You can take the girl out of American Horror Story, but you can't take the Horror Story out of the girl. Despite the fact that actress Lily Rabe — who played fan-favorite characters Sister Mary Eunice in Asylum and Misty Day in Coven — left Ryan Murphy's anthology series as a series regular after Season 3 to pursue other projects, she hasn't been able to resist dropping by for exciting guest roles in the years since. In Freak Show, Rabe reprised her Asylum role when Sister Mary showed up to escort Pepper to Briarcliff Manor. So when Lily Rabe appears on AHS: Hotel, it will be the first time viewers see her as a new character since Misty ended up trapped in hell in the finale of Coven. She'll be checking into Hotel as serial killer Aileen Wuornos — just one of AHS's many interpretations of an actual historical figure. But, what happened to Aileen Wuornos in real life?
Admittedly, her story is not a pretty one; reading her biography is pretty much an exercise in misery. Wuornos' mother was only 16 when she was born, and her father was in prison for sex crimes against minors. Before she was even four years old, her mother abandoned both her and her older brother, who were adopted by their maternal grandparents. Wuornos' grandfather was an alcoholic who she claimed beat and sexually assaulted her; she also got pregnant at age 14 after one of his friends allegedly raped her. (The baby was put up for adoption.) By the time she was 15, she was living in the woods and working as a prostitute.
When she was 20, Wuornos hitchhiked her way from Michigan to Florida, where she quickly married Lewis Gratz Fell, a 69-year-old yacht club owner. Their marriage was annulled only nine weeks later after Fell accused her of assaulting him with his own cane. That same year, her brother died of cancer, and Wuornos collected $10,000 in life insurance — which she quickly spent. About 10 years later, she met a hotel maid named Tyria Moore in a Florida gay bar; the pair moved in together while Wuornos continued to work as a prostitute.
Wuornos committed her first murder in 1989, when she was 33; his name was Richard Mallory, a convicted sex offender who she later claimed she shot in self-defense after he allegedly violently assaulted her. Over the next 12 months, Wuornos allegedly shot and killed another six men, ranging in age from 40 to 65. She and Moore were eventually apprehended after a witness saw them in the process of abandoning one of the victim's car. Moore quickly turned against Wuornos, testifying against her former lover in exchange for immunity for prosecution. In 1992, Wuornos was convicted of six of the seven murders (the body of one of her alleged victims was never found); she was given a separate death sentence for each conviction.
In 2001, Wuornos penned a letter to the Florida Supreme Court dismissing her legal counsel and putting a stop to any appeals on her behalf. She wrote:
I killed those men, robbed them as cold as ice. And I'd do it again, too. There's no chance in keeping me alive or anything, because I'd kill again. I have hate crawling through my system ... I am so sick of hearing this 'she's crazy' stuff. I've been evaluated so many times. I'm competent, sane, and I'm trying to tell the truth. I'm one who seriously hates human life and would kill again.
Wuornos was executed by lethal injection at 9:47 a.m. on Oct. 9, 2002. She was 46 years old.
In the world of American Horror Story, how exactly does Aileen Wuornos get from 1980s Florida to modern day Los Angeles? As far as anyone knows, the real Wuornos never traveled to California. So what's she doing in the Hotel Cortez? "The biggest serial killers of all time all come to the hotel. [John Wayne] Gacy. Aileen [Wuornos]," showrunner Ryan Murphy teases about Rabe's episode. "[Wes Bentley's detective character] John Lowe’s invited to a devil’s night dinner. He thinks someone is pulling a huge prank on him. It’s the biggest serial killers of all time in a room with him and he has to figure out who is trying to make him lose his mind."
Has the Cortez actually summoned Wuornos' spirit? Or is it, in fact, all an elaborate prank and it will be revealed that Rabe isn't playing the real serial killer — but an imposter? We'll find out when the very special two-week Halloween special airs starting on Wednesday, Oct. 21.