What Does "Croatoan" Mean For 'American Horror Story'? The FX Series May Be Taking On A Big Mystery

The new season of American Horror Story is creeping towards us, but we still know very little about it. Some of the clues, in fact, are as mysterious in and of themselves are they are for the series. Earlier this year, American Horror Story set pictures revealed the word "croatoan" carved into wood. What does "croatoan" mean? The word, and the way it is displayed in the photos, is a direct homage to the mysterious lost colony of Roanoke, North Carolina — but croatoan's spooky story doesn't end there.

While Plymouth rock is legendary and Jamestown, Virginia was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas, Roanoke came first in 1587, according to the History Channel's website. There's just the tiny problem that, after three years, they disappeared. According to History, Governor John White sailed back to England for supplies, was delayed by naval warfare between England and Spain, and returned to find an empty village. The entire colony's population, including the first English child born on American soil, vanished. Even today, scientists and historians can't quite figure out what happened to the original 115 Roanoke settlers.

The only thing left behind was the word "croatoan" — carved into a fence post on the town's edge, according to History, just like the American Horror Story set photos. Additionally, the letters "CRO" were carved into a nearby tree, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Scary, right? Were the colonists telling future settlers where they had gone, who they had moved in with, or who/what killed them? It's a mystery. The most likely definition is that Croatoan refers to the Croatan Indians, a local tribe, according to History. Gizmodo also speculated that it could also refer to Croatoan Island, now known as Hatteras Island, where the colonists may have fled to... apparently in such a hurry, however, that one poor soul wasn't allowed to finish carving the word on the tree. The "CRO" clue is what makes me, personally, learn towards massacre or disease theories.

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Over the years, the word allegedly cropped up in increasingly mysterious places, according to common myth. Some of these widely-believed instances, though unsubstantiated, include the word supposedly having been written in Amelia Earhart's journal and allegedly whispered by a dying Edgar Allen Poe. Almost every time the word was allegedly whispered or written someone supposedly died or vanished, according to the unproven myth lore.

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How does this all connect to American Horror Story? Fans of the show have already heard this word before. Aaron Pruner from Zap2It points out that in Season 1, Sarah Paulson's character divulged a (fictional) legend that involved an exorcism at Roanoke and the word "croatoan" being uttered by an elder. Season 6 is set in two time periods, according to TVLine, so perhaps the show is going to revisit the mythology of Season 1.

Unsurprisingly, American Horror Story is not the first to take on The Lost Colony. The unsolved mystery is rich material for storytelling, as you can imagine. Supernatural defined croatoan as a virus capable of destroying an entire town. Sleepy Hollow also had an episode in which Roanoke mysteriously relocated to Upstate New York. I can't wait to see what American Horror Story Season 6 does with this tiny word that holds so much bizarre weight.

Images: FX, Giphy