American Horror Story Characters Inspired By Real Killers

What makes a horror story themed show even more scary is when it is based on true events.

With that in mind Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk created and produced an American anthology horror series in which each season is conceived as a self-contained miniseries.

Some plots in each series of “American Horror Story” are loosely inspired by true events. Here are some American Horror Story characters inspired by real killers.

Madame Delphine LaLaurie

Marie Delphine LaLaurie, played by Kathy Bates in season 3, pretty much commits the same crimes as her real-life counterpart. Although she was then made to suffer for her crimes, while the real Madame LaLaurie to escaped to France.

American Horror Story Characters: Kathy Bates as Madame Delphine LaLaurie next to the real Madame Delphine LaLaurie
Image by FX/Wikimedia Commons

Marie Delphine LaLaurie (1780 – 1849) sadistically tortured her slaves. After a fire broke out in her mansion, rescuers discovered 7 slaves horribly mutilated. They had been suspended by the neck with the limbs apparently stretched and torn from one extremity to the other. The slaves claimed they had been imprisoned there for months. In the kitchen, they found a seventy-year old woman chained to the stove. She was the cook and had set the fire in order to commit suicide.

All slaves were emaciated and showed signs of being flayed with a whip. In addition the slaves were bound in restrictive postures and left in cages for days. Many were forced to wear spiked iron collars which prevented movement of the head.

American Horror Story characters include a horrifying clown

Twisty the horrifying clown from season 4 was inspired by John Wayne Gacy.

American Horror Story characters include clown. Image showing Twisty and real life killer clown John Wayne Gacy in his clown costume
Twisty and John Wayne Gacy, image by FX/Murderpedia

John Wayne Gacy Jr (1942-1994) was an American serial killer and rapist. He became known as the “Killer Clown” because he would play “Pogo the Clown” for children at charitable events, children parties and parades.

Gacy lured children into his Norwood Park ranch house by either force or deception. There he raped, tortured and murdered at least 33 teenage boys and young men.

The “Killer Clown” was executed by lethal injection in 1994 for the 33 murders between 1972 and 1978.

Dating an Axe Murderer

Fiona Goode, played by Jessica Lange in season 3, is dating the Axeman of New Orleans. This Axeman was in fact a real serial killer who was never caught.

American Horror Story characters based on real life serial killers. Image shows the Axeman with a bloody axe.
The Axeman, image by FX

The Axeman spread public panic from 1918 to 1919, although the press mentioned similar killings as early as 1911. Within that year and a half he murdered 12 victims from as young as infant age to “elderly” of both genders.

Axeman broke into people’s homes at night while they were sleeping and killed them with serious blows to their heads.

In 1919 the killings suddenly came to an end as mysteriously as they had started. The Axeman was never caught nor identified.

The Blood Countess

Lady Gaga won the Golden Globe award for her role as Countess Elizabeth Báthory in season 5. Although the real Elizabeth Báthory, of course, was not a vampire, stories described her as having vampire-like tendencies.

Lady Gaga as Countess Elizabeth Báthory next to a portrait of the real Countess
Lady Gaga as Countess Elizabeth Báthory, Image by FX/Wikimedia Commons

Countess Elizabeth Báthory was a Hungarian serial killer who tortured and killed adolescent daughters from peasants and the lesser gentry.

Her atrocities included severe beatings, burning and mutilating the hands. She would be biting and eating the flesh off her victims faces and other body parts. Many other methods of torture are suspected to have been committed. She was accused of freezing or starving her approximately 650 victims to death. You might also like Gruesome serial killers throughout recorded history 

Her story became national folklore and as with all stories passed down the stories would change. One version describes her of bathing in the blood of her victims to retain her youth. Thus comparing her to Vlad the Impaler of Wallachia on whom the story of “Count Dracula” is loosely based.

Báthory’s story also contributed to Dracula legend and earned her the nicknames of “The Blood Countess” and “Countess Dracula”.

Abducted by Bloody Face

In season 2 Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) abducts journalist Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson). Much like his real-life counterpart Ed Gein, he uses skin and teeth from his victims to create a mask.

Dr. Oliver Thredson and Ed Gein
Dr. Oliver Thredson and Ed Gein, image by FX Wikimedia Commons

Ed Gein (1906-1984) murdered two women and exhumed corpses from local graveyards.

Soon after his mother’s death he began to create a “woman suit” out of human skin so that “he could become his mother – to literally crawl into her skin”.

In a shed, on Gein’s property, police found the decapitated body of Plainfield Hardware store owner Bernice Worden. She was hanging upside down by ropes at her wrist, with a crossbar at her ankles. Her body had been “dressed out like a deer”. Searching the house they found several items made from human skin. Among the items found were waste baskets, chair seat covers, and lampshades. A corset made from a female torso skinned from shoulders to waist was also found. Further discovery were masks made from human faces.  A belt made from human nipples, and a pair of lips hanging on a window shade drawstring topped the bizarre.

Gein died at the Mendota Mental Health Institute on July 26, 1984, at the age of 77.

American Horror Story characters and parenticide

Grace Bertrand, played by Lizzie Brocheré in season 2 is a patient in Asylum. She killed her father and stepmother with an axe. Her character is based on Lizzie Borden, a woman who committed parenticide in 1892. Just like with Grace in the show, her murder weapon was an axe.

Lizzie Brocheré plays one of the American Horror Story characters based on real killers. Image shows her as Grace Bertrand and real-life killer Lizzie Borden
image by FX/Wikimedia Commons

The case of Lizzie Borden (1860-1927) was famous throughout the United States. She became infamous due to being tried and acquitted for the axe murders of her father and stepmother.

Her trial has been compared to those of Bruno Hauptmann, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, and O.J. Simpson in publicity and public interest. Speculations about the crimes still continue to this day.

Angels of Death

In season 6 Bridget (played by Kristen Rakes) and Miranda (played by Maya Berko) are the ghosts of nurses who had killed elderly people. These two American Horror Story characters are based on two American serial killers. Both, working as nurse’s aides, were convicted of killing 5 elderly women in the Alpine Manor nursing home.

image by FX/Wikipedia

Gwendolyn Graham and Kathy Wood met at the Alpine Manor nursing home. There they became friends and lovers in 1986.

In 1987 they began murdering patients to “relieve tension”. With each murder they believed that with the secret of murder would cement their bond to each other; thus preventing the partner from leaving the other. You might also enjoy reading Defense attorneys talk about the worst offenses they had to defend

Their victims, ranging from 65 to 97 years of age, suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. They were too incapacitated to fight back while being smothered with a wash cloth.

They began by turning the selection of the victims into a game, choosing their victims to try and spell out M-U-R-D-E-R with their initials. This proved to be too difficult so they began counting the murders as a “day” in a phrase. “I will love you forever and a day” and “You’ll be mine forever and five days”.

Halloween Gathering of several American Horror Story characters based on real killers

The episode Hotel in season 5 sees an entire gathering of characters based on real-time serial killers. Among the most prominent killers is Aileen Wuornos.

AHS Aileen and the real Aileen
image by FX/Wikimedia Commons

Lily Rabe plays a character with the same name as the real-life serial killer, Aileen Wournos.

Aileen (1952-2002) was an American sex worker/serial killer who killed men in Florida between 1989 and 1990. She claimed that the men had either raped or attempted to rape her while working as a prostitute. Aileen shot all men at point-blank range, and claimed self-defense.

In 1990, Aileen Carol Wuornos Pralle was convicted of six of the murders and executed by lethal injection.

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