The latest season of American Horror Story has come and gone, delivering a pair of stories drawing from history and reality to deliver some scares. Well, as much reality as is allowed into some of these fantastical moments.
While exaggeration and the supernatural play a major part in the series, the real-world inspirations and influences drive home how these horrors aren't just TV fodder.
Below we will run through some of the more notable influences across the various seasons, avoiding more apparent references like the numerous cults referenced in the anthology series or the serial killer meeting that occurred on Devil's Night in American Horror Story: Hotel. Speaking of, we'll also be ignoring the Cecil Hotel due to the recent focus from the true crime world on the tragic passing of Elisa Lam. While it was unsettling and creepy for a while, the truth has rendered it very real and tragic.
Please scroll down to take a look at some of the real horrors, true stories and individuals who helped to craft the tales in American Horror Story. The truth may end up being more interesting than the fiction referencing it.
One of the few standouts of the Cult season came in the form of Valerie Solanas, played by Lena Dunham on the show and best known for attempting to kill Andy Warhol in reality. Solanas wrote the SCUM Manifesto and would embody those thoughts throughout her life as a radical feminist. Her attempted slaying of Warhol in 1968 is directly covered in the series. But then the series takes a few extra steps in connecting her to the Zodiac murders.prevnext
Betty and Barney Hill
Asylum also dips into reality for its depiction of Kit Walker and his wife Alma. While Walker is locked up in the titular asylum due to the Bloody Face murders, the overall story of Walker, Alma and his later relationship with Grace feature hallmarks of Betty and Barney Hill's abduction. The 1961 alleged abduction of Betty and Barney Hill became a bestselling book that was followed by a 1975 film. The mixed-race couple were a strong influence in Kit and Alma, though the races were reversed for the fictional counterparts.prevnext
An urban legend from the 19th Century tells the story of Mordrake with a face at the back of his head that could laugh, whisper, cry, and much more. According to the legend, Mordrake wanted doctors to remove the face and claimed it whispered bad things to him at night. The truth behind the story is questionable, but it certainly makes for horrific fodder in pop culture.prevnext
Freak Show also borrowed from some more real life murders, namely the crimes of the real freak show performer Grady Stiles. While the character played by Evan Peters is clearly inspired by Stiles, his life and story don't play out in the same way despite similar tragedy.prevnext
Josef Mengele and Nellie Bly
While not connected in real life or in the Asylum series, the influence of escaped Nazi doctor and "Angel of Death" Josef Mengele, along with the actions of Nellie Bly undercover at a New York Mental hospital, created a pair of characters at the heart of the second season: journalist Lana Winters and Dr. Arthur Arden. Neither are exact duplicates of their real-world inspirations, but they influence a ton of DNA within both.
Tate Langdon's death and shooting spree from season one rips directly from the tragic school shooting in Littleton, Colorado. Some of the moments from the episode revealing Tate's horrific backstory were taken directly from stories told by survivors of the Columbine massacre.prevnext
Reality is pushed to its limits here, though it is true that Thor was a real person to an extent. It is just unlikely that he was a humanoid alien from Venus at the center of a conspiracy theory written by Dr. Frank Stranges. In AHS, the character is a liaison between the aliens and humanity, assisting President Eisenhower with the supposed deal with extraterrestrials and their plan on Earth. Dive any deeper and you might end up losing family members.prevnext
While Lady Gaga's vampire takes a lot more influence from Catherine Deneuve and her vampire temptress in The Hunger, there is also some real-world influence. Elizabeth Bathory was a Hungarian countess that is best known as a torturer of young women, eating human flesh and bathing in the blood of her victims.prevnext
The Black Dahlia
The first season of American Horror Story almost seems tame in reflection of the series, especially with the real-world influences featured within. Richard Speck's nurse murders played a part in the early season, followed by the Murder House's role in the infamous Black Dahlia murder. While reality never solved the death of Elizabeth Short in 1947, the murder did offer plenty of fodder for true crime.prevnext
Madame Delphine LaLaurie and Marie Laveau
The Coven season of AHS drew a lot from the New Orleans mythos and the voodoo mythology that can be found in the city. Madame LaLaurie and Marie Laveau have already established names in the city's history, but AHS brought them together with some real witchcraft and sorcery to become memorable parts of the AHS experience.prevnext
John Wayne Gacy
While the series has featured numerous serial killers and infamous criminals, John Wayne Gacy's killer clown influenced a more iconic member of the series. Twisty the Clown became the Freak Show season's iconic monster, playing a deadly game with a tragic backstory. While Gacy was never as monstrous, his deeds rivaled what was shown on screen and blurred lines with fictional killers cut from similar cloth. Still, the image of the clown and Gacy's infamy are owed a lot for the character.prevnext
Richard Ramirez, The Night Stalker
Another Hotel feature returned in the later 1984 season to play a more fiendish part of the overall story. The Night Stalker, real name Richard Ramirez, held Los Angeles in the grip of fear thanks to Satanic imagery and his brutal crimes. His capture was also a pivotal moment in reality, semi ignored in the series thanks to the supernatural influence of the Devil. It's ridiculous, but it makes for a fun ending for the fictional Ramirez that never truly ends. The real Ramirez died of cancer behind bars while sitting on Death Row.prevnext
A major portion of most seasons finds itself firmly entrenched in some real history. The Hotel season took a lot of influence from the crimes of H.H. Holmes in Chicago at the turn of the century. Holmes' murder hotel has become a nightmarish chapter of true crime folklore, highlighting the greased shoots, death traps and construction aspects. Mixed with the Hotel Cecil and some famous aspects of Haunted Hollywood, the season carried a wallop.prev