When thinking of things that scare you, real life is often the more horrifying than anything ever put on film. When the fictional world incorporates elements of the real world, it can be incredibly unsettling. FX’s American Horror Story is particularly good at this. While not the most even of shows, it does have its moments and excels at its choices in casting. The nine people below have all inspired (or been adapted into) various characters in the series.

The Black Dahlia (Season 1: Murder House)
Mena Suvari had a brief stint in season 1 as actress Elizabeth Short, otherwise known as The Black Dahlia. Short, whose body was found sliced in half with lacerations on her face, is one of the oldest unsolved murder cases in Los Angeles history. American Horror Story changed the circumstances of her death a bit, but Suvari was a dead ringer for Short. You should also check out James Ellroy’s fictionalized account of the murder in his 1987 novel The Black Dahlia. Just don’t watch Brian De Palma’s 2006 adaptation of said novel. It’s pretty bad.



Barney and Betty Hill (Season 2: Asylum)
Kit and Alma Walker, while arguably the weakest part of the otherwise strong “Asylum” (adding aliens into the mix was just one thing too many in an admittedly cluttered season), were based on real-life interracial couple Barney and Betty Hill. They just switched the genders. The Hills claimed to have been abducted by extraterrestrials in a rural New Hampshire town in September of 1961. Their story was the subject of the 1966 book they wrote, titled The Interrupted Journey, which was made into the 1975 television movie The UFO Incident.



Delphine LaLaurie (Season 3: Coven)
Believe it or not, the incredibly racist and cruel LaLaurie was a real person, notorious for torturing and allegedly murdering her household slaves. Her house, located in the French Quarter in New Orleans, caught fire one night which is how the townsfolk found the slaves in her attic. A mob chased her and her family out of the city and they fled to France.



Schlitze Surtees (Season 2: Asylum & Season 4: Freak Show)
Pepper (Naomi Grossman), the microcephalic woman who was framed for murder, is based on real life “freak” Schlitze Surtees, an American sideshow performer most widely known for his performance in the 1932 film Freaks. He was a top performer and went on to participate in several top traveling circuses, including Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.



John Wayne Gacy (Season 4: Freak Show & Season 5: Hotel)
Ryan Murphy dabbled into serial killer and rapist Gacy with Twisty the Clown (who was sadly underused) in “Freak Show” before just straight up giving him a role in “Hotel”. He even cast the same actor in both roles: the incredibly creepy John Carroll Lynch (Zodiac, The Invitation). Gacy was executed in 1994 via lethal injection.




Aileen Wuornos (Season 5: Hotel)
It’s hard to see anyone else portraying famed serial killer Aileen Wuornos other than Charlize Theron (though many forget that Jean Smart also portrayed her in a 1992 TV movie), but Lily Rabe did a decent job with the limited material she was given. Wuornos murdered 6 men between the years of 1989 and 1990 and was executed via lethal injection in 2002, just one year before Monster was released.




Richard Ramirez (Season 5: Hotel)
Ramirez was a serial killer, rapist and burglar who plagued Los Angeles and San Francisco during 1984 and 1985. He was given the nickname “The Night Stalker” because he would break into homes at night and murder people. He had raped and tortured more than 25 victims and murdered at least 13 during his two-year crime spree. Ramirez died in prison in 2013 due to complications from B-cell lymphoma.




Jeffrey Dahmer (Season 5: Hotel)
Actor Seth Gabel is a dead ringer for Jeffrey Dahmer (at least with that hair), who raped, murdered and dismembered 17 young boys and men between the years of 1978 and 1991. He eventually turned to necrophilia and cannibalism during the latter half of his crime spree. Shockingly, he was found to be legally sane in his trial, despite having been diagnosed with schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder and a psychotic disorder. Dahmer was sentenced to 16 life terms in 1992, only to be murdered by a fellow inmate in 1994.





Via Bloody Disgusting