American Horror Story’s Complete Timeline Explained

Every season of American Horror Story has long since been confirmed to be connected to the bigger picture, taking part in one slightly confusing timeline. A small piece of the puzzle is revealed each season that Ryan Murphy's horror anthology series continues on — and as AHS has been renewed through at least season 13, the connections will only continue to grow. So far, the American Horror Story timeline uses different settings, and audiences can expect more of the same as the series continues.

As an anthology, each season of American Horror Story tells a standalone tale. The show has covered everything from haunted houses, to clowns, witches, slasher movie tributes, and aliens. American Horror Story's various seasons tend to subtly reveal connections to prior seasons as its current story unfurls. As American Horror Story's timeline has progressed, the connections have become more blatant, including recurring characters and Apocalypse's crossover storyline. These connections and their increasing frequency begs the arguably bigger question of whether American Horror Story will eventually introduce a single element or character that binds every season together under one story.

Related: American Horror Story: Every Returning Character On The Show

For now, audiences are left to piece together where they think the end game is headed. American Horror Story has introduced dozens of characters across decades of time, so each connection can be a lot to keep track of. Here's a look at how every season of American Horror Story is connected, in chronological order, throughout the existing ten seasons.

American Horror Story season 4, nicknamed Freak Show, is chronologically the earliest installment in the series. Freak Show follows a circus in Jupiter, Florida in the year 1952. At the same time the circus rolls into town, a dark entity emerges and starts terrorizing the town. Freak Show's season 4 connects to an earlier season, Asylum, and also lays down the foundation for a storyline in American Horror Story season 6, Roanoke.

Season 4 brings back two characters from season 2, which chronologically takes place about ten years after Freak Show and reveals that Asylum's Pepper was originally a circus member featured in the show. But when she was wrongfully convicted of murder, she was picked up by Sister Mary Eunice and brought to Briarcliff Manor, the mental health facility featured in Asylum. Pepper was already a tragic character when she was introduced in Asylum, and her storyline in Freak Show just deepened that heartbreak. The nefarious Dr. Arden also made the jump from the Florida circus to Briarcliff Manor.

Freak Show directly flows into American Horror Story: Asylum. American Horror Story season 2 takes place within Briarcliff Manor, an insane asylum. The show follows journalist Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), who is wrongfully committed to the asylum, as she uncovers the dark truths of what is happening within the institution. Lana goes on to become a world-famous journalist for her story and the lengths she went to report on the truth. Lana becomes a Barbara Walters-like figure in later seasons of American Horror Story. She ends up interviewing a few characters from the show in different seasons as they make headlines for experiencing unspeakable traumas. Most of American Horror Story takes place decades after this season, which was likely a conscious decision. That gave enough time for Lana to become established in a career as a journalist, so she could always be utilized to interview characters down the line.

Related: Ratched Is A Perfect American Horror Story: Asylum Sequel

American Horror Story season 9 sees only a few connections to previous characters and storylines from the show. 1984 is American Horror Story's ode to slasher films, and also the primary year when the season takes place. The primary location of 1984 is a summer camp—Camp Redwood—which was rocked by murders at the hand of a serial killer years prior. Just as the camp reopens, it seems like the killer has come back for another round of murders, which is an obvious tribute to the Friday the 13th movies, a staple of the 1980s. Years after the latest round of killings, 1984 checks in on its antagonist, Margaret Booth. Despite her vicious crimes, she became exceedingly wealthy with a penchant for buying properties with dark pasts — including Briarcliff Manor. It was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference, but an important connection to the rest of the show, as Briarcliff and its former patients are mentioned throughout the series.

American Horror Story's titular house in season 1 can be viewed as the root of all evil in the universe of the show, but chronologically took place toward the end of the series' timeline. Murder House sees Ben, Vivian and Violet Harmon moving into a new home looking for a fresh start. Little do they know that the house is riddled with ghosts. One of those spirits ends up getting Vivian pregnant with twins – one baby via Tate and one baby via Ben – but Vivian and one twin die in childbirth. American Horror Story season 1's ending shows the surviving twin, Michael, murdering his babysitter years later. It's an ominous sign of what's to come.

Michael comes back in a big way for American Horror Story season 8, which jumps ahead in American Horror Story's overall timeline. It's revealed that Michael is the antichrist, and he's responsible for bringing about the apocalypse. A group of witches return to his place of birth, the Murder House, to get a full understanding of what they're up against. There, the witches meet the ghostly form of each of the Harmons. As the son of Satan himself, Michael is the most powerful villain featured on American Horror Story to date. It's a nice ode to the show's beginning to have such a strong villain rise from its first season. With the cursed home in Murder House giving birth to the purest evil American Horror Story has ever shown, it's safe to assume the show will return to that house before the series wraps up, and use it to further extend the timeline.

Coven tells the story of a rag-tag coven of witches studying at Miss Robichaux's Academy in New Orleans in American Horror Story season 3. They must fight for the survival of their kind and select a new leader after the death of their current Supreme. As this season takes place early in the series' run, it didn't connect to any previous seasons of the show upon initial release. However, it laid the foundation for connecting to three future seasons of American Horror Story after airing. Since the show is deeply rooted in the supernatural, the coven ends up being an important fixture in American Horror Story lore moving forward.

