In Season 7, American Horror Story is finally tackling cults, a subject fans have anticipated since the show’s inception. Cults are quintessential horror, a hive-mind thought process both eerie and intoxicating. They’re also at the core of so many American tragedies, from the disaster at David Koresh's Waco compound to the Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate mass suicides.
But no American cult is as famous and notorious as the Manson Family, a communal Californian band of misfits that sprung up in the 1960s following the indoctrination tactics of leader Charles Manson. Manson preyed on young hippies, most of them female, eager to trade the nuclear safety of white suburbia for a free-spirited, free love tranquility that defied societal expectation.
For a while, the group achieved a certain nirvana, living on an abandoned movie ranch in Topanga Canyon, dumpster-diving for sustenance, sleeping and lovemaking under the stars. But Manson was a maniac who eventually -- with the help of acid and other mind-altering narcotics -- convinced his followers that an apocalyptic race war was on the horizon and that violence was the only method of survival. He named the race war “Helter Skelter,” believing The Beatles’ The White Album had predicted the events.
Showrunner Ryan Murphy has confirmed that Evan Peters will play Manson -- as well as other notable American cult leaders -- in a flashback this season, and shades of Manson already exist in Peters’ main character Kai Anderson, who we met in the season premiere. Scraggly haired, chaos-obsessed, provocative, mind-controlling: check.
But another major Manson Family allusion happened in the premiere, right near the end. The murder of the Changs recalls one of the Family’s most infamous crimes, one that also involves home invasion and a mysterious bloody “signature.”