The shows creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk plan to incorporate horror hotel tales in the fifth season, which could mean we will see some subtle nods towards Stephen King’s The Shining. Theories also suggest AHS Hotel will be based on or around H. H. Holmes who is widely considered to be the very first documented serial killer.
As many of us know, in the movie adaptation of The Shining, Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson), a writer and recovering alcoholic, takes a job as an off-season caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel. His young son possesses psychic abilities and is able to see things from the past and future, such as the ghosts who inhabit the hotel. After settling in, the family is trapped in the hotel by a snowstorm, and Jack gradually becomes influenced by a supernatural presence, descends into madness, and ultimately attempts to murder his wife and son.
The story behind Herman Webster Mudgett, better known under the name of Dr. Henry Howard Holmes, was born in 1861 and raised by his parents in New Hampshire. Herman had a privileged upbringing and high intelligence in his youth, excelling in school while also exhibiting a hallmark of many serial killers in their teens by torturing and killing animals. Bullied by his peers, his schoolmates once dragged him inside the office of the town’s doctor, knowing that Herman was afraid of it. There he faced the doctor’s model skeleton. Though terrified at first, he later claimed the incident imbued in him a desire to learn about human anatomy.
Herman enrolled at the medical school of the University of Michigan, and there, discovered a passion for dissecting cadavers. Herman saw medical school as an education in how to profit from acquiring and selling cadavers and skeletons. He learned that human skeletons were a commodity for which people paid handsomely. At age 23, Herman Mudgett graduated from medical school and decided to move to Chicago in May 1886, settling in Enlgewood and taking on the name that would be recorded in the annals of criminal history: Henry Howard (H.H) Holmes.
At that time, Chicago was in a period of growth and renewal. The city was rebuilding after the great fire of 1871, which burned most of its business district to ashes and left 100,000 residents homeless. Holmes snapped up a parcel of land on the street opposite the pharmacy, which he soon closed. He then drew up secret blueprints for a building that would later make him infamous worldwide. A labyrinthine building that the madman constructed as a sort of death trap–his own personal murder house, if you will. Holmes kept the plans of the three-story structure under wraps by hiring men to construct sections of it and then firing them before they could understand how their work fit into the bigger picture. Holmes had good reason to conceal the design of the house, as it would have aroused suspicions about its designer. As it was, Inglewood residents looked proudly upon the massive building being constructed, considering it a monument to the success of their community. They dubbed the structure “the castle.”
Once construction on Holmes’ house of horrors was complete, he was able to become the efficient killing machine of his fantasies. To best take advantage of Chicago’s influx of tourists during the world’s fair, Holmes advertised in the paper. In these ads, he called the castle, which was only a few miles away from the fairgrounds, the “World’s Fair Hotel.” Holmes not only ensnared soon-to-be victims by newspaper ad, but he also attended the fair in the company of the Pitezel children. There, the impeccably dressed doctor would turn on the charm, luring wealthy women to his castle with the promise of a good night’s rest. The ground floor of Holmes’ twisted masterpiece was divided into ordinary retail spaces, including a jewelry store, pharmacy, blacksmith shop, barber, and restaurant. The third floor consisted of apartments, offices and Holmes’ living quarters. It was the second floor and basement of the structure that belied his monstrous plans. The second floor was a puzzle of windowless rooms, stairs and doors that led nowhere, trap doors, false partitions and secret passageways. Some rooms were soundproof and had peepholes enabling Holmes to monitor their interiors. Pipes were built in that were connected to a gas line, the flow of which Holmes could control from his master suite, asphyxiating victims with the gas. Holmes killed countless victims, mostly women. Many were in his employ at the commercial spaces of the castle. Some were his mistresses. Female guests that checked into the hotel, rarely checked out, Holmes disposed of their bodies with a secret chute that led to the basement. He spent many a deranged hour in the basement. It was equipped with a crematorium, vats of acid, a dissection table, surgical implements and pits of quicklime capable of disintegrating a human body within hours. There was also a torture device that stretched live human bodies apart from both ends until death. From there, Holmes would strip the bodies of their flesh and cut them into pieces, and in a cruel twist he would sell many of the skeletons and organs to medical schools. Other bodies were simply cremated, or boiled in vats of acid.
After a trial in which he acted as his own attorney, Holmes was executed by hanging on May 7, 1896, for the murder of Benjamin Pitezel. Though he was prosecuted for only one death, estimates of his murder count range from 20 to 200. Yet the horrific tale of the monster and his castle never died; it remains in popular culture as the subject of books, documentaries and possibly one of the plots around FX’s AHS Hotel.
“Yes I was born with the devil in me. I was born with the evil standing as my sponsor beside the bed where I was ushered into the world, and he has been with me since.”
-H. H. Holmes
Series regular Sarah Paulson will play a huge role in the fifth season of AHS as confirmed by Ryan Murphy via Twitter. “Kathy Bates is running the Hotel.” He later posted, “Sarah Paulson is checking into “Hotel.” And this season, she’s the baddest bad girl of them all.”
Joined currently by Lady Gaga, Matt Bomer, Cheyenne Jackson, Wes Bentley, and Chloë Sevigny, Evan Peters is likely to return, as well, but he may not get to star opposite his fiancee Emma Roberts. The actress is playing the lead role in FX’s new series Scream Queens, of which Murphy is also the co-creator.
With theories flying around, what other horror hotel tales could be included in AHS Hotel? We can hardly wait for FX’s new season of American Horror Story. As details continue to roll in, we will keep you updated!