‘American Horror Story’: Ghost stories

American Horror Story
“Chapter 4”
October 5, 2106

Having sent “Matt’s” sister to jail, “Shelby” turns her attention to her cheating husband and she is HELLA PISSED.

WHO IS SHE? WHO IS THAT DIRTY WOODS WOMAN YOU WERE SCHTUPPING FROM BEHIND, YOU ASSHOLE? But “Matt” has literally no idea what she’s talking about, and eventually bursts into tears out of confusion and fear.

what-is-happening

Satisfied that “Matt” has no idea what she’s talking about, “Shelby” goes to take a shower to wash the woods and disappointment off of her, only to find Pigman standing in her tub waving a knife around. Pigman then begins chasing “Matt” and “Shelby” around the house for a while.

the-bachelor-pigs
Just needs a Benny Hill soundtrack. Also, this gif will never grow old.

And then, out of nowhere, “Professor” appears, chunks an axe into Pigman’s back, yells “CROATOAN!” and as the lights in the house flicker, Pigman disappears. “He’ll be back,” “Professor” promises. WELL, SUPER. LOOKING FORWARD TO THAT.

“Professor” explains to the couple that “Croatoan” is a word of dark power and blood magic, connected to the Lost Colony of Roanoke and not, in fact, the name of a native American tribe which “Matt” and “Shelby” could find out on their own with a quick Google search. In fact, so much of this could be settled with a quick Google search. WHY DOESN’T ANYONE DO A GOOGLE SEARCH?

do not google
ACTUALLY, DO GOOGLE THAT PHRASE. GOOGLE EVERYTHING, IN FACT.

“Professor” goes on to explain that he had been the owner of the house for years; every other owner before him, is either dead or missing. And now, because he missed a property tax payment, they’re here, and he’s just concerned for their safety.

“Professor” then shows them his extensive files on the bloody history of the house: It was built in 1792 by Edward Phillipe Mott who was the first person to disappear. Fast forward to 1973, and the Chen family who immigrated from Taiwan who, for official purposes, went missing. However, according to the lurid flashback, one night while inside the house, their daughter was attacked by Pigman. They tried praying to their ancestors, but the only old spirits who showed up were The Butcher and her minions who put a cleaver through their chests.

While digging around in the files, “Matt” finds a news story about the murder nurses, whom he recognizes from his encounter. “Professor” claims that though officially they too went “missing,” their ghosts told him themselves what really happened: one nurse was drawn and quartered by The Butcher and her buddies, and the other was beheaded. Which just seems excessive, really.

“Professor” also tells them about the three hunters who were staying in the house back in the 1950s who inexplicably turned their guns on one another. The thing all of these deaths/disappearances have in common is that they took place during the same 6-day lunar cycle, the dying grass moon — which is an actual thing and I know that because I LOOKED IT UP. And, hey! Guess what happens to start tonight? That’s right! The dying grass moon cycle, so time to go from being annoyed by tooth showers and Blair Witch dolls and the random dead pig carcass on the doorstep and get prepare to be menaced by murder ghosts!

“Shelby” is ready to pack her shit and GO, but “Matt” refuses, not until they find “Flora.” “Matt” asks “Professor” if he knows this Priscilla character, and “Professor” is like, “Not only do I know her, I know where she likes to play.” And these two dummies are like, “Well, Priscilla did lead us to ‘Professor’s’ hermit cellar, so this seems legit.”

With that, “Professor” leads them once again out into the woods WHERE, LIKE THE POSCHE FASHION SHOWS ON THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW JERSEY, NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS. On their way through the woods, “Shelby” happens to spot that husband-stealing tramp, Feral Gaga. Chasing the whore who slept with her husband through the woods, chasing the whore who slept with her husband through the woods, chasing the whore who slept with her husband through the woods. Feral Gaga leads them straight to a clearing where the three dead hunters happen wander out and “Shelby” begins shrieking, “CROATOAN! CROATOAN!” But the words, they do nothing.

“Matt,” “Shelby” and “Professor” then watch as the clearing fills with characters from “Professor’s” stories: the nurses, the Pigman, the Chens, Priscilla and one blindfolded “Flora” with whom the ghosts are toying with. “Matt” starts to go after his niece, only to have “Professor” stop him: Priscilla knows “Professor,” he’ll have better luck retrieving the girl. And so “Professor” begins approaching the group, calling out to Priscilla, when a horn blows, and he is chest suddenly filled with arrows.

run-away

“Shelby” and “Matt” just cold leave “Flora” behind and scurry back to the house where “Cricket” is waiting for them, wondering if they are ready to do things his way now. Inside, “Cricket” assures them that “Flora” is still alive, but explains that The Butcher is hella pissed that they reneged on their deal, and now that the dying grass moon is rising along with her powers, The Butcher is uninterested in negotiating.

