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You Could Own the House of Horrors From ‘Silence of the Lambs’

The property appeared as serial killer Buffalo Bill’s lair in the classic 1991 film

The house that served as Buffalo Bill's lair in Silence of the Lambs is on sale for $298,500. (Courtesy of Eileen Allan and Shannon Assad)
smithsonianmag.com

A three-story, four-bedroom house featured in the iconic horror film Silence of the Lambs is up for sale in Perryopolis, Pennsylvania (about an hour outside of Pittsburgh), reports Deb Kiner for Penn Live.

Per the listing, the Princess Anne Victorian home sits on 1.76 acres of land. Built in 1910, many of its original features—including hardwood floors, light fixtures and fireplaces—are still intact; the property, which is currently listed at $298,500, also boasts a pool, a gazebo and a three-car garage. A virtual tour is available via YouTube.

The house appears in the 1991 film as the lair of serial killer Buffalo Bill, who dismembers and skins his female victims in order to create a “woman suit.” As Stacy Conradt wrote for Mental Floss in 2016, the character (played by Ted Levine, who, ironically, also won fame as a police captain in the TV series “Monk”) was based on at least four real serial killers. One, Ed Gein, used the skin of his victims to create masks, lampshades, bowls and other household objects.

Silence of the Lambs’ cast and crew spent three days filming at the house, capturing footage of its foyer, dining room and exterior. The infamous dungeon pit in which Buffalo Bill holds his victims captive before killing them isn’t actually part of the property, but was filmed on a soundstage, according to the Associated Press.

“In the movie they kind of trashed the house and made it look really neglected and kind of destroyed inside,” real estate agent Eileen Allan, who is selling the house alongside sister Shannon Assad, tells Today.com’s Kerry Breen. “It’s way nicer in person.”

According to Today.com, the house has a unique history outside of film lore, too: Its 19th-century garage was previously used as a general store, post office and train station, and a vintage train car still stands on the property.

As Allan and Assad suggest in the listing, the property’s amenities, coupled with its ties to the classic film, would make it “an amazing Airbnb.”

Based on the Thomas Harris novel of the same name, Silence of the Lambs stars Jodie Foster as FBI agent Clarice Starling, who must bargain with Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a cannibalistic serial killer in FBI custody, to capture Buffalo Bill. Both actors’ performances were lauded by critics: Hopkins won the Academy Award for Best Actor despite appearing onscreen for just 16 minutes, according to Mental FlossRudie Obias, and Foster won Best Actress.

Though the movie was highly acclaimed, its portrayal of Buffalo Bill is mired in controversy, wrote Jeffrey Bloomer for Slate in 2017. Protesters from LGBTQ groups like Queer Nation and Act Up actually held a demonstration outside of the 1992 Academy Awards ceremony, calling attention to the character’s stereotypical mannerisms and clothing and accusing filmmakers of homophobia.

“He has a poodle named Precious, he sews, he wears a nipple ring, he has an affected feminine voice, and he cross-dresses,” a GLAAD leader said at the time, as quoted by Slate. “He completely promotes homophobia.”

Director Jonathan Demme responded to the criticism by arguing that Buffalo Bill wasn’t gay, but rather “someone who is so completely, completely horrified by who he is that his desperation to become someone completely other is manifested in his ill-guided attempts at transvestism, and behavior and mannerisms that can be interpreted as gay.”

Demme’s argument was true to his movie’s script, but as Bloomer aptly summarized, “What [he] didn’t quite get at the time is that the finer points of the text can get a little lost when you’re watching a movie about a guy cutting off women’s skin to make himself a real-life costume of female flesh.”

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