There are two kinds of people in this world: people who love "American Horror Story" and people whose friends keep telling them that it's awesome and worth watching. The great thing about AHS is that it's more than just a scary show. It features stunning sets and costumes, well-written characters with intriguing storylines, killer filmography, great soundtracks, and incredible performances from awesome actors. Plus, the idea of making each season take place in a new time and setting, but all in a cohesive universe is pretty revolutionary.
But, the coolest part about AHS (in my opinion, at least) is that all of the storylines are based on true stories. From the slave-torturing immortal b*tch in Coven to the restless spirits of the original Murder House, it's pretty freaky to realize that some of the creepiest stuff in the show actually happened in real life.
If you're looking for some historical inspiration or just want to have the crap scared out of you, here are some AHS filming locations and real-life landmarks that've played major roles in the show's lore.
The Alfred Rosenheim Mansion should look familiar... it's the filming location for the first season, "Murder House". The real-life story of the mansion is a lot less sinister than the show's Murder House past, but it's still pretty interesting. It was built in 1902 by a German-American architect/roller coaster designer, then sold to the first gay president of the Alvarado Mining and Milling Company, a colorful character named A.J. McQuatters. Actor Edward Everett Horton lived there in the 1930s, and then it was turned into a convent for the Sisters of Social Service.
It's also been a filming location for productions like Spiderman, Seabiscuit, The X-Files, The Twilight Zone, Six Feet Under, Bones, Dexter, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and today, it's also being used as an Airbnb rental. Yep! You and 16 of your friends can stay in the Murder House... it'll set you back a cool $1,450 a night, but it's totally worth it.
"American Horror Story: Asylum" has a brilliantly creepy setting in a 1960s insane asylum, and shadows of themes like religion, alien abduction, insanity, and the harsh standards of society further color the bleak picture of being locked away in an asylum during a time when mental health care was, in some cases, worse than being locked in prison. The Old Orange County Courthouse's dark brick and imposing Romanesque architecture was the perfect building to feature in exterior shots of the Briarcliff Mental Institution.
The infamous Lalaurie Mansion is featured as Madame Lalaurie’s House of Horrors in the "Coven" season. According to (real-life) legends, one night in 1834 a fire broke out at the house. When rescuers entered the mansion they found the mutilated remains of slaves who were imprisoned in the attic, and one who was chained to a kitchen stove. A mob ransacked the building and Madame Lalaurie presumably fled the city and was never seen nor heard from again. Over the years the building has served as a barber shop, furniture store, girls school and music conservatory. Nicolas Cage even owned the home... 'til he had to give it up to pay back taxes. "AHS: Coven" didn't have to twist the details on this story too much to make it terrifying enough for the show... Kathy Bates does a bone-chilling job portraying Madame Lalaurie.
Plus, there are loads of other "AHS: Coven" filming locations across New Orleans: Buckner Mansion was the filming location for Miss Robicheaux's Academy, the Gallier House was used for exterior shots of the TV show's version of the Lalaurie Mansion, and the Hermann-Grima House was used for interior shots, among others.
Unfortunately, the circus where American Horror Story's Freakshow season took place was a set built for the show, but you can see the building that was used to film scenes of Dandy's home. Longue Vue House & Gardens is actually in New Orleans, not Florida, but the elegant, Southern home definitely had the right vibe. Just keep your eyes peeled for killer clowns when you do visit!
Also, if you're prowling around New Orleans, stop by the Camellia Grill to see the diner where the "freaks" often ate, or if you're more into digging into the history of the Edward Mordrake character, check out the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia.
"AHS: Hotel" drew inspiration from across time, but one of the biggest influences on the theme for the season was the Cecil Hotel's dark past. For starters, notorious serial killer The Night Stalker, AKA Richard Ramirez, was staying at the Cecil while he was stalking and killing innocent women. Plus, later on, a Night Stalker copycat killer stayed here while on a crime spree as well. Plus, reported suicides and unsolved murders that have occurred on the premises haven't helped the hotel's notorious reputation. There's one more recent mysterious death, though, that caught the attention of AHS creator Ryan Murphy: That of Elisa Lam. She was a young woman on vacation in Los Angeles who went missing while staying at the hotel. Once investigators got involved, disturbing security camera footage of her acting strange surfaced, and her body was later found in a water tank on the hotel's roof, behind locked doors. No one knows how she got up there... or why.
We don't know a ton about this current season, American Horror Story: Roanoke, but you can brush up on the history of the lost colony at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. This is where the colony of Roanoke was established by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1587. It was a group of 90 men, 17 women and 11 children, all English colonists who were ready to establish a village on Roanoke Island in what is now North Carolina. Between being far away from home and supplies, and the contentious relationship with the Croatoan tribe who also lived on the island, it was a risky task, but colony leader John White left the colonists in America with promises to return as soon as possible with more settlers and supplies.
Things didn't exactly work out that way, though. White didn't want to sail back immediately upon returning, since winter was setting in, and shortly after that, the Anglo-Spanish War required that every able British ship take arms against the Spanish. When it was all said and done, it was three years before White could return to Roanoke with supplies... but to his surprise, when he arrived, he found nothing. The colonists were gone, and had disassembled their village. The only clue? The word "Croatoan" carved on a nearby tree. No remains or descendants were ever found.
Theories on what happened to the disappeared colony run the gamut. Many believe that the colonists carved "Croatoan" on the tree as a sign that they were moving to nearby Croatoan Island (now Hatteras Island). Some think they were slaughtered by hostile tribes, or by the Spanish, but the most likely explanation is that the colonists simply integrated themselves into another tribe. That doesn't stop people in the present day from trying to solve the mystery. Archaeologists, geneticists, historians, and conspiracy theorists all have different ideas on what happened to the Roanoke Colony.
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site doesn't have a ton to see as far as archaeological remains go, but it's a lovely setting and it provides tons of information at the visitor center.
BONUS! American Crime Story: The People Vs. OJ Simpson
OJ Simpson's Brentwood Home Site
"American Horror Story" creator Ryan Murphy spun off the idea of a themed anthology series into another series, "American Crime Story", choosing to focus on the OJ Simpson trial for its first season, and brilliantly casting AHS alum Sarah Paulson as prosecutor Marcia Clark. We have an entire guide to recreating the OJ Simpson chase (White Bronco and driving gloves not included), but if you don't have time for an hours-long, low-speed chase, you can at least cruise by the former site of OJ's Brentwood home, where he was finally apprehended by police after a tense standoff.
Just a Civil War beard enthusiast, writer at Roadtrippers, and aspiring astronaut reaching for the stars.
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