Welcome to The Heavy Spoilers show, I’m your host Deffinition and with American Horror Story 1984 opening a new chapter in terror, I thought I’d go back and look at the real life killers, places and crimes that inspired some of the shows most sinister moments.
Throughout this, I’ll be going over some of the major things that lead to the show’s biggest moments and scariest scenes.
There will be some spoilers here so if you aren’t up to date with everything before 1984 then there may be some things that are ruined, so you have been warned.
With that out the way I just wanna give a huge thank you for clicking this video, now let’s get into our breakdown of the five real-life killers, places and crimes that inspired American Horror Story.
Briarcliff Manor In The Asylum
Briarcliff Manor is the central location of Season Two of American Horror Story, titled: The Asylum. This is pretty much hell on earth and was the center of many ghastly experiments, human rights violations, and several murders. Whilst the manor seems too evil to be an actual place, the inspiration behind it is in fact far more terrifying.
Briarcliff Manor is based on the real-life Asylum Willowbrook State School. This innocuous-sounding location was a government-funded school that provided support for children with learning difficulties and disabilities.
The school which was open from 1947 till 1987 and was initially only supposed to house 4,000 though these numbers increased to 6,000 in reality, leading to massive outbreaks of disease. This lead to a major outbreak of Hepatitis but rather than try and properly treat the disease, the children were tested and experimented on to see if there were ways to stop outbreaks that were common at the location.
One of these experiments involved infecting sixty children with the disease and then monitoring them. This lead to their eyes and skin discoloring and turning yellow and also caused mass vomiting. All of the children became ill and due to public outcry, the experiments were shut down. The psychopathic doctors that worked there tried to justify the experiments by saying that the children would all get the disease any way so it was ok to run tests.
After Senator Robert Kennedy Toured the building in 1965 he said that the majority of those living there were in unhabitable conditions, surrounded by dirt and in rooms that were not even fit to be cages.
This lead to a huge decline in the reputation of the School and it’s numbered slowly begun to dwindle until 1986 where it’s numbers sat in the 200s. This lead to its closure, though the pain it caused will likely live on forever in the victims of the homes.
The Ghost Nurses
The Ghost Nurses that are prevalent throughout Season One are actually based on the real-life murders that were carried out by Richard Speck. Speck was a serial killer who systematically tortured and murdered eight student nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital on July 13th 1966.
Speck has re-emerged in pop culture recently due to his appearance in the Netflix series Mindhunter in which he leaves a chilling reminder for the two protagonists that interview mass murderers in the United States.
Ryan Murphy, co-creator of American Horror Story stated that the nurses were inspired by Speck’s brutal killing spree and that they stand as a brutal reminder of the horror that he inflicted and how his murders ruined many lives.
The Hotel Cortez
The Hotel Cortez which appears in the American Horror Story Season: Hotel too has a dark inspiration behind it, the infamous Cecil Hotel.
The Hotel itself has been the home of over 30 deaths and acts of violence over the years and it’s gained a huge reputation on the internet as one of the darkest places on earth.
The 600 room hotel has 19 floors, each one of them with a terrifying history. In addition to all the suicides, Richard Ramirez, the serial killer The Night Stalker was a regular guest there and apparently engaged in some of his killings whilst a resident at the Hotel. Jack Unterweger, Austrian Serial Copy Cat Killer who was a fan of Ramirez, too stayed at the hotel and similar to the Night Stalker carried out multiple murders whilst a guest.
In 2013, the case of Elisa Lam went viral due to the CCTV footage of her where she is seen acting erratically at the hotel. Lam looks like she was hiding from someone and her body was later found in a water cistern which residents had been drinking from for weeks. The entrance to the Cistern would have been far too heavy for her to lift and due to her behavior in the CCTV footage, It remains one of the most famous unsolved mysteries.
Even with a rebrand as the ‘Stay On Main’ the hotel seems to be unable to shake the bad luck surrounding it and is still notorious as one of the scariest places on earth.
The Hotel too shares some similarities H.H. Holmes’s infamous Murder Castle which the notorious serial killer had built in order to carry out his killings easily which I’ll discuss in more detail in the next point.
James March too appears in the American Horror Story Hotel season and the character, played by Evan Peters is inspired by H.H. Holmes who is thought of by many to be America’s first serial killer.
Holmes was born in 1861 in New Hampshire and moved to Chicago in 1886 where he slowly began to operate as a hotelier after purchasing a lot in 1887. On the grounds Holmes constructed what would come to be known as his murder castle.
The hotel was a maze, full of staircases that didn’t go anywhere, hidden passages and rooms and hallways that seemed to go on forever. Holmes sound proofed rooms and built chutes that lead to a basement filled with a crematorium and acid vat that he could use to dispose of the bodies with.
Though Holmes confessed to 27 murders upon his capture the numbers are thought to be in the 130s and the fact that he was so good at disposing of bodies allowed him to operate for many years.
Holmes left Chicago in 1894 and was captured by police in 1895 where he was subsequently hanged for his many crimes. Holmes is seen as America’s answer to Jack The Ripper, though his killings go far beyond the infamous Victorian murderer.
The Vanishing Colony Of Roanoke
Roanoke is one of the scariest seasons of American Horror story and it centers around a ghostly group of settlers that wish to bring terrible vengeance to those who disturb their land.
The Vanishing Colony Of Roanoke is regarded as America’s Oldest Unsolved Mystery. Up there with the Marie Celeste, the colonies disappearance has gone on to influence the first settlers in Derry in Stephen King’s IT though the true story is even more terrifying.
The story begins in 1587 and centers around a group of English Settlers that arrived on Roanoke Island in North Carolina.
John White, The Colony’s leader decided that he would sail to England for supplies but after a war broke out between England and Spain he was called up to arms by The Queen. White didn’t get a chance to return to Roanoke until 1590 which is when he returned to the settlement to find that all had completely disappeared. His wife, Daughter, and Granddaughter had completely vanished and all that remained was the word ‘Croatoan’ carved into a wooden post.
The word ‘Croatoan’ has appeared at the sites of numerous disappearances throughout the centuries and it always seems to be mysteriously linked to a group of people vanishing. Croatoan itself was the name of a Native American Tribe from an island of the same name and conspiracy theorists believe that the group may have been abducted by this tribe and cannibalized.
Other people theorize that they were absorbed into the tribe and in 2007 there were attempts to analyze the DNA of ancestors in the area to see if they were part of the lineage though nothing positive has come of this yet.
There’s also a possibility that the settlers tried to sail for supplies themselves after White did not return and they either came face to face with the Spanish army or met another fate at sea. Either way, their disappearance forced the following settlers to be more selective about where they decided to place their camps and this lead the following communities to thrive.
Roanoke still stands as one of America’s biggest mysteries and it’s unlikely that we will ever get answers to what exactly happened to them.
And that’s our list of the 5 Real Life Killers, Places And Crimes That Inspired American Horror Story. Obviously I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and which one of them you find the creepiest. Comment below and let me know!