American Horror Story: Coven is based on a true story…well, sort of!


A Brief History

On October 9, 2013, American Horror Story: Coven debuted on FX with at least three characters based on real life infamous Americans!

Digging Deeper

First off, yes, most of the show’s plot and characters are the inventions of the show’s creative writers, but the story does have elements based in our country’s history.  This approach is actually consistent with previous incarnations of the show as the original series did, after all, include notorious bisected murder victim Elizabeth Short a.k.a. The Black Dahlia in a memorable episode.

This series (yes, series, not season, because for some reason when each incarnation of the show is nominated for awards, it is nominated as a miniseries…) features at least two actual historic personages as important characters portrayed by award-winning actresses: Marie Laveau played by Angela Bassett and Delphine LaLaurie played by Kathy Bates.

Marie Laveau (September 10, 1794 – June 16, 1881), the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, was born of a white planter and free woman of color.  Much of her career as a Voodoo Queen is shrouded in legends and mysteries.  She may have had a snake named Zombi, owned a brothel, and “cured” clients of various ailments.

As with Laveau, many of the allegations against Marie Delphine LaLaurie ( c. 1775 – c. 1842) must also be called into question as possible later inventions of journalists or people looking to cash in on tourism by telling ghost stories.  If true, however, the stories about her would unquestionably make her one of history’s most depraved individuals, rivaling even the Blood Countess Elizabeth Bathory.

Among the crimes attributed to LaLaurie include excessive cruelty to slaves from whippings to tortures that one would expect to find in Dante’s “Inferno”!  The most bizarre claims even suggest that she contorted the limbs of her victims or had portions of their skin removed to make them resemble a crab and a caterpillar, respectively.  What happened next to LaLaurie remains largely a mystery, with one story claiming she was killed by a boar and another that she died in Paris.

As for her house of horrors, for some reason or another, actor Nicolas Cage eventually bought her mansion in New Orleans for a cool $3.5 million!

A third character is also based on a series of unsolved crimes from the early twentieth century, but he (or she?) is the subject of a separate article on this site!

Historical Evidence

For more information on the factual versus the legendary Delphine LaLaurie, please examine Mad Madame Lalaurie: New Orleans’s Most Famous Murderess Revealed and for more on Marie Laveau, you might consider A New Orleans Voudou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau.  As for the upcoming series based in part on their lives, please visit the official website for additional information. You can also watch the American Horror Story: The Complete First Season if you are interested in the show’s beginnings.

Mad Madame LaLaurie: New Orleans’ Most Famous Murderess Revealed (True Crime) (Paperback)

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A New Orleans Voudou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau (Paperback)

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American Horror Story: Season 1 [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)

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Dr. Zar

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history at multiple universities.

  • Breann G.

    I think this would be an interesting show to watch if I could find some free time to see it.

  • Brooke K.

    This does sound interesting, but I don’t have time to watch it each week.

  • James Calvin

    Watched the whole first season of the show on Netflix it was ok

  • Melissa Smith

    Although this show does sound pretty interesting, I just don’t have extra time to watch it.

  • Tyler Cates

    This show sounds interesting, but I don’t have time to watch this every week.

  • Jillian S.

    I love watching shows/movies that are horror or mystery related, so I will watch it!

  • T Harvey

    I don’t really watch TV much. I don’t have the time between school, work and my son. I hate to start watching shows because I never get to finish them and that irritates me to no end. So I try and avoid them all together.

  • RSiburt

    I would love to watch it. I was addicted to the first “season”, but since I don’t have cable I’ll just have to wait until it comes on Netflix…someday.

  • Lynnette B.

    Though the show does sound intriguing, I will not be watching is, as I have other shows that I watch on Wednesday nights.

  • Lynnette B.

    Though the show sounds very intriguing I will not be watching it, as I have other shows that I watch on Wednesdays.

  • Mallory M

    I am actually a season behind and plan to watch all of season 2 on Netflix this weekend!

  • A. Dunn

    I normally do not watch horror movies but I do plan on watching it !!!! It seems very interesting!!!

  • Angela Reed

    I’ve seen the commercials all the time, but I haven’t gotten the chance to watch it. I don’t have much time between work, class and everything else. I do have Netflix, so maybe!

  • Lia Hart

    I would just like to comment on how excited i was when i opened your email. Literally five minutes before I got on my login, I was freaking out because I just remembered that it starts tonight. Last series I watched was last year and it was honestly the most interesting show I’ve ever seen. I seriously cannot wait to begin watching every episode because it’s honestly addicting and I love it. Because last years series was so great, I hope this one doesn’t disappoint me. I can’t wait for the craziness to begin!

  • Kelley Stevens

    I think this would be pretty interesting. I prefer to watch shows and movies where I can laugh, but seeing that this somewhat relates to history and I am a history major, I think I’ll give it a shot.

  • T Goff

    Sorry, I didn’t watch this last night and I didn’t see my email until this morning, but it sounded very interesting. Hope it was a good show.

  • Kaitlyn Hummel

    I might watch it if I get the chance. I love that genre of shows, so there’s a good chance I’ll be sitting on my couch watching it at some point.

