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.
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 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.
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.
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.