoncé: In the Anger section of Lemonade:
If it's what you truly want ... I can wear her skin over mine. Her hair over mine. Her hands as gloves. Her teeth as confetti. Her scalp, a cap. Her sternum, my bedazzled cane. We can pose for a photograph, all three of us. Immortalized ... you and your perfect girl.
- Leather armour in Pathfinder can be made out of angel skin, for villains who want to go that extra mile.
- Vampire: The Masquerade gives us the Tzimisce, the vampire masters of Body Horror, who use their victims for clothes, augmentation, furniture... and many of them have enough skill to have the victim survive the experience...
- Gorthor the Beastlord in Warhammer wears a cloak made of shaman hides. This is both a declaration of strength and a symbol of the favor of the gods - to kill a shaman is supposedly horrid luck, but given that Gorthor has killed countless shamans and still lives...
- Among the (currently obsolete) mercenary units, Mengil Manhide's Manflayers deserve mentioning.
- Warhammer 40,000 has Chaos and Dark Eldar, two of the more morally monstrous factions use human skin in decorations, like clothing, banners, etc. Chaos Space Marines gives us Chaos worshipper and all-around cackling madman Fabius Bile, whose labcoat is, quite infamously, made of human skin over his power armor. Many Dark Eldar Haemonculi, also wear labcoats of skin, indeed it may have been they who introduced Bile to the fashion while he studied under them early in his villainous career. Dark Eldar Mandrakes, for a bit of variety, wear hakama-style trousers made of stitched skin.
- Similarly the Flayed Ones of the Necrons get their names because they strip the flesh from their enemies and drape themselves in the strips.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse has the Skin Dancers, a group of Kinfolk who grew tried of being second-class citizens in Garou society and performed a blasphemous ritual to become werewolves in full that required the killing and skinning of five Garou. They usually keep the skins around as mementos.
- There was a mad tanner in the video game Baldur's Gate II who could craft an evil-only leather armor from human skin and the blood of a silver dragon (the only non-evil species of dragon encountered in the game).
- Much earlier you encounter gauntlets of ogre strength, which seem to be made from actual ogre hands.
- Done in Fallen London with the duelist gloves...maybe. The description is your character doubting that it's REALLY human skin.
- Sakahagi in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne wears an outfit made from the skins of Manikins he's killed.
- In Skyrim, the Oghma Infinium◊ appears to be bound with the skin of every race of Mer you collected blood from to get it.
- Confessions of a Khajiit Fur Trader is exactly what it says on the cover: The tale of a Khajiit who made an absolute fortune selling the pelts of his fellow cat-folk, as well as Argonian leather. It all began with his brother's hide and went downhill from there.
- Based on some of their dialogue, it's implied that the Forsworn's armour is made from the tanned skins of the people they killed. The Forsworn are not nice people. At all.
- The Tome of Eternal Darkness, from the game of the same name, is bound in human skin.
- The Pox Faulds in Diablo III are a pair of trousers made from the skins of plague victims.
- The Human Skin Hood from Anarchy Online is a head slot item found in the Crypt of Home Dungeon.
- Goblins in Dwarf Fortress can and will make leather out of sentient creatures. Your dwarves won't due to being averse to butchering sapients, though they can process skeletons after enough time has passed.
- You can fairly easily turn off this aversion through modding, however, which allows you to sell the elves clothes made from the skin of their countrymen.
- Psychos in the Borderlands series are in excruciating demand of such leather. Whether they have tastes for it, metaphorically and literally, they will get one, but never actually seen wearing one...
- Until Tales from the Borderlands finally shows you a close look of what a face pizza looks like.
- Earlier in Tales, if you have Rhys call Vasquez "Wallet Head" after an old insult Handsome Jack gave him, Vasquez will threaten to save some of Rhys' skin after killing him to make a wallet to "remember him by".
- One of the Assassin's Creed: Syndicate Dreadful Crimes reveals that a series of disappearances were caused by a leatherworker who killed people and sold off their body parts covertly as fertilizer, meat, and leather goods made from their skin.
- In Five Nights At Freddy's: Sister Location, Ennard scopes out the player character's innards and uses this trope to escape from Circus Baby's Entertainment and Rental in the bad/real ending. The Custom Night cut-scenes show that the skin starts to rot, forcing Ennard to exit it and escape into the sewers.
- A rare semi-positive portrayal in Digger - the Skin Lizards. They wear the skins of sapient beings, believing themselves to be the cast-off skins of men who have died. They mean well by it, offering to skin the main character and her companion to spare them of having to see a dead god. In their own bizarre way, they're trying to be helpful. This ritual is eventually Ed's send-off.
- In Accursed Dragon, Rawn attempts to turn Coven back into a human with magic. Instead, she turns his shirt into human skin.
- Played straight in "Cthulhu Slippers" where Nyarlathotep tries to disguise himself as human to gather information on Cthulhucorp employees. It doesn't go well.
- The Skin-Taker from the Candle Cove Creepypasta is the villain of the fictional show who wears a top hat and cloak made from children's skin.
