The History Inside American Horror Story: Part 1
January 15, 2019
American Horror Story is a popular TV show on FX that dives into different topics for each season, but every plotline in the show has a deeper rooted story inside of it that is based on true events. Ryan Murphy, the creator of multiple shows including American Horror Story, just recently earned a star on the Walk of Fame for his shows, and what better way to celebrate than to dig deep into the creative plotlines he created for the show!
Season One: Murder House-
The first season of the show has some the most historically-based plotlines in the show and considering that the story is based in Los Angeles, it makes a lot of sense for it to have so many pieces of history intertwined in it.
One of the first historical plotlines that come to mind in Murder House is their retelling of the famous murder of the Black Dahlia. The Black Dahlia, whose real name was Elizabeth Short, is one of the biggest unsolved murder mysteries in the world. She was found in a small ditch with her naked body cut in half, a Glasgow smile carved into her face. The show stayed true to the story, mostly, but did add some liberties in order to stay true to the main plotline of the story. They claimed that the doctor who built the house, Charles Montgomery, was the one who killed the woman who wandered into the house. He then discarded her in the same place that the real body was found. However, due to her death in the murder house, she remained a ghost in the house, stuck there for eternity reliving the torture she received.
All of the other plotlines are more obscure than the story of the Black Dahlia, but still prevalent nonetheless.
The next clearer one is the murder of the nurses in the house in the ’60s, modeled after the murder spree of Richard Speck. Speck killed eight nurses while the show only killed off two, but Murphy himself admitted that the story was directly based off of the horrible massacre. Like every other person who died in the house, the souls of the two nurses were trapped in the house forever.
The next plotline is one of the most devastating and dark. Tate Langdon, one of the deceased residents of the murder house, massacred students inside a high school before his death. This plotline reflects the horrible Columbine High School shooting that took place in 1999, one of the most famous mass shootings in the world. There has been no verification if he was based on one of the people who committed the atrocity, but there are many parallels that point to the fact that it was indeed modeled after the event.
The next plotline reflects another very famous case, the case of the Lindbergh baby. In the story, Charles Montgomery and his wife Nora Montgomery had a child named Thaddeus, who sadly was kidnapped and murdered. The story of the Lindbergh baby most likely inspired this story, but the inspiration of the story starts getting blurry after they find the body. In the real story, they find the body and cremate it, while in the show, they do something much more sinister that couldn’t be described unless you watched the show.
Season 2: Asylum
The main aspect of the entire plotline, Briarcliff Manor, is an asylum in Massachusetts. The idea of this abusive asylum stemmed off of the Willowbrook State School, one of the most horrid buildings in all of America’s history. The building was grossly overpopulated and extremely underfunded, and along with multiple diseases that resided inside the patients, the “school” was absolute hell for the inhabitants and the workers alike. The events that occurred inside those walls brought stories that are close to impossible to discuss, and the show did as good as they could while still making it safe enough to be shown on TV.
The next true plotline is about Dr. Arden, who seemed to be a complete copy of the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, and the experiments that Arden conducted in the show only make the connections even more clear. In the show, Dr. Arden canonically was a Nazi doctor, with the thick German accent and everything. But the acts that he committed were only works of fiction, unlike the works of Josef Mengele, also called the Angel of Death. All of his experiments were conducted in concentration camps and performed on the inmates, making their lives even more miserable than they already were. That is if they survived the experiments.
The plotline of Bloody-face is not only based on true historical accounts, but it is also based off of a movie that is based on those accounts. The story of Ed Gein, or Leatherface if you’ve seen the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, is so disgusting that it really would be a mistake if it wasn’t mentioned in American Horror Story. Gein is still one of the most notorious serial killers of all time, due to his uses of his victims after they died. Ranging from bone dice to skin lamps, Gein definitely was an “every-part-of-the-buffalo” guy. His most notorious use, and the one that created the most stories were the masks that he created out of his victims’ faces. Bloody faces homage to Gein definitely does not go unnoticed in the show, and it also creates one of the biggest plot twists of the season.
