Lily Rabe Joins 'American Horror Story: Hotel' & Her Role Is Absolutely Murderous

Can it just be October already? Every piece of news about American Horror Story: Hotel just makes me more and more excited about the upcoming iteration of FX's anthology series — well, except for the news that Jessica Lange isn't returning, of course — and this latest scoop is no exception. Entertainment Weekly has revealed that veteran cast member Lily Rabe is returning to the AHS fold this year, so add her name to an already impressive list that includes newcomers Lady Gaga, Max Greenfield, and Cheyenne Jackson alongside other returning cast members like Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates, Wes Bentley, Matt Bomer, Denis O'Hare, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Emma Roberts, Chloë Sevigny, and Finn Wittrock.

After playing the ghost of Nora Montgomery in Murder House, possessed nun Sister Mary Eunice in Asylum, and ethereal witch Misty Day in Coven, Rabe had a sadly decreased part in Freak Show, only reprising her Season 2 role of Sister Mary in one episode of the fourth season. (Rabe was busy filming ABC's midseason drama The Whispers at the time.) There's no word on how large her part will be this time around — whether a full-fledged regular or a one-time guest star — but I'll take all the Rabe I can get.

In their scoop, EW also revealed a tidbit about who Rabe will be playing: "a famous murderer who has stayed at the titular hotel." This is great news; since the evil Sister Mary was easily Rabe's best part on the series so far, I can't wait to see her play another dastardly villain. Let's theorize on who she might be playing, shall we?

A Modern Day Killer

It's a little unclear if by "famous," EW meant "factual" — or simply notorious in the fictional world the season will take place in. But let's start off by assuming they meant Rabe might be playing a real life serial killer. We still don't technically know when or where Season 4 will take place, so it's a little hard to predict which murderess she could be portraying. We do have some clues, though: so far, the odd seasons (Murder House and Coven) have alternated contemporary settings with period pieces in the even-numbered seasons (Asylum and Freak Show). Add to that the fact that shooting has moved from Louisiana (where both Coven and Freak Show were filmed) back to Los Angeles, and we can assume that Hotel will take place in modern day California.

If this is indeed the case, Rabe could be playing any number of still-active American serial killers operating today. Perhaps the "Smiley Face Killer," drowning young men in the nearby ocean? Or perhaps the "Highway Serial Killer," plaguing the dark LA streets? Or, if Los Angeles will merely be standing in for another warm and sunny clime, could she be portraying Floridian serial killer Aileen Wuornos, so memorably portrayed by Charlize Theron in the Oscar-winning 2003 film Monster.

The Ghost Of A Killer

If Hotel brings supernatural aspects into its season, Rabe could be playing the ghost of a long-dead murderer, haunting the halls of the hotel. After all, EW did say that Rabe's killer "stayed" at the hotel, past tense. There are plenty of historical figures showrunner Ryan Murphy could choose from. (Kathy Bates already played one in Coven: the 19th-century sadist Madame Delphine LaLaurie.) There have been a surprising number of female serial killers active in California; those who have since died, whose ghosts Rabe could be portraying, include Louise Peete (active from 1912-1944), Carol Bundy (active in 1980), and Dorothea Puente (active from 1982-'88).

Many fans suspect that the titular hotel of the season will be the real-life Cecil Hotel, which has been a temporary residence for more than one serial killer (Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger), is one of the last known locations of Elizabeth Short (aka the Black Dahlia) and, most recently, is where 21-year-old Canadian student Elisa Lam was found floating in a rooftop water tank after having gone missing several weeks earlier. (She wasn't discovered until guests complained that the water "tasted funny.") If this theory turns out to be true, Rabe could be playing Short's never-apprehended murder — and Mena Suvari could reprise her Season 1 role as the Black Dahlia, adding to Murphy's insistence that every season of AHS is connected.

A Fictional Killer

Of course, maybe all this speculation is for naught. Maybe "famous" doesn't translate to "real" and Rabe will simply be portraying an original creation written for her by Murphy. Given what he created for her back in Asylum — the devilish (literally) Sister Mary — I'd be excited to see what he comes up with next. He could be inspired by any number of popular historical figures and fictional tropes and, in true Ryan Murphy fashion, throw them all together in a fascinating hodgepodge of ideas. Perhaps Rabe's character will trap her victims in the hotel like H.H. Holmes, stalk them like Michael Myers, and then take baths in their blood like Elizabeth Báthory. Who knows?

Whoever she ends up playing, I'm just happy that Rabe will be back on my television screen this fall.

Images: Newmarket Films; FX (2)