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American Horror Story includes a lot of references or inspiration from previous books, films, and music.

Established References

Established references are references that creators, actors, or people working on the show have mentioned in articles or interviews. If a certain book, movie, or music is present in an episode, that too can be considered an established reference.

Films

Film Element AHS Element
Halloween (1978)
  • Ben spots Harvey standing outside by white sheets on a clothesline, watching him from afar.[1]
"Pilot"
The Shining (1980) Murder House (story)/Characters
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
  • Nosy next-door neighbor who may collude with evil - Constance is a next door neighbor who knows more than she is telling.
  • Neighbor brings over poisoned sweets - Constance offers poisoned cupcakes to Violet
  • Potentially demonic rape resulting in pregnancy - Rubber Man with Vivien
  • Weird pregnancy cravings induced by demon baby - Ryan Murphy confirmed they were trying to one up Rosemary's baby's liver scene with the brain scene with Vivien. [citation needed]
Murder House (story)/Characters, "Home Invasion", "Piggy Piggy"
Demon Seed (1977)
  • Inspiration for Vivien's birth scenes.
Vivien Harmon,
"Birth"
The Amityville Horror (1979)
  • Denis O'Hare: "...and it's got the haunted house, slow motion reveal of The Amityville Horror."[3]
  • Family move into haunted house where a murder happened after full disclosure of the realty agent. - Harmons move into Murder House.
  • Father turned mad by possessed house.
Murder House
Poltergeist (1982)
  • Constance's medium was inspired by the character Tangina Barrons, a medium portrayed by Zelda Rubinstein.
Billie Dean Howard
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
  • "When we were writing Constance, in my mind she was how Blanche would have turned out had she been stronger..." [4]
Constance Langdon
Gaslight (1944)
  • Mentioned by Vivien. Film plot: "Years after her aunt was murdered in her home, a young woman moves back into the house with her new husband. However, he has a secret which he will do anything to protect, even if that means driving his wife insane." The film provided the name for a form of psychological abuse.
  • The plot was used by Bette and Dot Tattler in an attempt to deceive Elsa regarding their mother's murder. [5]
"Rubber Man (episode)"
The Addams Family
  • Mentioned by Violet in the Pilot.
Murder House (location)
"Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror" by F.W. Murnau
  • Elizabeth and Donovan seduce a couple during an outdoor projection of the film Nosferatu, a clear reference to the parallelism between afflicted and vampires, a pivotal point of the season.
  • F.W. Murnau is present in the show as one of the afflicted.
Hotel; Checking In; Afflicted; F.W. Murnau

Books

Book Element AHS Element
The Stranger by Albert Camus
  • Violet reads this book, prior to the house being invaded by strangers.
"Home Invasion"
Nana, by Ai Yazawa "Halloween: Part 2"
"Birds of America" (1827)
  • The bird book that Tate and Violet check out is a reprint of the edition by Roger Tory Peterson (called the "Baby Elephant Folio") of John James Audubon's book.
"A Doll's House" (1879) by Henrik Ibsen
  • During the scene in which Tate is shot by the S.W.A.T team, this book is seen.
"Piggy Piggy"
"A Doll's House" (1879) by Henrik Ibsen
  • During the scene in which Tate is shot by the S.W.A.T team, this book is seen.
"Piggy Piggy"
"Water's Edge: Domestic Politics and the Making of American Foreign Policy" (1979) by Paula Stern
  • During the scene in which Tate is shot by the S.W.A.T team, this book is seen.
"Piggy Piggy"
1981 Silver Jubilee edition box set of JRR Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "The Hobbit"
  • During the scene in which Tate is shot by the S.W.A.T team, this book is seen.
"Piggy Piggy"
"Little Lord Fauntleroy" (1886) by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Book mentioned by Hayden to Tate.
"Rubber Man (episode)"
John Keats' poem "Ode to a Nightengale" (1819)
  • Book mentioned by Hayden to Tate.
"Rubber Man (episode)"
"The Yellow Wallpaper" (1892) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • Short story mentioned by Moira to Vivien.
"Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" (1776-89) by Edward Gibbon
"Ulysses" by James Joyce
  • Book read by Liz Taylor
"Candide, ou l'Optimisme" by Voltaire
  • Book read by Liz Taylor
"Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius
  • series of personal writings read by Liz Taylor
"Das Kapital" (1867–1883) by Karl Marx
  • foundational theoretical text in communist philosophy, economics and politics read by Liz Taylor

