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:
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.
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 her baby.
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 one of the writer's other show, the high school's Darwinian approach to discipline isn't too surprising.
And I Must Scream: Unlike most examples, Moira has the opportunity to actually scream.
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.
Artistic License - Religion: Claiming that people invented reincarnation to comfort themselves (in reality reincarnation is viewed negatively in the religions it originated from) and that the Catholic Church believes in The Antichrist.
Ass Shove: Tate shoved a fireplace poker up Patrick's ass before killing him.
Ate His Gun: How Nora Montgomery committed suicide after killing her husband out of grief over her monster baby.
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. Constance is raising the Antichrist, with mixed emotions. Tate and the rest of the ghosts in the house are still miserable.
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 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.
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 to little effect.
Came Back Wrong: Charles and Nora Montgomery's child, Thaddeus, AKA the baby-thing in the basement. Charles used a still-beating heart to resurrect it, but it came back with a craving for blood, resulting in Nora attempting to kill it.
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.
The rubber suit Vivien discovers in the attic. Later worn by the father of one of Vivien's twins.
Chekhovs Cupcakes: 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.
Chekhovs Crime: 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 carried out in the same 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.
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 creepy twins that were murdered in the first episode and 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 teaches Leah a lesson, and where Dr. Montgomery carried out his backroom abortions.
Death by Irony: 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.
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 is being done to Vivien by the ghosts.
Constance is after she discovers that Tate raped Vivien. It resurfaces in her monologue near the end of "Afterbirth".
Driven to Suicide: After being Driven To Madness, Violet intentionally overdoses. Tate, screaming and sobbing at her not to die on him, drags her to the bathroom, but is unsuccessful in saving her life.
On subsequent tours of the house, Marcy says this is what happened to Ben.
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.
Fan Disservice: Young!Moira playing with herself is hot, until you remember that she's actually an old lady who appears young to Ben.
Though considering she's a ghost, it's ambiguous which appearance is real and which is false.
Consider what she says in the third episode: men see what they want, whereas women see into a person's soul. Thus why Ben sees her as a young woman and Vivien as a remarkably older one. Both are the real appearance; Ben sees her as she looked before she died whereas Vivien sees her as how she looks after the fact.
Fanservice: This seems to be young!Moira's main purpose in the show. We also get a few shots of Ben's naked ass.
What the situation is with one of Vivien's twins, specifically the one Vivien and Rubber Man conceived during the pilot.
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.
Glasgow Smile: Given to both Elizabeth Short and Travis' corpses by Charles Montgomory.
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: Violet flees the house but keeps ending back inside no matter how many times she tries because she died and is now a ghost trapped in 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 of the plan to kill the Armenian man. Under the pretense of fellatio, she bites his penis off.
Haunted House: Murders and suicides have been taking place in the house since at least the 1920's.
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 also Foreshadowing, as Travis' body is mutilated the same way hers was.
Hope Spot: For Moira, after Larry Harvey 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.
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.
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: Despite her obvious contempt for her daughter, Constance threatens to break Vivien's arm if she touches her again.
Constance's reaction to Adelaide being hit by a car is heartbreaking.
She is this way with Tate and her second son, Beau, as well. Tate hates her.
Constance will kill to keep her family together. She even allies with Larry and Moira to off a possible buyer, as he 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're regretting 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.
Murder Suicide: According to the realtor, the gay couple who lived in the house before the series started died this way.
Revealed in the first part of the Halloween two-parter to have been at least partially caused by the man in the rubber suit, who first tries to drown then snaps Chad's neck. After Patrick walked into the room, he killed him as well..
Charles and Nora Montgomery, after Nora discovers just what their child had become. She kills him, then herself.
And revealed to Violet by Tate, along with the fact that Tate knew he was dead the whole time.
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 Abandonment: 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.
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.
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.
Ship Sinking: Tate and Violet, torpedoed near the end of the season once Violet learns that Tate killed Chad and Patrick and raped her mother.
Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Ben's patient Derek from "Piggy Piggy" finally overcomes his fear of being alone in the bathroom only to be murdered by two robbers in the bathroom.
The man who has half of his face burnt has the surname of Harvey, as in Harvey Dent.
Larry Harvey says that when he murdered his family under the influence of voices, he felt like an obedient child. The character played by Laurence Harvey in ''The Manchurian Candidate'' murdered people under the influence of his mother.
Larry Harvey is also the name of one of the founders of Burning Man. And what happened to the show's Larry Harvey?
The second episode uses the score from Psycho and is reminiscent of The Strangers.
Tate also gives another one prior to that when he says something similar to Bickle's "rain washing away" speech when he first meets with Ben.
The show uses the score from Bram Stoker's Dracula, particularly in the scene where Nora opens the door to see her "baby" in his room.
The show also gives a couple of subtle shout-outs to The Shining. Tate's practically an homage to Twisted Nerve, whistling the theme tune and everything. Then there are all of the Rosemary's Baby references.
One of those The Shining shout-outs happens with Beau's ball. He rolls it to an unsuspecting person while hidden in the shadows, like how a tennis ball is rolled unsuspectingly to Danny.
"Twisted Nerve" plays over Tate's shoot out, the theme to the eponymous film about a psychotic boy who does crazy things for a girl he loves.
A more obscure one: Travis' last name, Wanderley, is shared by the protagonist of Peter Straub's novel Ghost Story. Straub's novels in general are similar enough in tone and execution to this series that at times  feels like a Spiritual Licensee.
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. Later, Larry Harvey, former owner of the house, confirms that this happened to him as well. In his case, he claims 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, suggesting the house tends to have this effect on its residents.
And the new owner of the house, Miguel, does as well. He doesn't stick around long enough for anything to develop from it.
In "Afterbirth" we learn why, It's Loraine waking them up and leading them down to the stove. She wants 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. She's been the one doing it.
Sole Survivor: Hallie, the dog. Adopted by Marcy after Ben is killed.
Tate, towards Violet. Likes to stare at her while she sleeps. He's not breaking in, though.
Larry is a platonic version of this to 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.
Took a turn for the worst in episode 4. He really wants his thousand dollars. In episode 5, he willingly teams with Hayden to get revenge on Ben.
Larry claims the whole reason he wanted the Harmons out of the house was so he could stay close to Constance. When she discovers this, Constance is fairly disgusted.
And promptly sunk, when Violet finds out 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 a ghost 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. However, this isn't the reason why Constance, Moira, and Larry team up to do away with him. He planned on tearing the house down.
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 is the 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.
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 may very well be a literal monster. His backstory has not been revealed, but he just appears at times, has a history with Constance, and from what he said at the end of "Home Invasion," he seems to have an ulterior motive at the house other than receiving therapy.
Some of his backstory is revealed in episode 5: he's Constance's son. Episode 6 reveals that he did shoot several of his fellow students, including the ones who had hunted him down in the episode before, to the point where a full-on SWAT team was sent to apprehend him. This led to a Suicide by Cop.
Violet, as well. She can be exceptionally cruel to her parents, and was willing to go along with Tate's basement plan without asking too many questions.
Though to be fair, she was horrified when she found out what he was doing and never thought he'd go that far.
She also 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.
Considering that her parents are almost never shown interacting with her, it's hard to feel bad for them.
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: Tate and Violet, at least until she finds out the truth about him.
Ben, Vivien, Violet, and the stillborn twin.
Chad and Patrick. However, this is not a happy ending for them, as they were about to split up when Tate murdered them.
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.
It's not wanting to leave. She can't leave.
Unintentional Backup Plan: In an attempt to prevent Chad and Pat adopting 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.
Viral Marketing: Several videos, referred to as clues to the show's content, have been released on the show's Website and YouTube channel. These directly hint towards Vivien's miscarriage, her later pregnancy, and the rubber suit man's involvement, among other things. There was also a chance to sign up for a "house call" to come face-to-face with one of the show's characters.
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, but doesn't know it at that time.
"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.
"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.