After getting worked up over last season’s “Coven” and being completely disappointed, I was skeptical about the newest season of “American Horror Story.”
Being a big fan of Tod Browning’s Freaks, as well as “Carnivale,” and The Pilo Family Circus, I adore sideshows and carnivals. The “Freak Show” theme has a lot of potential for great characters and stories but given the previous season’s wasted potential with New Orleans witches, it was still possible that this season would not live up to expectations. I was curious and hopeful but did not want to get too worked up yet until I knew more.
Ok, NOW I’m excited! I adore stop-motion animation. This opening sequence reminds me of Mark Ryden with a nod, not only to Freaks but to real people with unique genetic abnormalities.
Here are some of the freaks from AHS and the real people that must have inspired them:
Born in 1860, Fanny Mills was the daughter of English immigrants who settled near Sandusky, Ohio. She had a condition called Milroy disease, which restricts development of the lymph vessels in the legs and causes fluid build-up. Fanny was a petite woman who weighed but 115 pounds, yet she wore size 30 shoes, each pair made from three goat skins, with pillowcases as socks. Each foot was said to be 19 inches long and 7 inches wide, although photos clearly show that they were not the same size. Her exhibition career began in 1885, when she entered the museum circuit, accompanied by a nurse, Mary Brown. Brown helped Fanny move from place to place, as her large feet made walking very difficult. Fanny’s promoters offered $5000 and a “well-stocked farm” to anyone willing to marry the big-footed girl. Eventually she did marry, to William Brown, the brother of her assistant. When she came down with an unknown illness in 1892, she retired from showbusiness, returning to her family’s farm with her husband. She died the same year.
Milroy disease (or Nonne-Milroy disease) was first described in 1891 and causes many anomalies aside from lymphedema, including spinal cysts, yellow nails, double eyelashes and hearing loss. It is most common in women (70-80% of patients are female) and is an autosomal dominant trait.
Grady Franklin Stiles, Jr. (June 26, 1937 – November 29, 1992) was a freak show performer. His deformity was ectrodactyly, in which the fingers and toes are fused together to form claw-like extremities. Stiles’ stage name was the “Lobster Boy.“
Blanche Dumas, born to French and Caribbean parents, was a high-class Parisian courtesan in the late 1800s. She was uniquely qualified for her line of work: Attached to her lower back was a third leg, and her wider-than-normal pelvis contained two bladders, two bowels and, yes, two vaginas. Her doctors noted that both sets of ladyparts had “equally developed sensations.” They also commented on her sex drive, which was “markedly pronounced,” and, they confirmed, “coitus was practised in both vaginae.”
While living in Paris, Dumas met Juan Baptista dos Santos, a Portuguese man with a “ravenous” sexual appetite. Like Dumas, he happened to have a third, nonfunctional leg, which he kept in a sling or tied to his thigh. And like Dumas, he also had a second set of genitals.
“Juan was considered quite handsome, fit and well proportioned,” writes The Human Marvels, which adds, “Both penises functioned perfectly. An 1865 report stated that Santos used both penises during intercourse and, after finishing with one he would continue with the other.”
Diphallia, known as penile duplication, is a condition in which a male is born with two penises. Only 1,000 cases have ever been reported. One in 5.5 million men in the United States has two penises.
Can you really mess up a horror show about sideshow freaks? Let’s hope not! It’s a subject rich with interesting, real people to inspire some incredible storytelling.
If you want to see some more human oddities, check out The Human Marvels. Long live the sideshow!
Antlers are a predominant image in the “Hannibal” television series. It is represented in connection to the Wendigo, a metaphor for Hannibal Lecter himself. The Wendigo is an antlered demonic cannibalistic spirit in Algonquian legend. There is also a mental disorder called the “Wendigo Psychosis” in which the main symptom is a strong craving for human flesh.
The antlers in Hannibal are then used to represent Hannibal’s cravings and killings. Dead bodies displayed on antlers is a consistent visual element which is very striking and even sadistically artistic.
Of course I was bombarded by the internet hype over the “True Detective” series and decided to give it a try. I couldn’t get past the first episode, I found it rather dull. But I found it interesting that the first dead body shown had antlers.
Of course since I wasn’t that enthusiastic about the show in the first place, I merely assumed they were ripping off “Hannibal.” “Hannibal” creator, Brian Fuller, addressed this in an interview at the Television Critics Association winter press tour:
“Anybody who saw Salem’s Lot in 1979 where James Mason impaled that guy on the antlers, it’s probably all coming from that traumatic experience in our childhoods, I imagine they probably saw the same thing that inspired, you know, the imagery in this show.”
via The Wrap
I haven’t watched Salem’s Lot but I will now! Here are some more examples of antlers used in horror:
More surreal than horror but David Lynch always counts…
Of course a horror movie about the Wendigo would have antlers. You can watch the full Wendigo film here:
Are there other examples of antlers used in horror movies and shows, or scenes of death by antlers?
I guess I should start actually counting.
21 days until Halloween!
To celebrate American Horror Story: Coven. I deemed it necessary to make an epic witch post.
The first episode of AMH was ok but rather anti-climactic. I have a feeling it won’t be as amazing as last season. It’s pretty hard to beat a vintage mental institution, freaks, and nuns, but Jessica Lange as “The Supreme” will make this show amazing just like her incredible acting stole the show the first two seasons. Add Angela Bassett and Cathy Bates into the mix and there is some room for some seriously flawless acting skills that will make you bow down.
There were many moments in this first episode that gave me happy goosebumps so that’s a good sign! Coven also does have an awesome intro.
Can’t wait for the next episode. The promos have certainly been stunning, let’s hope this season will live up to the hype:
The show takes place in New Orleans and of course mentions the Salem Witch Trials where women, mostly, were tortured and burned alive during a bought of deadly religious fanaticism during the late 1600’s.
Here’s a list of people executed for witchcraft.
There’s also reports of children being killed in the UK for being suspected of witchcraft. Witches are being persecuted to this day but at least in most parts of the world, people are allowed to practice magick without fear of being tortured and murdered.
Anyone can be accused as a witch. During the height of the witch trials, the methods used to “test” for witchcraft including dunking the person in water to either force a confession or kill them and also throwing them into the water. It was believed that a witch would survive being drowned by floating to the top.
Another, even more brutal method was the pressing, where the person was crushed underneath heavy stones until they were made to confess to being a witch. They also had their fingers crushed with iron crushing devices, stretched, poked with various devices, and basically victims to the sadistic whim of the crazy assholes who wanted to harm them.
Also if the accused had a strange birth mark, this was enough to prove they were a witch. The witch’s mark was believed to be where the devil would put his seal and own the person.
Authorities in the witch trials routinely stripped an accused witch of clothing and shaved all body hair so that no potential mark could be hidden. Pins were driven into scars, calluses and thickened areas of skin: the practice of “pricking a witch”. Customarily, this routine was performed in front of a large crowd. Medieval inquisitors also believed that the Devil left invisible marks upon his followers. If after stripping and shaving, the accused witch was found to have no likely blemishes, pins were simply driven into her body until an insensitive area was found.
I actually do have a witch’s mark, not just a mere mole, but an inch deep hole on my lower back that a needle can fit through without harming me. I would have totally been burned alive had I been born in the wrong country or century!
The best movie about the persecution of witches is Mark of the Devil. with the sexy Udo Kier. who plays a witchfinder who falls for a sexy woman accused as a witch. The promo for the film when it was released in 1970 was great. They rated it “V for violence” and gave out free sick bags to the theater audience.
Totally worth a watch. I love Udo Kier. It’s very gory but the torture in the film was actually what was done to people accused as witches.