September 28, 2016: American Horror Story Taps Real Life Once Again

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A Brief History

Just as they have in the past, with a nod to Delphine LaLaurie of season 3 and the freaks featured in season 4, as well as season 5’s tribute to the Cecil Hotel, American Horror Story leans heavily on basing their current season (season 6) on the mystery of the Roanoke Colony and throwing in a real life pair of serial killers, Gwendolyn Graham and Cathy Wood, who are depicted in the second episode of the season in their nurse outfits murdering an old woman and painting a letter “M” on the wall, just as the real killers did. (This dynamic duo of doom murdered at least 5 people who were patients in a nursing home in 1987.)

Digging Deeper

This year’s edition of the spooky television show deals with a married couple that move to Roanoke Island, the scene of the famous “Lost Colony’ that was found abandoned in 1590, with no trace of where the English settlers had gone. On this spooky, allegedly haunted ground, the new dwelling of is the base of a lot of evil, paranormal goings on told to the audience in a documentary style, featuring 2 sets of actors, the first set being the “real” couple, and the other being actors portraying the “real” couple.

Mugshots of Gwen Graham (top) and Cathy Wood (bottom)

The docu-drama approach is new to American Horror Story, but many previous actors are again found in this season’s cast, including Angela Basset, Kathy Bates, Lady Gaga, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Denis O’Hare, Wes Bentley, Cheyenne Jackson, Evan Peters and Adina Porter. Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Andre Holland round out the main characters.

American Horror Story airs on FX on Wednesdays at 10 pm.

Promotional poster and home media cover art

Questions for students: Are you watching the current season of American Horror Story?  Have you watched the past seasons?  If so, which season is your favorite and why?

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Historical Evidence

For more on the real life murderers, please see articles on The Huffington Post and The Wrap, as well as the following book:

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For more on the Lost Colony of Roanoke, please see…

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The featured image in this article, mugshots of Gwen Graham and Cathy Woods, two serial killers, can be found here.  It is believed that the use of this work:

  • To illustrate the subject in question
  • Where no free equivalent is available or could be created that would adequately give the same information
  • The picture is irreplaceable, since the people were sentenced to super long prison terms and no editor can go to prison and take their picture and then upload here.
  • The resolution is not high.
  • The image, as mugshots, is used to illustrate the criminals for educational purposes.

qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.