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Series: American Horror Story: Murder House
Murder House cast.note 

The first season of American Horror Story, originally titled American Horror Story but retroactively titled American Horror Story: Murder House, follows the story of a couple from Boston, Ben and Vivien, and their daughter, Violet, who decide a change in location to sunny Los Angeles will help heal the wounds left by Vivienís miscarriage and by Benís affair with a former student. Their nightmares are far from over, however, as their new dream house turns out to be full of dark secrets.

Jessica Lange won a Primetime Emmy and a Screen Actor's Guild award for her portrayal of Constance in Murder House.

American Horror Story: Murder House provides the following tropes:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Larry, who is disfigured by burns, towards Constance.
  • Abusive Parents: Constance hits almost every category: emotional abuse, psychological abuse, even physical abuse (when she starts hitting Tate, whose reaction implies that he is used to it and terrified of her). Example? Locking Addie in a closet filled with mirrors for making noise, guaranteeing that Addie will get even more distressed at seeing herself and being unable to get out or look anywhere without seeing her reflection. She later keeps her grandson in the same closet, in the dark. Constance is a highly complex character, and her abusiveness as a parent is part of that; she does fiercely love her children and at one point admits that she regrets how she treats Addie, but it doesn't make her behavior any less despicable. Her reaction to Adelaide being hit by a car is still heartbreaking.
  • Adult Fear: One of the reasons the Harmons (and Chad and Pat before them) can't just leave is because they've sunk so much money into the house that just leaving or making the house price low enough to attract people would be like committing financial suicide.
  • Adults Are Useless: Violet walks around public areas of the school smoking and is never confronted by any authority figures about it, she is also repeatedly attacked in those same public places and no authority figure ever steps in. Given the writers' other show, the high school's Darwinian approach to discipline isn't too surprising.
  • Alpha Bitch: Leah, at first. She does get nicer to Violet after Tate scares the crap out of her, but then, it's probably because she's steadily losing her mind over what happened to her in the basement; Violet is the only one who was there and knows what happened, so Violet becomes her confidant.
  • American Title
  • And I Must Scream: Unlike most examples, Moira has the opportunity to actually scream.
  • And the Adventure Continues: For Constance, at least. The last episode ends with her in the process of raising the child who's prophesied to bring about the Apocalypse.
  • Anti Christ: Michael, conceived by a ghost and a living woman: Tate and Vivien. He kills his half-brother in the womb and kills his nanny at the age of three.
  • Anyone Can Die: The only cast members to survive to the end are Constance, Leah, Larry, Billie Dean, Luke, Marcy, and Hallie.
  • Artistic Title: The opening credits manage to be both creepy and fascinating.
  • Artistic License - Medicine: Ben is supposedly a psychiatrist, a medical doctor specializing drug management of mental illness. He is shown do little if any medical treatment, instead acting as a psychotherapist.
    • He seems to fill both roles. He does ask Tate questions regarding his medication.
  • Ass Shove: The Rubber Suit Man shoved a fireplace poker up Patrick's ass before killing him.
  • Ate His Gun: How Nora committed suicide after killing her husband out of grief over her monster baby.
  • The Atoner:
    • Larry, except not really, he just wants to impress Constance.
    • Tate claims to want redemption in the season finale, but is doubted even by his own formerly-idealistic therapist.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Addie toward the family dog, when Vivien is trying to get across that she can't keep breaking in.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work:
    • One of the serial murderers gets sick from the poisoned muffin Constance baked for Violet.
    • Larry kills Hayden when she is about to tell Vivian about her pregnancy. He even tells Ben the problem is solved without Ben having to become a murderer.
  • Barred from the Afterlife: The spirits trapped in the house.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Some ghosts still have the wounds that killed them, though sometimes they do not, usually in the interest of preserving their looks.
    • Moira's young self does not sport the eye bullet wound that killed her, though her old form has a blind eye.
    • Hayden sports no more than a bloody nose after being smashed in the face — and then beaten to death — with a shovel. After she bathes, she has no visible injuries.
    • The Black Dahlia only briefly appears with her mutilations, though this could be because the mutilations were inflicted on her body after she died.
  • The Bechdel Test: Pass.
  • Birds of a Feather: Tate and Violet, who bond over the cuts they've given themselves, similar tastes in music, feelings on popular kids, etc., etc. Cue one angry, angsty teen love-connection.
  • Bittersweet Ending: All of the Harmons die and are trapped in the House with all the other ghosts forever, but are actively working to make sure no other family ends up like them and are finally happy being dead together. Moira still can't move on, but she finally finds happiness in being embraced by the Harmons as a friend and member of the family. Constance is raising the Antichrist, with mixed emotions. Tate and the rest of the ghosts in the house are still miserable.
  • Blondes Are Evil: Constance, Tate, Nora, and ultimately Michael, implied to be the Antichrist.
