The Hills Have Eyes on Scottish Beans and Other Recipes

“Based on a true story” or “Based on actual events” are two phrases that, when added to the synopsis or plot of a production adds intrigue and peaks added interest in the mind of the viewer or reader.  A few of my favorite movies bore this phrase.THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was inspired by the life and crimes of Ed Gein.

Ed Gein
Ed Gein

The movie CHILD’S PLAY was based upon Robert Eugene Otto’s doll that was said to be possessed. One of my all-time favorite movies is THE HILLS HAVE EYES. Until recently I’d always assumed that the storyline and plot had simply come from the mind of Wes Craven. Imagine the amazement that I felt when I discovered that the events of this movie really happened, mind you it was some 500 years ago, but it HAPPENED.

For those that don’t do horror. THE HILLS HAVE EYES is a movie about a family of mutants that reside in the deserts of New Mexico.  In the movie, it is hinted that the mutated state of this family came as a result of military weapons experiments. As the movie unfolds we soon realize that this mutant family consists of inbred cannibals that make meals out of unsuspecting travelers. For those that haven’t seen the movie I will end my description here but as I said previously, I always assumed that the movie was as fictional as a movie can get. During my nonstop search of the acts of depravity committed by mankind, I found that I had been completely mistaken with my assumptions about this movie.

It seems that some 500 years ago the Bean family lived in Scotland. According to the legend, Alexander “Sawney” Bean was born during the 1500s. His father was what we consider a landscaper in modern terminology. Young Sawney Bean wanted no parts in that manner of work. Considering himself a gentleman of leisure, he wanted a less

Alexander “Sawney” Bean
Alexander “Sawney” Bean with wife shown in the rear carrying human body parts for consumption

strenuous and more lucrative manner of bringing in an income. As a young man, he met and married a sinister woman with the same ideals and lack of morals. Together they procreated and brought forth 14 children into the world. These 14 children became devout practitioners of incest and soon the family expanded to the 48 member clan recorded in history.

As previously stated the couple, unwilling to work in the traditional capacity; raised their family with the same lack of work ethic. Needing housing, the Bean clan took residency in a coastal cave where they lived undiscovered for some twenty-five years. The cave was 200 yards deep and during high tide, the entrance was blocked by water. Needing income and food, the clan developed a plan to satisfy both sets of needs. Under the cover of night, the Bean clan would attack those that journeyed near their lair as their cave remained unseen to most. Unsuspecting travelers were ambushed by the family members and robbed. Clan members would also take their victims deep into their caves where they were killed and cannibalized. Uneaten body parts were either pickled for future use or cast into the nearby lake. It is said that their victim’s number in the thousands as people just disappeared from nearby villages and towns

Local villagers noted the disappearance of travelers but were totally unaware of an entire family living in the cave. As more and more people came up missing searches were organized but few ever noticed the cave and those that did refuse to believe that anything remotely human could live inside of it. During searches, several innocent people were taken into custody and killed in their search for justice. Innkeepers of the area often caught much of the suspicion as they were often the last people to see many of the disappeared. Though others were executed the disappearances did not stop. That was until one night, the Beans attacked a newlywed couple. Unbeknownst to the Beans, the couple rode ahead of a massive wedding party that followed the couple. As they jumped the couple they soon found that the male was a skilled fighter however the wife was fatally wounded during the melee. While attempting to subdue the groom the rest of the wedding party moved forward and witnessed the attack initiated by the Beans. Realizing that they had finally been exposed the clan hastily retreated into the cave.

3several innocent people were taken into custody and killed in their search for justice. Innkeepers of the area often caught much of the suspicion as they were often the last people to see many of the disappeared. Though others were executed the disappearances did not stop. That was until one night, the Beans attacked a newlywed couple. Unbeknownst to the Beans, the couple rode ahead of a massive wedding party that followed the couple. As they jumped the couple they soon found that the male was a skilled fighter however the wife was fatally wounded during the melee. While attempting to subdue the groom the rest of the wedding party moved forward and witnessed the attack initiated by the Beans. Realizing that they had finally been exposed the clan hastily retreated into the cave.

The king soon received a detailed report of the on-goings of the evening. Infuriated, he led a 400 member manhunt into the cave. While there they were shocked to find human remains pickled in mason jars as well as simply cast to the side of the cave interior. Shocked by what they had seen during the manhunt the whole clan was immediately taken into custody. Charged with murder and treason, the clan was executed without a trial. The men had their genitalia cut off, hands and feet severed, and were allowed to bleed to death; the women and children, after watching the men die, were burned alive.

The story of Sawney Bean is one of Scotland’s most shocking and gruesome legends. Over time it has turned into somewhat of an urban legend, a piece of folklore so to speak. The thing is that, while attempting to research and verify the existence of Alexander “Sawney” Bean, actual historical documents, such as newspapers and diaries during the era when Sawney Bean was supposedly active, make no specific mention of him or his clan. However, research did cite several instances of the disappearance of a great many people during the reign of King James VI of Scotland as well as that of James I of England. Furthermore, we do know that cannibalism was not unknown in medieval Scotland. All of these facts lead me to believe that the Bean story may have a basis of truth but the precise dating of events has become obscured over the years. Through research, I found that the Sawney Bean legend closely resembles the story of Christie-Cleek.

