James Patrick March was born on October 30th, 1895 in the Eastern United States. He started killing in the 1920s, and in 1925, he built the Hotel Cortez, which opened on August 23 of 1926. Having constructed a number of secret rooms and hidden hallways to carry out his twisted hobby of murder, James used the hotel's infrastructure to hide all evidence of his life as a serial killer, creating blocked hallways and bricked rooms to make killing more fun and keep his victims' bodies for further acts of depravity, as well as concealing their bodies from the police. His wife, Elizabeth, loved hearing his victims screaming for help and encouraged his dark desires, much to her own amusement.
Oftentimes, James took great fun in the art of murder, killing his victims in a number of playful, thespian-esque ways (i.e. decapitating them via a bloody game of cricket and walling them up alive, among other gruesome methods). He would then have sex with their dead bodies before throwing their remains down a series of chutes that were hidden in each room, which led to a dungeon in the basement that he used to store corpses.
March confessed he had tried many drugs in his time. However, none could satisfy him; it led to his serial murder addiction. He was also said to be a man of "new money", meaning he made his own fortune, to which he added he did at an early age. He described his father as being a true believer in God, but the "meanest son of a bitch [he'd] ever seen". March despises religion, explaining to one of his victims that it was the worst thing in the world right before he killed him. He states he was going to have to kill God, because as long as there was a God, men like himself would never find peace. He also went as far as to collect all the bibles from the hotel bed stands and arrange them with a pile of his victims - slaves that were working on the Sabbath - to leave behind for the police; the first killing in the Ten Commandments murders.
On February 25, in the early 30s, the police came to the Hotel Cortez to arrest March after receiving an anonymous phone call (from his faithful minion, Miss Evers) assuring them that March was responsible for the first Ten Commandments murders. When Miss Evers told him that the police arrived at the Cortez in search of him, he decided to kill them both by letting her choose which way to die - with a knife or with a gun. She decided to let him kill her (because she was secretly in love with him) as his last victim, and after shooting her, he sliced his own throat. He became one of the most famous serial killers of all time; the ghosts of his victims and himself have remained trapped in the Cortez ever since.
When John Lowe visited the Hotel Cortez in 2010 for a night of drinks, he encountered Donovan, who took it upon himself to invite the detective to "a party upstairs", thereby interrupting March's monthly dinner with Elizabeth. March was enraged at the interruption, but quickly became intrigued regarding homicides investigated by John earlier in the day. March was so impressed by John that he sent The Countess away in order to spend more quality time with the officer, who commented on how out of place and time March seemed. March explained it as a discomfort with the modern world, keeping John oblivious of his true nature as a ghost. He went on to muse about John's "jet black aura", which he claimed signified either a cloaked identity or a dogged determination. Over absinthe, John and March talked for 2 days, until eventually, John passed out. In a matter of moments shortly after, March discussed John's potential as a protege with The Countess, whom he asked for assistance in pushing John "into the abyss" to make him his successor as the Ten Commandments Killer, as to enforce John to carry out the remainder of his unfinished legacy.
Personality and Appearance
Mr. March is an attractive young man in his early thirties, with a fit physique. He is very immaculate of his outward appearance, always wearing pinstripe suits in 30s style. His black hair is combed back, and he has a mustache like that of Vincent Price or Howard Hughes, with striking dark brown eyes. An interesting element of him is his strange accent, reminiscent of the Brahmin accent.
He has a distinctly sadistic personality, seemingly finding great pleasure in releasing a deadly rage onto his victims as well as having sexual intercourse with them during their murders, which occur in ways quite theatrical. He states that he was strongly influenced by his father, a fervently religious man, who sparked in him a profound aversion to the Christian values. He murders, in part, so as to wage a personal battle against God, nihilistically speaking. Despite this, he is also quite charming, finding joy in the company of the pupils he taught to be notorious serial killers during their times alive (i.e. Aileen Wuornos, Jeffrey Dahmer) and taking great pride in their successes. During the events of Devil's Night, when his former colleagues raise their glasses to him in salutation, he is deeply gratified and brought to tears, stating that he could not be happier that their homicides will forever be ingrained in history and pop culture. Among them, he shows a high opinion of John, describing him as having a "once in a generation rage" that enabled him to complete James's unfinished work as the Ten Commandments Killer - an act with which none of James's other proteges were capable. Interestingly enough, James also seems capable of a certain degree of empathy, as he comes to appreciate the company of Queenie and openly tells her that she is the only spirit in the hotel that he enjoys playing cards with. When Cordelia Goode and Michael Langdon, respectively, come to release her soul from the hotel's confines so that she can be human again, James encourages Queenie to go with them so that she can have another shot at life, seemingly out of the guilt he has come to feel for murdering her in 2016. When she leaves, James is heartbroken that he will never see her again, though he appears to be content knowing that Queenie will be able to live the life he previously took away her.