But “Cricket” generously offers to go back out into the woods to see what he can learn. “Cricket” is gone for the entire night and when he returns, he is shaken: he met the real HBIC, Feral Gaga, and he lived to tell the tale.

So, when he went out into the woods, Feral Gaga found him and blew a bunch of You Go Blind Now dust into his eyes. “Cricket” immediately rolled over and showed his belly, acknowledging that she was the one with all the power here and promising that “Matt” would have sex with her in exchange for information.

bitch wait what

“OH WHATEVER. YOU DON’T ACTUALLY HAVE TO, YOU KNOW,” Cricket explains to a taken aback “Matt.” “BACK TO MY STORY.”

Cricket then reveals the rest of The Butcher’s tale: After the Roanoke colony picked up and moved into what is now “Matt” and “Shelby’s” backwoods, they were successful — they had plenty of crops and all the bonnets they ask for. But it came at a price: human sacrifice, the sacrifice of little Priscilla, specifically. The colonists, understandably, have some qualms with selling their soul to the devil and killing innocent children, and The Butcher’s own son, Ambrose, is like, “You know, Mom, maybe we should lay off all the blood sacrifice and goat hoodoo and listening to some crazy woods witch and maybe turn back to God.” The Butcher promises to think about it, consults with Feral Gaga, and comes back repentant. So repentant that she hosts a huge “Sorry I Murdered the Children of This Colony to Appease Some Dirty Pagan Woods Witch” feast. However, haha, the feast is poisoned, and all the colonists, including her son, die, becoming bound to her and the land forever. The Butcher finalizes the deal by having Feral Gaga slash her throat, dying alongside them.

But it’s all good! “Cricket” has the perfect spell to put an end to all of this, he just has to run by to his hotel and pick up his books and special spices. And with that, “Cricket” hops into an Uber and drives away. On the ride, “Cricket” asks the young driver if he’s ever heard the term “gay for play” which distracts the driver just enough that he almost hits “Flora” as she runs out into the street. “Cricket” screams at the driver to stop the car, and proceeds to hop out and chase the child back into the woods.

As the hours pass, “Matt” and “Shelby” begin to worry about “Cricket,” but not enough that they don’t fall asleep. At some point in the middle of the night, “Matt” is woken up and drawn to “Professor’s” cellar where he proceeds to have lots and lots of dirty sex with Feral Gaga, and somehow — telepathically? she takes the time to sit down and tell him? I just don’t know with this show — he learns her backstory:

Many centuries ago, Feral Gaga was a descendent of the English druids and whose family still worshipped the old Gods. She stowed away on a ship headed to the New World that happened to have a string of shitty luck, and, as men do, when the sailors discovered her, they blamed her. They were going to burn her at the stake, but Feral Gaga had other plans and massacred them all before escaping into the woods. Something something New World + old magic and presto: Feral Gaga.

Meanwhile, “Shelby” wakes up to find “Matt” missing and heads outside to look for him just as The Butcher and her backup band arrive. “Shelby,” screaming for “Matt,” wakes him up from the Feral Gaga spell, or whatever, and joins his wife. The Butcher announces that she’s done bargaining and is going to kill “Flora” already, so watch this, you guys, but before she can hurt “Flora,” Priscilla shoves her and “Flora” is able to run to safety.

Inside the house, a shaken “Flora” warns her aunt and uncle that they have “the man,” and they look outside to see “Cricket” surrounded by The Butcher and her minions.

The real Uber driver is then, oddly, interviewed, where he explains that he remembers Cricket — he “kind of stuck out.” The Real Uber Dirver recalls nearly hitting Flora, “Cricket” running out of the car after her, and notes that he waited around for “Cricket” to come back, but he never did.

Back at the house, The Butcher brings “Cricket” out and as “Matt” and “Shelby” watch from the house,  The Butcher proceeds to disembowel “Cricket” as a message for them.

youre-next-mr-blobby

Alright, so thanks to that episode more convinced than ever that this whole thing is a HUGE FREAKING HOAX. But we’ll get to that.

