How 'American Horror Stories' Connects to the 'American Horror Story' Universe
The new FX on Hulu anthology series features some familiar faces.
In May 2020, prolific TV producer Ryan Murphy caught the devoted fans of his long-running series American Horror Story off guard when he seemed to have subtly announced on Instagram that he had an all-new series in the works with the title American Horror Stories. He didn't give any further details, even to clarify how a show with such a similar title could possibly be different than the existing series, but the show was soon confirmed that his post wasn't a joke. American Horror Stories would simply be another horror anthology, only this one would do away with the season-long arcs and present its scares episodically, a la The Twilight Zone. It's also exclusive to streaming, airing weekly on Hulu's FX hub, FX on Hulu.
As AHS (singular) is often shrouded in secrecy until its release, similarly little was known about Stories until shortly before its premiere on Thursday, July 15. Of course, all along, fans had their minds set on one question: Does American Horror Stories connect to or exist in the same expansive, nightmarish universe as AHS? Although it was confirmed that the anthology was supposed to feature new stories, it seemed likely that regular AHS cast members might appear and reprise their roles, or, at the very least, it would take fans back to spooky settings that have haunted us throughout the original show's run. This turned out to be the correct assumption. Now that the 7-episode season is streaming, we're breaking down every way Stories connects to the original.
The first two episodes of Stories, "Rubber (Wo)man" Parts One and Two, returns to where it all began: the infamous Murder House from Season 1. (The Harmons' vow to scare away any unsuspecting potential residents in that season's finale apparently went out the home's stained glass windows.) In Stories, a family of two fathers, played by Matt Bomer and Gavin Creel, and their teenage daughter Scarlett (Sierra McCormick) are the latest unfortunate souls to move into the haunted house.
From the first scene, the show proves how much it really is one for the major AHS fans—showing the family with their moody teen in the backseat en route to their new nest, just like the beginning of Season 1. And the parallels don't stop there. Similar to the gay homeowners who lived in the creepy mansion prior to the Harmons, the couple in Stories hoped to flip the house and turn it into a bed and breakfast; mean girls (including one played by Paris Jackson) are after their daughter; a dead therapist is psychoanalyzing everybody's problems; spirits, like the nurse's from the Richard Speck-inspired plot, are still stuck in the basement; and there's a hot, emotionally damaged ghost (model Kaia Gerber in her acting debut) who's pining for the angsty teen and wishes she would die to be with her for all of eternity. Apparently (super dark, deadly) history repeats itself at the Murder House.
The rubber suit
Despite the many similarities between Murder House and the first two episodes of Stories, the biggest and most obvious callback is the appearance of the infamous kinky rubber suit. No matter how many times residents try to throw it away, its bad energy just finds its way back into the house! Like Tate Langdon (Evan Peters), who zipped himself up into the latex before her, 16-year-old Scarlett finds the suit in her closet upon moving in, tries it on, and inevitably is up to no good once its evil S&M properties and the spirits in the house start bringing out her bad side. While Dylan McDermott's patriarch in Season 1 was the first in the family to be possessed by the house's bad juju, it's Scarlett this time around—but you can probably blame her murderous tirade on that damn suit.
The first episodes of Stories also features a visit from one of the most gruesome ghosts terrorizing the cast on Roanoke: Piggy Man. The knife-wielding result of the sacrificial offering to the ghosts from Kathy Bates' Season 6 character, The Butcher, who attached a pig's head to a petty thief from the colony and burned him alive, becoming a ghost himself. Now, it's not necessarily that version of Piggy Man that we see in "Rubber (Wo)man." It's the version of him who dates back to Murder House when a man named Derrick (Eric Stonestreet) saw Dr. Harmon because of his deep fear for a Bloody Mary-like half-man, half-pig figure that could appear in the mirror upon repeating, "Here piggy, piggy." Of course, in typical AHS-verse fashion, he does relate to the Roanoke character. He was a member of the Polk family, who honored the original Piggy Man spirit, and eventually became a pig farmer, dawned his own hog mask, and massacred a crowd at the World's Fair. So that's the urban legend Matt Bomer's character Michael catches a glimpse of in the Murder House in Stories. Perhaps the beast (or his spirit, rather) isn't much of an urban legend after all.
