Each season of American Horror Story is its own concise story but each installment marks a chapter in a much larger shared universe. Ryan Murphy’s horror anthology series is heading into its ninth season, and a tenth will debut in 2020. To keep track of the timeline, we put together a guide to point out when each season takes place.
Murphy established early in American Horror Story’s run that the seasons were connected. Whether that be through hidden references or the return of characters from a previous season, it was up to the viewer to discover. The connections truly took off in season American Horror Story season 4, Freak Show, which saw the return of three Asylum characters–Pepper, Sister Mary Eunice, and Dr. Arthur Arden. The series then transformed into an elaborate labyrinth of interweaving storylines that took place across centuries.
Murphy’s horror-filled American Horror Story universe has taken shape but it could be confusing to follow at times. To complicate matters, a majority of seasons have jumped back and forth through time with flashback sequences. To alleviate the zig-zag of storytelling, here’s a timeline of the seasons in the order they take place.
- American Horror Story: Freak Show (season 4) - 1952
- American Horror Story: Asylum (season 2) - 1964
- American Horror Story: 1984 (season 9) - 1984
- American Horror Story: Murder House (season 1) - 2011
- American Horror Story: Coven (season 3) - 2013
- American Horror Story: Roanoke (season 6) - 2014 to 2016
- American Horror Story: Hotel (season 5) - 2015
- American Horror Story: Cult (season 7) - 2017
- American Horror Story: Apocalypse (season 8) - 2020 to 2021
Murphy’s storytelling is anything but linear. Some of the seasons took the modern-day approach at the time of their broadcast. That was the case with Murder House, Coven, Hotel, Roanoke, and Cult. But even many of those were mixed with flashbacks to supplement the larger story.
American Horror Story: Apocalypse’s place on the timeline was a bit confusing at the beginning. Prior to the season, Murphy stated that it would take place in the near future - 18 months to be exact. There was an 18 month time jump, but it occurred after the season was revealed to be set in 2020, bringing much of the story to the year 2021. That was along with the Coven subplot that was set a few years prior to the nuclear apocalypse. Many viewers questioned how that could be possible based on previously made connections, such as Billie Dean Howard visiting Hotel Cortez in 2020. But seeing as Mallory went back in time and stopped the Antichrist, the apocalypse was averted and the rest of the American Horror Story timeline was kept intact.