First, I wanted to talk about some of the imagery and symbolism that has been prevalent, and setting the mood of this entire season. Obviously pigs are a recurring motif this season. Pigs represent gluttony, insatiability, ignorance, in some cultures filth and uncleanliness. Interestingly, in Homer’s Odyssey, the witch/nymph Circe invites Odysseus’ men to dine with her, and proceeds to turn them into pigs through a magic potion and through a touch of her wand. Witches and their pig fetishes, man.

The other symbols that are pervasive throughout this season are actually related: the woods and the cellar/basement. Both locations represent the hidden, the secret, the subconscious. The terror of what might lie in the woods or in the cellar represents the psychological terror of what one might find hidden away in one’s own unconscious.

And interestingly, in both locations, in the woods and the cellar/basement, the characters have “truths” revealed to them. “Matt” and “Shelby” discover the “Professor’s” videos in the basement and later in his cellar; Feral Gaga’s backstory is revealed to “Matt” when he has sex with her in the cellar; and multiple revelations are shown to “Shelby” in particular in the woods: Pigman, The Butcher, “Matt” having sex with Feral Gaga, the ghosts of the house and both “Professor’s” and “Cricket’s” deaths.

Or “deaths” as I think the case may be.

For me, this episode, more than any other so far, confirms that someone, for some reason is playing an elaborate hoax on “Shelby” and “Matt.” For me, the biggest tell was having the “actual” Uber driver give his story — which was not that different from what was shown in the reenactment, so what was the value of including his interview? The scene is played twice, and the only additional information we glean from the second version — the interview version — is that “Cricket,” after asking the driver if he’d ever heard the term “gay for pay,” and after the driver slams on his brakes, says, “it was just a question.” This does nothing to illuminate the scene. But what is illuminating is the interviewer himself saying that “he (Cricket) kind of stuck out, you know?” This is played over “Cricket” scratching his head — or maybe adjusting his wig. It’s as if “Cricket” goes out of his way to be as conspicuous as possible, so that people will remember him and their interactions with him.

And then there is “Professor,” who just happens to be in the house when the Pigman attacks to save “Matt” and “Shelby”?

lucille-skeptical-arrested-development-eye-roll

Note: the only information regarding the house and the past are coming to “Matt” and “Shelby” from two sources: “Cricket” and “Professor,” both of whom inserted themselves into “Matt” and “Shelby’s” lives unbidden. And their stories seem to correspond with what “Matt” and “Shelby” have seen for themselves: the human sacrifice in the woods, the colonists, the murder nurses. So when “Professor” leads “Matt” and “Shelby” into the woods where they see the weird game of tag that “Flora” is playing with the “ghosts,” they’ve already been primed by “Professor’s” stories about the previous deaths in the house. And when “Matt” goes out to have sex with Feral Gaga in the cellar, he’s already been primed to believe his soul has been bargained to her by “Cricket.” It’s out of his control! What can he do!

And it’s interesting that not only does “Flora” escape unharmed, but the only people who are harmed (aside from Ex-Husband, who may or may not have actually been burned alive, we might just have a carefully placed prop left behind to serve as confirmation), are our storytellers, “Cricket” and “Professor.” We know that everyone else, Matt, Shelby and Sister are all alive, because they are telling the tale on the reality show –and in fact it is not a coincidence that those are the exact words “Cricket” uses to describe his walking away from Feral Gaga in this episode — that he lives to “tell the tale.”

“Matt” and “Shelby” are — for some unknown reason — being told a story and being manipulated into believing that it’s “real.” Hence, instead of episode titles for these first six episodes, we are given “Chapter One,” “Chapter Two,” etc.

But why? Beats me. There will be some “reason” revealed. But what I think is really going on is that this is all a commentary on the nature of storytelling itself. That whatever the haunting is that is happening with Matt and Shelby is no more real than the stories being told on American Horror Story — that “Cricket” and “Professor” are no more dead than Leslie Jordan or Denis O’Hare are. As for where this season goes after this supposed game-changing 6th episode next week? Who knows but if I had to place a bet it would be something about the nature of these layered realities: that our “reenactment cast” and the “real” characters actually are haunted by something. Or, taking the whole storytelling concept even further, that the “actors” of AHS themselves are haunted.

But, as always, who even knows with this show and Ryan Murphy.

All that said, did you notice that the fourth episode of the season referenced the fourth season of American Horror Story by mentioning that the house had been built by Edward Phillipe Mott, ancestor of Dandy?

dandy perfection.gif

Indeed.

Be sure to look for a hotel reference in this episode. See you then!

American Horror Story airs on FX Wednesdays at 9/10 p.m.

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