Real Inspirations of American Horror Story: Freak Show

American Horror Story

As with every season, there were real people who inspired the characters of American Horror Story: Freak Show. However, as always, the writers have taken the inspirations and created something different and out of this world.

Kathy Bates’ character from last season of American Horror Story was inspired by a real-life, evil woman called Madam LaLaurie. This season is no different. Her bearded lady character is one that many people will know about when it comes to the old circus acts. It is one of the most commonly considered acts for circus shows and freak shows when creating one.

There are two very famous bearded ladies in history, who possibly acted as inspiration. The first is Percilla the Monkey Girl, who was promoted as a strange creature by her father, with the help of Karl L Lauther. She went onto marry Emmitt Bejano, the Alligator Skinned Man, and they continued their act as the “World’s Strangest Married Couple,” until they decided to retire. Julia Pastrana was another bearded lady, who ended up marry and died during childbirth. She was mummified and used for medical research afterwards.

American Horror Story would not be the same without Evan Peters, and this year he plays “Lobster Boy,” also known as Jimmy Darling. His inspiration is from Grady Stiles Jr., who was much more fierce and scary when it came to his anger. Stiles also had deformed feet, which is not clear whether is the case for Peters’ character. Stiles suffered some mental problems, as an abusive drunk. He was also convicted of the murder of his daughter’s fiancé in 1979. His own son is not a fan of the man.

Real inspirations for Sarah Paulson’s American Horror Story: Freak Show characters could come from modern day people. Abigail and Bethany Hensel got their own reality TV show, after defying doctors and living past their infant years. The two share one body and are only separated from their necks, very much like Paulson’s conjoined twins characters Bette and Dot Tattler.

The scariest character in American Horror Story, and possibly the scariest character ever, is Twisty the Clown. Very little is known about this character so far, but he could be developed from a real-life killer clown. John Wayne Gacy went by the alter ego Pogo the Clown to entertain children. However, he was convicted of murdering and sexually assaulting 33 boys and men from 1972 to 1978. There are some things that fiction simply cannot make up.

One character still to appear is the three-legged trapeze artist seen in the trailers. This is very likely a character who will show up at some point, and may be based on Myrtle Corbin, who has dipygus, the term for someone with duplicated legs and pelvis. She had two extra legs, which were much smaller than her other two. While having two extra pelvises, doctors also found she had a second set of reproductive organs, which both homed growing babies; she had five children in the end.

It happens every season. The characters of this amazingly developed show are based on real inspirations. American Horror Story: Freak Show has a number of possible real inspirations due to the nature of its focus.

By Alexandria Ingham


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