Serial Killer Santa
In the fourth episode, "The Naughty List," Danny Trejo plays a violent serial killer who murderers mall Santas and steals their red suits to commit crimes that are far from typical jolly St. Nick behavior. In the episode he takes out his rage on a group of problematic Jake Paul-inspired vloggers who tried to pull a prank on the North Pole where he posed as a Santa at the mall for a shift. Apparently, he got the idea for his blood red Christmas from the legend of "The Wild Man"—who in the show is said to be the actual origin of Santa Claus and brought terror to homes in addition to gifts—which he informs the influencers about by hacking their computer.
There may not be an explicit connection, but it's hard not to see the similarities between Trejo's killer Santa and the one from Asylum. In Season 2, Ian McShane guest starred as a man named Leigh Emerson who was incarcerated for petty theft, abused in prison, and, once he was released, set out on a late December killing spree that included murdering a Santa collecting charity on the street. He was later committed to Briarcliff where he's forced into solitary confinement, but released by a possessed Sister Eunice for the holiday festivities, which is when he dons the red suit and commits even more horrors. In AHS lore, Emerson was said to go on to become an infamous serial killer who continued to do crimes while dressed as Claus—so, it's probably fair to assume Trejo's mysterious character was inspired by his creepy predecessor.
Even more tangentially related to AHS than Episode 4 was Episode 5, "Ba'al." Although there was no mention of the Miss Robichaux's Academy from Coven, the installment was all about dark magic. Like Sarah Paulson's Cordelia Goode before her, a woman named Liv played by Billie Lourd attempts to use supernatural forces to get pregnant. The spells and spirits in Stories don't necessarily also appear in Coven, but one shot in particular of Lourd in a magic circle made of salt was very resonant of the ritual Cordelia attempted. Nothing came of Cordelia's incantation—but maybe she just needed to contact the fertility demon, the Ba'al.
The existence of American Horror Story the show
The season finale, "Game Over," was the most meta episode in all of the AHS/Stories universe, and implied that AHS the TV show exists within the world of Stories. In what felt like an attempt solely meant to be cheeky and milk all of the AHS IP to a ridiculous extent, the episode centered around a video game developer (Mercedes Mason) trying to create a game called Escape From Murder House with the help of her AHS mega-fan son (Nicolas Bechtel). The game finds players as guests trying to survive a night in the house where everybody infamously dies, and the episode sees two versions of the game play out.
The first—which you're led to be is reality and not a video game until "game over" appears on the screen and the episode pulls back—introduces two AHS obsessives (Noah Cyrus, Adam Hagenbach) named Dylan and Connie (like, eye roll, Season 1 stars Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton) who are staying in Murder House for a night, which is now an Airbnb designed for fans of the show. References are dropped left and right—they say they've visited the Coven LaLaurie mansion and once they're inside, they cosplay Tate and Violet—then ghosts from the first two Stories episodes appear, as well as Dylan McDermott as Dr. Harmon, and other AHS villains like Bloody Face and Twisty the Clown.
Although, eventually, it seems clear that all of the Easter eggs are solely part of the video game, fans are left with one final teaser set in the real world and implies the AHS ghosts are somewhere out there. The final shot of the episode features Beau from Murder House's red ball roll across the video game developer's living room floor. Fans who thought they understood AHS logic that implies ghosts in Murder House are stuck there forever might be wondering how and why Beau's spirit escaped, but that's beside the point! It's all one big meta universe... apparently!
What American Horror Story cast members are in American Horror Stories?
A handful of familiar faces appeared in Stories. Fan favorite Billie Lourd, who's been among the leads of the past three seasons of AHS, was one of the draws to the new anthology, once it was announced that she was in the cast. She stars in Episode 5, "Ba'al," as a woman who'll do anything to get pregnant. Lourd's episode was one of the stand-outs of the season, as was recent series favorite Cody Fern (who joined in Season 8 as the grown-up Michael Langdon). He brought his star power to the "Feral," in which he plays a park ranger overlooking a nature reserve with a very dark secret.
Matt Bomer (who was one of the main characters in Hotel) is another big name to pop up, starring in the first two installments. Plus, Episode 3, "Drive In," saw a couple of regulars including John Carroll Lynch who's had parts in a handful of seasons—most notably as Mr. Jingles most recently in1984 and Twisty the Clown in Freak Show—and Naomi Grossman, who fans know as Pepper.
While most cast members portrayed new characters, a couple actors revived their roles in the season finale. There, Dylan McDermott briefly popped up as the angry, disheveled ghost of Dr. Harmon and Jamie Brewer stepped back into the shoes of (now dead) Adelaide Langdon.