American Horror Story: Murder House Inspirations

I had tried to watch American Horror Story before and didn’t get very far. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to but sometimes, you need to shelve the show till you are in the mood. Recently, I have been on a gothic/horror kick again and this time I listened to my instincts and started American Horror Story again, this time at Season 1. It was while watching it that I realised that all the seasons are inspired by real-life events. So, instead of a standard review – I want to talk about what truths may underpin the fiction.

The Murder House, itself

THE MURDER HOUSE. Image from: Mark Worthington Design.

There have been plenty of houses where people have died, that is just a fact of life. However; the inspiration for the writers of American Horror Story have come from one specific case that dances the tango between being solved and unsolved. That is the Los Feliz Murder Mansion case.

On 6 December 1959, it was like any other day for the Perelson Family. The family considered of Dr Harold Perelson, his wife Lillian and three children (2 girls and a boy). They had their dinner and went to bed. Lillian and the children slept soundly to around 4.30am. She was awoken by her husband who had taken a ball-peen hammer and belted her over the head, knocking her unconscious. Lillian would later die by asphyxiation on her own blood.

He then went down to his daughter, Judye’s room. She had been awoken by the noise created by the attack. As her dad attacked her, she had just enough time to throw her arm up, which took the brunt of the blow. She was then able to run out of the house. She was able to escape because while Judye was being attacked, her younger sister, Debbie, had come to see what all the noise was. Dr Perelson had said to his daughter, “Go back to bed. This is a nightmare.” Debbie did not return to bed and instead, gathered up her brother Joel to hide from their father.

Having escaped, Judye ran to one neighbour’s house, banging on the door. After receiving no response she went to the next house where Marshall Ross answered her call. Not only did he call the police but he went over to the house to see what was happening. Ross went inside and came face-to-face with Dr. Perelson who told Ross to leave him alone and go home. Ross went back to his house to stay with Juyde.

Meanwhile, Dr. Perelson ingested poison and slowly slipped away next to his daughter’s bed. As he lay dying, a copy of Dante’s Inferno sat open on his bedside table. The highlighted passage is perhaps the only piece of evidence we’ll ever have to explain Dr. Perelson’s state of mind that December night. The passage describes how the author, Dante, has strayed from a virtuous life path to one of darkness and confusion. It reads:

“Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward path had been lost.”

After the murder-suicide, Judye, Debbie, and Joel went to live with relatives and changed their names to avoid unwanted scrutiny.

The Inspirations For The Show

Tate Langdon

He is a ghost who has committed a school shooting, very similar to that of the Columbine Massacre.

The Nurses

Though not directly part of the main story. Nurses that lived in the house end up inviting a stranger into the home, who murders them. The case is inspired by Richard Speck.

Elizabeth Short

In the AHS Universe, Elizabeth short is said to have gone to the house when she needed dentist work done. It is here where she is murdered by one doctor ghost, and dismembered by the other doctor ghost – the original owner of the house.

Montgomery Baby

In the show, Dr Montgomery’s baby gets kidnapped by one of the client’s boyfriends. Detectives find the baby and return him to his parents. This story line is lifted from the Lindbergh baby, Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. Unlike the Montgomery’s baby, Charles Jr. was eventually found by a truck driver on a nearby road.

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