Warning: This post contains graphic images and spoilers for all seven seasons of American Horror Story.
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American Horror Story has long been known as the show that, holy crap, just went there. Over seven seasons we've seen characters lose their genitals, die in almost unspeakable ways, and wrestle with the ugliest baby of… all time.
If Roanoke was any indication, Ryan Murphy and Co. don't appear to be pumping the brakes any time soon. If anything, the show has grown increasingly comfortable with its relationship to the perverse and the macabre. As you prep to join the Cult this fall, relive the anthology's craziest moments (so far) -- a compendium we'll update as we get to know Kai and Ally.
39. Kai's Crumby Makeover (S7: Cult, Ep. 1)
After Trump won the 2016 election, the blue-haired radical was so excited about his new supreme leader he threw Cheetos into a blender, smeared himself orange, and practiced saying "yuge." Not the best impression by any means, but a hilariously weird and perfect way to start AHS's most satirical season yet.
38. When the Polks made Lee bacon (S6: Roanoke, Episode 7)
37. That time Ben had to masturweep (S1: Murder House, Episode 1)
Ben's post-climax breakdown is probably one of the lesser moments on this list shock-wise, given what's come since. But dammit, it's iconic. Smack dab in the middle of the pilot, this scene was a great insight into character and how perverse this show would be willing to get.
36. When the Devil raped the monsignor (S2: Asylum, Episode 10)
Monsignor Howard: "You have to... stop." Sister Mary Eunice (aka the Devil): "Are you sure?" Howard: "Yes... No!" Yeah. Messed up.
35. When Santa went on a killing spree (S2: Asylum, Episode 8)
Congratulations to American Horror Story for ruining Christmas by making Ian McShane's murderous Kris Kringle say shit like, "I'm here to open my present." Bah humbug.
34. The arrival of the aliens (S2: Asylum, Episode 1)
We still can't believe this season had fucking aliens.
33. When Jude sang "Name Game" (S2: Asylum, Episode 10)
AHS moments don't have to be gory to be crazy. When Lana asked an electroshocked Sister Jude if she remembered her name, we got a very special WTF version of Shirley Ellis' "Name Game," complete with hallucinatory costumes and dance moves. Like seeing a walrus riding a motorcycle down a highway, the not-so-brief musical interlude was fun, random, and concerning, all at the same time.
32. The microchip that was really a spider (S2: Asylum, Episode 1)
Man, yeah, we still can't believe this season had fucking aliens.
31. Basically any time a mattress appeared (S5: Hotel, Episode 1)
Nearly every time a bare mattress was shown in Hotel, something horrifying managed to pop out -- which made for a great reason to never sleep on a hotel bed again. Starting with the opening credits, when disfigured human hands, multiple evil-looking maybe-humans, and a ghost-faced child come out of the mattress. In the very opening scene of the season, the first two guests we’re introduced to notice a wicked smell radiating from the bed, discover that the mattress is sewn together down the middle, and out pops some sort of zombie man who clearly didn’t have a great stay at the Hotel Cortez.
30. When Patrick got the red-hot poker (S1: Murder House, Episode 8)
This was one of the earliest indications that Murphy would never fail to surprise or go the extra step. When Rubber Man caught Patrick, we weren't expecting him to, uh, pants him. Thankfully we don't quite see the murder go from 10 to 11, but we do see the bloody aftermath, which is shudder-inducing enough. Gratuitous, sure, but not ineffective, especially given Rubber Man's alter ego.
29. The Chen ghosts (S6: Roanoke, Episode 8)
Like the creepy crawlies from The Grudge and The Exorcist had a baby. No thanks!
28. What happened in the Weimar Republic, 1932 (S4: Freak Show, Episode 8)
Back in the day, Elsa Mars made a name for herself by indulging men in their wildest sexual fantasies, or forcing them to do painfully kinky shit like sitting on a toilet seat covered with rusty old nails. Fortunately for Mars, this led to a lucrative career; unfortunately for Mars this also led to her being drugged and tricked into a snuff film (where people are depicted as murdered or committing suicide) that ends with her legs being cut off by a chainsaw.