He has a complicated relationship with his ex-wife, Elizabeth, The Countess, with whom he hosts monthly dinner arrangements despite believing that it was she who turned him to the police back in the 30s, ultimately culminating in his murder-suicide. He is aware that Elizabeth does not love him, yet in his time alive he brought her wealth and jewels to her heart's content, hopeful that in doing so he could move her and change her feelings about him, to no avail. He continues to show her all the manners of a gentleman, however - offering her drinks, pushing her in her chair, asking her about her days in the world beyond the hotel's confines, and nonchalantly talking about the people they've both killed - in the hopes of earning some semblance of her affection. He describes their brief time together as a reprieve from his ghostly state, possessed of a profound loyalty and respect for his former bride that has carried over even in death. He values Elizabeth more than Miss Evers, his partner in crime, stating to her that while he is delighted by her work as his maid, Elizabeth is a "creature from Heaven" that has far surpassed her in every way. He later berates Miss Evers after she remarks that Elizabeth should be mindful of the time she's expected for supper, angrily retorting that "the lady of the house deserves more respect!" and commanding Miss Evers "should be elsewhere".
Elizabeth, however, openly resents James, criticizing him for his delusions that the two of them can once again be a couple, and admonishing him for the compulsive behavior she sees as pathetic and weak. When James asks her to hypnotize John as a means of driving him to insanity, thereby enabling him to continue James's unfinished work as the Ten Commandments Killer, Elizabeth responds, "And why would I help you when it gives me so much joy to see you suffer?" After informing James of her plans to marry Will Drake, she demeans his affection for her, stating, "I've always been scrupulously honest with you James. I never pretended more than I felt. And I never claimed to love you". James is both aggravated and disappointed by these remarks but refuses to believe that Elizabeth feels nothing for him, vowing not to kill her directly lest he sacrifices the opportunity of "eternal happiness" with her.
When Tristan Duffy came to the hotel, he found himself on a floor and heard jazz music playing, leading him to 's room. He stumbled upon some of March's jewelry and cocaine, which he tried to steal it until March appeared. After a talk, Miss Evers enters the room with a girl who was prostituting herself in the lobby. March offers Tristan a gun and insists he take her last breath, but ends up killing the woman himself when Tristan declines. The model runs away, calling him crazy.
After having "googled" him, and after being turned by the Countess, Tristan found a detailed account about March, "the greatest serial killer that's ever lived", and has since become a fan upon reading it. March appears and introduces his new fan to his "Black Closet", a sliding wall that leads into a small space with a big spike. There are other such places in the hotel, which James wants Tristan to re-open. However, when Will Drake comes in with Claudia Bankson talking about his plans to tear out the entire floor and make it his atelier, March and Miss Evers muse over where they are going to live once the floor is gutted and renovated. March makes it clear that Will is not to touch any of the rooms, and Tristan says he'll take care of it .
holds his annual Devil's Night soirée every year on the night before Halloween, an evening where he brings America's greatest serial killers who have ever lived together to celebrate their crimes. 2015 is no exception and the guest list is ready. When Richard Ramirez arrives, he is welcomed by the sight of a tourist family for him to kill as a gift from March. When trying to kill the wife, she runs screaming from the room, where she encounters March in the hallway. Her pleas for help prompt him to hold her and invite his compatriot to finish her off.
