Each American Horror Story Season Represents One Of The 9 Circles Of Hell, And We Can Prove It

If there's one thing American Horror Story fans love to do, it's devise theories tying together the show's bloody, anarchic universe. Though every season in the anthology series introduces a different plot, setting, and characters, fans are certain that AHS seasons all connect.

Show creator Ryan Murphy has hinted that they're on the right track. In a 2014 Entertainment Weekly interview, Murphy said, "[The seasons are] all very separate, but there's clues every season that we're now telling you how the different worlds are intertwined."

Perhaps the most interesting American Horror Story theory to link the, so-far, seven seasons takes us all the way back to 14th-century Italy. It's possible American Horror Story seasons are the nine circles of Hell. In Inferno, the first part of Dante Alighieri's three-part epic poem The Divine Comedy, the poet-narrator descends through nine levels of hell: Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath/Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery.

This intriguing theory was first laid out by Jacqueline Bircher on Red Herry. According to Bircher, the first seven seasons of AHS have corresponded to Limbo, Fraud, Treachery, Greed, Gluttony, Wrath, and now, Heresy. What's more, Murphy himself may have endorsed the Dante theory in a cryptic Instagram post.

Does that mean there are two more seasons of American Horror Story to come: Violence and Lust? (As if we hadn't already seen plenty of both in Seasons 1-7.) Luckily American Horror Story was just renewed for - that's right, two more seasons.

Let's take a trip through the dark pits of Hell to explore the eerie connections between AHS and Dante's Inferno.

  • Apocalypse - The Murder House/Coven Crossover - Offers Plenty of Lust And Violence

    Apocalypse - The Murder House/Coven Crossover - Offers Plenty of Lust And Violence
    Photo: FX

    If there's one thing AHS fans wanted even more than a grand unified theory that links all the seasons, it's a return to Murder House. AHS viewers have been clamoring to revisit Season 1's characters ever since the season ended, and Ryan Murphy heard their prayers. Speaking at Entertainment Weekly's PopFest, Murphy said, "We are going to do a season that’s a crossover between Murder House and Coven together, which is very bizarre.” In 2018, Season 8 - Apocalypse - premiered, fulfilling Murphy's promise. 

    Assuming AHS will run for nine seasons (one for each of Dante's levels of Hell), that would mean that Seasons 8 and 9 will cover Lust and Violence. So far, Apocalypse has given audiences plenty of both.

    Still, although fans are pleased with the crossover (and episode 6 in particular), not everyone is convinced that Season 8 represents any particular circle of Hell - but each episode does. Redditor /u/hellaquin believes each installment of Apocalypse sticks to a theme from each of the circles.

    Since this season has 10 episodes, they believe the final episode will act as "Dante's Ascent out of Hell and into Purgatory and Paradise. Perhaps the survivors leave the Outpost (Hell) to find Sanctuary (Paradise) or they get lost in the wasteland (Purgatory)."

    Meanwhile, some fans on Reddit are expecting a "secret" 10th season that ties everything up together at last. Good luck, guys.

  • The Murder House Is Stuck In Limbo
    Photo: FX

    The first stop for Dante and his guide, the Roman poet Virgil, is Limbo. Limbo is a sort of in-between afterlife for "virtuous pagans" like Homer and Aristotle, who didn't deserve damnation in Hell but lived centuries before they could be saved by Jesus, so they aren't allowed into Heaven, either.

    Season 1's Murder House is just such a liminal space, trapped between earth and the underworld. Anyone who dies on the house property is trapped there forever, their souls unable to move on to the next plane of existence.

    • Series: American Horror Story
    • Season Premiere: 2011
  • The Asylum Is A Fraud
    Photo: FX

    In Inferno, Dante's next stop after Limbo is Lust, but fans think AHS skips ahead to Fraud for Season 2. The titular mental institution, Briarcliff, is nothing if not fraudulent. The asylum is a cover for Dr. Arthur Arden's unethical experiments and Dr. Oliver Thredson's secret identity as the serial killer Bloody Face. What's more, the Catholic clergy that are supposed to be helping comfort the mentally ill are either actively tormenting their patients or turning a blind eye to what happens there. 

    In Inferno, Dante saves the 8th Circle for "sorcerers and false prophets" - like clergy members and health professionals who promise cures but exploit their patients instead. Of which Asylum has many.

    • Series: American Horror Story
    • Season Premiere: 2012
  • The Treacherous Coven Witches Betray Their Closest Relationships
    Photo: FX

    The treacherous witches of Season 3's coven are all vying to be the next Supreme, and they'll stop at nothing to get there. Though the women should be united by their shared identity as witches, instead they use their powers to destroy one another. In fact, Dante makes Treachery the ninth and worst circle of Hell, a place reserved for those who betray their closest friends and relatives - for example, like giving your son a bleach enema as one Coven character does. 

    • Series: American Horror Story
    • Season Premiere: 2013
  • The Freak Show Was Created And Destroyed By Greed
    Photo: FX

    In Season 4, Freak Show, Elsa Mars profits off of people with disabilities, marketing them as "freaks" and raking in the profits. Meanwhile, con artist Stanley preys on the freaks in an even more deplorable way, maiming and murdering them to sell their body parts to a museum of medical curiosities. Though Elsa claims to love her freaks like family, she sells them off when it suits her. And, of course, Season 4 also introduced us to the wealthy Mott family and bored, privilege psychopath Dandy.

    As far as circles of hell go, Greed fits Freak Show quite well.

    • Series: American Horror Story
    • Season Premiere: 2014
  • The Hotel Is A Gluttonous Den
    Photo: FX

    Lady Gaga and the other residents of Season 5's Hotel Cortez are rarely shown feasting on food, but all of them are gluttonous for blood. Drug and alcohol addiction are also portrayed as a form of modern-day gluttony, from Sally's heroin addiction to Detective Lowe's alcoholism. Not to mention the Addiction Demon, who stars in a nightmare scene creator Ryan Murphy described as "the most disturbing scene we've ever done."

    Redditor morpheusmade adds, "The over-saturated shots, to the excessive interior decor, to the character motivation are all based around indulgence and excess and addiction. There is a high fashion show in the lobby, expensive art, all of it is very gluttonous."

    Certainly nothing about Hotel says "restraint," and as Virgil describes the third circle of hell, Gluttony, "What these shades could not satisfy in life, in death, they shall be denied for eternity." The ghosts of the Hotel Cortez certainly understand the idea of eternity.

    • Series: American Horror Story
    • Season Premiere: 2015