  • Breather Episode:
    • It's an odd show where an episode featuring multiple characters being shot and another attempting suicide is the breather episode, but "Piggy Piggy" was much less chaotic and downplayed following the big grand Halloween episodes, and had more answers than questions. Although it turns out to be less of a breather episode when it is revealed later in the season that Violet actually succeeded in her suicide attempt later.
    • The episode "Spooky Little Girl" also counts. Aside from the ghost of Elizabeth Short appearing and a depiction of how her murder happened, this episode is more character driven, focusing mostly on Ben, as well as Hayden's motives and Travis wanting to become famous. Then enters Mood Whiplash territory when Billie Dean and Constance talk about what exactly happens if a spirit had a child with a human, with Billie revealing that it would result in the Anti Christ.
  • Breathless Non Sequitur: Unsurprisingly, Chad:
    Pat: [leaving] I'm hitting the gym.
    Chad: Well make sure you wear a condom. And pick me up some gala apples. I thought these golden delicious would look dramatic in the bobbing bucket, they just look dull and depressing... there's no contrast.
    Pat: [re-enters] Why would I wear a condom at the gym?
    Chad: Maybe because you're screwing that twink trainer of yours? And I need gourds. I'm going to hang them on the tree out front... spray paint them and they're going to be these clever, little, organic ghosts.
  • Bury Your Disabled: Adelaide, who has Down Syndrome, is fatally hit by a car in the fourth episode. Although of the characters who die she probably has the best fate since she's not stuck as a ghost in the house for eternity and actually gets to pass on.
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
    • Violet does this to her parents to little effect.
    • Tate also did this to his mom, also to little effect.
  • The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House: From under the gazebo, at least.
  • Came Back Wrong: Charles and Nora Montgomery's child, Thaddeus, AKA the baby-thing in the basement. Charles tried stitching his body parts back together and stitched in animal parts where he couldn't, then used a still-beating heart from a client to resurrect him. The "baby" came back with a craving for blood, resulting in Nora attempting to kill him.
  • Cassandra Truth: Adelaide directly told the twins that they would die in the house. They didn't listen. She also tells Vivien that she'll die in the house. She didn't listen either.
  • Central Theme:
    • Infidelity.
    • Everyone is haunted.
    • Also, babies. Everyone either wants one or lost one or has one on the way.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The rubber suit Vivien discovers in the attic, which turns out to be a physically and sexually violent manifestation that is probably the most-recurring villain in the season.
    • The cupcakes Constance brought over for Violet. One is eaten by one of the home invaders, which makes her ill and results in her not joining the other two in the basement.
    • A subtle one, but the cop at the end of the second episode says that Bianca was found blocks away from the murder house, nearly cut in half. He says that it looked like her friends tried to do a Black Dahlia on her. The Black Dahlia is revealed to have happened in the murder house in episode 9, and to have carried out in a similar way.
    • The realtor had an actual gun, which Vivien later steals and accidentally shoots her husband with. Quite a lot of the onscreen deaths are caused by guns.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The young woman Ben is counseling in the second episode. She is one of the three people who invade the house, and is the only one who escapes alive. She is later found dead by the cops who believe she was murdered by her accomplices, whose bodies haven't been found.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: The Antichrist subplot is played out in Catholic terms.
  • Closed Circle: The Harmons can't just leave because they can't afford to lose such a large amount of money. Later added to when Violet threatens to run away if they move again, and Vivian's doctor warns her that the stress of moving is potentially detrimental to her unborn child.
  • Creepy Twins: The redheaded boys who were murdered in the opening of the first episode and who now haunt the house.
  • Creepy Basement: The most dangerous place in the house. It's where the twins meet their fate, where Violet and Tate teach Leah a lesson, where Dr. Montgomery carried out his illegal abortions, where Travis and the home invaders are killed, and where the Black Dahlia was chopped up.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Pretty much everyone, but points go to the Harmon family, whose problems could count as Deus Angst Machina.
    • Nora and Charles get married in the first place (Charles is a drug-addict surgeon who can't pay the bills; Nora's used to a higher-class lifestyle, making her [reasonably] upset with Charles' failure [the way she expresses it, though, is not very civil]). After they set up a secret abortion clinic, one girl can't hold her tongue and her boyfriend is enraged. The boyfriend kidnaps their child, Thaddeus, and leaves a cryptic message for Nora: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. When Nora goes to check the crib, the child is gone. A while later, the police come around and Charles answers the door. The police don't allow Nora to see what is inside, even though it's quite obviously Thaddeus' body, and the image drive Charles even further into his madness. One night, Nora descends the stairs with what she wants to bury their child in only to find that Charles was working on his new Frankenstein creation: he was sewing a hoof onto their child. What is assumed to be a few days after the incident, Charles finally comes to Nora and tells her to go check the nursery, that he was finally a success after "using the beating heart from one of our girls." She does so. When she returns, she says he truly is a genius, that she's proud of him. However, she then explains that she tried to nurse the child when arriving, but it wanted something else (blood). She says she attempted to kill it with a letter opener, but it didn't work. Charles, however, still in awe that he was finally able to impress his wife goes over to hug her. While he's looking away, she pulls out a gun and shoots him, then puts the gun in her mouth and shoots herself. After this, we don't see much of Charles, though we know that he's still practicing surgery in the basement. Every time we see Nora, however, it seems that she's forgotten that she's dead (likely due to the brain damage a bullet through the skull would've caused) and is wondering where her baby is.
