Recap: “AMERICAN HORROR STORY” Fan Event in New OrleansBooks/Art/Culture,Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
It’s rather uncommon for a television show to become so intertwined to a certain location later into its run as AMERICAN HORROR STORY has to New Orleans since its third season, COVEN. Most television shows, such as THE WALKING DEAD and DEXTER, often incorporate their shooting location into the aesthetics of the show, which helps define their narrative voices. However, with AMERICAN HORROR STORY, it took the phenomenal atmosphere and architecture of New Orleans to realize COVEN, which has since helped define the old-fashioned aura of FREAK SHOW as well. So it was no surprise to FANGORIA that if AMERICAN HORROR STORY were to set up their definitive fan event, it would be nowhere else but The Big Easy… and in the historically creepy Buckner Mansion, no less.
At a glance, New Orleans exudes a gorgeous “Southern Gothic” vibe from every corner of the environment; the suburban outskirts of the city have schools, churches and mansions that all feature incredible and unique designs, while the cobblestone and brick streets in the French Quarter immediately evoke a world out of time. Even the forested areas of New Orleans feel like a culture clash of old and new vegetation, which is one of the defining features of New Orleans cuisine and fashion. And with a series that played around with time so often, it wasn’t long before I realized how important New Orleans is as a location to establish that feeling among the cast and crew of AMERICAN HORROR STORY.
Yet this all were fleeting observations compared to our final destination in New Orleans: Buckner Mansion, located in the heart of the Garden District. This 20,000 acre mammoth of New Orleans History was breathtaking at first sight, but upon further investigation, a stark familiarity fell over this writer as I remembered that the Mansion served as Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies during COVEN. So as we had our affairs taken care of, the owners of Buckner Mansion came out to introduce us to the Mansion, all the while informing us on the history and the alleged supernatural element of the Mansion.
While unexplained noises, cold spots and flickering lights are among the most common aspects of any patented ghost story, Buckner Mansion had its own little mythos to its haunted nature, with the most noted aspect being that of the ghost of Miss Josephine. A house slave who devoted herself to the duties of the mansion, rumors are that Miss Josephine took to the dark arts later in life in order to serve her masters even beyond death. And to that point, the house historians explained to us that cold spots would often follow strange brushing noises, slamming doors or inexplicably swinging chandeliers, which was often attributed to Miss Josephine’s presence. However, we were assured that this was likely only a small hint of the darkly magical going-on’s during the early years of Buckner Mansion.
After our ghoulish entry into the building, we were seated for the actual fan event, which set us alongside many of the costumes and props from the series itself. After a brief introduction by the host, the organizers brought out AMERICAN HORROR STORY actress Jamie Brewer, who appeared in both MURDER HOUSE and COVEN, as well as longtime series costume designer Lou Eyrich. Eyrich and Brewer were great conversationalists in their chat, both talking about the high points of the series (including Brewer’s active zombie battle scene and doing a Wicked Witch of the West impression) and as well as hints to their work on FREAK SHOW (which Eyrich and Brewer playing coy on the latter’s involvement, although Brewer mentioned having to “learn French” for a role).
Following the 20-minute Q&A, the organizers played a select episode of AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW, much to the adoring excitement of the fans. After the episode wrapped, there was one last surprise before the Mansion tour began: Naomi Grossman, who played Pepper on ASYLUM and FREAK SHOW, came out, talking briefly about FREAK SHOW and thanking the fans again for their continued support.
While the press was sent away for their time with the talent, the fans were taken on a comprehensive Mansion tour, learning more about the history of Buckner Mansion, the props from COVEN and tales of witchcraft in the New Orleans area. Yet perhaps the creepiest moment of all happened after we left Buckner Mansion: as the press and fans exited the building, the beautiful New Orlean sky became grey with clouds which commenced an incredible flash storm. An unexpected weather event… or was something more sinister at hand?
As a whole, FOX truly went above and beyond to make the most out of the AMERICAN HORROR STORY fan event. From the location to the costumes to the talent themselves, fans and press alike were given an interactive look into how the culture and art of New Orleans have bled so considerably into COVEN and FREAK SHOW. And of course, with just a taste of what’s to come on FREAK SHOW, we’ll keep our eyes peeled towards the weird and wicked world of AMERICAN HORROR STORY/
AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN is now on Blu-ray and DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, while AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW airs every Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX. Look for more AMERICAN HORROR STORY interviews, including ones with Brewer, Eyrich and Grossman from this event, in the very near future. Check out more pictures from the AHS: COVEN fan event below.