“It’s difficult to banish a spirit, but not impossible. The most successful attempt that I know of happened when America was known as the New World… In 1590, on the coast of what we now know as North Carolina, the entire colony of Roanoke — all 117 men, women, and children — died inexplicably. It became known as the Ghost Colony because the spirits remained. They haunted the native tribes living in the surrounding area, killing indiscriminately. The elder knew he had to act. He cast a banishment curse. First, he collected the personal belongings of all the dead colonists. Then he burned them. The ghosts appeared, summoned by their talismans. But before the spirits could cause them any more harm, the elder completed the curse that would banish the ghosts forever. By uttering a single world… the same word found carved on a post at the abandoned colony: Croatoan.”
Who monologued that?! Why, it’s your friendly neighborhood medium Billie Dean Howard, the kooky psychic from way back in season 1 of American Horror Story who’s called upon to help rid the Murder House of persistent ghosts. The speech, in the season’s penultimate episode, complements an earlier speech Billie delivers about how to dislodge spirits from the “paramagnetic grip” of evil, which apparently exists in the world as a sort of lingering result of the events that release it. Sort of like freshly baked cookies or pollution.
Yes, all the way back in season 1, American Horror Story teased an urban legend of vanishing townships, uneasy spirits, and the lost colony of Roanoke. Just five short years later, we have our theme for the sixth cycle of Ryan Murphy’s addictively spooky creation.
Friends, this is American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare. And you can join me on my Roanoke nightmare as I attempt to make sense of the very mysterious new season, which the network has kept under lock-and-key for what I’ve gleaned are a variety of sh-ts and an abundance of giggles. But hell if the intrigue doesn’t make me relish the strangeness of this new season all the more.
“Inspired by true events,” the season seems to be set up in dual timelines with two sets of actors: One, in the apparent present day, features sit-down interviews for a true-crime-style documentary, which I can only assume is actually called My Roanoke Nightmare. The other, in a not-too-distant past, shows what happened to a friendly couple — yoga teacher Shelby and pharmaceutical salesman Matt — in Roanoke, North Carolina. (Will there be a payoff to the documentary format, other than the benefit of knowing Shelby, Matt, and Lee survive? Or is it simply a novel concept that won’t get much explanation, like how they’ve been filming the people on Modern Family for like 15 years already?)
It’s a totally wacky yet quintessentially 2016 notion to parodize our obsession with those paranormal TLC shows, and Murphy doubles down on the format gimmick via AHS Season 6 WTF #1: double casting. Lily Rabe plays the ‘real’ Shelby; her counterpart in the reenacted timeline is Sarah Paulson. André Holland takes on the role of present-day Matt, played by Cuba Gooding, Jr. in the flashback.
So, here’s the deal: Shelby and Matt are looking for a fresh start after an encounter with gang violence and the loss of a pregnancy, and they find it in a nice little 18th-century farmhouse in North Carolina. Matt blows his savings buying it at an auction, much to the anger of three very peeved hillbillies, pictured below:
As they renovate the house, ShelbyPaulson grows reluctant and distant. Matt chalks it up to the miscarriage, but ShelbyRabe reveals she felt an overwhelming sense of danger from the first moment they entered the house. During lovemaking, Shelby hears strange moaning, followed by a pounding (which I suppose is how you could also describe lovemaking itself). Matt goes outside and finds the yard has been trashed, and a flying trash can headed his way suggests it’s merely vandalism from the racist hillbillies who don’t support an interracial couple.
But how, then, does Matt explain AHS Season 6 WTF #2: a rain shower of teeth!? Shelby heads outside the next day to find a storm of human teeth raining down on the porch, which truly ranks high in the pantheon of insane things that have happened on American Horror Story — a list including minotaur sex, jawless clowns, and Connie Britton’s first contract.
NEXT: Shelby, you in danger, girl