    • Though not much information is given on Chad and Patrick before they were ghosts, we know that they were planning on having children for a long time. However, as soon as they moved in, they became an unhappy couple. Patrick began cheating on Chad constantly, such as sleeping with his trainer, (if one would consider it cheating, as it seems to be a debate) online roleplaying in an S&M chatroom with "Jungle Jim 4322", etc. Though Chad tried his hardest, he seemed to only ever be in the mood to do something "weird" around Halloween, much to the chagrin of Patrick. On Halloween of 2010, Patrick was going to the gym (this followed a snarky exchange between him and Patrick about condoms and his trainer) while Chad stayed at home decorating. A man in a rubber suit appeared and Chad immediately remembered the suit that was supposed to be used for sex from a few months before. Assuming it was Patrick's way of apologizing, he accepted the "apology" and said the suit looked sort of spooky. However, it was Tate Langdon underneath the rubber. Rubber Man drowned Chad in his apple-bobbing bowl. When Patrick arrived home, Rubber Man shoved a fire-poker into him, killing him. Therefore, Chad and Patrick found themselves stuck forever in their unhappy relationship.
    • Constance is "no stranger to tragedy" herself - you can practically hear her Virginia drawl! In a way, Constance is responsible for most of the tragedies caused, however. Killed her husband and her maid for suspecting them of sleeping together. Mother of three or four kids (at the beginning, she says four, though we only hear about three), all died before they even reached adulthood. Her first child we know about was Beau, a disfigured young man who was chained up by Constance in the attic. When Child Protective Services threatened to take Beau away for criminal child neglect on Constance's part, Constance had her then-lover, Larry, carry through their discussed plan. Larry went upstairs, tucked Beau in, then smothered him with a pillow, making it so he'd forever be in the Murder House. Her second oldest child, Tate, was of "model good-looks," but he was deeply disturbed inside, something Constance refused to see. One day, Tate went straight to Larry's office, set him on fire, then to his school and killed 15 kids. He was killed in the Murder House later that day when the police came around. Finally, Constance's youngest, her daughter, Addie, was both a monster and a gift in Constance's eyes. Born with mental disabilities, Constance was always ashamed to walk down the street with her - at the same time, however, she would maul anyone who laid a hand on Addie, as was with all her children. This was the one tragedy she was not directly responsible for. Constance gave Addie a mask for her Halloween costume; however, when Addie ran out into the middle of the street to try and catch up with some trick-or-treaters, her peripheral vision was blocked and she was hit by a car. Constance was unable to get her to the Murder House lawn in time, so Addie was her one child that truly died. Luckily for Constance, she was able to contact her through Billie Dean, her medium, and Addie told her she was happy she didn't get to the lawn - she didn't want to be with the other spirits, and Tate scared her. She also eased Constance's conscience through various words. (Also, if you'd like to count the final child she cares for, though it's not her own, she had to deal with the Anti-Christ).
    • Moira. In 1984, she had an affair with Constance's then-husband, Hugo Langdon. After one episode, however, she decided they should cut their sexual ties. Unfortunately, Hugo decided differently and began an attempt to rape her. While Constance was walking down the hallway, she believed the cries she heard from the room were noises of pleasure (isn't that always the way?) and withdrew a pistol. Entering the room, she didn't stop to question. She shot Moira in the eye, gave a speech to her husband, then shot him multiple times, as well. After that, she buried them both separately in the ground. In the wake of the event, all Moira wants is for someone to find her bones and release her from the house's grip, yet she watches as Ben (covering Larry's tracks when he buries a victim in the same place as Moira's bones) cements the hole her bones are in and covers it up with a gazebo. The only day she's free, Halloween, she goes to visit her dying mother (who has been mentioned before - it is clear that Moira has a deep affection for her mother) and releases her miserable body from life support. Once her mother has died completely, she sits on the bed as her mother appears behind her and beckons her to come with her to the other side. Moira then cries, telling her mother that she can't. Now, if that isn't enough, she also has to live with the constant accusations, berating, and name-calling from Constance.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms:
    • Ben walks in on the young Moira doing this and quickly exits to his bedroom to do a little of his own.
    • Vivien enjoys herself while she has a Dream Sequence about Luke, Ben, and the Rubber Man.
  • Daydream Surprise: Horrifically subverted. The answer to the viewer's startled "did that just happen?" is always "yes".
  • A Day in the Limelight: "Rubber Man". Explains the origins of the rubber suit and reveals that Tate had donned the suit to kill Patrick and Chad, then to father one of Vivien's twins, just because Nora wanted a baby.
  • Dead All Along:
    • Moira O'Hara, killed by Constance long before the series began.
