Shelley was diagnosed with nymphomania. She began masturbating at the age of five. Her mother tried to curb this behavior by forcing her to wear mittens. She felt so happy touching herself that she couldn't stop. Eventually, she ran away to live a fast jazz-filled life and met a bass player whom she eventually married. However, after their happiness died down, her husband expected her to stay at home and be a doting wife while he openly cheated on her with other women. She took revenge by having sex with two Navy sailors, which her husband found out. In retaliation, he reported her alleged "nymphomania" to the authorities and signed to have her locked up in Briarcliff. Like Grace, she proves to be a challenge for Sister Jude, even referred to as the disciplinarian's antagonist.
She is loathed by Dr. Arden, who deems her a whore, as he prefers modest and innocent-like women. However, when he catches her trying to escape during the Nor'easter, he forces her into his office and attempts to rape her, but she laughs when she sees his small penis (possibly mutilated or deformed). In anger, he knocks her out and surgically amputates her legs. She is dragged away by Sister Mary Eunice and left on the grounds of a school to be discovered by a child. After being taken to a hospital, Monsignor Howard finds her, he chokes her with a rosary, killing her.
Personality and Appearance
Shelley is consumed with lust and uses the offer of sexual favors to manipulate Briarcliff staff and inmates. She rebels against the double standard that labels women as "sluts" for desiring sexual gratification as much as men.
Shelley has deeply-set blue eyes and short, blonde hair that is partially shaved on one side. Her hair would have been fully shaven if it weren't for Lana and Sister Mary Eunice's interruption.
Shelley is called into Sister Jude's office and is having her head as a punishment for her provocative behavior. It's left unfinished when they're interrupted by the unexpected appearance of Sister Mary Eunice and Lana Winters. Shelley is sent out of the room while Lana talks to Sister Jude. Later that day, Shelley notices the newcomer, Kit Walker. She approaches him and attempts to seduce him in the common room, to no avail. During an asylum lockdown, Lana catches Shelley performing fellatio on an asylum employee.
Shelley attempts to seduce Dr. Arthur Arden after watching him return to Briarcliff with Sister Mary Eunice, whom she nicknames "Our Lady of Perpetual Virginity", but Arden rebuffs her advances and calls her a "whore".
Shelley is included in Grace, Lana, and Kit's plan to escape from Briarcliff, but their exit is blocked by an asylum guard. Shelley recognizes him as an employee who she has flirted with previously, and sacrifices herself as a distraction so that the others might have a chance at getting out. Shelley approaches him, teasing a sexual favor while the others slip past unnoticed. Shelley attempts to escape, but is caught by Dr. Arden, who secretly takes her to his lab. Once he closes the door and she is alone with him, Dr. Arden undoes his trousers and tries to force himself on her. Shelley resists his attempts to rape her and then begins to laugh when she catches sight of Dr. Arden's penis. He does not react well to her mockery and hits Shelley over the head, knocking her out cold. While she is unconscious, Dr. Arden carries her over to his surgical table. Later, Shelley wakes up and is horrified to discover that Dr. Arden has surgically amputated her legs to keep her from escaping.
Shelley's absence and disappearance had come to the attention of the rest of the asylum staff, and they assume that she successfully escaped the asylum during Nor'easter. Unbeknownst to any of the other asylum staff members, Dr. Arden is keeping Shelley captive for the sake of his own barbaric experiments. She continues to be tortured by Dr. Arden, who forcibly injects her with a substance that he claims will make her "live forever". This substance begins to horrifically mutilate Shelley, and she begins to resemble the Rasper creatures from the woods outside Briarcliff Manor. When a new inmate arrives at the asylum, she claims that she is "Anne Frank" and asserts that Dr. Arden is an ex-Nazi in hiding. She breaks into Dr. Arden's office with a gun. Once there, she opens a door and discovers a heavily-mutated Shelley in a closet. Without her legs, Shelley is unable to walk and is confined to crawling across the floor. Shelley begs Anne to kill her and end her torment.
After Anne had discovered Shelley, Sister Mary Eunice feared that Dr. Arden's secret experiments would be exposed if anyone came to verify Anne's testimony about what she had seen. Unbeknownst to Dr. Arden, Sister Mary Eunice drags an even more mutated Shelley out of Dr. Arden's office to keep the experiments from being discovered by the police. Mary Eunice dumps Shelley in a local elementary school, where Shelley attempts to escape. She begins to crawl up a set of deep-set stairs to the ground above. As she makes her way up, a little girl spots Shelley from the top of the stairs. Dr. Arden's experiments had rendered Shelley so disfigured that the girl runs to her teacher and claims that there is a "monster" on the stairs. The class follow the child back to the stairs, and Shelley frightens the children and teacher alike. Sister Mary Eunice then lies to Dr. Arthur Arden, saying she had left Shelley in the woods.
After being discovered in the schoolyard, Shelley is taken to a local hospital where she is tested positively for tuberculosis and is on her deathbed. The condition that she is found in, as well as her diagnosis in this era when the disease has all but been eradicated, has made headlines. The hospital staff determines that there is nothing they can do to save Shelley's life, so they call upon Monsignor Timothy Howard from Briarcliff to read her last rites. When the Monsignor arrives at his patient's bedside, he is shocked and disgusted when he recognizes her as Shelley. He looks over her injuries and realizes that it must have been the work of Dr. Arden. The Monsignor puts an end to Shelley's suffering by strangling her with his rosary.
- To Sr. Jude: "You think I'm full of shame and regret for what I've done now, Sister? You can shave me bald as a cue ball and I'll still be the hottest tamale in this joint."
- To Kit: "Oooh! Sr. Jude is on the warpath. I can't make the welts go away, but I can make you forget you have them... A salve can't cure you like I can. You need a session in the hydrotherapy room with me."
- To Dr. Arden : " Men like sex, no one calls them whores. I hate that word, it's so ugly! I'm into pleasure. Ever since I was five years old, and I slipped my fingers inside for the very first time. I could do it all day. My mother made me wear mittens to bed. "
- To Charlotte Brown: "Kill me."
- Shelley is the first character portrayed by Chloë Sevigny in the American Horror Story franchise. She came back in the fifth season, subtitled "Hotel," to portray Alex Lowe.
- See also: Shelley/Media