The real-life horror stories behind American Horror Story

With news emerging of an American Horror Story spinoff project by creator Ryan Murphy, fans of the show are understandably excited. Some are also beginning to wonder just how different it will be to Murphy’s original AHS, a show which drew a lot of inspiration from history with several characters based on real-life people and horrific historical events.

Throughout each season of the show, there are various nods to a dark past. The real people, murderers, and stories featured not only help captivate an audience, but it adds to the all-around tense and mysterious nature of what has been a horror fanatic’s go-to television series over recent years. The show has been extremely popular thanks to streaming platforms such as Netflix hosting it and opening it up to larger audiences who can use the same smartphone devices they use to play French roulette online or order food using an app to also tuck into shows like American Horror Story. Most fans of the show aren’t fully aware of the historical links made throughout the series, though. Some are subtle, while others are clearly based on gruesome crimes of old.

With that in mind, here is a look at some of the real-life horror stories behind Ryan Murphy’s hit anthology horror television series.


The Nurse Murders and the Richard Speck case

The first season of the show, Murder House, is said to be inspired by Richard Speck’s horrific massacre in 1966. With two nurses being brutally murdered in the house, it is said to mimic the disturbing crime carried out by Speck. Speck, from Texas, snuck into the Chicago dorm and viciously raped and murdered eight nurses in one night. The scene in Murder House is aiming to replicate Speck’s actions, albeit in not as much detail.


The Cecil Hotel

Despite being called Hotel Cortez, the first season of the show is clearly based on The Cecil Hotel and its scary reputation. A hotel where people have died or killed others, many people believe it to be haunted. However, many of the deaths which did occur throughout history took place during a time when criminals from all over America would use the hotel as their base, the likes of Richard Ramirez being one. Ramirez appears in an AHS series which is packed full of frightening scenes and gory moments.


The abductions of Barney and Betty Hill

An interracial couple who claimed they were abducted by aliens after a vacation in Montreal in 1961, the abduction of Barney and Betty Hill is mentioned in Asylum, season two of American Horror Stories. Executive producer Tim Minear is said to have traced the plotline back to the Hill’s as the show once again attempted to add some real-life elements to its product.


Twisty the Clown and John Wayne Gacy

In Freak Show, Twisty the Clown is a prominent character that was reportedly based on one of the most famous clown killers in history, Wayne Gacy. Although Gacy’s stage name was Pogo the Clown, the show still captures his evil nature perfectly. Wayne Gacy raped and killed around 33 young men between 1972 and 1978 and goes down in history as a truly disturbed individual. He died by lethal injection in 1994.


The Axeman of New Orleans

A prominent character in Coven, The Axeman of New Orleans was a real person but his name remains unknown to this day. After committing a series of murders between 1818 and 1819 in New Orleans, The Axeman was one of the country’s most wanted men. Danny Huston’s Coven character is based on him in what is a chilling watch.


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Check out our interview with Naomi Grossman (AKA ‘Pepper’)

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