There are plenty of true stories that inspire American Horror Story. They are the stories that resonate and terrify, which is exactly why the creators of the show pull inspiration from their intriguing bits of folklore. The show’s creators do an exceptional job at putting their own unique spin on real life atrocities. Each season pulls from multiple sources, unsolved crimes, historical oddities, and chilling legends people have told around campfires for generations can all be found sprinkled throughout the show.
American Horror Story plots inspired by real events have included the Black Dahlia, Elizabeth Bathory, the Axeman of New Orleans, and the haunted Cecil Hotel, to name a few. But what other horrifying stories – fact or fiction – haven’t they done that would make for great television? Jack the Ripper? Slender man? Here are some possible options from popular legends and real events that could fit in nicely with the collection of scary stories in American Horror Story.
The infamous demon house in Gary, IN, made headlines in 2014 when Latoya Ammons and her three children sought out exorcisms to rid themselves of demons. There was extensive media coverage, police involvement, and even members of the Department of Child Services got involved with these claims and witnessed unexplainable horrors in that house.
Footsteps, flickering lights, and strange sounds in the night quickly escalated to a 12-year-old child levitating off a bed, a 9-year-old walking backward up a wall (in front of a nurse and case manager), and then full on demonic possession of all the members of the family. The family reached out to two clairvoyants, both of whom claimed the house was infested with 200 demons. The Catholic Church decided to intervene and performed multiple exorcisms.
The demon house has since been demolished by paranormal investigator Zak Bagans. Bagans purchased the house in 2014 to film a documentary and found the place too evil to leave standing. But is it too evil to inspire AHS: Demon House?
A sprawling, wooded estate owned by an unassuming family man with murderous impulses became a mass burial site for gay men living in Indianapolis. The story itself is rife with twists, creepy dolls, and sex – perfect for AHS.
In this true story, Herb Baumeister was living a double life. He was a married father of three and business owner who was secretly luring gay men back to his own home to strangle them to death in his creepy pool surrounded by mannequins. Then, he would burn or bury their bodies in the yard where his children played.
Once his double life had been revealed, Baumeister took off to Canada to take his life at Pinery Provincial Park.
The 1996 police investigation of the property uncovered 5,500 bones, but more are still being discovered by the current owners today. After his death, Baumeister was also linked to the I-70 Murders. After speaking with his wife, authorities discovered his travels lined up with a series of unsolved murders where the bodies were dumped along I-70. The number of lives he claimed remains uncertain to this day.
The American Horror Story “Sweet Dreams” trailer seemed to hint at a horror at sea. How awesome would AHS: Ghost Ship be? The historic mystery of the SS Ourang Medan would be a great place to pull inspiration from.
According to legend, multiple ships picked up distress calls from the SS Ourang Medan. The message received was broken up into two parts (with undecipherable Morse code between them) the messages said “S.O.S. from Ourang Medan * * * we float. All officers including the Captain, dead in chartroom and on the bridge. Probably whole of crew dead. I die.”
When the ship was actually found drifting near Indonesia, the entire crew aboard the Ourang Medan was dead – eyes wide open and mouths gaping.
Photo: John Towner James/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
From 1871 to 1873, John Bender and his wife and two kids ran an Inn and general store in Kansas where the customers usually ended up victims.
A Bender family dinner was a pretty brutal affair. It would involve inviting an unsuspecting guest to sit over a secret trapdoor with their back to a curtain so John could pop out and bash them in the head with a hammer. Then one of the kids would slash their throat before opening the trapdoor that led to the basement. They’d bury all the corpses out in the nearby orchard.
A creepy family of murders on the prairie sounds right up American Horror Story’s alley.
It seems some dark power fell over the people of Black River Falls, WI, between the years 1890 and 1900. The small mining town experienced a climate change that caused the mines to shut down. Many residents left, those who remained were plagued by illnesses, poverty, murder, suicides, devil-worship, and madness. It seemed the entire town was cursed by some dark, merciless force.
It’s thought to be haunted beyond belief and inspired Michael Lesy’s book Wisconsin Death Trip. The photo-documentation is dark, hellish, jarring, and something American Horror Story could build a really interesting season around.
Fans have been screaming – well, more like typing in all caps – for an American Horror Story: Prison for quite sometime now. Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, which is reportedly one of the most haunted locations in the country, would be the ideal place to start. They had famous inmates like Al Capone, George “Machine-Gun” Kelly, Arthur “Doc” Barker and the first “Public Enemy #1” Alvin Karpis.
Obviously there would be plenty of vengeful ghosts of some wildly aggressive individuals. Any earth bound spirits of guards and administrators would be pretty terrifying as well since this facility was known for inhumane treatment of prisoners, back in the ’30s prisoners were kept in “hole-cells.” There is even talk about the land itself being haunted log before the prison went up.
According to local historians, the land was a Native American burial ground. Complaints of haunting have been going on since opening day.
There may be some Winchester Mystery House inspiration flowing through AHS: Hotel, but there should be a full season dedicated to the real story of Sarah Winchester and her remarkable house. She built an entire mansion with strange doors and staircases leading to nowhere, or perhaps somewhere the living can’t see.