Music

Music Piece Scene Episode
What Lies Beneath (2000)- Film music composed by Alan Silvestri "Pilot"
Vertigo (1958) - Film music composed by Bernard Herrmann "Pilot"
Psycho (1960) - Film music composed by Bernard Hermann "Home Invasion". 
Twisted Nerve (1968) - From the film "Twisted Nerve", composed by Bernard Hermann
  • Westfield High massacre. The character "Martin" and the character "Tate" share some traits, including an overbearing mother and a sibling with Down's Syndrome. Both are obsessed with a girl and kill people in order to be with that person.
"Halloween: Part 1", "Halloween: Part 2"
Dracula (1992) - Film music composed by Wojciech Kilar
  • It is used in all flashback scenes of the Montgomery's.
Various
"Gary Gilmore's Eyes" by the Adverts (1977)
  • Violet listens to this song, which is about the eponymous murderer who was also the subject of Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, on her iPod.
"Halloween: Part 2"

People

Character Element AHS Element
Black Dahlia
  • Elizabeth Short appears as in-universe naive ghost.
  • Travis Wanderly is torn to pieces in the same way of miss Short, and his murder case has been called the "Boy Dahlia".
"Spooky Little Girl"; "Afterbirth"
Delphine LaLaurie
  • This cruel and racist noblewoman has been freely used as inspiration for the creation of the namesake in-universe character.
Delphine LaLaurie ;Coven
Marie Laveau
  • The New Orleans Voodoo Queen has been freely used as inspiration for the creation of the namesake in-universe character.
Marie Laveau; Coven
Axeman of New Orleans
  • This mysterious and famous serial killer has been freely used as inspiration for the creation of the namesake in-universe character.
The Axeman;  
Stevie Nicks
  • The American singer-songwriter appears as herself in a fictionalised role of a white witch, longtime friend of Fiona Goode.
  • The character Misty Day is obsessed with her music and one of her biggest dream is to actually meet her.
  • Her songs are present in almost every episode, usually accompanying musically the scenes featuring Misty Day.
Coven; "The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks" ; "The Seven Wonders"
Barack Obama
  • The American politician and the 44th and current President of the United States appears briefly on TV, with great despair of Delphine LaLaurie.
"Boy Parts"
Charles Manson
  • The notorious criminal was mentioned several times by the characters in the course of the seasons, both directly and indirectly.
  • According to Bianca, R. Franklin changed the culture before Manson.
  • Elias Cunningham refers to "Helter Shelter" to describe the impact that his novel, based on the event at Roanoke House will have on culture.
"Home Invasion"; "Chapter 3"
Richard Speck "Home Invasion"
Allison DuBois
  • Is a widespread theory that Billie Dean Howard can be loosely based on this self-styled medium.
"Piggy Piggy"; "Be Our Guest"
Aileen Wuornos
  • The character portrayed by Lily Rabe in "Hotel" is an in-universe version of this killer.
Aileen Wuornos"; "Devil's Night"; "Be Our Guest"
Richard Ramirez
  • The character portrayed by Anthony Ruivivar in "Hotel" is an in-universe version of this killer.
"Devil's Night"; "Be Our Guest
Jeffrey Dahmer
  • The character portrayed by Seth Gael in "Hotel" is an in-universe version of this killer.
  • Seducing gay men in bars and then kill them brutally was Dahmer modus operandi. Dandy Mott does the same to Andy.
  • Obtain souvenirs and home decorations from corpses was one of the peculiarities of Dahmer. Bloody Face does the same.
"Devil's Night"; "Be Our Guest"
John Wayne Gacy
  • This criminal clown appears in a fictional representation in "Hotel".
"Devil's Night"; "Be Our Guest"
Zodiac Killer
