American Horror Story: Murder House Explained

It’s the alpha and omega of the current American Horror Story universe, with viewers returning…

It’s the alpha and omega of the current American Horror Story universe, with viewers returning to it time and time again. The “Murder House” of 1120 Westchester Place was featured in the first season of AHS, its hotel-oriented fifth season, its apocalyptic eighth season, and now in its new anthology spinoff American Horror Stories. Nestled not too far west from the Hotel Cortez in Los Angeles, the seemingly inoffensive abode has been the location of some three dozen deaths over its tenure. Even though the home has stood for nearly a century, the amount of violence enacted within its walls is staggering. Unbeknownst to casual observers, anybody who has died within the house or on its premises has become a ghost and is tied to its confines for eternity.

Murder House’s Origins (American Horror Story Seasons 1 and 5)

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Image via FX

The home that would come to be known as the Murder House was built in 1922 by the acclaimed surgeon Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross) as a gift for his wife Nora (Lily Rabe). Nora was known well for her taste in luxurious comforts, and Charles was addicted to the ether he often used as an anesthetic on patients. The costs proved to be almost too exorbitant for the pair, and Charles began to provide abortion services within the house’s basement. One of these operations was performed in 1926 on a Los Angeles actress known as Elizabeth (Lady Gaga).

Despite only allegedly being three weeks along, Elizabeth was showing her pregnancy akin to a woman much further in the pregnancy. The operation changed from abortion to birth when it was discovered that Elizabeth’s child was alive, albeit deformed. The child known as Bartholomew would attack Charles’ nursing assistant and feed on her blood. Despite these terrible circumstances, Charles informed Elizabeth that she had given birth to a boy, and gave the child to his mother who accepted him wholeheartedly.

Sometime later, the acts of Charles Montgomery would come back to burn the family. The boyfriend of one of the women Charles had performed an abortion for kidnapped Charles and Nora’s son Thaddeus. The young boy was mercilessly dismembered and sent back to the Montgomeries in assorted jars. Grief overwhelmed Charles, and he began a secret and insane plan to revive his son in a Frankenstein-style undertaking. Using the still-beating hearts of one of his patients, Charles was successful, but his son was no longer the jubilant toddler he once was — he had become a sharp-toothed monstrosity. Though this creature was never named in the American Horror Story series, it came to be billed by the cast and crew as the Infantata (Benjamin Woolf/Shane Carpenter).

Witnessing what her son had become was too much for Nora, pushing her over the brink and causing her to murder her husband with a gunshot to the head before turning the gun on herself. Their son would continue to inhabit the home in its basement, but the house would not see another occupant for at least another decade.

The Black Dahlia, the Infantata, and the R. Franklin Murders (American Horror Story Season 1)

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Image via FX

In 1947, another young actress made her way to the house by the name of Elizabeth Short (Mena Suvari). The Murder House had been made into a dentist’s office for the time, and Elizabeth was recommended the office’s owner, Dr. David Curran for top-notch dental work. Short made it quite clear to the unusual Dr. Curran that she was short on cash and would do whatever she needed to secure her dental work.

After placing her under anesthesia, Curran proceeded to sexually assault Short. However, the anesthetic administered was a lethal dose, killing Short and leaving Curran to drag her body into the basement. The spirit of Charles Montgomery was happy to assist with Curran’s dilemma, heavily dismembering the body before cutting Short’s mouth into the shape of a Glasgow Smile. Curran would leave the body at a nearby park, setting the stage for the investigation of the “Black Dahlia Murder.” Curran’s whereabouts after the incident are unknown, and the house soon changed hands once again.

Murder House would go on to become a sorority house for nursing students in the 1960s, harboring two students in particular named Gladys (Celia Finkelstein) and Maria (Rosa Salazar). On a night in the house in 1968 after turning down an opportunity to see The Doors perform, Maria answers a knock at the door to find a seemingly wounded man named R. Franklin (Jamie Harris). The two girls would find out too late that the man’s injuries were feigned, and he would proceed to kill Gladys by drowning and Maria by multiple stab wounds to the back. After the deaths of Gladys and Maria, it is inferred that the sorority house was shut down.

