The groundbreaking TV horror series “American Horror Story” first season, since tagged “Murder House,” was not just set in Los Angeles, but was also inspired and influenced by numerous Los Angeles legends. The 2011 show’s centerpiece is an actual turn of the century mansion, used by ANH as “The Murder House,” recognized for attracting a long stream of numerous, seemingly unrelated murders, and haunted by an ever increasing occupancy of victims.
Among them, L.A.’s most notorious unsolved murder victim, the Black Dahlia, as well as an amalgamation of other well known homicides.
Here’s a look…
Your Local Guide to "American Horror Story: Murder House"
The Alfred Rosenheim House, 1120 Westchester Pl.: It saddens us to report that this century old gothic mansion lacks a single reported haunting, which, of course may simply mean that the ghosts haven’t revealed themselves yet. Designed and built by architect Alfred Rosenheim for his family to live in after relocating from St. Louis, for many years it was home to a group of nuns known as “The Grey Sisters.” They moved after the house was deemed unsafe following the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
In addition to it’s new notoriety as the fictional “Murder House,” the mansion includes stained glass windows, a former chapel turned recording studio, and an advertised hidden room in the basement. Not included: a housecleaner with her own French maid uniform.
Fairfax Senior High School, 7850 Melrose Ave.: American Horror Story used this urban campus as the setting for Westfield High, where Violet (Taissa Farmiga) transfers upon her arrival in Los Angeles. Among the school’s permanent residents are the ghosts of the victims of the Westfield Massacre, a mass shooting that took the lives of 15 students.
In reality, Fairfax High has had only one on campus homicide since opening in 1924. In September 1986, Antoine Thompson, a former student returning to visit former teachers, was shot in the back after having an argument with two gang members. He died in the school hallway shortly before the closing bell.
One persistent legend over the years involves a male student who committed suicide in the balcony of the auditorium, where his ghost continues to be seen to this day.
On a side note, Fairfax High has a long list of celebrity alumni, including Black Dahlia author James Ellroy, actress Demi Moore, “Scream” star David Arquette, musician Jermaine Jackson, murderer/music producer Phil Spektor, “Werewolves of London” singer/songwriter Warren Zevon, and Mila Kunis.
Where to buy your own authentic “Rubber Man” costume – Syren, 2809 1/2 Sunset Blvd.: For a cool $310, this Silver Lake fetish clothing store is where you can pick up the same latex full body suit that the costume designer from American Horror Story ordered… hood and gloves not included. A rep from Syren told us, “the scene where Zachary Quinto’s character goes into the fetish shop looking for something to ‘spice things up,’ that whole scene was actually shot in our retail store as well!
The folks at Syren also contributed to Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman and Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy costumes from the Batman films, as well as Malin Akerman’s Silk Spectre outfit from “Watchmen.”
Villain’s Tavern, 1356 Palmetto St.: Located in Downtown Los Angeles, Villain’s Tavern is suitable eerie enough for a show like American Horror Story, but was utilized only briefly on the show as a Boston bar where Dylan McDermott meets up with his obsessed mistress. The gothic, pseudo-Haunted Mansion bar appears to have taken birth among the weeds in the middle of a parking lot.
Paramount Studios, 5555 Melrose Ave.: After shooting the pilot episode primarily at the Rosenheim Mansion, the interiors were painstakingly rebuilt on a soundstage on one of L.A.’s longest working studios lots.
Backed up against Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Paramount Studio has reportedly been plagued over the years by the ghosts of former stars evading security and walking onto the lot… sometimes simply walking through the wall that separates the properties.
The Los Feliz Murder House, 2475 Glendower Pl.: Yes, Virginia, there actually IS a murder house. On an early December morning in 1959, a young girl covered in blood ran screaming from the home, where her father had attempted to kill her. A neighbor went inside to find the girl’s mother bludgeoned to death, and the homicidal father imbibing enough pills to kill himself shortly thereafter.
For decades, the contents of the house remained as they were on that grisly morning. Curiosity seekers reported for years peeking inside and finding the ’50s era furniture still in new condition, and unwrapped Christmas presents were waiting to be opened. The house itself was bought and sold numerous occasions, but for an unknown reason nobody ever moved in until summer 2016.
Dearly Departed Tours, 6603 W Sunset Blvd: “American Horror Story” also includes the appearance of a tour bus that makes the rounds of L.A.’s most infamous death spots, including both the Rosenheim House, as well as the Los Feliz Murder House. Called the “Eternal Darkness Tour” on the show, it appears to be based on L.A.’s very real Dearly Departed Tour.
“I can say with confidence was at least inspired by us,” Scott Michaels, owner and creator of Dearly Departed told us. He said the production talked with him early on about his tour, but may have passed due in part to trademark issues. But he added, “In a ‘pop will eat itself’ way, the AHS house is now on my Movie Tour.”