  • Ty Rodgers

    probably not…

  • Angela Cantor

    I may if it runs on Netflix or Hulu if Im bored, but I’m not going to make it a point to watch it.

  • Andrea O.

    I would not watch this because I hate scary/horror shows.

  • TMK

    Theresa K.
    I wish I would of got the e-mail earlier, I generally do not watch horror movies but this I would of watched to see what happened.

  • A Byers

    I watched the first season on Netflix and would love to watch the second season but Ill be too busy with school and work.

  • Ashley Arthur

    My favorite things to watch are horror movies, I wasn’t quite sure what this show was all about, but now that I know I will most likely watch it. Thank you for the description of what it is. If I find time out of my busy schedule I will watch it.

  • Matthew B.

    I’ve never watched it, but I may be interested in doing so since gaining more information on it.

  • KRT

    I actually watched the first season but I plan on watching this season as well. Im excited this season more then I was for the first one. I love anything with witches.

  • Rena F

    I have watched American Horror Story every season. I remember turning to my fiancé and stating that the Black Dahlia is true and him not really keeping up with events says “whatever.” Anyway I have DVR’d the series but have not watched it…I didn’t know how they would continue with the upcoming seasons seeing that they killed the almost all of the characters in the first season, but bravo to them because the way they are doing it now makes it even more interesting.

  • Noelle C

    I LOVE horror movies and scary shows! I have heard some peer reviews on this with mixed opinions so I think I might have to watch it to form my own opinion and see what all of this is about!

  • KF

    do not like this type of story read a book called Black Dalia which may have been based on the story I only caught a little of the episode.

  • S. Kessinger

    I have not watched previous seasons but I wanted this episode and I plan to continue watching the show. Its so morbid and creepy, but I liked it for some strange reason.

  • Justin D.

    Watched the show before might start watching it again.

  • Ethan R.

    Heck yeah I’d watch this! Everyone is always saying how good this series is. Maybe I should give it a try.

  • Tyler S.

    I have never watched the show before, but it sounds interesting, so I watch it.

  • LS

    I will not be watching the shows until it comes available on Netflix

    • AussieDisqus

      Wow. Fascinating.

  • James Sedoris

    I’ve been wanting to watch this show for a while now, but I don’t have cable or netflix so… I probably won’t.

  • Amoore

    The show is actually interesting especially after learning it had some historical element. I had some understanding that they recruited the young into a school to protect them, forge an alliance, and teach them understand and to control their powers.

  • Amoore

    some of the show is inappropriate for young children as when the girl was raped and also the girl who discovered when she had intercourse with men, she was able to kill them. Had to cover my daughters eyes. But I had been interested in it weeks prior to Dr Z mentioning it in class and we have the series recorded. (I love this type of programming) 🙂

  • JLS

    Yes I am definitely going to watch this season. I usually do not get into these types of shows or movies, but the new season looks good. I watched the first season and skipped the second because it just looked too disturbing for me. I usually like action movies. I do like the Sons of Anarchy and the Vampire Diaries series though.

  • Molly C

    I have never watched this series, but I have friends that do and love it. I may give it a try not that I have some back story on the upcoming season.

  • Karl Paulik

    I love this show. I have watched it since the first miniseries. It’s a great horror show and is always exciting

  • CB

    Wow, who would have thought there was a serial killer that targeted slaves. I never knew of Delphine LaLaurie (Sounds like it would make a good AC timeline). This is the first time I am hearing of her and she sound like she is one big mystery in and of herself.

  • Jeremy Snyder

    I like the show but wont be watching due to my lack of cable

  • CLM

    I have watched this before. It looks pretty good. I think I will watch it.

  • Abigail Allison

    I love watching shows that incorporate a historical element. I’ve watched this show before and thought it was well done and entertaining. I will probably wait to watch this show until it’s on Netflix and when this semester is over!

  • K^2

    Sounds like a show I would be interested in, I will only be watching it though if I am channel surfing and come across it. I’m not a series kinda gal.

  • Cody B

    I have heard of this show, but have never seen it. It might be too late to start watching now!

  • Amber J

    I have never watched this series, but I think it would be something to think about considering to watch!

  • Brandon Yurick

    making it halfway through this season it is interesting to see what they did with Delphines character.
    It is always fun to see someone from history somehow have to adjust to current times.

  • Brittany Branard

    This was one of my favorite shows and I had always known there was a lot of historical significance even if it wasn’t 100% accurate, but I was not aware there was this much that was somewhat linear to older times. I had done some research on LaLaurie and found her story disturbing, as it also piqued my interest. I did not know that Laveau was a real person until I read this article. Very interesting!

  • Steve Smith

    That’s pretty interesting information I was not aware of Delphine, and curious about how she could afford a house that would sell for 3.5 million. The have been some strange and gruesome people from all walks of life

  • Alex Guthrie

    I think this show has a lot more potential, but each season seems to be getting worse and worse…

  • Sammi DiGeronimo

    I LOVE this show although I am not caught up on every episode. I enjoy horror movies/TV shows a lot and I find it even more interesting when they are related to real events. I really had no idea that the women in the show were actual women in history! I hope to watch every episode soon!