Ryan Murphy told Zap2It that AHS: Hotel was inspired by a real haunted hotel in downtown Los Angeles. “We were really inspired by the idea of a hotel. There was a surveillance video that went around two years ago that just showed a girl getting into an elevator in a downtown hotel that is rumored to be haunted, and she was never seen again. So that was around two years ago [when] we started thinking of this idea.”
That girl’s name was Elisa Lam. She went missing on Feb. 19, 2013, after a freaky elevator video was caught on tape. Her body was later found under mysterious circumstances in a water tank.
The Axeman in AHS: Coven was based on a real serial killer in New Orleans who was known by the same name. He killed 12 known victims from May 1918 to October 1919. A man named Joseph Mumfre was suspected as the killer, though no one was ever convicted of the crimes.
In AHS: Coven, Kathy Bates took on the role of LaLaurie, a real-life woman who was remembered for taking pleasure in torturing and murdering her slaves. A fire at the LaLaurie house in 1834 uncovered LaLaurie’s gruesome hobby. Rescuers reportedly found the bodies of several bound slaves in the house who showed evidence of torture.
In AHS: Asylum, Alma and Kit Walker’s interracial relationship was inspired by a real-life couple, Betty and Barney Hill. The couple claimed they were abducted by aliens in 1960, and their story was one of the first widely publicized abductions.
Stevie Nicks’ appearance in AHS: Coven is a nod to the persistent rumors that Nicks is a real-life witch. Nicks actually gave Ryan Murphy permission to use her name and likeness in the show, though Nicks maintains she isn’t a practicing witch.
Evan Peters’ character Tate Langdon in AHS: Murder House was obviously inspired by the Columbine shooting at least in part. Tate even asked a student if she believed in God before killing her. One of the Columbine shooters reportedly asked one victim the same thing before killing her. The report was later proven false, however, but the story still lives on.
The terrifying Murder Clown in AHS: Freak Show was actually inspired by a real killer, John Wayne Gacy. Gacy sexually assaulted at least 33 young men and boys in the 1970s. Gacy was known as the Killer Clown because he was a well-known and liked member of the community where he lived, who would often dress up as a clown during fundraising events, parades and children’s parties.
Actress Mena Suvari appeared in AHS: Murder House as Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia, a woman who was gruesomely murdered in Los Angeles in 1947. Her unsolved murder has become infamous and has inspired many conspiracy theories throughout the years.
In AHS: Asylum, Grace admits to Kit that she is in the Asylum for reportedly murdering her mother and father with an ax, though she claims she’s innocent. She is clearly inspired by notorious killer Lizzie Borden, who was accused of murdering her parents in the same manner.
The Chicken Coop Murders took place between 1926 and 1928. Gordon Stewart Northcott was convicted of the murders, in which he killed and sexually assaulted young boys at his Wineville, California ranch. After Northcott was discovered, authorities investigated the property and found 51 body parts and three graves. AHS: Hotel took on the storyline with the character of Miss Evers, who was played by Mare Winningham. It was revealed later on in the season that Miss Evers’ son was a victim in the Chicken Coop Murders.
James Cromwell’s character Dr. Arden in AHS: Asylum is based on real-life SS officer Josef Mengele, who performed gruesome and horrific experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz. He was known as the Angel of Death. He is responsible for hundreds if not thousands of deaths.
Angela Bassett appeared in AHS: Coven as Marie Laveau, a real-life woman known as the voodoo queen of New Orleans in the mid-1800s. Like in the show, the real Laveau practiced black magic with a hairdressing business on the side. People still visit Laveau’s grave, as it is rumored that she’ll grant wishes.
Grady Franklin Stiles, Jr. was the clear inspiration for Evan Peters’ character Jimmy Darling in AHS: Freak Show. Stiles had the Lobster-claw syndrome, which deforms the hands, and he also had a sordid life that Jimmy Darling mirrors. He was an alcoholic who then murdered his daughter’s fiancé before being gunned down by a neighbor in 1993.
Franka Potente appeared in AHS: Asylum as a mental patient claiming to be Anne Frank, the real-life 15-year-old girl who documented her Holocaust experiences before her death. The Frank of Asylum does a masterful job of keeping the conspiracy theories about the real-life Frank alive.
Evan Peters’ Mr. March character in AHS: Hotel is inspired by the man who is recognized as America’s first serial killer, H. H. Holmes. Holmes constructed a large three-story house where he would lure his victims during the World Fair. The house was later dubbed the Murder Castle when it was revealed that Holmes would torture and kill his victims using gas jets in some of the rooms, also equipped with trapdoors and chutes so he could easily transport bodies to the basement for disposal.
The setting for AHS: Hotel is actually based on a real hotel, the Murder Castle, which was constructed by H. H. Holmes, America’s first recognized serial killer. Holmes had the hotel built with many trapdoors, chutes and hidden passages so he could easily kill and transport the bodies of his victims.
Lily Rabe took on the role of Aileen Wuornos in AHS: Hotel. Wuornos is a well-known serial killer who murdered several men while working as a prostitute between 1989 and 1990. She was arrested, convicted and killed by lethal injection in 2002.
Jeffrey Dahmer appeared in AHS: Hotel, played by actor Seth Gabel. Dahmer was a serial killer who was active between 1978 and 1991 and was responsible for the death of at least 17 men. The most horrifying part of Dahmer’s crimes is that he would engage in sex acts with the corpses before dismembering them, often keeping genitals or skulls as souvenirs.
Though the theme for AHS Season 6 is still unknown, TMZ obtained images of the set that appear to suggest The Lost Colony will be included at least in some way in the upcoming season. The story goes that settler John White returned to the colony from England only to find it completely abandoned and looted. The only evidence of what had happened was the word “Croatoan” carved into a tree. The Croatoans were a nearby native tribe. There was even evidence of cannibalism seen at the colony, though the mystery of what happened to the 117 colonists was never uncovered.