    • Tate Langdon, killed by a full-on SWAT team after shooting up his school. This is how Constance knew about the house's power, as they were living there at the time.
    • Violet Harmon, who doesn't survive her overdose as we initially believe.
  • Dead to Begin With: The ghosts of the house, e.g. Chad and Patrick, who had been killed by the Rubber Man a year before the Harmons moved in. Most of the time, the ghosts have already been shown when they were alive in their own time, and their death scenes covered, so you are well-aware of their state of being when they pop up in current-day.
  • Death by Childbirth: Vivien, along with one of her twins.
  • Death by Irony:
    • The girl in the second episode claims that she has been having recurring nightmares of getting cut in half. It doesn't matter if she's lying to get into Ben's office or not, because she ends up is sliced along the stomach all the same, thanks to Tate. She is bleeding heavily as she staggers out of the house, and police find her dead of the injury.
    • Ben. After his wife dies and he finds out that his daughter overdosed, he seriously considers killing himself to be with them. Shortly after their ghosts talk him out of it, he gets killed anyway by the ghosts of Hayden and the two home invaders, who conveniently hang him from a chandelier.
  • Death by Sex:
    • Travis hooks up with Hayden twice. She stabs him to death after the second time.
    • Travis' death is a callback to a previous episode, where she does the same to Constance's late husband. As he was dead, it didn't affect him.
    • Constance murders both her husband and Moira when she catches them in bed together. Though he was actually trying to rape her.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: After a terrifying encounter in the Harmons' basement, this seems to happen with Leah and Violet, as they are later seen hanging out together and sharing personal details.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Seems to be a chronic problem for Ben.
  • Dream Sequence: Vivien's prone to these. In one episode, it was her baby's hand being visible through the skin of her stomach.
  • Dressed All in Rubber: The man in the rubber suit. Thinking it's Ben, Vivien has sex with him and conceives a child. The audience is left to question who the father is, as she had had sex with Ben earlier in the episode. It's both; she's having twins.
  • Driven to Madness:
    • Violet shows signs of this after she discovers the truth of what Tate had done. It's further compounded when she looks for Tate in the basement and instead finds one of the nurses, the two home invaders, and Charles, leading to her being Driven to Suicide.
    • What the ghosts do to Vivien as her pregnancy goes on.
    • Constance is after she discovers that Tate raped Vivien. It resurfaces in her monologue near the end of "Afterbirth".
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • As it turns out, Violet DID die of the overdose.
    • On subsequent tours of the house, Marcy says this is what happened to Ben Harmon.
  • Dual Age Modes: Moira, who appears as an elderly lady to women and as an attractive young woman to men. Nobody compares notes to realize the discrepancy, even when Violet comes across old-lady Moira straddling her dad. In the third episode, Moira says that men see what they want, whereas women see into a person's soul. Both forms are technically her real appearance; men see her as she looked before she died whereas women see her true age, as well as a reminder of the gunshot wound that killed her, in her one blind eye. Eventually, when Ben rejects Moira's advances once and for all and begins looking deeper, he begins seeing her as an old woman, too, signifying that he is starting to see the truth.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Every family and relationship, except the Latin family in the final episode.
  • Easy Amnesia: Ben, during the third episode, coupled with spacing out. Caused by Moira spiking his coffee with laudanum, in an effort to get him to dig up her bones.
  • The Eighties: The beginning of the third episode takes place during this time period.
  • Enfant Terrible:
    • The baby-thing in the basement that attacks Leah, nearly attacks Violet, and is responsible for the death of the twins. If Tate can be believed, this is Thaddeus, the son of Charles and Nora Montgomery, killed in revenge for an abortion and resurrected using a still-beating heart by Charles.
    • Vivien's Anti Christ baby.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Hallie, Vivien's dog, which leads Violet to the basement the first time they visit the house and bites Adelaide.
  • Evil Redhead:
    • The twins, though they were more Jerkasses than outright evil.
    • Moira, who appears as a young woman to Ben and tries to seduce him. Somewhat subverted in that all she really wants is for someone to find her bones.
    • Hayden, a victim of Love Makes You Crazy and Love Makes You Evil.
  • Fan Disservice: Young Moira playing with herself is hot, until you remember that she's actually an old lady who appears young to Ben.note 
  • Fanservice: This seems to be young Moira's main purpose in the show. We also get a few shots of Ben's naked ass.
  • Fetus Terrible:
    • What the situation with one of Vivien's twins, specifically the one Vivien and Rubber Man conceived during the pilot, appears to be. It started kicking at eight weeks, then was revealed on the ultrasound to be much further along, and made the nurse faint. The nurse later quits her job. When Vivien meets her again, she claims she saw what can be interpreted as the Anti Christ.
    • The jars in the basement invoke this trope.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The basement incident gives subtle hints that Tate already knows he's Dead All Along. He switches places with Thaddeus several times before appearing next to Violet to watch.
    • The medium's story of Roanoke Colony. It's almost completely inaccurate, so it's no surprise when it turns out to be worthless.
