If there’s one thing American Horror Story fans love to do, it’s devise theories tying together the show’s bloody, anarchic universe. Though every season in the anthology series introduces a different plot, setting, and characters, fans are certain that AHS seasons all connect.
Show creator Ryan Murphy has hinted that they’re on the right track. In a 2014 Entertainment Weekly interview, Murphy said, “[The seasons are] all very separate, but there’s clues every season that we’re now telling you how the different worlds are intertwined.”
Perhaps the most interesting American Horror Story theory to link the, so-far, seven seasons takes us all the way back to 14th-century Italy. It’s possible American Horror Story seasons are the nine circles of Hell. In Inferno, the first part of Dante Alighieri’s three-part epic poem The Divine Comedy, the poet-narrator descends through nine levels of hell: Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath/Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery.
This intriguing theory was first laid out by Jacqueline Bircher on Red Herry. According to Bircher, the first seven seasons of AHS have corresponded to Limbo, Fraud, Treachery, Greed, Gluttony, Wrath, and now, Heresy. What’s more, Murphy himself may have endorsed the Dante theory in a cryptic Instagram post.
Does that mean there are two more seasons of American Horror Story to come: Violence and Lust? (As if we hadn’t already seen plenty of both in Seasons 1-7.) Luckily American Horror Storywas just renewed for – that’s right, two more seasons.
Season 1’s Murder House is just such a liminal space, trapped between earth and the underworld. Anyone who dies on the house property is trapped there forever, their souls unable to move on to the next plane of existence.
In Inferno, Dante saves the 8th Circle for “sorcerers and false prophets” – like clergy members and health professionals who promise cures but exploit their patients instead. Of which Asylum has many.
As far as circles of hell go, Greed fits Freak Show quite well.
Redditor morpheusmade adds, “The over-saturated shots, to the excessive interior decor, to the character motivation are all based around indulgence and excess and addiction. There is a high fashion show in the lobby, expensive art, all of it is very gluttonous.”
Certainly nothing about Hotel says “restraint,” and as Virgil describes the third circle of hell, Gluttony, “What these shades could not satisfy in life, in death, they shall be denied for eternity.” The ghosts of the Hotel Cortez certainly understand the idea of eternity.
What happened to the colonists? In AHS‘s version, the colony’s first lady, Thomasin White (AKA “The Butcher”) sold her soul for revenge on the colonists who rebelled against her – and she didn’t get any less angry from there. Hell’s Wrath circle could certainly look much like Roanoke.
Arguably, even this season’s “too soon?” recounting of the 2016 presidential election is heretical – or at least, it certainly offends sensibilities on all sides.
Each Season Has A Mystical Gatekeeper
“In the Inferno, many of the circles of Hell also have guardians that must be faced at their entrance. Dante imagines these to be figures from Greek mythology, such as Charon and Phlegyas, or sometimes monsters such as the three-headed dog Cerberus and the Minotaur.”
What’s that about a minotaur? Yes, Coven featured an actual minotaur in its first episode, but there are many other possible “gatekeeper” figures in the series as well, including the Rubber Man from Season 1 and the Pig Man seen in both Season 1 and Season 6. Now that Twisty the Clown has overlap in seasons, as well, he may factor in as a “guardian” also.
The Staircase Motif Is Leading Us Further Into Hell
AHS Reuses The Same Actors To Represent Bad Karma
“The decision to cast the same actors as different characters in each season can also be interpreted as allegorical. The casting could reinforce the idea that any single person is not predestined for Hell, but is capable of committing any or all sins of their own free will, or, in some cases, out of necessity or coercion. Or, each actor could represent a single soul that has been condemned to be continuously punished for his or her sins within all circles of Hell, similar to the idea of being reincarnated several times after a few bouts of really bad karma.”
Redditor sininspira takes it a step further. If all of AHS follows a group of souls through Hell, “at the end we might find out what each one was guilty of in their original life?”
Elsewhere on Reddit, AlfieBoheme expands this idea even farther in a long and fascinating post, arguing that each actor stands for the same sin in every season – for example, Jessica Lange as Greed or Evan Peters as Lust.
A Murder House/Coven Crossover Would Offer Plenty of Lust And Violence
Assuming AHS will run for nine seasons (one for each of Dante’s levels of Hell), that would mean that Seasons 8 and 9 will cover Lust and Violence, and at least one of these should include a Murder House/Coven cross-over. Given all the blood and sex in both Murder House and Coven, that should be pretty easy to do.
Meanwhile, some fans on Reddit are expecting a “secret” 10th season that ties everything up together at last. Good luck, guys.