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The Scariest Moments From American Horror Stories Season 2

The nail-biting episodic anthology series "American Horror Stories" turned up the terror in Season 2. In the first season of the "American Horror Story" spin-off, we returned to Murder House, an iconic location from the main series. Season 1 also featured gruesome carnage at a drive-in movie theater, terrifying creatures lurking in national parks, and a haunting satanic pregnancy ritual.

The format of "American Horror Stories" allows the series to experiment and explore several different ideas in a shorter span of time. It also gives the creators the freedom to introduce new actors to the "American Horror Story" world, like Virginia Gardner from 2018's "Halloween." Longtime fans of the original series will also appreciate all the subtle connections that expand the "American Horror Story" universe in riveting ways.

The sophomore season of the spooky spin-off unleashes even more horror, with deadly infectious diseases, a fully-realized urban legend, and unnerving home invasions ramping up the intensity. These are the scariest moments from "American Horror Stories" Season 2.

The traumatic home invasion flashback

"American Horror Stories" Season 2 gives viewers enough nightmare fuel to last a lifetime in Episode 2. "Aura" stars "American Horror Story: Coven" fan-favorite Gabourey Sidibe in the lead role. In the episode, a traumatized Jaslyn (Sidibe) purchases the Aura doorbell cam for some peace of mind in her new home. Her husband, fellow "American Horror Story" alum Max Greenfield, finds the camera excessive, given they already live in a well-protected gated community, leading to a growing division between the two.

After experiencing a rough first encounter with her newly installed doorbell camera, Jaslyn has a disturbing flashback. The moment is a pivotal and horrific memory from her childhood when both of her parents were murdered by a home intruder. It's also a multilayered sequence referencing the acclaimed horror flick "The Strangers," which was inspired by true events. It's a haunting memory that left Jaslyn with deep scars, and one that audiences won't forget in a hurry.

A curious cure for smallpox

Set in 18th-century New England, The "American Horror Stories" Season 2 episode "Milkmaids" centers on the spreading of smallpox, a disease that leaves its victims with oozing pustules. The fact that this episode happened to air as monkeypox cases were on the rise in the real world was a coincidence that worked in the episode's favor, making the on-screen events all the more terrifying.

In the episode, the masses turn to religion in their panic. A rumor has circulated that eating the heart of a recently deceased person will cure the disease, creating a dangerous environment for everybody. Milkmaid Delilah (Addison Timlin) discovers that she's been infected with cowpox and that this actually counteracts the smallpox infection. She becomes a walking cure, which she dishes out in the form of a healing lick from her pus-filled boils. The scene is revolting yet powerful, one that lives long in the memory after the credits have rolled.

Waiting for Bloody Mary to appear

A universal childhood experience is testing the power of mythos by uttering the legendary words "Bloody Mary" three times into a dark mirror. The suspenseful ritual is unsettling and exciting as it bonds youngsters over scary stories and daring exercises. In the "American Horror Stories" Season 2 episode "Bloody Mary," the deed has disastrous results for Lena Lawrence — she summons the titular entity (played by Ryan Murphy collaborator Dominique Jackson) and ends up dead after refusing to obey her. However, the scariest part of the episode is seeing Lena and her friends summon Bloody Mary.

The darkness of these scenes creates a tense and almost unbearable sense of claustrophobia as we await the dreaded arrival of Bloody Mary. When she finally appears, her jagged movements are otherworldly. Bloody Mary speaks in tongues and is utterly terrifying, with her golden claws extending out from the mirror and threatening to steal outsiders into her world. This iteration of the legendary ghoul will surely haunt "American Horror Stories" fans and keep them from trying the chant at home.

Spalding's origins are revealed

Viewers spend a bizarre couple of days with doll maker Van Wirt (portrayed by "American Horror Story" veteran Denis O'Hare) in the "American Horror Stories" Season 2 episode "Dollhouse." Wirt has kidnapped four unsuspecting women, who originally applied for a secretary job, in an attempt to find the perfect mother for his darling boy Otis. The twisted doll maker subjects them to a series of chore-related tasks to test their abilities as housewives.

