Weird Roanoke Theories 'American Horror Story' Fans Need to Know

american horror story season 6 kathy bates roanoke theories
FX Networks

It wasn't Manson. Nor was it the Bloody Benders. After keeping the plot for Season 6 under wraps for months while also intentionally misdirecting fans via a series of creepy trailers, the FX drama American Horror Story finally revealed its theme last night. The show's subtitle is "My Roanoke Nightmare," which means things are about to get colonial.

"My Roanoke Nightmare" refers to the lost colony of Roanoke Island, where more than 100 English men, women, and children settled in 1587 -- and then vanished without a trace. Although no one knows for sure what happened to them, historians have uncovered some eerie details that could inform AHS's master plan. Keep an eye out for references to these Roanoke touchstones as the new season unfolds.

The ghost of George Howe

The fates of the 100-odd colonists remain a mystery, but we do know what happened to at least one of them. Mere days after the settlers arrived in North Carolina, a man named George Howe was ambushed and killed by hostile Native Americans while he was crabbing alone. Expect him to show up in AHS Season 6, if he hasn't already -- that scalped man in the woods who scared the crap out of Shelby at the end of the episode could be our guy.

Strife with the Native Americans

For hundreds of years, historians believed that Native Americans massacred the colonists. And they had good reason to buy that theory, because a chief claimed credit for the bloodshed. In 1609, John Smith, of Jamestown colony and Pocahontas fame, reported to the English that Powhatan (aka Pocahontas' dad) had confided in him that he'd ordered the execution. Add in the Howe affair, plus some early antagonism on the English's part, and you have a convincing case that the Native Americans slaughtered the residents of Roanoke.

The only problem? Historians have turned against this story in recent years, favoring a theory of assimilation instead. Many now maintain that the colonists lived among local tribes after their governor, John White, left on supply run to England. (He took three years to return.) But they still could've met a bloody end that way. The late Irish historian David Beers Quinn suggested that the colonists packed up and joined with the Chesapeake tribe, only to be murdered later by its rivals, who were -- you guessed it -- the Powhatans. AHS might incorporate murderous Native American warriors either way.

Starved settlers

Murder may be scary, but so is starvation. In 1998, a group of scientists analyzed the tree rings on super-old trees in North Carolina and Virginia and concluded that the Roanoke settlers vanished during the worst drought in 800 years. That natural disaster would've caused food shortages, plus the kind of water quality that leads to salt poisoning. It would certainly explain why the settlers fled, but did some of them also starve before they departed? Look out for some crazy hungry (maybe even cannibalistic) specters in the forest.

The so-called "Dare Stones"

Back in 1937, a tourist stumbled upon a rock with a mysterious inscription near a North Carolina river. On one side, it announced the death date of Virginia Dare, the famous first English baby born in America, and her father. On the other, it confirmed that the Native Americans killed all but seven of the Roanoke colonists. It was signed "EWD," which is pretty interesting, considering Virginia's mom was named Eleanor White Dare.

The tourist turned it in to the historians at Emory University, and soon after, several more "Dare Stones" were discovered. But journalist killjoy Boyden Sparkes threw some cold water on this mania in 1941, with an article in the Saturday Evening Post that revealed the rocks were forged.

Some Dare Stones enthusiasts maintained their authenticity even after Sparkes' exposé. They were especially confident in the first stone, which looked markedly different from the rest. Could it make a cameo on American Horror Story? At the very least, check for any creepy "EWD" scrawls on rocks, trees, or the walls of Matt and Shelby's house.


There's always aliens. As certain conspiracy theorists insist, it's the only way to explain how so many people could have disappeared into thin air. Is there any evidence to support this claim? Not really. But American Horror Story does love its extra-terrestrials, and this insane theory could connect Season 2 mythology to Season 6. Kit Walker, consider yourself on notice.

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Kristin Hunt is a freelance writer for Thrillist, and just wants Jessica Lange back. Follow her to Fiona Goode GIFs @kristin_hunt.