The human skin is full of many layers and is quite strong. It’s actually the largest organ in the human body. Yep, you may of thought it was something else, but the largest is actually your skin. It’s actually considered the most important part of the body because it’s our main outer layer of defense against the elements. But have you ever thought maybe it could be used for something other than covering our muscle and circulatory system? Well, there’s some that have given it a bit more thought than I would want to. Wait till you read this…
The Human Book
During the 18th and 19th centuries doctors actually used human skin to bind the medical books they had written. Normally the skin used for these books came from executed criminals, namely murderers. Some books that contain the trial information for murderers were actually bound by the skin of the killer.
Using human skin to bind books was so common it was given a scientific name. The practice of binding books with human skin is called anthropodermic bibliopegy. That’s right, this is for real.
In England, a girl by the name of Eliza Balsum was being stalked by a man named John Horwood. He became obsessed with her and had threatened to kill her. Eventually Horwood did kill her by throwing a rock at her head and fractured her skull. Horwood was tried and sentenced to death by hanging. After his execution, his body was turned over to surgeons in Bristol, England to be used in their dissection classes. One of the surgeons, Richard Smith, performed the dissection of Horwood’s body and had his skin preserved and tanned. The skin was then used to bind a book which held all the details of Horwood’s crime and sentencing.
Another account of this type of thing was with two Irish immigrants William Burke and William Hare. They had murdered many people throughout Edinburgh. The high demand to obtain bodies for science gave the two men the idea of selling the victim’s bodies to make money. Eventually they were caught and Burke was prosecuted for the murders. He was hanged for his crimes in 1829 and his body donated to a medical school. There his skin was stripped and used to bind a small notebook.
Decorating with Skin
Another very strange saga in the skin series concerns making furniture out of human skin. An American serial killer by the name of Eddie Gein used repurposed human skin for many decorating antics. It’s said that when police entered his domicile they discovered an armchair, lampshade and wastebasket all made of human skin. Gein had also gone so far as to craft some classy suits for himself from some of his victims skin. Eddie Gein was the inspiration for the character Buffalo Bill from “The Silence of the Lambs” movie.
This all seems so bizarre to me, but I guess if you think about it, the skin probably makes for a strong material. Even though we use hides from many different animals for covering our furniture and making our clothes, it doesn’t dismiss the fact that using human skin is far beyond driven!