The fourth season of American Horror Story premiered this October, and in typical AHS fashion, things got freaky. American Horror Story: Freak Show follows the lives of the so-called "freaks" of a sideshow run by Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange), but with the return of AHS favorite Pepper, the question of whether or not AHS seasons are connected has been reignited.
Lange isn't the only former American Horror Story star to return to the spooky roots — Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Kathy Bates, and several others have all returned in new roles. One actress, Naomi Grossman, returned to the series for the fourth season in a particularly surprising way — rather than taking on a new role, she reprised her part as Pepper from American Horror Story: Asylum.
Naturally, this sudden consistency made some fans speculate whether the four seasons on American Horror Story were really completely disconnected — if there was a crossover with Pepper, other things could be connected as well. Though the writers have not confirmed that there is a connection outside of Pepper, fans have a few different ideas about how the different stories on the FX drama might actually be a part of the same universe — and some of them make a whole lot of sense.
Here are my favorite and most plausible of the theories floating around out there:
American Horror Story is a Series of Campfire Tales
Reddit user ScooterSmith came up with the theory that the AHS plots are really being told over a campfire, Are You Afraid of the Dark? style. The Redditor suggested that perhaps the reason for the recurring actors has to do with the fact that they are all people sitting around the campfire listening to the story. As the theory goes, the end of the series could reveal that one of the recurring actors is simply the storyteller spinning the spooky yarn for his or her friends.
The American Horror Story Actors Play Characters With The Same Soul
Redditor T-Rex_Is_The_Best shared this theory on the same thread: The actors on American Horror Story may play different characters each season, but what if their original characters were also reincarnations of their previous characters? It would tie together all four seasons of the series without having to explain the fact that there are multiple people who look exactly alike sharing a universe. This theory would make the most sense to me, had it not been for the overlapping timelines between certain seasons — for example, Sarah Paulson in modern day is alive in all three separate seasons of the series.
There Are Multiples of Each American Horror Story Character
The reincarnation theory got me thinking about a double theory of my own (calling it cheating if you must, but I'm going to tell you anyway): Each character on the first season of American Horror Story has a double — or, in some cases, more than one double, some of which share dominating traits. For example, all of Jessica Lange's characters crave power or fame above all else, while Taissa Farmiga and Evan Peters' characters fell in love in both the first and third seasons. These doubles could therefore exist at the same time in history and simply not know of the others existence.
Certain American Horror Story Characters Are Descendants Of Others
Vulture recently did an analysis of all of the possible ways that American Horror Story characters could be related, and found a few interesting connections, the most significant being that Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) of American Horror Story: Coven shares a last name with the Murder House's original occupants, Nora (Lily Rabe) and Charles (Matt Ross). It does seem like an unusual consistency to have — could the writers have written that in to tell viewers that Madison is related to the Murder House?
American Horror Story Is Hell
Here's another intriguing theory from the Reddit thread, from Redditor ScooterSmith. The theory goes:
What if American Horror story is essentially Hell for our stock cast. Functioning on something like a Cyclical Truman Show, the cast are in Hell and are being forced to go back through and live these traumatizing lives over and over again for the rest of eternity? And through their characters they've played through the various seasons, they all depict a representation of their sin they've committed through their original life time?
It makes a lot of sense — it would explain some of the similarities in personalities between certain characters — but I'm wondering if we really can give Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk that much credit. Whether there is a true connection between the seasons or not, I'm excited to see where American Horror Story goes this season — and the next, and the one after that.
Image: Michele K. Short/FX; Giphy (6)