For years, fans have theorized about how the American Horror Story seasons are connected. The anthology series tells a unique story each year, ranging from haunted house thriller to witchy camp-fest to goth vampire saga to faux-reality television series, all using many of the same actors playing very different characters. While each installment may seem distinct, creator Ryan Murphy confirmed early on that every AHS season takes place in the same world — and those connections soon became apparent, with characters popping up and crossing over between seasons.
Well, Murphy may finally have provided fans with a solution to this mystery. With very little fanfare, the producer published a note to his Instagram that seems to link all seven existing seasons under one umbrella theory: American Horror Story takes place in the nine circles of hell, as described in Dante's Inferno. But how does that work? And what does that mean for future seasons?
Just because the seasons are connected doesn't quite answer the question of how they're connected. If Murder House, Asylum, Coven, Freak Show, Hotel, and Roanoke all take place in a world that share characters like Pepper, Sister Mary Eunice, Billie Dean Howard, Queenie, and the Mott family, then why are so many of those characters identical in appearance? What explains the fact that Billie Dean, Lana Winters, Cordelia, Bette and Dot, Sally, and Audrey all look like Emmy Award winner Sarah Paulson? Could they all be trapped in hell?
Perhaps there's more to this connection than we ever thought:
1. Murder House — Limbo
According to Murphy, the first season of the anthology represents "limbo," which makes a certain amount of sense: as the first circle of hell, it's essentially the entrance into the underworld, just as Murder House was the audience's entrance into the world of AHS. And, over the course of the season, the souls of so many characters become trapped within the house, existing for the rest of eternity in a state of restless purgatory.
2. Asylum — Fraud
The second season was full of characters who didn't practice what they preach, including one nun possessed by the devil, another filled with very un-nun-like lust, and a serial killer who paraded as a kindly doctor. Add to that all the characters who were forced to hide their true selves from the world — including a lesbian journalist and a mixed race couple — and "fraud" is an appropriate theme for Asylum.
3. Coven — Treachery
The witches of Season 3's titular coven were constantly at war with each other (battling for the title of Supreme), other witches (Marie Laveau's brood), unscrupulous witch hunters, racist serial killers, jazz-loving axe murderers, and more. With all the in-fighting and backstabbing, it's no wonder that "treachery" was the impetus behind Coven.
4. Freak Show — Greed
Between the spoiled Dandy Mott, the fame-hungry Elsa, the con artist Stanley, and the soul-collecting Edward Mordrake, every character in Season 4 wanted more, more, more. Nobody was satisfied with what they already had… and it led many a character to their tragic downfall. Naturally, Murphy says that Freak Show was based on "greed."
5. Hotel — Gluttony
Every single guest and resident at the Hotel Cortez was addicted to something, whether it be drugs or sex or violence or beauty or revenge. Heck, there was literally a monster called the Addiction Demon; so it's not a stretch to see how "gluttony" applies to Hotel.
6. Roanoke — Anger
There was a lot of mystery around Roanoke — but there's no mystery about how "anger" ties into the season's plot. From the bitter homeowners whose domestic arguments were interrupted by a haunting to the resentful locals who lusted after the house; from the vengeful colonists who returned from the grave to claim their victims to the spiteful actor who got her bloody revenge against the producers who used her and discarded her, every character in Season 6 was motivated by wrath.
7. Cult — Heresy
Since no one has seen Season 7 yet, it's hard to predict how Cult will reflect the idea of "heresy" — but there may be a hint when you look at some of the word's synonyms: dissent, divergence, noncomformity. Someone is going to go against the beliefs of the season's titular cult… but will they survive, or will they pay the ultimate price for their heresy?
8. Season 8 Or 9? — Lust
That leaves two circles of hell left for Seasons 8 and 9; and, ironically enough, they're two themes that the show is very familiar with. One of them is "lust" and, given how sex-filled every iteration of AHS has been, it's hard to imagine a season that's focused exclusively on the idea of carnal pleasures.
9. Season 8 Or 9? — Violence
The last remaining circle of hell is "violence." Like "lust," this is a theme that AHS is more than passingly familiar with. With all the horrific acts viewers have seen perpetrated over the course of the last six seasons, what could be left for an installment focused exclusively around brutality?
It remains to be seen whether the hell-theory of AHS was just a way for Murphy to formulate ideas about the themes of each season… or whether he's implying that the show literally takes place in the underworld, as the characters journey deeper and deeper into Hell, literally playing different roles as they descend. Either way, Murphy's confirmation is very interesting and elucidating; and what is clear is that the two sexiest and most violent seasons of American Horror Story are still ahead. Buckle up!