    • When Violet's ex-bully tells her that the devil is beautiful, not ugly. It mainly works as a parallel to her relationship with Tate, but it later applies to her beautiful baby brother - the Anti Christ.
    • At one point, Adelaide remarks that she hopes to never become a ghost as she finds the idea horrible. But the end of the episode, Constance tries to make this happen unsuccessfully, and Adelaide later has a medium explain she's still glad to have died instead.
    • The events of episodes 5 and 6 are alluded to when Tate has his first session with Ben; the sequence where Tate is shown walking through a school and a very brief shot where Tate sees himself covered in blood alludes he actually has acted on his murderous thoughts. Additionally, Tate also being a ghost is implied when the dead cheerleader remarks that she would be 34 if he hadn't killed her; since she went to the same high-school at the same time at Tate, it's highly implied that he should be about 30 too.
  • French Maid Outfit: Moira wears a highly-eroticized version of this as her younger self, complete with garter belt.
  • Genre Savvy: Marcy invokes this when she pulls a gun on Larry during the open house. Too bad she's Wrong Genre Savvy.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Elizabeth and young Moira attempt to invoke this on Ben. It doesn't work.
  • Ghost Shipping: Violet and Tate.
  • Glasgow Smile: Given to both Elizabeth Short's and Travis' corpses by Charles Montgomery so that they'd "smile."
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Inverted in that Hayden's choice to not have an abortion is presented as the wrong choice because it involves pulling The Baby Trap on the father, and she's clearly presented as delusional for thinking otherwise. Becomes a moot point when Larry kills her. Likewise the girls who went to Dr. Montgomery are presented as victims of his insanity and not villainized for their abortions.
  • Going in Circles: In a truly freaky scene, Violet flees the house, screaming for her father, when Tate wants her to commit suicide with him, but keeps ending up back inside no matter how many times she tries. Tate's not actually the one doing it; it's Violet herself, as she is now a ghost bound to the house.
  • Gory Discretion Shot/Take Our Word for It:
    • Charles is shown a box of jars containing their dead baby by two officers; not only are their contents hidden, an officer then stops Nora from seeing them, and it's enough to help drive Charles insane. Subverted soon after when Charles is shown sewing appendages onto an infant arm.
    • The horribly mangled "Dead Breakfast Club" subverts this, considering how grotesque their injuries are. Played straight in the next episode, as said horrible injuries are inflicted offscreen.
  • Groin Attack: Moira's part to play in the plan to kill the Armenian man. Under the pretense of fellatio, she bites his penis off.
  • Happily Failed Suicide: Inverted. After being Driven To Madness, Violet intentionally overdoses. Tate, screaming and sobbing at her not to die on him, drags her to the bathroom, puts the shower on full blast, and makes her throw up the drugs. It initially appears that she has survived with his help, but ultimately it is revealed that she died anyway. When Tate shows her her rotting body, the reality of her death hits her and she bursts into tears, wishing that she were still alive.
  • Haunted House: Murders and suicides have been taking place in the house since at least the 1920's.
  • Has Two Daddies: Before their relationship went to hell, Chad and Patrick had wanted to adopt and raise children. Chad plans on taking Vivienne's babies, raising them to around age one, then killing them so they can be adorable forever, hoping it will fix his failed relationship with Patrick.
  • Here We Go Again: After Ben is killed, another family buys the house. Ben and Vivien save their lives by convincing them to leave shortly afterward, scaring the ever-loving hell out of them in the process. Marcy has to redouble her efforts to sell it.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Elizabeth Short, aka The Black Dahlia, in "Spooky Little Girl". She was raped and killed inside the house. Her appearance is not only foreshadowed but is in and of itself foreshadowing, as Travis' body is mutilated the same way hers was.
  • Hope Spot:
    • For Moira, when Larry discovers her bones while digging a hole to bury Hayden in. Dashed when her bones are not removed, Hayden is buried with her, and Ben builds a gazebo on top of them!
    • Invoked in Episode 3 when Adelaide appears and tries to help. This is quickly reverted when Constance misinterprets what she's saying and locks her in a closet to keep her quiet.
  • I Just Want to Be a Pretty Girl: Adelaide, who obsesses over being a pretty girl at least for Halloween. Assuming the medium is to be believed, she got her wish after she died.
  • In the Blood: Tate's son apparently inherited his dad's psychotic tendencies, if the nanny he murdered at three years old is any indication.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Tate to Violet. However, he has several major misconceptions about how to go about it. Like trying to kill off the new owners' son, who had only displayed a passing interest in her, so she wouldn't be alone.
  • Just A Flesh Wound: When Ben was shot, he didn't go to the hospital because it was just a through and through. Justified, as being shot in the thigh is one of the places you can take a bullet without sustaining a terrible injury.
  • Kill 'em All: None of the Harmons survive. (Except the dog.) Really, this show killed off almost every cast member. Constance and Larry are the only major characters who are still alive.
