'American Horror Story's Fourth Season Has a LOT of Potential Source Material

Now that it's been confirmed that American Horror Story will return for a fourth season of all its creepy-crawly-crazy goodness (praise Fiona Goode!), it's time to speculate on what in the world the next iteration of the miniseries will look like. Because why stop the fun at just talking about its return when we could look at some of the terrible, no good, very bad things that've happened in this country's history that are rife with possibilities for Horror's future? Everybody loves a good hypothetical.

The fact of the matter — and what makes Ryan Murphy's miniseries-within-a-series so brilliant — is AHS' credibility and success rests solely on its ability to take horrible instances so ingrained in American culture and make them new, thrilling, and interesting television. And he's certainly never been one to shy away from making commentary about society through plot points.

Be it the culture of obsession, the American mental health system, or the persecution of females/witches, all of these stories are plainly American in nature, and provide an interesting mirror with which to reflect our worst moments at us, effectively turning reality into horrific, playful nightmare. It's a blend of historical facts, campy figures, and a heck of a lot scare tactics rolled into one beautifully successful TV ball. Plus it's a great way to make lemonade out of the terrible atrocities this nation has thus far seen.

So there's plenty — and I mean plenty! — that Murphy has to work with. We've decided to speculate on a few possibilities.

The Stanford Prison ExperimentThe notorious Stanford Prison Experiment was a study gone way, way awry, focusing on the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard over 6 days in 1971. The whole thing — made up of 24 randomly-assigned male students — took turn towards the ugly. Fast. Faux-guards and prisoners alike quickly acclimated to their roles in a bad way; stepping far beyond the limits of predicted behavior and ultimately leading to two prisoners' early removal, as well as multiple complaints of emotional trauma. Turns out one-third of the guards were considered to have exhibited "genuine sadistic tendencies," which is a frightening enough prospect.

Which all makes this the perfect breeding ground for spooky scaries if you think about it. Turn the warden into an actual demon, have the prisoners be possessed. Maybe throw in a ghost or two: the possibilities are pretty endless.

The Trail of TearsIn yet another horrific tale from the depths of American history comes The Trail of Tears, a name given to the forced relocation of several Native American nations thanks to the Indian Removal Act of 1830. (Oh that Andrew Jackson.) It saw 46,000 Native Americans forced from their homes — all such a bunch of just-showed-up (relatively speaking) white folks could come in and get themselves settled. Thousands of Native Americans died on the road to said camps, facing disease, starvation, and exposure to the elements on their way. A truly horrific situation.

The plight of the "other" is no stranger to American shores, nor was this the last instance of pseudo-ethnic cleansing, either (hello Japanese internment camps — another idea for you, Murph!). Needless to say, between the mythical histories and the myriad of legends found in their many, varied spiritual beliefs, it's easy to see how a season of American Horror Story could come to fruition from here.

John Wayne Gacy/Killer ClownSerial killers are terrifying, but perhaps no so terrifying as John Wayne Gacy, the serial murder-rapist who was convicted of doing just that to at least 33 young boys between 1972 - 1978 in Chicago, Illinois. The whole story of Gacy is quite unsettling at best and truly horrifically terrifying at worst. Tricky dark subject matter like serial murder, terrible childhoods, and repressed sexuality are totally in Murphy's wheelhouse, as is the psychological interplay of all three.

Gacy was alternatively known as the Killer Clown thanks to a character he devised, Pogo the Clown, who would regularly attend and perform at fundraising events, parades, and children's parties. Perhaps Gacy's creepy alter-ego becomes a bigger entity in the American Horror version.

The Jersey DevilPerhaps the most campy option of the three, it's also the one where Murphy could have the most fun with horror. Now, perhaps I'm biased given the several years I spent in New Jersey as a collegiate, but the Garden State is rife with weirdness ( Weird New Jersey is a point of pride for most). None weirder, perhaps, than the namesake for its NHL team, the Jersey Devil. One part Native American folklore and another steeped in real-life history, it is said that the Jersey Devil was the 13th child of the Leeds family — declared "the devil" by its mother in utero — born with wings, hooves, the head of a goat, and a blood-curdling bellow. A fast-paced chase around the Pine Barrens sounds like an exciting prospect for our Mr. Murphy, no?

And hey, there's probably a Chris Christie joke in there, somewhere, too. But we'll leave that one up to you.

Image: Michele K. Short/FX