One of the Oldest American Horror Story Theories Might Be Legit
It's hard to believe we're on the cusp of the eighth season of American Horror Story. In a few months' time, we'll enter the terrifying mashed-up world of Murder House and Coven, giving us an even broader view of this hellish universe.
Speaking of hellish, it's time we talked about one of the oldest and most insane theories about AHS. Basically, the theory states that every season of the show represents a different circle of Hell. It even might explain why the same actors are playing different characters: we're seeing them suffer their different forms of damnation, depending on how they lived their lives.
While the theory has been posed by dozens of different people in dozens of different ways, I did my research and attempted to track down the first time it appeared. It seems the credit might go to Jacqueline Bircher, who originally posted the theory on a TV site called Red Herry in January 2014. This would have been halfway through Coven, the show's third season, and a solid nine months before creator Ryan Murphy first declared that all of the seasons are connected.
Of course, in the wake of Murphy's reveal, we had plenty of connection theories. And then, as more seasons aired, we had assembled more and more confirmed threads. But this one prevailing theory seemed to be an incredible way to connect every single installment.
In 2017, Murphy made a wild decision: on his official Instagram account, he posted a screenshot alluding to this four-and-a-half-year-old theory and simply captioned it with one word: "Interesting." Interesting because he's so impressed with the wild imagination and creativity of AHS's fan base? Interesting because this was his plan all along and someone finally figured it out? Interesting because he hadn't really thought about it that way, but now that you mention it, maybe he'll just pretend it was his plan all along and act accordingly?! It's hard to say for sure.
What's complicated here is, we don't really know where Murphy is posting this screenshot from. Did he stumble across it on the internet? Did he write it in his own notes app, screenshot it, and share it? Either way, let's look at which circles of Hell correspond to which seasons, based on what Murphy shared. Let's make this clear: this is by no means a confirmation of the theory, or even the most accurate iteration of it. Still, if the theory is real, you might consider this the most "canonical" version of it, since it's been shared by the AHS creator himself.
Season One (Murder House) = Limbo
The Harmon household itself is a space that exists between our earthly existence and Hell. This checks out because Violet dies in the house and stays in the house, and she's never able to leave. In fact, none of the spirits that die there are able to leave. All of the characters are caught in between.
Season Two (Asylum) = Fraud
Everything in Asylum is a lie. Briarcliff is supposed to be a mental institution, but it's a front for all the horrible experiments performed by Dr. Arden. The church is heavily involved in the inner workings of the asylum, but it's entirely corrupt. Dr. Thredson is actually a serial killer. Sister Mary Eunice is actually a demon! Nothing is real. Not even that fabulous musical number.
Season Three (Coven) = Treachery
The third season of the show is all about crowning the next Supreme, a great witch who will govern all the other witches for the rest of her life. All the episodes are filled with backstabbing; each character ruthlessly attempts to prove that they are the next Supreme. Fiona slits Madison's throat. Marie Laveau seems intent on killing Fiona. Madison brains Misty and traps her in a tomb. Cordelia's husband is the one who blinds her with acid. Everyone is just trying to destroy everyone.
Season Four (Freak Show) = Greed
Elsa Mars's little collection of curiosities is all about exploitation. She herself is on a journey to get rich and famous and find stardom. At the same time, she's taking advantage of her employees by making money off of their deformities and imperfections. By the time we reach the end of the story, it's clear that Elsa is keen to sell the freak show without a second thought.
Season Five (Hotel) = Gluttony
I mean, by the end of the last episode, Hotel Cortez is more or less filled to the brim with creatures who survive on blood. And there's that band of blood-sucking children running around and wreaking havoc for a good chunk of the time. The gluttonous tendencies are clear from the very start, when Lady Gaga and Matt Bomer's sexual foursome quickly devolves into a grisly bloodbath. The trend continues. Iris feasts on those insufferable hipsters. It goes on and on.
Season Six (Roanoke) = Anger
This time around, the focus is on pure, unadulterated rage. The Butcher is just so, so angry that people are invading her land, and she kills everyone who refuses to leave. There are some nuances, of course. But more or less, that's it. That's basically the whole season. And a lot of people die because of it. It's just a season filled with spiteful, violent, angry deaths.
Season Seven (Cult) = Heresy
Heresy usually has to do with beliefs that contradict a kind of religious doctrine. As we know, Kai is a true beacon of chaotic evil in Cult. He's an insane, Trump-loving monster. The cult dresses as clowns to murder those who stand in their way. There are many events in the season that nod at this religious tension, and Kai is at the center of it. We have lost sight of God, and this is what has happened because of it.
Season 8 (Murder House/Coven) = ?
OK, here's the part where we speculate on season eight, which Ryan Murphy has confirmed as the Murder House/Coven crossover. We have two remaining circles, Lust and Violence, and we can make a strong case for either one.
When you consider violence, both Murder House and Coven are pretty grisly seasons. In the former, Tate plans a school shooting, and many deaths occur on the Harmon property. Violet Harmon commits suicide and ends up dead in a crawl space. Even the Black Dahlia shows up as one of Dr. Harmon's patients! And don't get us started on the horrifying demon monster baby that's lurking in the basement.
When you look at Coven, there's also a lot of crazy violence, starting with Delphine LaLaurie's horrifying torture of her house servants. And that Minotaur? No thanks. Let's also not forget that the witches die in all kinds of horrible ways, Kyle is put back together like Frankenstein's monster's terrible stepson, Fiona and Marie Laveau kill a whole bunch of witch hunters, Cordelia gets acid thrown in her face, there's a murderous Axeman . . . the list goes on. It wouldn't be out of the question to believe season eight becomes the circle of Hell that represents Violence.
But wait! Both Murder House and Coven are also pretty lusty. In season one, Dr. Harmon is cheating on his wife while also checking out the hot maid (who is actually a much older woman). He also cries and masturbates a lot. Then there's the fact that Tate romances Violet but also has sex with her mother to create a demon baby. And, I mean, if you're going to introduce a literal "Rubber Man" in a latex sex suit, it's hard not to think of lust.
In Coven, Kyle sleeps with both Zoe and Madison, while Queenie gets weirdly involved with the Minotaur. And let's not forget the hunky next-door neighbor that all the witches fawn over, more or less. There's even some kind of crazy sex ritual between Cordelia and her husband, remember?
Clearly, season eight could go either way, which honestly bodes well for the veracity of the theory.
Season 9 = ?
After season eight, there will theoretically be one season (and one circle) left. Season nine would logically focus whatever season eight doesn't: Lust or Violence. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of this whole thing is that, in January 2017, FX renewed the show for seasons eight and nine. Could it be that Murphy pitched this as his big-picture plan? Could the show end after that? I mean, there could also be a 10th season where all of the previous nine installments collide, and everything descends into complete and utter chaos.
Then again, is an end really in sight for AHS? I mean, probably not. After all, at one point, Murphy said he hoped the show would last "decades and decades." Still, it makes you wonder. What comes after Hell?