  • Killed Off for Real: The entire Harmon family, Hayden, Travis, and several others are killed and return as ghosts. Adelaide is the only one who died who did not return as a ghost, as she died off-property.
  • Kiss-Kiss-Slap
  • Leitmotif: Charles Montgomery and his family are nearly always accompanied by the theme from Bram Stokers Dracula.
  • Lightmare Fuel: Harvey hitting Hayden with a shovel, followed by Ben building a gazebo in under an hour. Scary because he was hiding a body, funny because it's ridiculous.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: The dozens of people who have died in the house are all still there.
  • Look Both Ways: Addie is struck by a car while trying to join the other trick-or-treaters. The brutal irony is that the accident was caused by the mask Addie's mother gave her to look like a "pretty girl," which blocked her peripheral vision.
  • Locked into Strangeness: The incident in the basement causes Leah's hair to start turning white.
  • Malevolent Masked People: The home invaders in the second episode, who are intent on reenacting one of the murders that had occurred in the house. Two are lured to the basement and dispatched by the victims of said murder. The third, seriously injured by Tate, manages to get away and dies off-property.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: Beau, Constance's son whom she had kept chained up in the attic.
  • Major Injury Under Reaction: Travis handles being murdered rather well, only being bummed that he won't be famous now. He even asks if he was in the news after his body is found, then requests newspaper clippings. He plans on starting a scrapbook.
  • Mama Bear: Constance. Despite her obvious contempt for her daughter, she threatens to break Vivien's arm if she touches her again. She's the same way with Beau and Tate, even though Tate hates her. The woman will kill without a flutter of remorse to keep her family together, as seen when she allies with Larry and Moira to off a possible buyer who was going to tear the house down.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • "You're gonna regret it," said by Adelaide to the twins, is heard again a few minutes later in the episode as Vivien confronts Ben. Considering this was the main catalyst that caused them to move to the house and everything that happened afterward, it's quite safe to say they did regret it.
    • The music that played as the twins wrecked the place is heard again, midway through "Afterbirth". It plays as the new buyers flee the house.
    • Tate's whistled theme is heard again as Constance finds his son and the body of the boy's nanny, who he had killed.
  • Mercy Kill: Moira ends her mother's life by disconnecting her oxygen.
  • Moe Greene Special: How Constance killed Moira. She's even impressed with her own marksmanship.
  • Mr. Fanservice:
    • Tate Langdon.
    • Dr. Ben Harmon.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Young Moira, so much.
  • Murder-Suicide:
    • According to the realtor, the gay couple who lived in the house before the series started died this way. It is revealed in the first part of the Halloween two-parter that they were actually both murdered by the man in the rubber suit, who first tries to drown Chad and then snaps his neck. After Patrick walked into the room, he attacked him as well, beating him, sticking a fireplace poker up his ass, then shoving him and Chad down the basement stairs. The man in the rubber suit finished the job by shooting them to frame it as a murder-suicide.
    • Charles and Nora Montgomery, after Nora discovers just what their child had become; she kills him, then herself.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • That scene in the trailer for episode 6 where Vivien's baby's hand is clearly visible pressing against her stomach is a Dream Sequence.
    • The trailer for episode 10 implies that Tate is going to kill Violet. He does not, instead revealing that she's been Dead All Along since her overdose.
  • Nightmare Fetishist:
    • Violet only wants to move in the house after the real estate ladies tells the family about the murders.
    • Tate, who has many macabre fantasies and interests, some of which he has even acted on.
    • The reenactment group in the second episode.
    • It appears that Hayden REALLY enjoyed stabbing Travis.
  • The Nineties: Episode 6 starts here in a very shocking way.
  • Non Human Lover Reveal: Violet eventually finds out that Tate is a ghost.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Ghosts in the house are normally unseen by the living, with a few exceptions, but can make themselves be seen if they want to. They can be attacked by the living and other ghosts, but are unfazed by any damage. They in turn can kill the living and otherwise interact with the rest of the world. Sometimes they are aware they are ghosts, other times they cannot remember. Only ghosts inside the house are ever shown, and they cannot leave the house — except on Halloween, when they are allowed to leave for the day. Other ghosts unrelated to the house appear on Halloween, too, but it is unknown how much they can interact with the rest of the world the rest of the year.
  • Parental Neglect: While her parents spend all their time and energy on their shattered relationship, Violet is left to fend for herself. They don't even notice her being Driven to Madness, overdosing, and dying. In her own words, they think she's "depressed."
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Constance doesn't have many redeeming qualities, but you feel damn sorry for her when Adelaide gets hit by a car and she tries desperately to keep from losing her. What she says to Adelaide's ghost also counts.
    • Nora rescuing a young Tate from Thaddeus.
  • Police Are Useless: The dozens of murders and disappearances over the years certainly haven't inspired the police to do anything like thorough investigations.
  • Racist Grandma: Constance and the realtor may not be quite old enough to be considered grandmas, but both are racist and homophobic, the latter apologetically so, the former... not so much.
