Is Shelby A Real Person On 'AHS: Roanoke'? Don't Be Fooled By The Docuseries Format
American Horror Story is a show that surrounds itself in mystery, but perhaps the greatest mystery it ever crafted was "The Mystery Of Whatever AHS: Season 6 Is About." It wasn't until the premiere of the sixth season of FX's flagship anthology series that fans learned that the show would be taking a unique approach to the season. Instead of a traditionally dramatic TV format, My Roanoke Nightmare featured two people — Shelby and Matt — telling the story of their life while Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr. performed a dramatic re-enactment. Fans had a lot of questions — notable among them, "Is Shelby a real person in AHS: Roanoke?" After all, the start of the episode did tease that the events were based on a true story.
Longtime fans of American Horror Story surely recognized that Shelby, the supposedly real person who recounts her Roanoke Nightmare for the audience, is actually AHS regular Lily Rabe. Rabe's presence has been a constant in the series, even if she sometimes has to take a smaller role like in Seasons 4 and 5, but now it looks like Rabe is back in a big way as one version of the main character. Not much about Shelby is known yet, though considering her terrifying experience with raining teeth I'm pretty grateful she isn't a real person. But, how does the yoga instructor hold up against Rabe's other AHS characters?
Nora Montgomery From AHS: Murder House
Nora Montgomery was Rabe's first foray into the wild world of American Horror Story, and it's no wonder she was invited back. The debutante wife of a popular surgeon, Nora becomes a ghost after suffering a tragedy and ending her own life. In her pre-ghost days, Nora could be fickle and cruel when feeling especially argumentative with her husband — but seemed to become more vulnerable after her own death. Seeing these two sides of Nora helped give Rabe exposure as an actor and probably helped in getting her invited back for future AHS seasons.
Sister Mary Eunice McKee From AHS: Asylum
Once again, Rabe played a role in Asylum that showcases her range as an actor. Sister Mary was once a kind, caring soul — but positive qualities like that tend to wash away once someone is possessed by the devil. Sister Mary Eunice McKee may go down as Rabe's best role from the series, simply because it allowed her to go all-out and give a fun, campy, menacing performance.
Misty Day From AHS: Coven
Even as Rabe's characters grew kinder, it seems impossible for her to shake off the menacing nature that she embodies in each of her AHS roles. While Misty Day is, objectively, less evil that Sister Mary Eunice (which isn't saying much), she still has an air of unpredictability about her in ever scene. While Misty Day has a primarily empathetic outlook on life — loving animals and Stevie Nicks with equal passion — she is still a witch. Day was Rabe's last major AHS role for a while — but she certainly left on quite a high note.
Sister Mary Eunice McKee From AHS: Freak Show
Lily Rabe may not have been a major character in AHS: Freak Show, but that didn't stop her from making a cameo appearance and being among the first actresses in AHS history to reprise a role they played in an earlier season. Freak Show gives a brief look at Mary Eunice's pre-Asylum days and her introduction to Pepper, an inmate at Briarcliffe.
Aileen Wuornos From AHS: Hotel
Lily Rabe once again took a smaller role in AHS: Hotel, playing a familiar face but not in the way she did with AHS: Freak Show. Instead of embodying a former AHS role, Rabe plays the very real serial killer Aileen Wuornos during a meeting of great deceased serial killers organized by James Patrick March. Rabe once again delivers an unsettling, powerful performance as the deceased Wuornos, seducing and attempting to murder Detective John Lowe.
So what does this mean for Shelby? All of Rabe's other characters have been over-the-top characters with usually cruel or evil intentions — but Shelby just seems like a normal person. If Shelby was meant to just be a normal person, why use an actress so adept at playing evil and demented as Lily Rabe? Perhaps as the season goes on, fans will discover that there is a lot more to Shelby than meets the eye.
Images: FX, Giphy (5)