After learning Oliver got her pregnant, Lana modified a wire coat hanger to perform her own mercy abortion. No kid should have to grow up knowing their dad was a psychopath, she reasoned. "It started as a trickle," she added, but "within an hour it was a bloody mess" -- one that probably blindsided most viewers with all its graphic, squirm-inducing misery. Another instance of, Jesus, they really went there.
Probably every magician’s assistant’s worst nightmare: Maggie is sawed to death after Chester Creb suffers an untimely hallucination causing him to think that his ventriloquist wants him to murder the twins. When the saw is pulled away, covered in blood, there is little hope that was just a gory magic trick, but when the two boxes are pulled away and two piles of Maggie’s guts hit the floor, it’s clear that this is a freak show gone wrong.
25. When Queenie got sensual with the Minotaur and saved Delphine (S3: Coven, Episode 3)
OK, we were all thinking the same thing: Why the hell would Queenie save Delphine when she learned who she really was? When she cuts the Creole socialite and opens the door, all before Delphine even leaves the room, it seems Queenie isn’t going to let her escape, but then in a twisted turn of events, Queenie seduces the Minotaur, and we all felt a little moved by the sensual touch of a hoof on a face. Truly, star-crossed lovers.
Watching Moira go down on the real estate developer who wanted Murder House was deeply… uncomfortable. "That is nice," he says, before adding, "a little less teeth." As soon as you realize what's happening, you hear that crunch, like someone pulling takeout chopsticks apart. It's an unfortunate trip to third base, one that inflicts that sickening kind of oh-fuck-we-feel-it-too pain.
23. When Cordelia Foxx stabbed her eyes out (S3: Coven, Episode 11)
A lot of people on Yahoo Questions are curious: “What happens when you get get stabbed in the eye?” Luckily for us, Cordelia Foxx, the young witch-loving Headmistress of Miss Robichaux’s Academy answered that question with a rusty set of garden shears. You scream a lot... a whole lot... and then, if you’re in a witch coven, you get your sight back.
22. Edward Mott's chest pains (S6: Roanoke, Episode 5)
The Butcher had a thing for uncomfortable deaths, and few were worse than the one she orchestrated for Edward Mott. To reclaim her land, she had her henchmen ram a makeshift pike through the aristocrat's back and turn him into a human marshmallow -- rich and white no more.
21. The Devil's dinner party (S5: Hotel, Episode 4)
What do Aileen Wuornos, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Richard Ramirez, and the Zodiac Killer all have common? Well, they’re all serial killers for one, but they’re also guests at Mr. Marches casual dinner party-turned-murderfest. Not a particularly gruesome or gory scene by AHS standards, but it's frightening to imagine these real-life killers hanging out in the same room. An accurate picture of hell? Perhaps.
20. When Spalding cut out his tongue (S3: Coven, Episode 4)
After a curse is placed on his tongue that forces the longtime butler at Miss Robichaux’s Academy to always tell the truth, Spalding decides to take his fate in his own hands. His right, to be exact, when instead of being forced to out Fiona as a murderer, he confuses his feelings for her and cuts out his own tongue with a razor. It's unclear why Coven was so into self-mutilation, but at least this time it was for love?
19. The Westfield High shooting (S1: Murder House, Episode 6)
We always knew Tate was a dark soul. But what makes his massacre stand out is its ruthlessness and length. For four-and-a-half minutes we're forced to watch the executions of innocent Westfield faculty and classmates. After each death, a glimmer of hope, a possible solution emerges. And then, every single time, it's squashed by a boy with an unfeeling face and an unquenchable desire to kill. It's almost torture to watch.
18. When Lana shot her Briarcliff exposé (S2: Asylum, Episode 13)
In the finale, when we flashback to see the making of Lana's Briarcliff Exposed, we're treated to a near shot-for-shot, line-for-line remake of Geraldo Rivera's Peabody-winning report about Willowbrook State School. "These images and sounds are far more powerful than any words that can be spoken," Lana says, pointing out heaps of neglected, suffering patients. "But how can I describe to you the way it smells? It reeks of filth, of disease; it smells of death." It's a deeply disturbing reminder of what was once a reality.