After the passing of her husband – heir to the Winchester rifle fortune – and child in the 1880s, Winchester went to see a medium. The medium told her to go out West and craft a home for the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles. So she did, continuously adding rooms, windows, doors, balconies, and staircases, all to appease the spirits she communicated with in her séance room.
Between the video game and the movies, you’d think Silent Hill was a done deal, but it doesn’t have to be. At least not the real Silent Hill that is…
The story everyone knows was inspired by a very real, extremely eerie small town called Centralia in Pennsylvania. What once had a population of about 3,000 people is now completely abandoned and has been on fire since 1962. There is plenty of horror fuel in any small mining town setting, but a slow burning fire running through a labyrinth of creepy coal mines beneath the decapitated, densely fog covered town of Centralia is just too good a setting to pass up.
There are some seriously strange stories coming out of Yosemite National Forest. Grouse Lake has its own Jason Voorhees haunting its waters. Allegedly, a young boy drowned there and tries to pull swimmers down to the bottom of the lake with him. There’s also an evil ‘water spirit” that lures people to their ends near the waterfalls. In addition to Bigfoot sightings, Yosemite is also home to the creatures of legend known as “Nightcrawlers” or “Fresno Alien.” Vicious slayings have taken place beneath its dense canopy and mysterious disappearances are a regular occurrence.
There’s a plethora of creepiness in every National Forest in the United States. This could be the perfect setting for all sorts of wild stories in a new AHS season.
The Rake creepypasta originated on a 4chan message board. It is however, basically a more intense, modern approach to the old Dogman legend. The Rake is more humanoid, but has also been described as a hairless dog-like creature with clawed hands.
According to the lore, mentions of the Rake date back to the 13th century with early sightings throughout the northeastern region of the United States. One terrifying encounter was reported by a couple who woke up to this terrifying creature sitting on the edge of their bed one night.
The beast scuttled over towards the husband before darting off for their daughter’s room to attack her. Her last words were simply, “He is the Rake.” The husband rushed to get the little girl to the hospital, but they both died in a car crash on the way. The wife is still alive and claimed to begin sleeping with a tape recorder. It still comes to her room at night. Definitely creepy enough to inspire at least an AHS character.
American Horror Story: Ripper has a nice ring to it. They’ve already given the ax man a storyline, why not follow the infamous Jack the Ripper for a spell? An unidentified killer that stalked the impoverished streets of Victorian era London slicing sex workers with surgical-like precision? It’s pretty shocking they haven’t taken a stab at this story already.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Ripper’s story, he’s considered the first “serial killer” of modern times. He was known for brutalizing his victims, and his identity is still unknown.
The spring of 1946 was a waking nightmare for the people of Texarkana. A monster in the shape of a man wearing a sack over his head with the eyes cut out was attacking and slaying young couples in their cars at night. He became known as the “Phantom Killer,” and his crimes labeled the “Moonlight Murders” plagued residents on the Arkansas and Texas side of state lines.
Authorities instituted a curfew and worked overtime to identify the Phantom, but they never did. The Phantom simply vanished after taking the lives of five people and seriously injuring three more. The seemingly random spree remains unsolved.
The motive and the identity of the madman behind the mask continues to haunt many. It inspired the film The Town That Dreaded Sundown and the popular urban legend “The Hook.” Ryan Murphy could brilliantly explore some of the theories through a season of American Horror Story.
Following the extraordinarily creepy life of the 20th-century occultist and creator of the Thelema religion could make an interesting season of AHS.
Aleister Crowley referred to himself “the Great Beast 666” and was dubbed “The Wickedest Man in the World,” by the British Press. Crowley’s idea of religion is essentially a smorgasbord ancient and modern demonology combined with some concept plucked from Eastern religions and sex magic. The self-appointed Antichrist did an extensive amount of traveling, writing, and black magic ritual work so there is certainly plenty of material to pull from story-wise.
Slender Man became more than just a creepy internet urban legend when people decided to start taking him seriously. The tall, thin, faceless entity known for abducting children from forests and playgrounds, was nothing more than the creation of Victor Surge on a Something Awful forum. But people believed he was real.
Two 12-year old girls, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, believed in the myth and spent five months planning the murder of their friend Payton Leutner (also 12) as a sacrifice to Slender Man. Apparently, they thought stabbing Payton would gain them permission to move into the fictional character’s mansion within the Nicolet National Forest.
Payton was found on the side of the road in Waukesha, WI, completely drenched in blood. She’d been stabbed 19 times (in her arms, legs, and torso). She suffered serious injuries to vital organs but survived, crawled her way to the edge of the woods, and out to the road for help. The fiction-meets-reality story would be a great premise for AHS.
American Horror Story: Cult could have taken place in the easy breezy 1960s. The ’60s were a time of peace and love, that is until August 9, 1969, when pregnant actor and wife to Roman Polanski Sharon Tate was savagely murdered along with three friends in her Los Angeles home on Cielo Drive.
Infamous cult leader Charles Manson was the one who ordered the murders on Cielo Drive and several others. He had hoped to start a race war by ordering a series of murders and scrawling political statements and symbols for the Black Panthers on the walls. Manson’s orders were to “totally destroy everyone in [the house], as gruesome as you can.”