After decades of horrible acts committed within the house’s confines, it was finally left abandoned. However, this didn’t stop the violence as intended. In 1977, two twin boys named Troy and Bryan Rutger (Kai and Bodhi Schultz) broke into the house and vandalized it for fun. Against the wishes of their friend Addie (Jamie Brewer), the twins demolished the interior of the house before entering the basement. Upon finding the jars of severed body parts left by Charles Montgomery, the two attempted to flee but were murdered and consumed by the Infatata. Like so many of the other victims, their spirits lived on in the house, unable to depart its boundaries.

Enter the Langdon and Harmon Families (American Horror Story Season 1)

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Image via FX

From the early 1980s to the mid-1990s, the house was inhabited by a woman named Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange) along with her husband Hugo (Eric Close) and their four children: Addie, Beauregard (Sam Kinsey), Rose (Raina Matheson), and Tate (Evan Peters). One day, Constance witnessed her husband having an affair with the family housekeeper Moira (Frances Conroy/Alexandra Breckenridge), and she was driven into a rage. Constance murdered both Hugo and Moira and fed their bodies through a meat grinder, feeding their remains to the family’s dogs. Their bones were then disposed of in the backyard, Constance’s attempt to hide the deed from her children and the police. She and her children would leave the property afterward.

Constance would return to the house once more when she seduced a man named Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare), who owned the property and lived with his wife Lorraine (Rebecca Wisocky) and their two daughters. Larry wasn’t a man who beat around the bush and decided to send his wife and daughters to his mother’s residence in order to live in the house with Constance. When Lorraine discovered the affair, she was driven mad with hopelessness. She went into her daughters’ room and set it ablaze with all three of them inside, there were no survivors. Larry would go on to live with Constance, but her children reviled him.

RELATED: ‘American Horror Stories’: Matt Bomer on Shooting with the Rubber (Wo)Man Suit and the Choice to Live in a Murder House

In the mid-1990s, Constance had Larry smother her son Beauregard due to his physical deformities. Tate, guided by the vengeful spirits that had accrued in the house, took revenge for the death of his brother by burning Larry alive at his workplace. Larry would survive but would be horrendously burned. Tate didn’t stop at his mother’s lover, however, and he proceeded to head to his school of Westfield High. Tate would go on to kill 15 students from the school, attracting the attention of the police, who followed Tate back to the house. As he fled inside, a S.W.A.T. team shot Tate to death in his bedroom, consigning his spirit to the Murder House permanently. Constance would once again leave the property, but moved nearby in order to stay connected to the house ghosts, three of which were her own children (Tate, Beauregard, as well as Rose at an undisclosed time).

In 2010, a new set of faces would purchase and restore the house to its former luster. Chad Warwick (Zachary Quinto) and his boyfriend Patrick (Teddy Sears) were drawn to the house for its still-intact decor, hopeful for what they could turn the house into. Sadly, they were both butchered on Halloween night by a mysterious figure known as the Rubber Man (Riley Schmidt). The BDSM-themed killer’s costume was originally purchased by Chad, thinking he could rip Patrick from his online sexual fantasizing. The suit was never used by Chad or Patrick, which left a question: Who donned the suit and took their lives?

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Image via FX

In 2011, the Harmon family would come to own the house, kicking off the first season of American Horror Story. Psychiatrist Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott), his wife Vivien (Connie Britton), and their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) only lasted a year within the house. Like many of the house’s former owners, things were anything but sunshine and rainbows. Ben was having an affair with one of his former students, named Hayden (Kate Mara), and Violet is carrying on a peculiar relationship with the ghost of Tate, though she is unaware that Tate is actually dead.

