Was Buffalo Bill a Real Person?

If you’ve ever seen the psychological horror film The Silence of the Lambs (1991), you probably can’t forget the name “Buffalo Bill.” The character originated in Thomas Harris’ 1988 novel of the same name, and his murder tactics probably made you think twice about using your dry skin moisturizer for a while.

But was Buffalo Bill based on a real person?

Buffalo Bill’s Modus Operandi

A modus operandi, or MO, is the way a person works, especially in business or crime. Buffalo Bill’s MO was to approach women under the guise of being injured or weak, ask them for help, then kidnap them. Later, he would murder them through horrific means you can read about in the book or see in the movie.

Thomas Harris based Buffalo Bill’s MO off of six real serial killers.

The Real People Who Inspired Buffalo Bill

The six serial killers that Harris combined to make up “Buffalo Bill” include:

  • Ted Bundy
  • Gary Ridgway
  • Edmund Kemper
  • Jerry Brudos
  • Gary M. Heidnik
  • Ed Gein

So, no, Buffalo Bill was not a real person. But even his fictional character is so haunting because he is not based in the imagination, but truth and history.