  • Red Right Hand: The Two-Faced Larry Harvey, whose left arm is also apparently of little to no use. He quickly evolves into more and more of an antagonist.
  • Retcon: The first season was given the subtitle Murder House after the show's seasonal anthology format was announced.
  • The Reveal: The opening for "Rubber Man". The Rubber Suit Man who may have fathered Vivien's baby, and who killed Chad and Patrick, is Tate.
  • Rich Bitch: Billie Dean, the medium whom Constance contacts after Violet discovers that Tate's dead.
  • Room Of Mirrors: The "Bad Girl Room".
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: Some of the ghosts complain about not being able to leave (due to their bones interred on the grounds) but they seem more interested in staying to torment each other (and the new living residents) for their perceived "crimes".
    • This seems to only be the case with Moira, we don't know why everyone else is stuck there and it's not possible that all of their bodies are buried on the grounds since there are records of their deaths, meaning that someone would have had to have found their bodies following said deaths (or else the records would have just said that they disappeared.) The only condition for someone becoming a ghost in the house is that they die on the grounds, not that their bodies remain there.
      • It's explained that the only reason Moira wants her body found is so that Constance will finally be caught and face retribution for what she did. It won't get her out of the house, but it would probably make it easier on her mind frame if she didn't have her murderer mocking her at every turn.
  • The Seventies: The beginning of the pilot takes place in this time period.
  • Shapeshifting Seducer: Moira probably counts, appearing as a beautiful girl to seduce men when it will help with a bigger plan. However, it's complicated in that she doesn't change herself to seduce them, they just automatically see her that way.
  • Ship Sinking: Tate and Violet gets torpedoed near the end of the season once Violet learns that Tate killed Chad and Patrick and raped her mother.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: In "Piggy Piggy", Ben's patient Derek finally overcomes his fear of being alone in the bathroom, only to be murdered by two robbers in the bathroom.
  • Shovel Strike: How Larry kills Hayden.
  • The Sixties: The beginning of the second episode takes place in this time period.
  • Sleepwalking: Starts happening to Ben after they move in, coupled with a disturbing fascination with fire. Larry Harvey, former owner of the house, confirms that this happened to him as well. He says that it led to him killing his family and horribly burning himself, but later reveals that he'd lied about killing his family. It's also mentioned in the Rubber Man episode that Patrick started sleepwalking after he moved in, and is explicitly shown to be the case with Miguel, the new owner, which suggests that the house tends to have this effect on its residents. "Afterbirth" explains that it is Larry's late wife Loraine waking them up in a trance and leading them down to the stove, wanting them to burn themselves and feel her pain. Pretty creepy. It was one of the examples of how the ghosts in the house work, trying to get others to feel their pain.
  • Sole Survivor: Hallie, the dog. Adopted by Marcy after Ben is killed.
  • Stalker with a Crush:
    • Tate, towards Violet. He likes to stare at her while she sleeps. He's not breaking in, though...
    • Larry, towards Constance. The whole reason he wants the Harmons out of the house is so he can stay close to her. When she discovers this, she is fairly disgusted.
  • Stalker Without A Crush: Larry, towards Ben. He keeps appearing out of nowhere and talking to him. Though Ben is repulsed by him, he apparently just wants to be buds. In episode three, he even helps Ben out by killing Hayden. It takes a turn for the worse in episode 4: he really wants his thousand dollars. In episode 5, he teams up with Hayden to get revenge on Ben.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Tate and Violet, due to Tate being Dead All Along. It was resolved once Violet found out that she had died, too, but their relationship was shot for goof when Violet found out that Tate killed Chad and Patrick, and raped her mother.
  • Stock Unsolved Mysteries: Elizabeth Short, AKA The Black Dahlia, was accidentally killed during an operation, and her body was dismembered by Charles for easier transport. She is now one of the ghosts haunting the house.
  • Straw Misogynist: The Armenian man who plans on buying the house displays this behavior, especially towards Constance and Moira. That's not why Constance, Moira, and Larry team up to do away with him; he planned on tearing the house down.
  • Suicide by Cop: After burning Larry and shooting up his school, Tate tricked the SWAT team sent to apprehend him, into shooting him dead.
  • Supernatural Proof Father: Violet is the first Harmon to catch on, and really, that's only halfway through the season. Vivien seems to figure it out pretty soon after that, leaving Ben as the last member of the family to cross the finish line, thus fulfilling the trope.
  • Surreal Horror: Bondage monster. That is all.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: Even discounting the ghosts, it seems there is always at least one person in the house who shouldn't be there. The only thing missing are creepy phone calls, which show up in the Halloween episode.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Tate causes all sorts of tangles when it's revealed that he is the Rubber Man and the one who had sex with Vivien.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: One of the reasons for the tension between Ben and Vivien.
  • Teens Are Monsters:
    • Her first day at school, Violet is confronted by a group of girls who give her an insane rant for smoking on campus. Leah tries to make her eat her cigarette and promptly screams "YOU ARE SO DEAD!" in a high-pitched wail once Violet manages to get away. Minor subversion in the fact that even Leah's friends thought she was going too far in trying to make Violet eat the cigarette.