  • This mysterious killer appars as an in-universe character in "Hotel".
"Devil's Night"; "Be Our Guest"
Gordon Northcott
  • An in-universe representation of this criminal appears in Devil's Night. Within American Horror Story universe, Miss Evers' son Albert was among his victims.
"Devil's Night"; Hazel Evers
John White
  • Thomasin White, better known as "The Butcher", is the fictional wife of this Governor of Roanoke Colony.
Roanoke
Gwendolyn Graham and Cathy Wood
  • Miranda Jane and Bridget Jane's murders were inspired by the case of real life serial killers Gwendolyn Graham and Cathy Wood.
"Chapter 2"; "Chapter 4".
Rudolph Valentino
  • Rudy, former lover of the Countess, is an in-universe depiction of actor and "divo" Rudolph Valentino.
Rudolph Valentino; Hotel
Natacha Rambova Hotel
F. W. Murnau
  • F. W. Murnau appears as an in-universe character who infected Rudy Valentino with the blood virus, leading to subsequent contagion of Elizabeth.
Afflicted
Kendall Jenner
  • Tristan Duffy has expressed a desire to kill her for a wrong suffered at Coachella.
"Chutes and Ladders"
Mary Oneida Toups
  • Mary Oneida Toups is briefly mentioned by Fiona Goode as a witch who led an alternative coven in New Orleans, using Popp Fountain as a meeting place for public rituals. Toups was an actual prominent figure of the esoteric community of New Orleans in the 70s.
"Bitchcraft"
Ed Gein
  • American murderer and body snatcher whose crimes and modus operandi are the basis of those of Dr Oliver Thredson, including bowls carved from human skulls, home decorations made of human skin etc.
Asylum
Barney and Betty Hill
  • According to producers, Kit and Alma Walker were inspired by a couple named Barney and Betty Hill, some of the first people to ever claim to have been abducted by aliens in 1961. [6]
Extraterrestrials; Asylum
Anne Frank
  • Franka Potente starred on several episodes of Asylum as Charlotte Brown, a mental patient who insists that she is Anne Frank, the 15-year-old girl who famously documented her horrific experience during the Holocaust before her death.
"I Am Anne Frank: Part 1"; "I Am Anne Frank: Part 2"
Schlitzie
  • Pepper and Salty were inspired by Schlitze Surtees. Known as Schlitzie the Pinhead, he was an early 1900s sideshow performer with microcephaly. He is mostly known now because of his part in the 1932 film Freaks.
Fräulein Elsa's Cabinet of Curiosities
Edward Mordake
  • Edward Mordrake, an eerie ghost that collects souls on Halloween night, is inspired by a real man who lived in the 1800s.
  • The name of the in-universe representation is misspelled, whether that be intentionally or mistakenly.
"Edward Mordrake: Part 1"; "Edward Mordrake: Part 2"
Grady Franklin Stiles, Jr.
  • Though many performers with ectrodactyly, aka Lobster Claw Syndrome, were prevalent throughout freak-show history, Grady Franklin Stiles, Jr. is clearly a large influence for Jimmy Darling.
FreakShow
Daisy and Violet Hilton
  • Though conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler are quite unique, they're probably based on a pair of sisters by the name of Violet and Daisy Hilton, who were successfully performing in vaudeville shows alongside Charlie Chaplin.
Fräulein Elsa's Cabinet of Curiosities
H.H. Holmes
  • James March shares his zest for sadism with H.H. Holmes. This notorious serial killer had built the World's Fair Hotel, colloquially known as "The Castle" and later as "Murder Castle", which served as a hostel and subsequently hotel. The place had secret passages and torture chambers where Holmes slew several customers in heinous ways. While Mr. March isn't a direct portrayal, he's certainly inspired by the killer.
  • The owner of the drugstore detected by Holmes's was named Elizabeth S. Holton.
Ten Commandments Killer


