All the Real Killers in American Horror Story, Pt. 4

Season six was really a fun change of pace – very meta-on-meta. As a fan of low-budget true-crime shows, I got a kick out of AHS’ treatment of them: the victim interviews, the cheesy re-enactments, and a cameo by my favorite historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin!

But were there any real killers in season six? Do you even have to ask?

The Angels of Death

Obviously, the nurses Miranda and Bridget Jane (played by Jenna Doolittle and Areana Cirina in “real” life, by Maya Rose Berko and Christian Rakes in the “re-enactment”) are dead ringers (pardon the pun) for Gwendolyn Graham and Cathy Wood. Graham and Wood were lovers who made a game of killing the elderly patients in the Alpine Manor nursing home where they worked in 1987. The object of the game was to choose victims by their initials to spell out the word “MURDER.” But that proved too difficult, so they gave up and just started just killing at random, eventually taking the lives of five victims.

They nearly got away with it, too. Since their victims were elderly and in poor health, their deaths were ruled as from natural causes.

However, Graham and Woods’ relationship did not last. They broke up, and Wood married a man whom she confessed the murders to. After he and Wood divorced, he went to the police. While Graham was given five life sentences, Wood got a lighter sentence for her cooperation, and is expected to be released in 2021.

The Bean Clan

The Polk clan gives a huge nod and wink to the Peacocks from one of the darkest and most horrifying X Files episodes, “Home.” However, their gruesome dietary practices also reflect another murderous clan who may or may not have been real: the cannibalistic Bean clan of Scotland.

Alexander “Sawney” Bean and his wife, Agnes Douglas, lived in a sea cave on Scotland’s southwest coast. Over time they had 14 children, and, through incest, 32 grandchildren. The family would rob and kill unsuspecting travelers, then bring the bodies back to their cave for dismemberment and roasting – or salting and pickling, to save for later.

It’s rumored that over a span of 25 years, the clan murdered over 1,000 people, spawning terror and rumors in the neighboring towns. Some blamed the innkeepers, some blamed evil goblins living in the wilderness or kelpies who lived in the lochs and rivers.

Legends differ on how they were caught. Some say one of their intended victims was rescued by another traveler. They brought the authorities to the Beans’ cave, led there by hunting dogs following the the odor of human decomposition. Inside, they found body parts hung up to dry as well as stolen valuables scattered throughout the cave.

Another version states a wanderer came upon them roasting a human body over an open fire and went for the authorities.

In any case, the Bean clan met a horrific end. The women and children were strangled before the stake, their last agonizing moments spent watching the men be slowly dismembered and left to bleed to death, before they (the women and children) were set on fire.

Yet it is not certain the legend is real. For one, the name “Sawney” was the popular English nickname for a stereotypical Scot, much like “Paddy” for the Irish. For another, the date of their existence isn’t known; some say the Bean clan killed in in the early 1400s, but others say it was at the turn of the 17th Century. Like with most legends, there may be a bit of truth underneath a lot of hyperbole.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to look at season seven until it comes out on Hulu, so stay tuned and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Next month is February, the month for lovers, so we’ll be looking at Couples Who Kill…

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