At the soirée, Mr. March invites John Lowe as well as other famous killers Aileen Wuornos, John Wayne Gacy, the Zodiac Killer, and Jeffrey Dahmer. He serves absinthe and introduces himself, however, John reminds him that March would have died 85 years prior. However, March counter-reminds John that anything is possible in this hotel. Despite being dead, all the killers at the soirée have received guidance from March during their lives before death. The absinthe has taken an effect on Lowe, and Gacy handcuffs him to his chair, while March toasts his famous equals, and he wants them to join him for dessert. Dessert being a heroin-tainted man brought by Sally, which will buy her another year of solitude from March. The killers all take turns stabbing the man for fun, as Sally walks John away so that the others can enjoy themselves, though March is wary.
March and Hazel prepare his suite for his ex-wife the Countess, his dinner guest. He is excited that she wants to have dinner with him a week earlier than usual (They dine together once per month). During dinner, the Countess tells him that she plans to marry again, this time to Will Drake, and he seems delighted. March suggests that she murder Drake off property so that they don't keep bumping into each other for all of eternity. She says she may have found love, and he responds, "Surely not for the first time, Mrs. March", as she fell in love with Valentino (but never March, despite their marriage). She coldly states that she never claimed to loved him, so in exchange he tells her the story of how he trapped her former lovers Natacha Rambova and Rudolph Valentino in a barricaded hallway of the hotel almost a century ago, causing her to believe that they ran away, and she is horrified by the truth.
After John finally has clarity about himself being the Ten Commandments Killer, March is in awe of John's talent for killing. John resolves to complete the masterpiece that March started and the latter welcomes John home.
March introduces himself to the Countess' recently married husband, Will Drake, and they share a drink. March laughs as Will muses about marrying the Countess. March commends how progressive "blended families" are, and Will says that the Countess loves Lachlan very much. However, March says that he wasn't referring to Will's son. March guides Will upstairs to meet his and the Countess' son, Bartholomew. Will rejects the eternal baby, and Elizabeth knocks him out for his hateful words towards her son.
March (wearing his elaborate mask) holds a contractor captive, chiding him for not keeping to his schedule. John enters moments after March immolates the man alive. John asks March where to find Alex, and he sets them up a dinner date in his suite.
After the Countess is approached by the ghost of Will Drake, March materializes and reminds her that he did advise her not to kill Drake on the premises.
After a fight with Queenie, Ramona is seriously injured. March materializes and intervenes, stabbing Queenie, killing her. As he is a ghost, Queenie's voodoo doll power does not work on him, and she can't hurt him. Ramona drains her dry, and March reveals that he wants Ramona to kill the Countess, but so that she doesn't suspect he's behind it.
March asks Hazel when first she realized she was a ghost, and her reaction. She is confused, but March guides her. March expects the recently killed Countess will be similarly confused. The doorbell rings, and he leads her in. The new ghost feels like all her driving passion is gone and March tells her that he can finally forgive her for turning him to the police, but after all those years she admits that she didn't. However, Hazel admits that she did, so that she could have him to herself, so that they could die together and be together forever. Hazel reminds him that she has always shown him her loyalty and love, in contrast to the Countess. Hazel hopes that he will finally accept her as his lover, but he spurns her instead, saying that she is banished from his presence. Reluctantly, she feels strangely free that she no longer has to wait on him and his "whore". The Countess wonders what Hazel will do without being his sycophant, and Hazel retorts that there are always more stains. Later, March toasts to the fact that they will be together for eternity, as the Countess cries.
During a meeting composed of the ghosts of the Cortez, Liz and Iris plead to the spirits to stop killing the guests. March intervenes and agrees with Liz and Iris that they need to stop defiling their home. They will have to make a viable business, lest the building be sold or re-purposed. It can only become a historical landmark in 2026, and they must keep it operating until then.
On Devil's Night 2022, March, along with John and the other serial killer ghosts, appear to Billie Dean Howard. He offers her absinthe while they introduce themselves to her. March wonders what meeting a ghost is like, she describes the sensation as a wet darkness splattering against her. Due to the absinthe, she gets ill, no longer able to muster a psychic defense, and they bound her to a chair. March and the others threaten her by offering her the choice of never mentioning the Cortez again, or she will be tracked down and murdered. She is skeptical, since they can't leave the premises, but Ramona introduces herself as an insurance policy to do the bidding, causing Billie to flee the hotel.
