American Horror Story Is Historically Inaccurate | Screen Rant
American Horror Story has been a long-running anthology series on FX from Ryan Murphy (American Crime Story) and, despite the show runner’s knowledge of history, his historical characters on AHS haven’t always been true to their real-life counterparts.
While many historical figures have been featured in both major and minor roles, there have been a few stand-outs throughout the seasons where history completely blended with fiction in a way that went entirely off the rails. There have been adapted characters and settings in the past seasons where this wasn’t so glaringly problematic, such as the character of James March (Hotel) being based off serial killer H.H. Holmes and the hotel itself – the Hotel Cortez – was based off the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles.
Adaptations of real life, particularly true crime, in a fictional setting isn’t unheard of, nor is it completely negative or in poor taste, but some of Murphy’s inspirations were too far-fetched and, in some ways, potentially insulting to real life victims or family members of the deceased.
Season One: The Black Dahlia Murder
In season one, Murder House, the running theme of the story was that an old Victorian home had some sort of ability to keep the spirits of people who died on the property there forever. In a way, it was like the deceased were trapped, as if in Purgatory. While there were many occupants to this home – living and dead – one particular ‘guest’ stood out, and not in a good way.
Elizabeth Short (Mena Suvari), also known the Black Dahlia, was one such figure. Elizabeth Short was an aspiring actress who met an untimely end in 1947. Her body was found in a field in the southern suburbs of Los Angeles, bisected and nude with her face carved into a Glasgow smile. Her killer was never found. The location of the house in AHS is left relatively vague. Audiences know the location is in Los Angeles, and it could be possible that her body was moved, but back then, traveling very far would be relatively inconvenient, especially with a body.
On the show, she was murdered by Dr. Curran, who was a current owner of the home. He provided patients with free dental work, and Short died of an overdose from dental surgery; during this time, Curran sexually assaulted her and disposed of her body in the basement, which allowed her spirit to reside in the house forever. Curran was assisted in the disposal of her body (and the other pertinent dismemberment associated with the true crime) by Dr. Montgomery, the original owner of the home, who was a surgeon. It’s implied they disposed of her body together. While this is a bit of artistic license, it could be argued that this isn’t as inaccurate since the killer is unknown. However, her story has been unmistakably altered.
Season Two: Anne Frank Survived The Holocaust
In season two, Asylum, Briarcliff Manor is a Catholic-run institution in the 1960s. Like Murder House, there are many people milling around, though there are no restless spirits here. The season explores many different themes such as alien abduction, human experiments, a serial killer who wears the skin of his victims, but one particular side storyline was short-lived, but in poor taste. In episode 4, “I Am Anne Frank”, a woman by the name of Charlotte Brown arrives at the hospital to be committed and, after admission, she discloses that her true identity is Anne Frank.
Anne Frank, by historical account, did not survive the Holocaust. This woman’s claims were met with skepticism, as Frank was presumed dead. The woman claimed to have information about a Nazi who she met at Auschwitz. Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell), who she claimed was really Dr. Hans Gruper, a Nazi who performed human experiments during the Holocaust, was currently employed at Briarcliff as a doctor. He was performing human experiments in secret at Briarcliff, but for the most part, that side of him was unknown.
Over the course of a two-part episode arc, prominent figures at Briarcliff all questioned whether or not Brown was telling the truth about her identity, about Arden, and eventually she ended up getting lobotomized by Arden, losing the truth forever. The last section of her character arc is her at home with her family post-lobotomy and a shot of a photograph of Arden when he was younger, wearing a Nazi uniform; this photo was in her possession the whole time. The implication was that Brown was being truthful about her identity.
Season Seven: Valerie Solanas Is The Zodiac Killer
In season seven, Cult, a flashback explores the history of Andy Warhol and Valerie Solanas. In 1968, Valerie Solanas (Lena Dunham) knew Warhol (Evan Peters) since she was a struggling artist. She kept trying to get Warhol to produce her scripts, and, after being turned down multiple times, she was unable to handle the rejection and shot him. Though the shot wasn’t fatal, Solanas was thrust into the public spotlight; many thought she committed the crime to get her name out just as much as it was a crime of passion. She was imprisoned and released in 1971. After her release, Solanas stalked Warhol until she was arrested again the same year. After that period of incarceration, she was institutionalized. She died in San Francisco in 1988, but drifted into obscurity before her death.
In Cult, Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) goes to anger management seminars with Bebe Babbitt (Frances Conroy). Babbitt is convinced that, due to Kai’s obsession with Donald Trump and emulating him and his misogynistic ways, he can be transformed to redirect this energy into a positive form of “feminist rage.” She was inspired by Solanas’ manifesto SCUM (Society For Cutting Up Men), which was originally published in 1967, and had a long history with Solanas, becoming her lover and together, the two created a cult that were dedicated to starting a feminist revolution. The cult members, led by Babbitt and Solanas, started killing people and their crimes were all credited to the Zodiac Killer, who was a real killer and was never caught.
The Zodiac killer was active in the late ’60s and early ’70s, which was partially when Solanas was in prison for shooting Warhol. Also, many top criminal profilers over the years have said, explicitly, that the killings were committed by one person, likely a male. FBI agents also had a composite sketch of the killer, based on witness reports. Since Solanas and Babbitt were trying to target men, primarily, in their feminist revolution, it would be interesting if they committed the Zodiac’s killings, since his targets were primarily young, heterosexual couples.
Season Nine: Richard Ramirez Is A Main Character (And Murders Kajagoogoo)
Richard Ramirez, also known as The Night Stalker, was an active serial killer from 1984-1985. He was sentenced to death in and placed on death row. He never had his sentence carried out, as he was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma and died in 2013. Ramirez was on death row for more than twenty years. He has been featured as a character in AHS twice, once in the fifth season, Hotel, (episode 4, “Devil’s Night”) and as a recurring main character in season nine, 1984.
His character in Hotel was not an issue because he was only featured in one episode and, since Hotel was set in modern times, he appeared as a guest of James March on “Devil’s Night,” which is when earth-bound spirits can leave their final resting places where they are tethered the rest of the year and roam freely. Ramirez came back to the Hotel Cortez because he stayed there as a guest when he was alive. Ramirez, in real life, was known to frequent the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles, which was the basis for the Hotel Cortez, so this isn’t a far stretch.
In 1984, however, he is first introduced after he attacks Brooke Thompson (Emma Roberts) in her apartment and lets her live. Since Brooke Thompson is not a real person, this is already inaccurate. One woman, Whitney Bennett, testified that she survived an attack by Ramirez in 1985. In the show, Ramirez travels to Camp Redwood to finish the job on Thompson and ends up getting manipulated by Margaret Booth (Leslie Grossman), who was the real killer behind the initial murders at the camp; she is now the camp director. Ramirez also had a romantic relationship with Montana Duke (Billie Lourd). The timeline in general is shaky because, for a period of time, Ramirez is incarcerated and makes deals with the Devil so he can survive execution and, eventually, escapes. This didn’t happen in real life. Ramirez mounted escapes, but was never successful.
Also, Camp Redwood is similar to the house in season one in that whoever dies there, stays there. Ramirez meets his end at Camp Redwood after murdering all the members of British new wave band Kajagoogoo at a ’80s music festival that’s being hosted by Booth in 1989 (during the time Ramirez was incarcerated in real life). According to 1984, he is tethered to the campgrounds forever.