Theories About Sarah Paulson's 'AHS: Roanoke' Character Hint That There's More To Shelby

Now that viewers are going into the third episode of the ever-mysterious Season 6 of American Horror Story, they know that the new season is subtitled Roanoke, and that it's about a couple haunted by the inhabitants of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Because the new season of AHS is told through a documentary format, actors Lily Rabe and Sarah Paulson share the role of Shelby, with Paulson playing Shelby in "reenactments" and Rabe playing her in the talking head portion. Though the format is definitely different for American Horror Story, it also seems fairly straightforward — which is why Paulson's description of AHS character Shelby as a "real live human" in an interview with Gold Derby is just a tad surprising. What does that clue mean about the season moving forward? There has to be more to Paulson's character than what we're seeing on American Horror Story: Roanoke

American Horror Story didn't pull any stops when it came to setting up a seriously twisted mystery for their sixth season. Unlike previous seasons of the show, which released plot and character descriptions in the weeks leading up to the premiere episode, FX's horror anthology series decided not to disclose the season's subtitle or theme until the very night American Horror Story Season 6 aired. Even the actors weren't allowed to say much about the new season, which is why Paulson had to keep her descriptor to three simple words. But the thing is, Paulson isn't actually playing "Shelby" — technically, Paulson is playing an actor who is playing the part of Shelby, while Rabe is playing the actual person. (Yeah, just a tad confusing.) 

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According to creator Ryan Murphy's interview with Entertainment Weekly, AHS will have a major twist in the back half of Season 6, and it might illuminate Paulson's cryptic words. Here are some theories on why Paulson described her character as a "real live human." 

1. Rabe's Shelby Is An Alien

It's interesting that Paulson described her character as "human" when American Horror Story is notorious for bringing other worldly creatures into the mix. In American Horror Story: Asylum, the series had a strong alien presence, but since then, no other seasons have featured extraterrestrial life. Knowing what we know about the Lost Colony of Roanoke — the residents of the colony vanished — it's possible that it was aliens who were behind the disappearance. Could the "real" Shelby (Rabe) be an alien who faked the story of her haunting in order to stop people from investigating further into alien life? 

2. The Real Shelby Is A Witch

One fan theory is that Rabe's Shelby is actually a witch — and that she sacrificed the life of her unborn baby in order to save her husband Matt after he was attacked by a gang. Paulson could be referencing the fact that while Rabe's Shelby is a witch, Paulson is an actor playing the human version of her.

3. Paulson Is Referencing The Fact That We'll See "Behind The Scenes"

Murphy told Entertainment Weekly that the later episodes of the season will be wildly different from the early ones, which could mean that we're going to break out of the documentary framework and go for a more traditional American Horror Story format. It would make a lot of sense: Currently, the show doesn't have the traditional AHS intro and is referred to as My Roanoke Nightmare instead of American Horror Story: Roanoke. Perhaps we'll meet Paulson's character once she shakes the Shelby role she's playing on the fictional doc series. Her "real live human" might be a working actor with no real ties to the supernatural.

4. The Real Shelby Is Dead

Maybe both Rabe and Paulson are playing actors, and the real Shelby died during the haunting in Roanoke, just as the Harmon family did in American Horror Story: Murder House. Paulson could be teasing that while her character is a living human, the real Shelby is not. With so many potential layers to this story — and that big twist coming our way — it might be what Paulson doesn't say here that is most important. 

Only time will tell what Paulson's mysterious quote really means, and I'm going to be glued to my TV on Wednesdays to find out.

Images: FX; ahsgifs/Tumblr (4)

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