Related: American Horror Story Coven: Why Season 3 Was So Controversial

American Horror Story: Roanoke has a connection to almost every season of the show that came before it. Season 6 of the horror anthology series takes place in two separate timelines — the 1500s and modern day (specifically, 2014-2016). The season is focused on the horrific supernatural incident that befell a young couple who moved into an old North Carolina home. Their story is told through a true-crime documentary. The end of the season follows the actors who told Matt and Shelby's story, and what happens when they go back to the home where everything took place.

Roanoke features sly callbacks to earlier seasons. Shelby and Matt's haunted house was built by a member of the Mott family. Fans likely remember Dandy Mott, who was one of the prominent antagonists of American Horror Story: Freak Show. The very word "Roanoke" is a callback to Bille Dean Howard's warning to Violet in Murder HouseAmerican Horror Story season 6 even features the very first Supreme witch. But the most important connection to previous seasons would be the appearance of Lana Winters. She interviews the only survivor of the massacre at Shelby and Matt's home. This is the first of Lana Winters' many appearances and mentions on American Horror Story, cementing her status as one of the show's most important characters.

Chronologically, the events of Hotel overlap with the main events of Roanoke. A few characters from previous seasons also make appearances in American Horror Story: Hotel. Season 5 focuses on the Hotel Cortez and the many disturbing and paranormal events that take place there. Near the end of the season, Coven's Queenie checks into the hotel while she's visiting Los Angeles. She's killed on the hotel grounds, and her soul remained trapped at the Cortez. Hotel ends with an appearance from Murder House's psychic Billie Dean Howard, who comes to investigate the Cortez with her new TV show. While the Hotel Cortez doesn't seem to be a significant location, its importance is revealed later on in season 8, explaining that it's a purgatory location for departed souls, like Murder House and Camp Redwood.

American Horror Story: Cult was inspired by the national unrest and paranoia following the 2016 election, and thus takes place right after this event — it directly follows Roanoke and Hotel, chronologically. The story centers on Ally (Sarah Paulson), who is a woman suffering from various intense phobias, one of which is a fear of clowns. She's triggered when she finds her son reading a comic book featuring American Horror Story's clown Twisty. As Freak Show and Cult are the only two seasons of the show with little to no supernatural elements, this connection is very fitting. Ally's life gets flipped upside down when she finds out her wife Ivy joined a dangerous cult. Ally escapes with her life, and the story reaches Lana Winters, who unsuccessfully reached out for an interview.

Related: American Horror Story: All Of Ally's Phobias In Cult Explained

American Horror Story: Apocalypse is the series' most ambitious season. Instead of subtle mentions and callbacks to past seasons, season 8 is a blatant crossover with Coven and Murder HouseApocalypse kicks off with the end of the world — a nuclear bomb goes off, and a handful of people are hand-selected to survive in various underground outposts. Michael, the grown-up murderous little boy from the end of Murder House, shows up to one of these outposts. The witches from Coven also appear not long after. Thanks to their previous run-in with Michael and visit to the place of his birth, they reveal him to be the antichrist. The witches work together to take down Michael and reverse the events of the Apocalypse. Since season 8 also involved time travel to kill Michael, it's possible the chronology of the series was affected in some yet to be determined way that could be addressed in future seasons.

Season 10 of American Horror Story showcases two stand-alone stories, both of which are set in present-day. American Horror Story: Double Feature is also the only season to break away fully from the timeline and not establish any connections to previous seasons. What made the first half of the season, Red Tide, a hit among fans was the show's return to its roots. It follows Harry (Finn Wittrock), a struggling screenwriter who moves his family to Provincetown, Massachusetts in an effort to find inspiration and write. He discovers it in the form of a little black pill, which separates the talented from the talentless and includes vampiric side-effects. It proves to be a compelling first half of the season, though the last episode leaves much to be desired when the black pill is distributed in Los Angeles and causes mass chaos.

The latter half of the season, entitled Death Valley, shares connections involving the military with Red Tide and little else. Death Valley leans more into the weird, reintroducing aliens into the mix, though these extraterrestrials differ from Asylum's. Death Valley's aliens are intent on making Earth their new home and committed to producing a human-alien hybrid capable of surviving the planet. Death Valley begins in 1954, when President Eisenhower is made aware of the aliens' plans and experiments on humans, but focuses mainly on the present-day when four college students are abducted and impregnated by alien hybrids. Eventually, the perfect hybrid is born and the aliens double-down on making as many perfect specimens as possible to populate the Earth.

Back in 2020, FX renewed American Horror Story through season 13, so there are unlimited options for future seasons and new timelines. Ryan Murphy tweeted a poll earlier in April 2021 for fans to vote on potential themes for upcoming seasons and it came down to Bloody Mary and sirens. While Red Tide was set by the sea, it would be interesting to see an American Horror Story season set entirely in the sea. That could feature another blend of modern-day and ancient timelines. Additionally, Ryan Murphy could go another route and introduce more period-specific pieces, like seasons set solely in the '70s or '90s and bring back more characters from previous seasons. Knowing Ryan Murphy, new and unlikely connections will probably be formed in new timelines, regardless of what upcoming seasons of American Horror Story cover.

Next: Why American Horror Story Needs To Bring Back Old Themes



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