Pepper was abandoned by her family into the inept care of an orphanage when she was born. When she was eighteen years old, she was rescued by Elsa Mars, thereby becoming the first member of Fräulein Elsa's Cabinet of Curiosities. As the troupe grew, she would form a maternal relationship with the dwarf Ma Petite and an innocent romance with fellow "pinhead" Salty, to whom she was married in mock ceremony.
Personality and Appearance
Despite her alleged history of infanticide, she is innocently playful. She usually wears a flowery muumuu and a girlish bow in the topknot adorning her misshapen mostly bald head.
Pepper's role as a performer is a sort of clown act with Salty, providing amusement through their innocent dance and play. Her extended role is as an attendant to "Miss Elsa", providing manicures and delivering messages. During a visit from Edward Mordrake on Halloween, she is deemed innocent by the ghosts demon face and she is passed over for "collection".
Upon the death of Salty, she became despondent and unwilling to perform, so Elsa took her to live with her sister, Rita Gayheart. There she is treated with disdain by her sister and brother-in-law, Larry. She is tasked with serving cocktails to her sister and caring for her disfigured and equally unwanted infant nephew, Lucas. With his wife's complicity, Larry kills the child and frames Pepper for the crime. She was convicted of murder and consigned to the asylum at Briarcliff Manor, where she was admitted by Sister Mary Eunice. The nun took her on as a rehabilitation project and entrusted Pepper with custodial duties in the manor's library.
Pepper spent most of her years at the asylum a model inmate, only guilty of pestering vistors to play and hoarding food in her cell. On the night of a massive storm, Pepper excuses herself from the movie night to pee and doesn't return. Sister Jude mistakenly assumes that she is a casualty of the failed escape of Lana, Grace, and Kit.
In reality, she was abducted by extraterrestrials who performed genetic alterations that upgraded her subnormal intelligence to genius level. She is returned to the asylum to act as guardian to pregnant and resurrected fellow abductee, Grace. She tried to carry out this charge bravely against Oliver Thredson, but the effort was futile as he had her taken away by orderlies. Pepper died of pulmonary fibrosis in 1966, but lived on in the deluded mind of a defrocked and committed Sister Jude.
It was confirmed conclusively in Orphans that Pepper was the same character in each season.
An unidentified person affiliated with American Horror Story had stated prior to Freak Show that each story was in a discrete universe, befitting an anthology. If this was indeed the case before then it is no longer.
In The Name Game,Pepper stated "that's what happens to us Freaks" which could be taken as a reference or clue to Freak Show.
Rita Gayheart is the sister of Pepper. Despondent after the loss of Salty and no longer willing to perform, Pepper was taken by Elsa to live with Rita. Rita made excuses that her husband would not allow it but Elsa convinced her to stand up to him and do the right thing by family. Unwilling to admit her own reluctance, Rita agreed. After Rita gave birth to a deformed child, she treated Pepper as a house slave whose duties were making her cocktails and caring for her otherwise unloved baby. She and her husband, wanting to return to a life of leisure, hatched a plan to get rid of both of them by killing the baby and blaming Pepper.