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American Horror Story: The Real-Life Horror Crimes that Inspired the Show

Learn about the real serial killers haunting America that inspired the show’s most chilling episodes.

Credit: American Horror Story/ Wikimedia Commons

Just as if American Horror Story couldn’t get any scarier, they had to draw inspiration from true criminals and their horror stories that haunted America for years and decades. Read on to see which real-life serial killer or event inspired some of the show’s most frightening episodes.

1. Madame LaLaurie


The show’s third season covers the atrocities of the one and only Delphine Lalurie and her “chamber of horrors”. But, of course, you’ll be even more terrified to know that her character is inspired by the real Madame Lalaurie and her terror house in the 1800s. 

Madame LaLaurie was a wealthy slave owner who would make good impressions on the other residents of the time. Behind closed doors, however, she tortured and often killed her slaves, making her and her torture house probably America’s darkest and most heart-wrenching of stories. 

The LaLaurie mansion currently resides in New Orleans and is a museum and center for various ghost stories and shows.

2. The Black Dahlia

Murder House 

In AHS: Murder House, Elizabeth Short is an up-and-coming actress who was murdered in 1974. Despite the show’s plot suggesting that a dentist brutally killed her, real-life Elizabeth Short’s murderer still remains a mystery. 

Her death became a media sensation, and she was swiftly called “The Black Dahlia” by newspapers. This was said to be a reference to Short’s love of black dresses and a play on the 1946 classic noir “The Blue Dahlia”.

3. H.H. Holmes



We get the story of James March in season 5 of American Horror Story who is based on the very real and brutal 1980s serial killer H.H. Holmes. 

Just as in the show, Holmes owned and used his hotel to trap victims, murder, and hide the bodies of his victims. 

Before his execution, Holmes confessed to the murder of 27 people.

4. Twisty the Clown

Freak Show

Real-life serial killer and sex offender John Wayne Gacy, known as Pogo the Clown, was the inspiration behind the show’s fourth season Twisty the Clown.

Gacy went on a killing spree in the 1970s, attending children’s birthday parties, where he would lure and trap teenage boys, rape them, and murder them. 

He killed more than 33 people and was eventually executed by lethal injection in 1994. 

While the stories and the events are terrifying, true crime enthusiasts will agree that there’s a certain fascination in reading or watching shows about serial killers. Want more? Watch Netflix’s new docuseries about “Son of Sam”, the New York Serial killer. 

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