17. Shelley's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (S2: Asylum, Episode 5)
16. Scáthach's crazy sex eyes (S6: Roanoke, Episode 3)
Early on in My Roanoke Nightmare, while looking for Matt deep in the woods, Shelby stumbled upon a dead pig, two Polks a-masturbating, and finally, her husband, deep in a trance, taking Gaga's original Supreme from behind. Cuba Gooding Jr.'s dead eyes, Gaga's grin, and the mechanical slapping of their bodies -- not to mention the setting -- combined to make this one of the creepiest sex scenes of all time.
15. When Twisty removed his mask (S4: Freak Show, Episode 4)
Twisty had a rough life: getting dropped on his head as a baby, being falsely accused of child molestation, perpetually failing to convince people Whirligigs were the next big toy. Twisty is more than just a deranged psycho-killer clown, though when he removes his mask to tell Edward Mordrake his life story, the full impact of his troubled life is revealed in a truly grotesque way. (Just curious, Ryan: How does Twisty eat?)
14. When Matt revealed his true love (S6: Roanoke, Episode 7)
After Shelby walks in on Matt fucking Scáthach again, he confesses that she's the reason eh returned to the house. He's really in love with the supreme. Shelby, who initially thought she was rescuing her husband, snaps and smashes his head into smithereens with a crowbar. It's a loud, graphic assault, one that makes Matt unrecognizable by the end. For Walking Dead fans who watched this live, it was especially traumatizing, coming only a few days after [spoiler alert!] Glenn faced a similar beating. Suuuuuuuuuper brutal.
13. Jimmy’s side hustle (S4: Freak Show, Episode 1)
The son of a strong man and bearded woman, Jimmy Darling is a handsome guy who just happens to have webbed hands. Not totally abnormal, until you learn that they function as human dildos for deprived housewives (i.e., the perfect 1950’s side hustle). Not exactly Evan Peter’s usual AHS sex scene, but a “sex scene” nonetheless.
12. When kinky clowns murdered the neighbors (S7: Cult, Episode 1)
When goons hiding beneath gag and three-sided dildo masks stormed Ally's neighbors' house, it was hard to know what was real and what wasn't. Oz claimed to see the same clowns as his mom. But Winter said that shit was fake news. Either way, the bloody demise of the Changs -- specifically that gruesome neck-spurting death -- was a painfully effective homage to the home-invasion thriller mixed with a coulrophobic punch to the gut.
Madame Delphine’s party started like any weird mom’s Halloween party -- she asks you to stick your hand into a creepy-looking bowl to touch some “guts.” Usually it's just a cold bowl of spaghetti. But at this party they’re real guts, and real eyeballs, and through a series of flashbacks it becomes apparent that Delphine is a sick individual who dismembers her slaves in a secret chamber made for torture. Throughout the season, as karma would have it, the acts of cruelty in the Chamber of Horrors come back to, quite literally, haunt her.
10. That time Cricket lost his guts (S6: Roanoke, Episode 4)
You know when magicians pull those never-ending scarves out of their mouths? And the thing is longer than you could have imagined? That's kind of what it was like watching the end of poor Cricket, just with his guts. He wanted what was best for everyone. (And a Coke Zero.) But unfortunately, his meddling earned him a good ol' fashioned disembowelment.
9. When Roanoke fans became human torches (S6: Roanoke, Episode 9)
"What you are about to see was recovered from an iCloud account registered to Todd Allan Connors. It is presented in its raw form. The images are graphic, violent, and deeply disturbing." In Roanoke's penultimate episode, this warning was somehow an understatement, as we watched via GoPro as Roanoke super-fans Sophie and Milo were impaled and burned alive. Kudos to the actors for some of the most scarring whimpers of all time.