Dearly Departed takes tourists on a ride to L.A.’s most gruesome and infamous murder scenes, giving rarely heard details of the stories, occasionally playing 911 recordings or other audio clips surrounding these horrendous crimes. The company has recently set up a storefront on Sunset Blvd. in the heart of Hollywood, with assorted morbid celebrity related ephemera on display. For more on Dearly Departed Tours, check out our profile here.
MacArthur Park, 2230 W. 6th St.: In an early episode of American Horror Story, this is where Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) goes for a morning jog and first meets Larry Harvey, The Burned Man (Denis O’Hare). While not referenced in the series, MacArthur Park was dubbed by some Angelenos as MacMurder Park for its high rate of crime, probably due to the gangs that have long claimed it as their turf.
Sal Mineo murder site – 8569 Holloway Dr, West Hollywood: On American Horror Story, we see actor Sal Mineo killed in an alleyway by a trick. The murder location is part of the show’s Eternal Darkness Tour. However, while the openly gay Mineo was in fact murdered, the ANH depiction is a fabrication.
According to police and biographers, the real story is that just before midnight on February 12, 1976, the actor, best known for his role in “Rebel Without A Cause,” parked in his garage after returning home from a play rehearsal. On his way up to his apartment, he was encountered by one Lionel Ray Williams in what was later described as a botched robbery. Mineo was struck with a single knife blow to his chest, so forceful it penetrated his heart, and died at the scene.
The crime remained unsolved for over a year until Williams, in prison for another robbery, bragged about killing the star and was ratted out. He was convicted of Mineo’s murder and sentenced to 51 years to life, but released after only 25 years. (There is speculation that Williams may have also been responsible for the still unsolved murder of aspiring actress Christa Helm, who was found “stabbed and bludgeoned outside her agent’s home in West Hollywood” on February 12, 1977, exactly one year after Mineo’s murder.)
Since the murder, and even after the conviction, easily debunked rumors that Mineo was killed in a gay tryst gone awry have persisted, including on American Horror Story, to the ire of Mineo fans and gay rights advocates alike. Mineo biographer expressed his ire in an Advocate column, writing that ANH’s treatment, “only reinforces the negative, homophobic myth about his murder – something I worked hard to write honestly about in my biography of the two-time Oscar nominee, Emmy nominee, gold record and Golden Globe-winning actor. Sal Mineo achieved greatness as a gay man. He did not die because of it.”
The Black Dahlia’s remains dumped here – 3800 block S. Norton Dr.: On January 15, 1947, the severed corpse of Elizabeth Short were found in an overgrown vacant lot on Norton Ave., just feet away from the sidewalk. Dozens of individuals confessed to the murder of the Black Dahlia, as she was nicknamed, but the case remains unsolved to this day. A former LAPD detective’s book that claims his own father did it is widely accepted, as is another author’s theory that the mafia did. However, the theory posited on American Horror Story may very possibly be closest to the truth.
In the episode “Spooky Little Girl,” Elizabeth Short comes to the house as a young seductress with a dahlia in her hair, seeking the services of a dentist who works out of the house and dies during the botched procedure. While the dahlia in the hair is a nice, if obvious touch, Short was never known to have done this, she was dubbed the Black Dahlia by the media for the color of her hair and that a popular movie at the time was The Blue Dahlia. But the idea that she was killed while seeking medical treatment may be spot on.
While researching the Black Dahlia, Los Angeles Times copy editor and historian Larry Harnisch discovered a family connection between Elizabeth Short’s sister and a physician who lived a mere block from where the Dahlia’s body was found. According to Harnisch research, Barbara Lindgren was a close friend of Elizabeth’s sister Virginia, and was a maid of honor at Virginia’s wedding. A few months before the Dahlia’s body was discovered, Bayley had a marital dispute and was kicked out of his house – at 3959 S. Norton Ave.
Harnisch says that Bayley fits the criminal profile provided by acclaimed former FBI agent John Douglas: “He was desensitized to blood, was comfortable with a knife and although he had a medical degree, he did work with his hands rather than his brains. He also had a strong but troubled link to the immediate vicinity of the crime scene.”
Besides the location of his former residence, Bayley had an office just five blocks from the Biltmore Hotel, one of the last places Short was ever seen.
Is it possible Short had been introduced to Dr. Bayley through her sister or her sister’s friend? Or is the link purely coincidental? According to Harnisch, besides being separated from his wife, there were indications Bayley was heading mentally in a downward spiral, and was showing severe signs of alzheimers. Of course, we’ll probably never know.
Did we miss anything? What other American Horror Story related locations should we add? Let us know in the comments or email creepyla at gmail.