Just when you think American Horror Story has portrayed every imaginable way to kill off a character, creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk manage to prove you wrong. This decade-long anthology series has somehow managed to become even more gory over the years. It’s a mystery how they got FX to approve some of these gruesome scenes. Let’s reminisce together about the most grim, gory, disturbing and gruesome American Horror Story deaths so far.
This article is very graphic. It talks about violence, suicide, sexual assault and other uncomfortable topics.
10. When The Zodiac Killer Takes Credit For The Cult’s Work (Cult)
There are plenty of bizarre murders in the seventh season of American Horror Story. Part of Cult’s storyline involves Valerie Solanas (portrayed by Lena Dunham) and her rise as the leader of SCUM—the Society for Cutting Up Men. This “feminist” man-murdering cult is shown committing a number of nasty crimes, all of which are attributed to the Zodiac Killer. One of the most graphic of these murders involved the stabbing and subsequent dismembering of Bruce, a man who served as a member of SCUM.
I’m not sure what’s more shocking, the allegation that the Zodiac Killer never really existed or the image of Bruce’s mutilated dick and balls hanging out of his mouth.
9. Violet Finds Out She’s Been Dead All Along Murder House)
One of the best plot twists in AHS history happened in the very first season after Violet (Taissa Farmiga) finds out she’s trapped in the Murder House. Tate (played by Emmy-award winner Evan Peters) is eventually forced to reveal a secret he’s been keeping: Violet actually died during her suicide attempt, she’s been dead for weeks, and her body is decaying in a crawlspace in the house.
Despite Tate’s efforts to stage a fake death for himself and Violet to ease her into the idea of being dead, Violet tries to escape and ends up in a dizzying maze of hallways and doors
Tate eventually spills the beans by showing Violet her decomposing body, gray and swarming with flies. It’s a jarring and upsetting image, but the worst part is seeing Violet’s transition from realizing she doesn’t want to die to finding out she already has.
8. Emma Roberts Gets Sawed In Half (Freak Show)
Ah, the old “Lady Gets Sawed In Half” trick. Except this time, Maggie Esmerelda, played by Emma Roberts, gets sawed alive in the magician’s magic box.
This one occurs when Chester (played by guest star Neil Patrick Harris) hallucinates while performing the Magic Saw and imagines visions of his ex wife, her lover, and his ventriloquist dummy. In his madness he prevents Maggie from pulling her legs through the box and saws her completely in half.
To make matters worse, when he pulls the box apart her guts spill everywhere.
For some reason, none of the freaks try to stop Chester or help Maggie out of the box. They just steal her belongings and bury the two halves of her body. I guess they were just as annoyed by Maggie’s character as I was.
7. An Adulterous Couple Gets Staked Together By The “Ten Commandments Killer” (Hotel)
This murder evokes the commandment “Thou shall not commit adultery,” and it’s one of many gory murders that takes place on Lady Gaga’s season of American Horror Story, Hotel. This death is courtesy of the Ten Commandments Killer, a supposed serial killer who chooses his victims based on biblical crimes they’ve committed.
The adulterers in the very first episode of Hotel are found with the woman straddling the man and stake driven through her back. The woman’s hands are nailed to the bedframe and the man’s penis is super-glued inside her. The poor guy is still alive, and his eyes and tongue are sitting in an ashtray across the room.
Sometimes it seems like the entire plot of Hotel was just “gore.” And is it just me or did they abandon the Ten Commandments plotline halfway through the season? All I remember from this season is this nasty crime scene.
6. Madame LaLaurie Turns Bastein Into A Minotaur (Coven)
Of all the evil and disgusting atrocities Madame LaLaurie committed in American Horror Story: Coven, her treatment of Bastein has to be the worst. After being falsely accused of assaulting LaLaurie’s daughter, Bastien is taken to the torture chamber in the attic. To complete her fantasy, LaLaurie places a hollowed-out bull’s head over Bastien’s to create her “very own minotaur.” Bastien ultimately dies from the torture inflicted on him in the attic.
