Hannibal Tetralogy character
Buffalo Bill
Real Name Jame Gumb (a misprint of James Gumb)
Aliases Mr. Hide
John Grant
Jack Gordon
Nicknames/ Other "Buffalo Bill",
(William) "Billy" Rubin (novel name Lecter gives),
Louis Friend (film name Lecter gives)
Gender Male
Race Caucasian
Birth 1948
Relationships Benjamin Raspail (Lover)
Fredrica Bimmel (Girlfriend, later victim)
M.O. Partial skinning of victims for use of skin.
Weapon of Choice: Pistol
Current status: Deceased
Portrayed by: Ted Levine

Buffalo Bill is a fictional character featured in the 1988 novel The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris and its 1991 movie adaptation, in which he was played by Ted Levine.


In the novelEdit

Bill's real name was Jame Gumb ("James" was misspelled on his birth certificate, and he insisted that it be pronounced as such.) A Serial killer, he murdered overweight women so he could remove their skin and fashion a "woman suit" for himself; he believed himself to be transsexual but was too disturbed to qualify for sex reassignment surgery. He became known as "Buffalo Bill" during his murder spree because of an off-color joke by Kansas City homicide detectives; upon discovering his first victim, the detectives said "This one likes to skin his humps."

The novel reveals that Gumb was abandoned by his Alcoholic mother, and raised by his grandparents, who became his first victims when he killed them impulsively as a teenager. After being released from a juvenile facility, he went on to serve in the Navy. Gumb had transitory relationships with both men and women, most notably with Benjamin Raspail, one of Dr. Hannibal Lecter's future victims. Raspail left him when he murdered a transient and "did things" with the skin. He later killed Raspail's lover, a Norwegian sailor named Klaus, and made himself an apron of his skin.

He began the "Buffalo Bill" murders by killing a girlfriend named Fredrica Bimmel in a fit of rage. Bimmel's was the third body found and the only one Gumb attempted to hide, by weighting it down in a riverbed.

Gumb's modus operandi was to kidnap a woman by approaching her pretending to be injured, asking for help loading something heavy into his van, and then knocking her out in a surprise attack from behind. Once he had a woman in his house, he would starve her until her skin was loose enough to easily remove, and then kill her and skin her. He would then place a Death's Head moth in her throat — he was fascinated by their metamorphosis, a process he wanted to undergo by becoming a woman — and dump the body. He planned to eventually make a "woman suit" for himself. (In one of the film's most famous scenes, he dances around in part of the suit as one of his victims screamed for help offscreen.) Gumb thought of his victims as things rather than people, often referring to his victims as "it". (Hence: "It rubs the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again").

The FBI intensified the manhunt for Gumb when he kidnapped Catherine Martin, the daughter of Senator Ruth Martin. Then-FBI trainee Clarice Starling enlisted Lecter's help in tracking him down, as Lecter had met him while treating Raspail. Lecter gave Starling a series of cryptic clues to Gumb's identity, but never revealed his name in hopes that Starling would figure it out for herself. She eventually deciphered one of the doctor's riddles — "This man covets, and how do we begin to covet? We covet what we see every day" — and realized that Gumb knew his first victim, Bimmel.

Starling convinced her mentor, FBI Director Jack Crawford, to allow her to follow up on the lead given her by Lecter. She travelled to Ohio to the hometown of the first victim to question the victim's family and acquaintances. Over the phone she was informed that the FBI had learned the name of the killer and was deploying to Chicago with the FBI Hostage Rescue Team to take him down.

Starling, meanwhile, went to the house of a Mrs. Lippman, Bimmel's elderly employer, only to find Gumb himself, calling himself "Jack Gordon." (Gumb had killed the old woman, and was living in her house and using it as a torture chamber for his victims). Starling realized who he really was when she saw a Death's Head Moth flutter by, and ordered him to surrender. Gumb fled into the basement with Starling in pursuit, and then cut power to the basement and stalked her with night vision goggles. Starling heard him from behind, however, and fired first, killing him. Martin was rescued, and Starling became a hero, as well as a full-fledged agent.

Character notes and controversyEdit

Neither Harris nor movie screenwriter Ted Tally delved too deeply into Gumb's pathology, but in the movie Lecter summarized his life thus: "Billy was not born a criminal, but made one by years of systematic abuse." A very similar line later appeared in the the film adaptation of Red Dragon, describing Francis Dolarhyde.

The movie adaptation of Silence of the Lambs was criticized by some gay rights groups for its portrayal of the sociopathic Gumb as bisexual and transsexual. A Johns Hopkins sex-reassignment surgeon, present in the book but not the film, protests exactly the same thing; Crawford pacifies him by repeating that Gumb is not in fact transsexual, though he thinks he is. Also controversial was the swastika-laden quilt Gumb had in his bedroom. It is never directly stated that he was anti-Semitic, however, morbid interest in Nazi paraphernalia and war atrocities is not uncommon among serial killers. [1]


Harris may have based Gumb on four real-life serial killers:

  • Ed Gein, who murdered two women and dug up several graves to make a "woman suit" for himself.
  • Ed Kemper, who, like Gumb, killed his grandparents as a teenager "just to see what it felt like".
  • Ted Bundy, who pretended to be injured and asked his victims for help, and then incapacitated and killed them.
  • Gary Heidnik, who kidnapped five women and held them hostage as sex slaves.


Wikipedialogo This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Buffalo Bill (The Silence of the Lambs). The list of authors can be seen in the page history.. As with LGBT Info, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0.

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