If you're a true crime buff like me, the creepy nurses story line on this week's episode of American Horror Story: Roanoke probably sounded familiar. In the latest episode, Nurse Bridget (Kristen Rakes) and Nurse Miranda (Maya Berko) shot an elderly woman in cold blood and then spray-painted the letter M on the wall. Later, we learned via Denis O'Hare's cooky Dr. Elias Cunningham that the nurses opened up a hospice care years ago and decided to kill their patients because that's what you do when you're evil.
But they're not totally evil. They only ganked patients whose first names ended up spelling MURDER. They made it to MURDE, but then mysteriously stopped before finishing their task. (At least the kid from The Shining was fully committed to his REDRUM tag.) While this sounds like just another twisted creation from the mind of showrunner Ryan Murphy, it's actually based on two real-life criminals from the 1980s: Catherine May Wood and Gwendolyn Gail Graham.
The two were aides in their mid-20s at Alpine Manor Nursing Home in Michigan, when, according to a New York Times article from 1988, the women "were arrested and arraigned on murder charges" for the deaths of two patients, one whose first name started with an M and another whose first name began with an E. "The authorities have declined to give the names of the other six people whose deaths are under investigation," the report adds. However, the women didn't shoot their victims like on AHS: Roanoke; they smothered them in what the Times later called a "lover's pact."
Fast-forward to 1989, and both women were convicted for their role in the murders. Wood was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison, became eligible for parole in 2005, and is reportedly expected to be released in June 2021. However, Graham, considered to be the mastermind, received five life sentences.
Naturally, there's more to the story. Lowell Cauffiel's 1992 book Forever and Five Days painted Wood as the leader, not Graham, and claimed Wood was upset about allegedly learning that Graham was seeing another woman, so she looped Graham in on the spree to keep her close to her.
Besides AHS: Roanoke, the murderers were featured on Snapped: Killer Couples. It's unclear what further role the nurses will play on the anthology show, but we'll be hiding under the covers with a flashlight, enjoying the ride.