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9 Times Pop Culture Delved Into Roanoke Before American Horror Story

Sorry, ‘AHS,’ you definitely weren’t the first

At long last, we finally learned the mysterious theme of American Horror Story’s sixth season: Roanoke. Considered America’s first mystery, the Lost Colony of Roanoke still haunts our nation.

If you fell asleep during eighth grade history, here’s a quick summary: In 1587, English settlers landed on Roanoke Island in North Carolina, hoping to make their mark in the New World. Three years later, all 117 people peaced TF out and we still don’t know where in God’s name they went. The only “clues” involved two words carved into a gatepost and a tree: “Croatoan” and “Cro.” That’s it. Naturally, theories emerged, but unless you find the ghost of one of the settlers and get him drunk to tell his story, the world will probably never learn the truth.

While American Horror Story is pop culture’s latest take on this 16th-century mystery, it’s certainly not the first. Many other series, books, movies, comics, and even video games have referenced Roanoke in some way, shape, or form.

  1. The CW

    Probably the most well-known pop culture take on Roanoke stems from Sam and Dean Winchester’s world. On an early episode, the brothers encountered an Oregon town filled with people infected with a highly contagious virus. They saw the word “Croatoan” carved into a telephone pole and Sam remembered his dad thought that word referenced “a demon of plague and pestilence.” On a later episode, the Croatoan virus was released into an alternate future and most of humanity was eradicated.

  2. The Last American Vampire

    Seth Grahame-Smith’s sequel to Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter follows Henry Sturges’s timeline, from life as a human in the 1500s to spending the rest of history as a vampire. In the book, Henry was one of the settlers from the Lost Colony. All the settlers of Roanoke “disappeared” because they were murdered by a vampire named Dr. Crowley. Henry was bitten, but spared, and carved “CRO” in the tree until Crowley stopped him.

  3. James Dimmock/FOX

    When Ichabod and his squad discovered a little boy named Thomas suffering from eyebrow-raising afflictions (later learned to be a freaking plague), Thomas admitted he was from the Roanoke colony. Ichabod eventually tracked down the other Roanoke people, who had all been infected with the plague and got the hell outta there.

  4. The Croatoans from DC Comics
    DC Comics

    This group of detectives was featured only once in the DC comics world, in 52 No. 18. The five members met at the House of Mystery, and were credited with solving several unexplained phenomena, including Stonehenge.

  5. Mindhunters

    This sleeper film was basically Criminal Minds before Criminal Minds was a thing you binged on Netflix. In it, FBI trainees suddenly had to put their studies to the test when a killer among them was discovered on a remote island. In one scene, each of their jackets featured a letter written in phosphorescent powder that spelled out Croatoan. Soon after, the team discovered their current location was the Lost Colony.

  6. Tomb Raider
    Square Enix

    A page in Lara Croft’s journal clearly referenced the Lost Colony of Roanoke; at least, that’s what Reddit user AtomikRadio believes.

  7. Storm of the Century
    ABC

    This ’90s TV miniseries, crafted from the mind of Stephen King, included one super eerie dream sequence. Forming a single file line, people jumped into the sea one by one, each with the word “Croatoan” carved into their forehead.

  8. Haven
    Syfy

    Another Stephen King creation, Haven is loosely based on King’s novel The Colorado Kid. The word “Croatoan” is referenced several times during Season 5. Originally believed to be a long-lost tribe, we later learned it was actually a monster who lived in the Void.

  9. Croatoan

    Arguably the most bizarre reference on this list, Harlan Ellison’s short story was seriously effed up. Protagonist Gabe traveled into NYC’s sewers to retrieve his girlfriend’s aborted baby, only to discover that the fetuses ran amuck, and the word “Croatoan” was written on the sewer’s entrance.