Theorized References

Theorized references are references that fans strongly suggest there is a connection there, but there is no proof/information at this time it is a reference.

Media Element AHS Element
"The Changeling" (1980)
  • Creepy attic
  • Red ball rolling back because of ghost.[7]
  • Axe to stomach.[8]
Murder House, Beauregard Langdon, "Home Invasion"
"Heathers" (1988)
  • The girls who bully Violet are similar to the Heathers.
  • Tate helps Violet get revenge by terrorizing the girls, similar to what JD does for Veronica.
Leah, Tate Langdon, "Pilot"
"Dreamcatcher" (2003)
  • Person with Down syndrome who has psychic powers.
Nan
"Poltergeist II: The Other Side" (1986)
  • "You're going to die in there."
Adelaide Langdon, "Pilot"
"A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984)
  • Song perverted by use in horror sequence: "Buckle My Shoe".
  • Elaborate burn-victim makeup: Freddy Krueger.
  • Tate has similar striped sweater like the one Freddy Krueger wore.
Larry Harvey, Tate Langdon, Clothing
"Red Dawn" (1984)
  • High school mascot was the Wolverines, with similar sports jackets to the one Tate's victim, Kyle, wore.
Clothing
"Omen" (1976)
  • Child is the Antichrist.
Michael Langdon
"Texas Chain Saw Massacre" (1974)
  • Animal bone mobile in the garden in opening sequence [9], [10]
"Pilot"
"The Thing" (1982)
  • Dog senses an evil entity and barks at it.
"Pilot"
"Pulp Fiction" (1994)
  • Rubber gimp suit. The film was directed by Quentin Tarantino, who was referenced by Tate as being one of his idols.
Rubber Man
"The Others" (2001)
  • Creepy housekeeper who knows too much.
  • Strange big house holds a family of alive people, and also a lot of dead people, the former house owners.
  • An old photo album with images of the century-dead owners that is found by the alive family.
  • The mysterious garden outside.
  • A starring character finding out she's already dead.
  • The mysterious basement.
  • Previous owners complaining about changes in the house.
Moira O'Hara, Ghosts, Murder House locations, Violet Harmon, Nora Montgomery
"Orphan" (2009)
  • Still-born birth as a backstory.
"Birth"
"Breakfast club" (1985)
  • Violet says that the bunch that scares her at the beach is "the dead breakfast club": a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal... all dead.
Westfield High Massacre victims
"It´s alive" (1976)
  • The anthropophage baby.
Infantata
"Motel Hell" (1981)
  • A butcher puts a pig's head on his head as a gruesome mask and then goes off to murder people.
"Piggy Piggy"
"Beetlejuice" (1988)
  • In the movie, the character "Charles" is obsessed with bird books. This is referenced by Tate's obsession with them, also.
Tate Langdon
"Taxi Driver" (1976)
  • The scene in which Tate pretends to shoot himself in the head in front of the S.W.A.T team after his shooting spree is a reference to the film. Robert De Niro's character does the exact same thing in front of a police team after he shoots several people. Additionally, De Niro is a person who Tate identifies with to some degree, as they had a similar high school experience.
Tate Langdon, "Piggy Piggy"
"Casper" (1995)
  • In the first sequence of the entire film, twins enter the abandoned and decaying house, exactly like Bryan and Troy. They encounter the ghosts of the house.
  • There is a scene in a car where the humans approach the house and the teenage daughter moans about having to move and is generally moody.
  • Father, Dr Harvey, a psychiatrist who is supposed to get ghosts to move to the afterlife through therapy.
  • Teenage daughter starts relationship with one of the ghosts, who then shows her the history of the house through old pictures kept in the attic.
  • Halloween Party is climax.
  • Grief-ridden father tries to revive his son (Dr Montgomery/Casper's father) by all means.
  • Evil developer who threatens to destroy the haunted house that the ghosts live in.
  • Hayden also references the "Casper" ghost character in Spooky Little Girl towards Dr Montgomery.
  • Kat's room, especially the desk area, bears similarity to Violet's room.
Troy and Bryan, Violet Harmon, Ben Harmon, Tate Langdon, Murder House locations, Charles Montgomery, Infantata, Joe Escandarian, "Pilot", "Halloween: Part 1", "Halloween: Part 2", "Spooky Little Girl"
"Men in Black" (1997)
  • Both American Horror Story and Men in Black introduce characters who are exterminators and who both get killed (one by Tate, the other by "Edgar") the same way - by thrusting their sprayers into their esophagi.
Tate Langdon, Phil Critter, "Smoldering Children"
"Kill Bill Vol. 1" (2003)
  • The Whistle Song (Twisted Nerve) is playing on the background on the scenes related to the Westfield High Massacre, specially when Tate walks down the corridor, on his way to the library, where he kills the students and shots the teacher.
  • This resembles the scene in which Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah) walks down the corridor dressed up as a nurse, on her way to the Bride's room in order to kill her with a lethal injection, with the same song playing on the background.
Westfield High Massacre
"The Hunger (1983)"
  • Vampirism as blood virus and the way that vampires feed using razors.
  • The similarity between the personality of Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve) and Elizabeth (Lady Gaga) and the twisted relationships of both with their lovers.
  • The erotic scene of "Checking In" is very similar to that at the beginning of "The Hunger".
  • The recurring of the Egyptian Ankh pendant worn in the movie by the vampires and by Tristan Duffy and Donovan in AHS: Hotel.
Afflicted, Elizabeth, Checking In,
"Blair Witch"
  • Anthropomorphic fetishes made of twigs and hanging from tree branches;
  • Paranormal activity associated with strange entities in the woods;
  • Mockumentary; frantic-found footage.
Category:Roanoke (story), My Roanoke Nightmare (fictional documentary)
"Misery"
  • Mama Polk smashing Shelby Miller's ankle with a hammer closely resemble the way Annie Wilkes (portrayed by Kathy Bates) smashes Paul Sheldon (James Caan)'s ankles in "Misery".
Category:Roanoke (story), Chapter 5; Mama Polk
"The Shining"
  • Ambrose White breaking down the door with an ax, and putting his face in the rift resemble the scene where Jack Torrance does the same in "The Shining" by Stanley Kubrick.
Category:Roanoke (story), Chapter 5; Ambrose White


