A great shiver goes down our spines when we see the words “based on a true story” when watching a horror flick. The realities horror movies are based upon are often mysterious that were never solved or urban legends that still mystify us.
In the horror TV show, American Horror Story, the reality is actually in their characters. While many are original and creative, there are also characters that are based on real horrors that happen in our world. In fact, there are more than you would believe! Here are ten of the series' characters that were based on real people.
While fans may see the Axeman just as a character from the American Horror Story: Coven season, he was very real from 1918 to 1919. Whoever he, or she, was, they were a serial killer that was never caught who ended the lives of six individuals in New Orleans. As their name implies, the killer’s weapon was an axe.
The Axeman’s biggest claim to fame was sending an ominous letter to the papers. It was signed “The Axeman.” They claimed that they were not human and were from Hell. They wrote that they were “very fond of jazz” and would not kill anyone in a house that played jazz music on the night of March 19th. How fitting that American Horror Story made their Axeman character a jazz musician.
In American Horror Story: Freak Show, Jimmy Darling performed as “Lobster Boy” due to his ectrodactyly malformation that caused his hands to look like claws.
Jimmy was actually inspired by a real man, Grady Stiles Jr., who performed under the “Lobster Boy” name due to the same condition: ectrodactyly. For Stiles a lot of members of his family had the condition and also performed in sideshows. The man lived from 1937 to 1992. He was known to be an alcoholic and abusive to his family, to the point of even murdering his daughter’s fiancé. He was later assassinated by his own family.
The interracial couple from American Horror Story: Asylum were based on a real couple: Barney and Betty Hill. Barney and Betty are famous for reporting that they were abducted by aliens for a day in 1961.
In fact, they are considered to be the first big alien abduction story in the United States. Like Kit and Alma, they were also an interracial couple back in a time when it was more uncommon.
Unfortunately Madame Delphine LaLaurie, known for murdering and torturing slaves, was a real person that lived in New Orleans in the 1800s. She was played by Kathy Bates in American Horror Story: Coven.
In reality, a brigade broke into LaLaurie’s house to save her slaves during a house fire only to discover a torture chamber in her attic. It was there, just like in American Horror Story, where the real LaLaurie committed atrocities to her slaves.
The awesome voodoo queen of New Orleans in American Horror Story: Coven was based on a real voodoo priestess of the same name, Marie Lavau.
The real woman was born in the early 1800s and was the first of her generation of her family to be born free of slavery. Just like her American Horror Story-inspired character, the real Laveau also had a beauty parlor where she was a hair-dresser.
The idea behind Pepper and Salty from American Horror Story: Freak Show came from a real man that was called “Schlitzie the Pinhead.” He had a rare neurological condition called microcephalus that made him basically have the brain of a four-year-old.
Like Pepper and Salty from American Horror Story, he was also a part of circus shows. Also similar to Pepper and Salty, it is reported that Schlitzie was very loved by those who took care of him, as he was a person who had a lot of joy and unconditional love for those around him.
In American Horror Story: Freak Show, Dot and Bette were sisters literally attached at the hip. They were based on real sisters that were conjoined twins: Violet and Daisy Hilton. The story of Violet and Daisy is just as, if not even more, interesting as their fictional counterparts. Their story is riddled with tragedy, as they were constantly exploited and abused by various caretakers as circus freaks since they were born.
Later in life, they worked as cashiers. When they died in 1969, they were found dead in their home. Medical tests revealed both perished from flu, one dying a couple of days before the other. What was perhaps most interesting though is that they never wanted to be separated, despite the little risk involved since they did not share any major organs.
Mr. March from American Horror Story: Hotel was inspired by a real serial killer in the late 1800s: H. H. Holmes. The real man confessed to 27 murders, and most were killed in a building he owned called the World's Fair Hotel. While he confessed to 27, there are theories that he probably killed up to one hundred. Though out of the 27, only nine of the murders could be undoubtedly confirmed.
Like Mr. March, Holmes had an entrepreneurial spirit and was well educated. However, he was also a con man and had about 50 lawsuits just in Chicago. His life ended at 34-years-old when he was hanged.
What would American Horror Story: Asylum be without an evil psychiatrist like Dr. Thredson? While being a psychiatrist was a central part of his character, that part of him is not what was inspired by reality. Instead, his manner of murder and fashioning trophies from his victims was inspired by a real serial killer: Ed Gein.
Ed Gein, like Dr. Thredson, crafted furniture and masks out of human body parts from his victims. Thredson certainly wasn’t the first character inspired by Ed Gein though. Ed Gein also inspired characters like Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs and Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
In American Horror Story: Roanoke, Miranda and Bridget Jane are murderous nurses who mercilessly killed their patients for fun. Well, unfortunately, their horrible acts are based on real events. They are based on real nurses during the 1980s, Cathy Wood and Gwen Graham. Like Miranda and Bridget, Cathy and Gwen decided to kill patients whose initials would spell murder.
Unlike most of the real people discussed in this list, Cathy and Gwen are still alive today. Gwen is serving time in the Huron Valley Correctional Complex. Cathy is serving time in a Federal Correction Institution in Tallahassee, Florida.