For months, American Horror Story kept us on the edge of our seats waiting for an announcement regarding season 6's theme. In one of the most interesting TV marketing ploys in recent history, show creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk decided to wait until the season premiere for viewers to figure out the mysterious storyline. It turns out, they had more up their sleeves.
By switching up the format, the season will follow a documentary-type story titled "My Roanoke Nightmare" that follows a couple, Matt and Shelby (played by Andre Holland and Lily Rabe), and their harrowing ordeal, which causes them to relocate to Roanoke.
With clips of the documentary, viewers also get an inside look through dramatic reenactment of the mysterious events that occur after they move into an old farmhouse; the re-enactors are played by Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding, Jr.
The documentary claims to be based on true events, meaning the events experienced by the characters on the show — but if we look at the bigger picture, AHS as an anthology series loves to take true life events as inspiration. We are still early in the season but some of America's most interesting horror stories have already been featured.
The Lost Colony Of Roanoke
Date: Late 1500s
Location: Roanoke Island (off the coast of North Carolina)
True Event: In 1587, a group of over 100 English settlers set up a colony in Roanoke, led by appointed governor, John White. The colony was in need of supplies, so White decided to leave it behind, including his wife and pregnant daughter, in order to sail back to England.
Due to the war between England and Spain at the time, his journey back to Roanoke was delayed, not allowing him to return until 1590. When he arrived back, the colony had disappeared without any trace of inhabitants except for one single word carved into a wooden post nearby, which read, “CROATOAN.”
Before White left, he instructed the colonists to carve a cross into a tree if they were forced from their colony, but there was no evidence they were rushed out of the area. White figured that the colony moved to Croatoan Island but a storm ruined his search efforts.
The disappearance of the colony will go on to remain one of America’s biggest mysteries, but many different theories have emerged. There were reports that John Smith, leader of the Jamestown settlement, investigated the lost colony and found out that a local Native American tribe slaughtered the group of settlers. Others believed that the colonists integrated peacefully among the local tribes. Another popular theory suggests that they tried to sail back to England and got lost at sea during the voyage. This seems to be a mystery that may never be solved.
AHS Connection: Considering the documentary within the show is titled "My Roanoke Nightmare," one could assume the series will dive deep into one of America’s oldest horror stories. Viewers may not have gotten much insight into the lost colony but we have seen big hints due to historical settlers. Matt and Shelby live in a colonial style farmhouse, one that attracts very strange occurrences. When Shelby is attacked and almost drowned in the hot tub, we see that it is someone wearing traditional colonial garments. The mob that invades the house, equipped with torches and pitchforks, also wear similar outfits. It is not until Shelby encounters the mob in the woods as she witnesses one of their rituals, that we assume this is supposed to be a version of the lost colony.
We learn in episode three that Kathy Bates is playing Tomasyn White, the wife of John White who has taken over as the leader of the colony while her husband left for supplies. A few colonists believe the group should move inland for the Winter but Tomasyn disagrees causing the group including her son, Ambrose, to banish her. While in the woods, Tomasyn encounters Lady Gaga's dark and mystical character who feeds her a heart which seemingly takes control of her. Hellbent on revenge, Tomasyn makes her way back to the colony where she slaughters the men (including her son) who sent her away, and now goes by another name, the Butcher.
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“The Lethal Lovers”
True Event: Two women, Catherine Wood and Gwendolyn Graham, were arrested and convicted of murder back in the '80s after they killed five patients at the nursing home they worked for. Graham was considered the mastermind of the killing spree but Wood took part as it was considered a "lover's pact." They smothered the victims to make it seem as though they died of natural causes. Their relationship eventually faltered and they were caught; Wood was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison while Graham was sentenced to multiple life terms.
AHS Connection: During the first episode, Shelby thinks she sees two women in nurses outfits walk across the hallway, but it is not until Matt witnesses a vision of the nurses killing an elderly patient and spray painting an "M" on the wall in the second episode that we begin to question the true history of the house besides the colony connection.
When Matt and Shelby find a video recorded by previous homeowner, Dr. Elias Cunningham (Denis O'Hare), they learn that two nurses opened up a hospice care on the property taking in elderly patients. The nurses (who are sisters in this adaptation, not lovers) decided to kill the patients, specifically patients with first names that will spell out "murder," which was a similar theory of the true life versions of the killings except that plan for Wood and Graham fell through. The sisters performed the violent killings and made up to "MURDE" before something just as sinister forced them out of the house.
Dr. Cunningham has taken shelter down in an underground bunker and believes something evil still controls the house. The house's disturbing history proves to Matt and Shelby that they are not going crazy and they may have more than one issue on their hands while living at this house. We probably won't get solid answers right away but I am loving these Season 1 Murder House vibes we have been getting.
The Dying Grass Moon
True Event: Also known as October's full moon, the Blood Moon (Pagan rituals), and Hunter's Moon (Native American tribes). The event would serve as a reminder that the harvest season is ending and the colder months are soon approaching. The time of year is also used for spiritual reflection and remembrance of lost loved ones and mortality. Some also believe the time of year builds a higher chance of connection among the living and the dead which seems right up American Horror Story's alley!
AHS Connection: Dr. Elias Cunningham makes a reappearance and shares important information regarding the land on which Shelby and Matt's house is built. They live on the property of the Butcher's colony and she wants it back. Dr. Cunningham share the horrific stories of the past homeowners who met their demise while living on the property all at the hands of the Butcher and her followers. The slaughters occur during a six-day time frame in October which syncs up with the moon cycle. Those six days allow spirits to walk the earth and actually kill. Involved in some type of blood magic and rituals, the Butcher has Lee's daughter Flora but it is the house and property that she wants. To show that she is serious, she takes Dr. Cunningham and Cricket as her victims but it looks like Shelby and Matt are next!
Only a few episodes in and AHS is feeding us some really creepy material! The show's creators certainly have a lot to work with and seem to be heading in a few different directions, hopefully causing the season to remain fun and unpredictable. Rumors of big twists, previous season connections and past character favorites will also continue to get viewers tuning in each week.
Ultimately we want those unique AHS-type scares, the kind of material that pushes the envelope and makes you say, "How did FX allow this to be on TV?" What better way than take some of America's deepest darkest history and bring it to the small screen?
New episodes of American Horror Story: Roanoke can be found Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on FX. Be sure to check back for updates as the season goes on!