James frequently converses with Queenie and offers to teach her card games in order to cure her eternal boredom as a spirit. When encountered by Supreme Witch Cordelia Goode, who came to rescue Queenie, March does not attempt to stop her, and encourages Queenie to leave with Cordelia to have another shot at life. Although Cordelia is unsuccessful, March does the same when Michael Langdon arrives to rescue Queenie, and can be seen sadly recollecting Queenie's cards, knowing that she will not return.
- Regarding cocaine: "Bolivian marching powder. Too tame for my taste."
- To Tristan: "Pull the trigger and take her last breath. It’s exhilarating."
- To the Countess: "Might I suggest that when you murder him, you would do so off the property? It'd be damned awkward to keep running into him for all eternity."
- To the Countess: "I'm dead dear, not stupid."
- To Sally: "I'm not familiar with your military friend and his fondness for poultry, but my killing days are over."
- Regarding Queenie: "A shame she had to die. This one had a flair for the dark arts."
- A toast to the Countess: "A toast. How thrilled I am to have you across from me. Not once a month, but from now on. Until the sun falls from the sky and the heavens burn in conflagration."
- Regarding Michael Langdon: "What a fascinating specimen... Alive, yet so intimate with the dead."
- He is the fifth character portrayed by Evan Peters. For a complete list of his characters, see Cast.
- During the Freak Show title sequence, a ventriloquist dummy appears wearing a 1920's style tuxedo. James mirrors the dummy in style during the grand opening celebration in episode 7, "Flicker".
- In season one, season five and season six, Evan Peters' character is a ghost.
- Coincidentally, both Tate and James were known murderers, as Tate is a mass murderer and March is a serial killer.
- All three characters have mental disorders.
- In the episode "The Ten Commandments Killer", John Lowe and James March refer to the latter's accent as a Brahmin accent, which in popular culture often denotes stereotypes of pretentiousness or snobbery. It was also a slang very popular among American actors of the 30s.
- James himself states that he started talking in his current manner while mimicking one of his marvelous teachers at Exeter, and that he ended up getting used to speaking that way.
- James Patrick March is most likely based on Herman Mudgett, also known as H.H. Holmes, an early serial killer in the United States who also designed a hotel in Chicago for the 1893 World's Fair. It was expressly designed to murder people, and Mudgett would then sell the cadavers to medical students and teachers. His fantastic compound for crime had gas chambers, furnaces, and chutes within it. He confessed to 27 murders but was formally charged with 9. However, he may have killed up to 250 people.
- In addition to his resemblance to H.H. Holmes, March's physical appearance is also strongly based on that of billionaire and aviator Howard Hughes. Both Holmes and Hughes wore derby hats, though Holmes had a bushier mustache.
- H.H. Holmes's real-life hotel for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair is a callback to the American Horror Story universe's legend of the Piggy Man, which also occurred at the 1893 World's Fair.
- James shows a unique familiarity with (and even some level of appreciation for) witches. In the episode "Battle Royale", he defends vampire Ramona Royale from being killed with Voodoo magic by the witch Queenie, whom Royale intended to drain of blood. Because Queenie's magic could only work on someone living and not undead, James was able to fatally stab her in the heart, allowing Ramona to consume Queenie as she bled out. James states on the matter, "A shame she had to die. This one had a flair for the dark arts". This could imply that he has already encountered witches in the past, though it is unknown under what context. It is possible that witches have aided him in some way via the use of harmful or malevolent magic, which could be one of several reasons for why the Hotel Cortez is possessed of many sinister supernatural secrets.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Episode: The Ten Commandments Killer
- ↑ Episode: Chutes and Ladders
- ↑ Episode: Mommy
- ↑ Episode: Devil's Night
- ↑ Episode: Room 33
- ↑ Episode: Flicker
- ↑ Episode: She Wants Revenge
- ↑ Episode: She Gets Revenge
- ↑ Episode: Battle Royale
- ↑ Episode: Be Our Guest
- ↑ Episode: Could It Be... Satan?