Season 3: Coven
Taking place in the historic city of New Orleans, Coven’s plotline of witches and voodoo is in the perfect place. After all, the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau is based in the eerie city, so what better topic to start off with? Marie Laveau is the most notorious voodoo witch in the world, and quite possibly just the most notorious witch in general. People would travel for miles and miles just to see her magical practices in action. Though her gravestone is by far one of the biggest tourist destinations in New Orleans, many believe that the voodoo queen is still alive and holding her throne as the true Voodoo Queen.
However, with good comes evil, especially in New Orleans. The evil, in this case, is none other than the horrifying Madame Delphine LaLaurie, which took place in the 1800s, at the same time as Laveau. Her name is also one of the most well known in New Orleans, but definitely not for the same reason that Marie’s is. LaLaurie, along with being a well-known socialite, was also one of the most brutal slave owners of all time, and also one of the first famous female serial killers. In her gorgeous house, which actually is often on the market to be bought, she held parties and some of the most sinister torture practices ever heard of. She had a floor in her house that no one was allowed to go into, and that floor of the house was actually where she held her torture tools. Her slaves were chained to walls to starve and rot, but others weren’t so lucky. She invented contraptions too horrid to discuss that she would use just for the sole purpose of pleasure. Authorities found these contraptions after LaLaurie fled the city, and to this day, no one knows where she went. Like Laveau, many speculate that she is still alive.
The story of the Axeman is one of the craziest unsolved mysteries, and through the involvement in Coven is small, the story is still so interesting. This (obviously) took place in New Orleans when a man went on a killing spree in 1919, using an ax to kill his victims. One day, he wrote to the newspaper that that night, he would spare each household that was playing Jazz, which was his favorite type of music. So, that night, every single person that lived in New Orleans flooded into bars, friends’ houses, or just played their own jazz. No one died that night, and the Axeman disappeared forever. In Coven, the Axeman comes back as a ghost, but there really is no definite proof as to who it really was.
Season 4: Freak Show
The plot of Freak Show takes place in none other than a circus “freak” show. The characters inhabiting the circus range from the tallest woman to the bearded lady. Every single one of the “freaks” was based on a real sideshow performer known for their abnormalities. There were the conjoined twins, Bette and Dot Tattler; the lobster boy, Jimmy Darling; the pinheads, Salty and Pepper; the strongest man in the world, Dell Toledo; and many more. But those characters were created with makeup. Some of the cast involved people with abnormalities that they were born with, such as the seal boy (Mat Fraser) and Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge). One of the characters, Legless Suzi, was actually from Pueblo (Rose Siggins).
One of the most well known “freaks,” however, was Edward Mordrake. Edward Mordrake was a man born with a face on the back of his head. Due to his abnormality, many rumors began to arise, the most common being that the second face was a source of evil. It was believed that the second face would whisper sinister thoughts to Mordrake that eventually led him to suicide. However, that is far from the truth. Though we don’t know for sure that the second face was his “evil twin” as that was only a rumor, what we do know is that he was constantly harassed for his abnormality that he couldn’t control. It was most likely the people around him that were the demons rather than the part of him that he tried so hard to have people accept.
Twisty the Clown is one of the most iconic characters in Freak Show, mostly due to his backstory and his appearance, but the fact that he was based off a real-life serial killer just makes the story even creepier. Pogo the Clown, better known as John Wayne Gacy, was a serial killer who murdered 33 males and hid their bodies under his house. Gacy sometimes used his clown alter ego to kill these men, a sick sort of entertainment for him. We have no for sure timeline of his murders, but we do know that the bodies were found in 1968 after he was convicted of a sexual assault charge. He was charged for the murders in 1980 and died of lethal injection in 1994.
The character of Dandy Mott was another figure who brought chills down people’s spines but for a reason much different than Twisty’s story. Yes, Dandy did wear the clown costume for a while, but the basis of his story isn’t Gacy. Mott seemed to be an even more twisted, and even more spoiled, version of Norman Bates. Along with his overly uncomfortable reliance on his mother, his actions also reflected those of Ed Gein, yet another prolific serial killer. The similarities are diluted because it is mostly shown through the Bates-type character, who was based on Ed Gein. So, to be exact, Mott is more of a violent Norman Bates (whose story was based on Ed Gein) with a much richer upbringing and a much more accepting mother.