Over the course of their year in Murder House, the Harmons would be subject to horrors unimaginable from both the living and the deceased. Copycat killers named Dallas (Kyle Davis) and Fiona (Azura Skye) attacked the family in hope of reenacting the R. Franklin murders. The presence of the Infatata and Rubber Man would make the house a dangerous place to tread, as well as the return of Larry Harvey, who had begun murderous deeds against the family. In the end, the family would not survive and would become part of the house’s ghostly inhabitants. Vivien would die delivering two children: One would draw one breath and pass away, joining the house’s spirits, the other becoming the unholy creation of the union of a human and a ghost. Tate had raped Vivien, and his living son Michael (Cody Fern) would go on to become the Anti-Christ and the antagonist of American Horror Story: Apocalypse.

On Violet’s front, she had come to the realization that Tate was not only a ghost but also the Rubber Man, who had killed Chad and Patrick as well as forced himself on her mother. In her grief, she overdosed on sleeping pills. She would not learn of her status as a ghost until much later when Tate showed her where she had died. Unable to come to grips with Tate’s actions, Violet breaks things off with him.

Ben, overcome with grief at the loss of his daughter and wife, contemplates taking his own life as well. However, Violet and Vivien appear before him and tell him to escape with the child who survived. Unfortunately for Ben, he was murdered by the spirits of Hayden, Dallas, and Fiona. Ben is able to become one of the house ghosts and spend eternity with his daughter, wife, and infant child. The non-malicious spirits of the house then do their utmost to ensure that nobody returns to the house to suffer another terrible fate. A family known as the Ramos Family would move in temporarily, but the house’s ghosts would run them off in a night and ultimately spare them from the murderous influence of the more vicious spirits.

Return to Murder House (American Horror Story Season 8)

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Image via FX

In 2017, the Salem Coven of witches purchased the house while investigating Michael, as he was temporarily in line to become the next head of the coven. The witches Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) and Behold Chablis (Billy Porter) would also remark that due to the coven owning the house, no more people would have to die and become ghosts within. This was unfortunately undone, as the witch Mallory (Billie Lourd) travels back in time and kills Michael due to his advent as the Anti-Christ. By killing Michael in the past, Madison and Behold never arrive at Murder House. It is unknown as to whether the house ghosts were affected by this change in the timeline, as the spirits were said to not be held by time in the same way mortals were.

Rise of the Rubber (wo)Man (American Horror Stories Episodes 1 and 2)

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Image via FX/Hulu

While this ends the main continuity of American Horror Story’s time in Murder House, the spinoff American Horror Stories would revisit it during its two-part debut. In this new series, the couple Troy and Michael Winslow (Gavin Creel and Matt Bomer) would move into the house with their daughter Scarlett (Sierra McCormick). Much like the previous occupants, horror would ensue.

Scarlett’s violent and sexual impulses intertwine, and she is confronted by her parents about her interest in sadistic porn. As Scarlett begins to embrace her darker side, the influence of the malicious ghosts in the house returns. Infidelity also rises again, as Troy cheats on Michael with the renovations contractor named Adam (Aaron Tveit). Scarlett dons the Rubber Man costume, becoming the titular “Rubber Woman” of the new episodes, and proceeds to enter a murder spree alongside her girlfriend Ruby McDaniel (Kaia Gerber). Troy and Michael are among the victims, as well as many others. Scarlett eventually leaves the house, but returns on nights such as Halloween in order to keep the spirits company. After all, the Murder House is crowded, and Scarlett didn’t mind taking her killing spree on the road.

With so much story packed into a few seasons and nearly a century of in-universe lore, it’s no surprise that AHS’ showrunners have returned to Murder House time and time again. With so many memorable characters that phase in and out of the plot much like their incorporeal forms, there’s something for longtime American Horror Story fans every time the showrunners double back to the house’s otherworldly foundation. It’s almost like returning and seeing old friends after a long time apart. The world may have changed, but they’re still there and happy to see you back. It’s doubtless that this familiarity has built a great rapport with longtime AHS fans, and it likely always will be.

American Horror Story is streaming now on FX on Hulu. New episodes of American Horror Stories premiere Thursdays.

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