10 True American Horror Stories

American Horror Story has had many spine-chilling stories, but what many people don’t know is that many elements from the show are based on real life horror stories. Here are 10 of the spookiest stories referenced on the show. (Warning, SPOILERS to follow.)

  1. Twisty the Clown and John Wayne Gacy (Season 4)

Twisty the Clown has to be one of the scariest characters in the series. His frightening image was inspired by infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who dressed up in a clown costume, performed at children’s parties, kidnap the kids, and killed them. The grim details behind the kidnappings and murders are used in the show, such as when Twisty kidnaps kids and murders those in his way, whisking the children away to give them a show before their grisly demise. Another little reference to the beloved Twisty was explored in “Hotel” when the same actor who played the killer clown portrayed John Wayne Gacy during Devil’s Night in his clown make-up.


  1. Lobster Boy and Grady Franklin Stiles, Jr.(Season 4)

My favorite Evan Peters character was the heroic Jimmy Darling “Lobster Boy”. His character’s deformity was inspired by a famous carnival freak, Grady Franklin Stiles, Jr. Grady, just like Jimmy, came from a family that shared the same condition known as “Lobster Claw Syndrome”. Grady became an abusive drunk, similar to how Jimmy became throughout the story. Grady was mentally unstable and killed his daughter’s fiance not long before he was gunned down by the police. Luckily that wasn’t the ending to Jimmy Darling’s story.


  1. Pepper and Salty the Pinheads and Schlitze Surtees (Season 4)

The sweet, lovable pinheads were inspired by a sideshow freak suffering from microcephaly, a condition where a person has a smaller brain and skull, named Schlitze Surtees, known as Schlitzie the Pinhead. The show’s Pinheads, like Schlitzie, could for the most part speak simple words and had short attention spans. Schlitzie was also a character in the 1930’s movie “Freaks”.  


  1. Madame Delphine LaLaurie (Season 3)

Kathy Bates’ character was a rich, New Orleans woman that would savagely tortured and killed many slaves in her “Chamber of Horrors”. Terrifyingly, this woman actually existed and did such said things. Bates truly portrays the insanity of this woman perfectly, and horrifies viewers with the true nature many slave-owners had when treating them. Her misdeeds have supposedly left her house haunted with the spirits of the slaves she massacred.


  1. Dr. Arden and Josef Mengele (Season 2)

The creepy Nazi doctor, Hans Gruper (or Dr. Arden), was inspired by Auschwitz physician Josef Mengele, who conducted vile experimentations on prisoners. Dr. Arden was known for his disgusting methods and grotesque experiments enacted upon the mental patients. But anything Dr. Arden did to the poor patients could never dream to compare to what Josef Mengele did to the poor prisoners of Auschwitz.


  1. The Hotel Cortez and the Hotel Cecil (Season 5)

Season 5 takes place in the creepy, retro Hotel Cortez. The Cortez was designed after and inspired by Hotel Cecil in Los Angeles. The Cecil is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a Canadian man who was drowned in a water tank. Though there is no proof of more spirits or any more victims being reported dead in the hotel, it seems like a chilling inspiration for a ghastly premise.


  1. The Black Dahlia (Season 1)

Actress Elizabeth Short, better known as the “Black Dahlia”, made an appearance as the dentist, Dr. Curran’s, patient. After giving her laughing gas and raping while unconscious, she dies of an overdose. Curran met the ghost of Dr. Montgomery who proceeded to mutilate her body with bisection and giving her a Cheshire smile. Curran then discarded her body in a park, where her body was discovered by a woman and her daughter. The discovering of her body was where the grimmly story became reality, the only difference being that the Black Dahlia’s death was never solved.


  1. Devil’s Night (Season 5)

Serial killer James March holds a party for famous serial killers he supposedly trained and affluenced into killing. Attendants included John Wayne Gacy, Richie Ramirez, the Zodiac Killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Aileen Wurnos. Gacy was a local clown from Chicago who killed 33 men and boys. Richie Ramirez was a Satanist who raped and murdered over a dozen people. The Zodiac Killer was an unknown killer who even remained a mystery on the show. Jeffrey Dahmer was a cannibal from Milwaukee who loved to use power tools. Aileen Wurnos was the most infamous female serial killer who killed men who supposedly assaulted her during her work as a prostitute. All of the serial killers were excellently represented and showed us just how twisted their minds were.


  1. Nurse Murders (Season 1)

There was a flashback to a time where the house in Season 4 was a sorority house. Two nurses decided to stay home while the other girls left for a party. Not long after the two were left alone, a mysterious man broke in, raped and tortured them before ending their lives. This segment was inspired by the Richard Speck massacre of 1966. Speck, a Texan seaman, broke into a Chicago nurse’s dorm and proceeded to rape, torture and murder eight nurses.


  1. The Tattler Twins and the Hilton Twins (Season 4)

Dot and Bette Tattler, the Siamese Twins,  were based on the conjoined twin sisters, Violet and Daisy Hilton. The twins were from England and connected at the pelvis. They moved to San Francisco in the 20’s and became performers in shows alongside Charlie Chaplin. Sadly, they lost their popularity and were left to work in a grocery store. Luckily, the Tattler twins got a happier ending.


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