Even when Bastien is ultimately brought back from the dead by his lover Marie Leveau, he’s trapped in the body of LaLaurie’s half-man, half-bull monstrosity.
The most horrific part? The dehumanization of Black men.
5. The Santa Claus Killer Bites Someone’s Face Off (Asylum)
The suspense of this moment could never prepare me for the actual image of Leigh Emerson, AKA the Santa Claus Killer, ripping off an orderly’s nose.
There’s an ugly backstory to this one. In the beginning of the American Horror Story: Asylum episode, we see a flashback of Leigh on his infamous murderous rampage where he killed five families, all while dressed like Santa Claus. This lands him in Briarwood, where he seizes the opportunity to strike again during a photo shoot. Despite being handcuffed, the event ends with Leigh biting an asylum staff member’s face clean off.
Okay, so I guess I’m not sure if this one is a murder. Maybe the guy survived. But given the history of the hospital staff at Briarwood, my guess is he probably died, noseless and mutilated by Dr. Arden.
4. Shelley (Asylum)
Speaking of Dr. Arden…
The mutilation of Shelley in Asylum is one of the most disturbing deaths in American Horror Story history. Dr. Arden’s hatred of the so-called nymphomaniac Shelley (portrayed by Chloe Sevigny) culminated in her brutal mutilation and dismemberment. What triggered this heinous act, you ask?
Shelley laughed at his tiny, weird looking penis. That was the tipping point. He tortured, disfigured, and essentially murdered her and the thing that set it off was his embarrassment over his micropenis. Shelley is later mercy-killed by the Monsignor when he suffocates her with a pillow in her hospital bed.
While her actual death may not have been so gory, the tragedy she endured still lands her at #4. They did Shelley so, so dirty.
3. The Many Head Explosions Of Death Valley (Double Feature)
The proper term is actually “telekinetic decapitation.” The first explosion we see happens when Maria, her body inhabited by aliens, explodes her husband’s head while levitating in thin air.
But how could I pick just one? A whole slew of characters are killed off by internal combustion in the second half of AHS’ tenth season, Double Feature.
But if I had to pick just one, it would be Sarah Paulson as Mamie Eisenhower. Barely a twitch from an alien’s eye and that first lady was history.
2. Go-Pro Kids Get Roasted At The Stake (Roanoke)
In a surprise cameo, Taissa Farmiga returned to the set of AHS to play the role of a Roanoke docuseries superfan who’s hiking through the woods with her boyfriend, their friend, and multiple Go-pro cameras. After the vloggers cross paths with The Butcher and her mob, they’re impaled and burned alive.
There’s just something about this one. It’s not the most gory or bloody death in AHS history, and yet this is the one that keeps me up at night. The image of Violet (sorry, unnamed blogger) just absolutely shish-kebabed in the air made me feel physically ill.
That being said, there’s no denying the most gruesome murder so far in AHS’ ten-season run…
1. It Gets Even Worse For That Guy Being Held Up By Hooks (Cult)
You might argue the telekinetic combustions of Death Valley are far more horrifying than this torture/stab wound-related death. I’d argue that on a personal level, this death was far more gruesome for the gimp-suited man.
As if the guy wasn’t already hanging from the ceiling by metal hooks in his back and torso, Kai (once again played by Evan Peters) makes the decision to repeatedly stab him, causing his limp body to tear through the hooks and fall to the ground.
The audible yell I gave when I saw those hooks rip through his skin. One of the characters in the scene even has to leave the room because they become physically ill.
Gruesome doesn’t always mean gory! For every scene of a character getting disemboweled, there are ten AHS scenes where the psychological horror is even worse than the blood and guts.
Honorable mentions include the Black Dahlia (Murder House), Queenie shooting herself in the head to kill Cordelia’s husband (Coven), Meep (the little guy from Freak Show who bites the heads off chickens—that’s chicken murder and it makes me want to go vegan), and literally any of the deaths from Red Tide involving biting the guts out of someone’s neck (but especially the Macaulay Culkin one on the beach).
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She/her. Lover of female-led comedies, Saturday Night Live, and THAT scene in Fleabag. Will probably get up halfway through the movie to add more butter to the popcorn.