8. When Lady Gaga hosted a bloody foursome (S5: Hotel, Episode 1)
It’s a fact that Hotel is the sexiest season of all, but when you add Lady Gaga into anything, you know it’s going to get weird. So when Elizabeth and Donovan invite another beautiful couple up for a night of fun, it made sense they slashed the couple’s throats and erotically licked their blood like it was a chocolate fountain straight out of Willy Wonka. Toss in a bloody makeout session and it makes you wonder if you’re watching FX or sitting back at the 2010 Monster Ball World Tour.
7. When Zoe killed Madison’s rapist in the hospital (S3: Coven, Episode 1)
Remember how Zoe finds out she’s cursed when she loses her virginity and the sex causes her boyfriend to hemorrhage out? Well, Zoe certainly didn’t forget, considering she used her deadly body to exact revenge on the frat star who raped her frenemy Madison. Seen between flashing shots of his bleeding face and and erotic shadows on the hospital curtain, Madison “finishes him off” by, as she claims, putting her “curse to good use.”
Sometimes a season of American Horror Story introduces a character so gruesome and creepy they steal the entire episode. The earliest, and creepiest, example: Infantata. Created after Murder House's Dr. Montgomery tried to sew the body parts of his dead son back together, the Infantata, with its jagged teeth, wrinkly skin, and razor-sharp fingernails, was pure nightmare fuel. That basement scene? SOS. The late Ben Woolf transformed into the character with a verve and ferocity we'll never shake.
5. When Violet learned her fate (S1: Murder House, Episode 10)
Near the end of Season 1, Tate proposes that he and Violet commit (fake) suicide. As you might imagine, it doesn't go over well. Violet flees the house, but realizes she keeps ending up back in the house. It's nightmarish enough, but of course it gets worse: "I have to show you something," Tate says, before showing Violet her contorted body, already dead, now a feast for flies. This scene was so intense it even scarred Taissa Farmiga. "They released, I don't know, 5,000 or so flies during that scene. There were so many flies, it was disgusting," she said after the episode aired in 2011. "I was kind of freaking out before I even saw the dead body. I had to get a full head prosthetic, but I told them I didn't want to see it until we shot the actual take. I was really psyching myself out beforehand, and the reaction you see is real."
4. When Lana visited Thredson (S2: Asylum, Episodes 5, 6, and 11)
The Bloodyface reveal was hands-down this franchise's most shocking and effective mid-season twist. The furniture. The mask. The admission of necrophilia. Everything that happens in Thredson's house, whether we see it or not, is downright wicked. Paulson and Zachary Quinto deserve all the kudos for bringing life to one of the most twisted and complex relationships this universe has ever seen.
3. When Gabriel met the Addiction Demon (S5: Hotel, Episode 1)
With skin like a mix between a mummy and a Vietnamese spring roll, plus a strap-on drillbit dildo that looks like it could bore through a highway, the Addiction Demon is one of the most frightening creatures imaginable. After the demon appears in the room to feed on Gabriel’s addiction by violently raping the young druggie until he’s dead, it’s clear that this is one hotel hookup from hell.
Murphy and Co. know that fear of the unknown wields extreme power. It's not all that scary when Rubber Man reveals himself to Vivien. Everything's oddly calm, normal even. She's chatting away, putting on her lotion. Hell, for a split second you probably think it's Ben, too. What fucks you up is when you see hubby downstairs, and you're left wondering, maybe yelling, OH NO OH NO OH SHIT WAIT WHO'S IN THE SUIT?!? Intercut with snippets of a macabre painting and Vivien's unsure face, this sex scene quickly takes a left turn toward haunting territory.
When Twisty first arrives to the scene of a classic '50’s picnic-turned-hookup, the scariest Freak in AHS: Freak Show makes his debut. At first awkwardly nice, offering up flowers, Twisty soon takes a turn and knocks the couple out with bowling pins before brutally stabbing the boyfriend to death and chasing the girl with his arms held out wide like he just wants a hug. Twisty is the epitome of everything horrifying about clowns, and while there are some straight-up horrifying moments in AHS, the fact that this clown's actions could actually happen make it the icing on this twisted (pun intended) cake. Scarier yet, AHS: Cult has some serious clown connections, including the return of Twisty himself. Sweet dreams, AHS fans.
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