    • Tate, who lit a man on fire, was a school shooter who viciously gunned down over a dozen classmates, murdered at least two former occupants in cold blood and is implied to have done similar things to others, anally raped a gay man with a fireplace poker for no apparent reason before killing him, raped his love interest's mother to impregnate her and steal the baby for another ghost, terrorized a girl so badly she started losing her mind, and, oh yeah, fathered The Antichrist. His mindset, as he explains it in the first episode, is that the world is so horrible that he is "saving" people from it. That doesn't explain his downright sadistic approach to it.
    • Averted with Violet. She can be exceptionally cruel to her parents, was willing to go along with Tate's basement plan without asking too many questions, and lied to her father and the police about what she and her mother saw, allowing them to conclude that her mother is insane and lock her up. At the same time, she is going through a lot (to put it mildly) and has good reason to be upset with her parents, considering how they moved her away from home to rebuild their family but then neglect her and their marriage falls apart anyway. She was horrified by Tate's basement plan when it spun out of control and never thought he'd go that far. Her only real crime is not supporting her mother's story to save her from the mental institution, but by then the situation too crazy for an adult to handle well, let alone a teenager.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted, as Ben is one. It doesn't help a whole lot.
  • Title Drop: "Spooky Little Girl". The song of the same name plays in the background during a flashback sequence where Ben and Hayden first hook up.
  • Together in Death:
    • Chad and Patrick—unfortunately for them, as they were about to split up when they'd died. Now they're stuck together forever. Not much of a happy ending for either of them.
    • Tate and Violet are this briefly, up until she finds out the truth about him. Violet later gets this for real when she is reunited with Ben, Vivien, and the stillborn twin after they all die, getting her whole family back.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Happens to Violet in "Smoldering Children," although subtle hints are dropped in past episodes that she is a ghost trapped in the house.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Probably literally. It's not like Violet can't guess that continuing to stay in that house will likely lead to the deaths of her and her family, but she really doesn't seem to want to leave. Turns out to be justified, as it's not because she doesn't want to leave, it's that she can't leave.
  • Unintentional Backup Plan: In an attempt to prevent Chad and Pat from stealing and eventually killing Vivien's twins, Tate and Violet follow the psychic's instructions to get rid of them, which requires burning a ghost's possession and shouting a curse. The plan doesn't do anything, but Tate fighting Pat for his wedding ring results in Pat shouting how Tate's killing him means he's spending eternity with someone he doesn't love, resulting in Chad hearing and breaking up with him anyway.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "The procedure," for abortion. Justified in that, during the timeframe Charles and Nora Montgomery lived in, one did not discuss such things openly.
  • Urban Legends: One of Ben's patients, Derek, recounts one of these, about a man with a pig's head. Ben has him enact the legend. Instead of the pig man, he sees one of the nurses from the second episode. Later on, he does it again. This time, he surprises a burglar in the act and is shot.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot:
    • Episode 3, Ben after Hayden gets whacked.
    • Episode 6, when Tate shoves his fingers down Violet's throat to try to keep her from dying.
  • Weirdness Magnet: Violet, eventually. The rest of the house's ghosts start appearing to her, but Tate instructs her to tell them to go away when they do. They listen. Of course, by then, she's actually one of them too, she doesn't know it yet.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Nora was apparently this for Charles. Too bad Charles was a drug-addicted mad scientist who murdered a girl to put her still beating heart into the resurrected body of his formerly dismembered child. Nora did say he was a genius before she shot him in the head.
  • Wham Episode:
    • "Rubber Man". The Rubber Suit Man's identity is revealed, Hayden tries to marshal the ghosts against Vivien and Ben, and Ben has Vivien committed.
    • Less of an example, but still wham-worthy, is "Smoldering Children". Larry takes the fall for Constance, who is suspected of murdering Travis, and it's revealed that Violet did not survive her overdose.
    • "Birth". Ben finally finds out that his daughter's dead, Chad reveals to Violet that Tate impregnated her mother, and Vivien ends up giving birth to The Antichrist, dying in the process.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Violet calls both of her parents out on their neglectful behavior towards her.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Everyone who becomes a ghost typically remains in the condition they died in, so characters who died under nasty circumstances make horribly disfigured ghosts, making being stuck in eternity even worse (e.g. "The Dead Breakfast Club" and Larry's family). Taken Up to Eleven with Chad and Pat, and later Violet and Tate; both couples break up as one no longer loves the other, but are forced to live in the same house indefinitely.
  • Yandere:
    • Hayden shows some shades of this in the second episode, but the third episode is where she really shines. If you can believe it, she only gets worse from then on.
    • Tate has shades of this; he turns full-on Yandere after Violet rejects him.
  • Yaoi Fangirl: Violet thinks gay porn is hot. Tate agrees, though he didn't seem sincere.

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