Producer's Interviews

  • Brad Falchuk: "We both are very big fans of the genre. I love Halloween, and we both love Rosemary's Baby and The Shining. [...] I think the genre part of it enhances the story as opposed to being sort of something about murder porn."
  • Murphy acknowledges his love for 1960s Gothic-horror soap Dark Shadows, an iconic US series that [...] is notable for influencing writers of vampire fiction, Charlaine Harris and Stephenie Meyer.[11] Speaking with Interview Magazine, he also states: "What I really wanted to do was my version of Dark Shadows, where there are creatures and a soap opera and sex, because my grandmother used to make me watch Dark Shadows as punishment... when I was three. [...] I would sit there and be very afraid, and then the next day I would say, “Nana, I want to watch the program again.” I would call it a program. I would hide behind the chair. I just loved feeling scared."[12]
  • Falchuk: "With me, it's the horror movies of the 1970s and 1980s, such as Halloween, and also the great suspense movies, like Rosemary's Baby and The Shining," Falchuk says. All those things scared us, horribly. Jaws is my favourite movie. I know it's not a horror story as such but it's a great film; it's about tension, about waiting for something you know is coming."[13]
  • Ryan Murphy: "I also think the second episode in particular is about that, but I think as you go on, there is less of that. I mean, my favorite movie, horror, growing up was 'Don't Look Now.' The second episode, in a weird way, is a tribute to a lot of great horror movies and scenes that we like, but I think that happens less as we move through the show."[4]
  • Ryan Murphy: "I've been obsessed with Jessica since I was a kid and my favourite performance ever is her turn as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire. When we were writing Constance, in my mind she was how Blanche would have turned out had she been stronger so I sent the script to Jessica. Then I spent weeks begging her to do it because she's never done TV before. Luckily, she agreed, as it turns out she's hilarious. We've changed part of the character in response to how funny she can be."[14]
  • Ryan Murphy (on the Billie Dean Howard character): "We were also really interested in the Zelda Rubinstein character from Poltergeist. 'This house is clean.' You’re watching that movie and you believe she has the power."[15]
  • Denis O'Hare: "I’ve said it’s like The Shining meets Twin Peaks meets The Amityville Horror meets Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom. It’s got elements of all of that. It’s got the weirdness of the population of Twin Peaks, it’s got the crazy momentum of The Shining, and it’s got the haunted house, slow motion reveal of The Amityville Horror."[3]

References

  1. Connection cited by Brad Falchuk[citation needed]
  2. Connection cited by Brad Falchuk[citation needed]
  3. 3.0 3.1 Radish,Christina (2011/10/12). Denis O'Hare Talks AMERICAN HORROR STORY.
  4. 4.0 4.1 April, MacIntyre. "'American Horror Story' non-stop homage to horror films past | Smallscreen Reviews | MonstersandCritics.com." | 30 Sep. 2011. <http://www.monstersandcritics.com/smallscreen/reviews/article_1666118.php/Review-American-Horror-Story-non-stop-homage-to-horror-films-past>
  5. Episode: Monsters Among Us
  6. The Betty and Barney Hill story as inspiration for "Alien subplot" in Asylum.
  7. Chaney, Jen; Williams, Paul, ‘American Horror Story’: 10 questions about ‘Home Invasion’ | Celebritology | Washington Post" | 13 Oct. 2011. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/celebritology/post/american-horror-story-10-questions-about-home-invasion/2011/10/12/gIQANAbKhL_blog.html>
  8. Gacser, Ava. "“American Horror Story”: Dead and loving it"| 13 Oct. 2011. <http://avagacser.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/american-horror-story-dead-and-loving-it/#more-2976>
  9. Ian Berriman, "American Horror Story", SFX, 7 Nov 2011
  10. Peterson, Price, "American Horror Story: The 10 Biggest WTF Moments from the Premiere", TV.com, 6 Oct 2011
  11. Idato, Michael, "Horror comes home", Sydney Morning Herald, 10 Nov 2011
  12. Roberts, Julia, "Ryan Murphy by Julia Roberts", Interview Magazine, date unknown
  13. Idato, Michael, "Horror comes home", Sydney Morning Herald, 10 Nov 2011
  14. Sarah, Hughes. "From high school dreams to American screams | TV & Radio | The Independent" | 7 Nov. 2011. <http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/features/from-high-school-dreams-to-american-screams-6258051.html>
  15. Stack, Tim. "'American Horror Story': Ryan Murphy on Vivien's blood-craving baby and next week's 'most sexual episode' yet -- EXCLUSIVE" | EW.com | 9 Nov. 2011. <http://insidetv.ew.com/2011/11/09/american-horror-story-ryan-murphy-piggy-piggy/>

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