With its proud history of voodoo, vampires, and general occult goings-on, it's no surprise that New Orleans is the setting for the witchy new season of "American Horror Story: Coven"—and its boarding school for nascent witches, housed in New Orleans proper and overseen by several spell-casting, old-school glamazons, is just the kind of thing you would encounter in the city's sordid history. (Consider the existing mythology surrounding NOLA's Ursuline Convent, which is rumored to have been the home of a dozen teenage lady vampires back in the 18th century.)
But for every urban legend that the show's creators could call on to flesh out the upcoming episodes of "AHS," there's also some stuff in this year's series that's based on the cold, hard truth. Namely: three real people who come with stories so strange and twisted that you'll wish it was make-believe. And when you tune in tonight, you'll want to keep a close eye out for...
Angela Bassett will play this original and most renowned voodoo priestess of New Orleans, who was active in the city for most of the 19th century. Her life is shrouded in mystery; some claim that she was a talented blackmailer with a citywide network of informants at her command, others belief that she was supernaturally gifted in divination, spiritual healing and the purveyance of gris-gris (magic protection, usually in the form of an amulet, against the forces of evil). In death, she's still sought by hopeful customers who visit her grave in search of good luck.
Delphine LaLaurie was a socialite with a trail of dead husbands in her wake; by the time she moved into her now-infamous mansion on Royal Street, she was twice widowed and newly married to a sexy young doctor who was several decades her junior. But it's not her status as a cougar that makes her one of New Orleans' most reviled citizens; that would be the cold-blooded, sadistic, methodical torture and murder of her slaves. (We won't go into detail about LaLaurie's crimes, but suffice it to say that when Kathy Bates was offered this role, it was described as "a character eight times worse" than the psychotic murderess she played in "Misery".)
Axeman of New Orleans
This notorious serial killer terrorized the city in 1918 and 1919 (and his identity was never discovered, which makes it appropriate that nobody knows yet who'll be playing him on "AHS"). True to his title, the Axeman was a man who liked to murder people with axes; he also liked to taunt the police, mailing a letter to the newspapers (return address: Hell), declaring his intention to "leave no clue except my bloody axe, besmeared with blood and brains of he whom I have sent below to keep me company." CHARMING. But the Axeman had a weakness: jazz music! In the same letter, he wrote, "I swear by all the devils in the nether regions that every person shall be spared in whose home a jazz band is in full swing"—causing panicked New Orleansians to pack the dance halls and hire hundreds of amateur jazz musicians in the hopes of warding off the Axeman. Later that year, the murders stopped without explanation; the Axeman may have become bored, or possibly, succumbed to the devils in his nether regions.
"American Horror Story: Coven" airs at 10 p.m. ET on FX.
Which of these characters are you most psyched to see on "AHS"?