Christie-Cleek, whose real name was Andrew Christie, a butcher during the mid-fourteenth century. A severe famine-plagued Scotland in 1340. During this time Christie joined a group of scavengers in the foothills of the Grampians. A member of the party died of starvation; Christie wasted no time in putting his skills to work on the corpse and provided his companions with a hearty meal. Over time the group developed a taste for human flesh and under Christie’s leadership, they began to ambush unsuspecting travelers. Letting nothing go to waste the party would feed on their bodies as well as the bodies of their horses. It is alleged that before attacking, Christie’s apparent weapon of choice was a hook on a rod. Using this he would snatch his victims from their mounts and commence the attack, this implement was the “cleke” (i.e., “crook”) from which his nickname was derived. It is said that no less than thirty riders died at Christie’s hands. Eventually, the company was defeated by the king’s armed forces. Everyone was taken into custody; everyone except for Christie himself, who supposedly escaped and re-entered society under a new name. It is said the man known as Christie-Cleek died many years later, a married man and prosperous merchant.

In our society, the mere thought of cannibalism shocks us to our core, however; we are well aware of the fact that we share this world with all manner of people. History shows us that humans are capable of all manner of atrocities just as we are capable of greatness beyond measure. As I sit and actually think; is it really that big of a stretch to believe that the acts depicted in The Hills Have Eyes really happened somewhere? As I sit and read back over past posts as well as watch the local news, I really must admit to myself; no, not at all.

In The Beginning, There Was …………. Ed Gein

Most of us are familiar with the movie, “Silence of The Lambs,” and the character, killer Buffalo Bill. Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and similar horror movie characters, have scared us into a box office frenzy. During the prologue and epilogue of the horror classic, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” we see the phrase, “based on actual events.” The mere idea that any of these occurrences may have actually taken place is enough to shake the average person to their core. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it; there was not a family of cannibals in Texas that used human meat in their chili recipes.  However, all of these stories do have something in common. These as well as most modern slasher flicks were created based loosely on the life and acts of one man, Ed Gein.

Ed Gein
Ed Gein

Born August 27, 1906, researching Ed Gein was a true excursion into the macabre. Raised on a farm in Plainfield, Wisconsin, Ed experienced a peculiar relationship with his mother Augusta. Augusta Gein taught her two boys, Edward and Henry that all women (except herself) were naturally prostitutes and instruments of the devil; similar to the mother/son relationship depicted in the motion picture franchise, “Psycho.” During their youth, the Gein boys were allowed to leave the farm for the sole purpose of attending school as she demanded their presence, (especially that of Ed) constantly. Augusta, a strict and overbearing woman, openly and regularly belittled her husband George in the presence of Ed and Henry. George Gein was an alcoholic and seldom remained employed for any considerable amount of time. Augusta hated her husband and felt that her children were destined to follow in his footsteps.

In May of 1944, Henry and Ed were burning trash. As the two men worked the fire got out of control and drew the immediate attention of the local fire department. Working feverishly, the firemen soon extinguish the blaze. After all the smoke is cleared, Ed finds that his brother Henry is now missing. With the assistance of several sheriffs’ deputies, a search is begun for the missing Henry Gein. Late that evening his body is found face down in the brush. Initially, due to the lack of any visible injuries, it was thought that Henry died due to heart failure and paperwork was officially documented death from natural causes. However, though it was never publicized, bruises were later found on Henry’s head leading some investigators to believe that Ed had actually killed Henry.  This would not be the last time Ed Gein was suspected of murder.

After the passing of Henry, the relationship between Ed and Augusta become more and more strange. Ed also develops an interest in the occult. He began purchasing books, items and relics relating to death cults, cannibalism and Nazis. In 1945 Augusta has a stroke, soon followed by a second; on December 29, 1945, Augusta Gein died. It was at this time that Ed Gein would depart on a one way journey into depravity.

Between 1947 and 1957 several disappearances occurred in and around Plainfield. Witnesses also claim that Ed Gein was seen countless times visiting various cemeteries in the area. The mystery surrounding the activities of Ed Gein would come to light with the 1957 disappearance of Plainfield hardware store owner Bernice Worden. Worden’s son told investigators that Gein was the last person in the store the evening before the disappearance, saying he would return the next morning for a gallon of anti-freeze. A register receipt confirmed that Gein indeed return for the anti-freeze in the morning and Worden had not been seen since.

After obtaining a warrant to search Gein’s property, investigators found Worden’s decapitated body in a shed, hung upside down by ropes at her wrists, with a crossbar at her ankles. She had been gutted like an animal that had been hunted.  Officers then searched the home of Ed Gein; below is a list of what was found:

  • Four noses
  • Whole human bones and fragments
  • Nine masks of human skin
  • Bowls made from human skulls
  • Ten female heads with the tops sawn off
  • Human skin covering several chair seats
  • Mary Hogan’s head in a paper bag
  • Bernice Worden’s head in a burlap sack
  • Nine vulvae in a shoe box
  • A belt made from female human nipples
  • Skulls on his bedposts
  • A pair of lips on a drawstring for a window shade
  • A lampshade made from the skin of a human face
  • Shrunken heads human facial skins, carefully peeled from corpses and used by Gein as masks

During questioning Gein told investigators that since his mother’s death, he had decided that he wanted to be a woman. He then struck upon the idea of creating a woman suit out of the skin of female carcasses. He confessed to digging up the graves of recently buried middle-aged women he thought resembled his mother. Gein would rob the graves, take the bodies home, skin and tan the hides to create his suit. Of the disappearances, Gein would admit to the murders of Bernice Worden and Mary Hogan only. Investigators site the reason for his admission to these murders as due to their heads being found in his possession.

On November 21, 1957 the trial of Ed Gein began. He was found at the time to be legally insane and unfit to stand trial. Gein was sent to the Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane until 1968 when was determined he was sane enough to stand trial. He was found guilty of one count of first degree murder but also diagnosed as legally insane due to schizophrenia and spent the rest of his life in a mental hospital. On July 26, 1984, Gein died of respiratory failure at the Mendota Mental Health Institute.