- In the last episode of Llamas with Hats, Carl skins the faces off of dozens of people and floats them down on balloons as a birthday present for his partner. As usual, he doesn't have any idea that this is a bad thing.
- Everyman HYBRID: HABIT is a malevolent spirit who possesses humans in order to do horrific things For the Evulz. note He has a very long Historical Rap Sheet, and has claimed several of the Real Life examples below as his own work.
- In Ark zombies can drop their skins as an item, which are usually vendor trash. The titular character has them tailored into a zombie-skin suit so he can enter an undead city without having to fight everything. He's blase about the whole thing while the others are squicked.
- Metalocalypse had an episode where Dethklok creates their own line of S&M styled clothes (made of leather, of course). The fashion designer hints at this trope throughout the episode with several ominous references to his "special leather", but the end of the episode has the band discovering the truth, and after all the not-so-subtle hints, the reveal is so over-the-top that it arguably Crosses the Line Twice. When the band actually find this out, rather than declaring it metal, they're so horrified that they scream continuously with Nathan pausing momentarily to fire the designer in question.
- Edgar Jomfru forced the upper face of his brother Eric onto a kid imprisoned for illegally downloading Dethklok music.
- South Park provides one example that doesn't involve murder, but is just as unsettling. Because Randy wanted a prescription for medicinal marijuana, he contracted such an extreme case of testicular cancer that he got around by using his balls as a hippity-hop. He eventually got them removed and had a coat made from his scrotum.
- Mentioned by Shrek when he says that one of the things an ogre's likely to do is "make a suit from your freshly-peeled skin."
- A criminal in Superjail! has a habit of pretty much making anything from human hide and body parts.
- Totally Spies! actually pulls this off where one of the criminals turns humans into animals before skinning them and making fur coats "without a single stitch".
"It's genuine lawyer."
- In The Venture Bros. episode "Perchance to Dean," a rejected, deformed Dean clone (D-19) is revealed to have been creating a suit of skin using the flesh of all the dead Dean clones over the years.
- A running gag for Krieger on Archer.
Archer: What is it with you serial killers and skin.Krieger: I'm not a... "serial" killer.
- An episode of American Dad! had Roger going Yandere on Hayley and planned to cut off her skin and graft it onto his own so they can "become one". He ended up doing it to Jeff instead.
- The Roman emperor Valerian I was captured at the Battle of Edessa by the Persian King Shapur I. At first, Shapur merely used Valerian as a human footstool. However, when Shapur grew tired of this game, he had Valerian flayed alive, then stuffed his skin with dung and straw and had it put on display in one of the larger temples in his capital.
- Ed Gein, a murderer and grave-robber who was eventually used as the basis for Norman Bates, Leatherface, and Buffalo Bill, was actually more notorious for the fact that he skinned and dismembered corpses he dug up from his local cemetary and the fact that he made leather items out of those skins than he is for the twonote actual murders he committed.
- Ilse Koch, the wife of a Nazi concentration camp commander, allegedly had gloves and lampshades made out of inmates' skin. This came up in trials, but wasn't proven to legal standards.
- Priests of the fertility deity Xipe Totec would completely flay sacrificial victims and dress in their skins. On the plus side, before they were killed, the victims got several days of feasting and sex before the sacrifice.
- It is said that William Wallace used the skin of the Sheriff of Lanark to cover his baldric.
- One of the plastinated figures in the "Body Worlds" museum exhibit is of a peeled human body holding its own skin.
- There are examples that still exist of medieval books bound in human skin.
- Not just Medieval; it's not even prohibitively expensive to buy a 19th century volume bound in human skin. (Don't worry too much; the skin was usually a byproduct of the dissection of cadavers in anatomy classes, and when it wasn't it was most often done at the request of the deceased in their will. There are also a few documented cases where the published records of the trials for particularly grisly murders were bound in the skin of the executed murderer, but these were the exception, not the rule.)
- Three such books have been found in the possession of Harvard.
- There is at least one website where one might purchase small items crafted of human hide, thanks to similarly-minded people offering to donate their skin to the cause.
- According to Herodotus, the Scythians used human skins as saddle-cloths and decorated their horses' bridles with human scalps.
- Herodotus also tells the story a corrupt judge executed by Persian king Cambyses II. The judicial seat was upholstered with the judge's skin, as a reminder to his son (who was appointed as his replacement) not to repeat his father's crimes.
- Rumors go of Afghan warlords who had leather clothing made by the hides of fallen Russian soldiers.
- There are apocryphal stories that during The French Revolution, some French followers of the Revolution faction made clothes from human skin flayed from monarchist rebels.
- Medical skin grafts from cadavers are the least-horrific example of this trope, although the burns and other injuries which they're used to repair are invariably gruesome.
- There is an urban legend about a lampshade made of the skin of a Holocaust victim. It was debunked by National Geographic; the lampshade in question (yes, it exists) is made from regular old cow leather.
- The serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer attempted to keep the skin of one of his victims (in between all the cannibalism), although it was improperly preserved and he was forced to dispose of it when it became too brittle.