The deadly assessments alone are distressing and conjure a sick and sexist moment of suspense, especially with O'Hare's explosive performance. However, the scariest scene occurs when the lone survivor Coby (Kristine Froseth) is strapped to a table as the plastic doll mold slowly descends upon her. Shockingly, our heroine is encompassed in the goo and becomes a mute but perfect doll.

"Dollhouse" uses carnival imagery like horses and clowns, reminding fans of the ghastly Twisty and the revolving carousels from "American Horror Story: Freak Show." The episode then takes a surprising turn by elevating Coby's Carrie-like telekinetic abilities into a witchy prequel for "American Horror Story" Season 3, "Coven." We witness the beginning of Denis O'Hare's Spalding, the butler from Miss Robichaux's Academy who has an odd fascination with dolls that doesn't seem so strange anymore.

The worst case of road rage

The "American Horror Stories" Season 2 episode "Drive" is full of twists and turns rooted in the scary reality of predators that hunt in the night. Bella Thorne plays Marci, an outgoing party girl who gets targeted by another car while driving home one evening. The vehicle behind repeatedly tailgates Marci while flashing his high beam lights on and off, recreating the club's strobe lights. He even rams the back of her car at one point, causing Marci to speed off in a desperate attempt to escape.

The scene is a deep-cut reference to Ryan Murphy's canceled black comedy-slasher series "Scream Queens," a nod to the scene in which the sorority is telling ghost stories in Season 1. One story, in particular, is a chilling tale of a road rage incident that actually turns out to be a warning from a concerned citizen. We learn the same is true in "Drive," as a man is repeatedly visible in Marci's backseat. The blinding lights, paired with Marci's deafening engine and all the quick cuts, make for a stressful scene that oozes authenticity.

The facelift bandage finally unraveling

Even the most devoted "American Horror Story" fans may not know that Ryan Murphy cut his teeth on the revolutionary series "Nip/Tuck," a show that featured several disconcerting plastic surgery procedures. His past appears to have inspired the "American Horror Stories" Season 2 episode "Facelift," a sickening entry with a sad turn of events. In a scene bursting with tension, Virginia (Judith Light, another Murphy universe recruit from "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story") has her bandages removed to reveal some irreversible, life-changing surgery.

The scene intentionally feels like it takes forever, but we finally see what's under Virginia's many-layered wrappings: She's been given a disfigured, pig-like face, and not by accident. She's the victim of a beauty-obsessed cult, and she has been chosen to be a ritual sacrifice to the deity that they worship. We learn the cult's perverse plan as the bandages are removed, making the scene all the more terrifying. To top it all off, Virginia's stepdaughter Fay (Britt Lower) has a critical part to play in their evil scheme, sealing Virginia's unfortunate fate.

The terrors lurking in the deep

Those who struggle with thalassophobia (an "intense fear of large bodies of water," per Healthline) were no doubt terrified by the underwater sequences in the "American Horror Stories" Season 2 finale "Lake." The low levels of sound leave jumpy viewers easy prey for sudden scares, like decaying hands popping out and sucking poor souls down to the unseen bottoms of the lake. The episode features "Clueless" icon Alicia Silverstone in a dramatic role, uncovering a malicious deed from the town's mysterious past with a hard-hitting revelation.

After Jake (Bobby Hogan) dies in the titular body of water, his family struggle to move on. They're all triggered by water, and by the end of the episode, viewers might have the same issue. The episode spends an anxiety-inducing amount of time underwater with the unknown evils lurking beneath in the sunken town, and you can take your pick, because all of these moments are scary. The pacing also slows at times to allow rare moments of quiet between the family as they work through their shared loss. These contrasting scenes create a memorable episode with striking and frightening visuals.

A disgusting habit gets revealed during a wedding

"Necro" may not be your typically bloody "American Horror Stories" tale, but the episode has one very memorable moment in which Sam (Madison Iseman) reveals her gruesome fetish. As the title suggests, Sam engages in intercourse with a corpse while at her job as a mortician. The professional has a pristine reputation with no prior history for deviant behavior, but something deep within compels her to act. Her moment of weakness is forever preserved when Charlie (Cameron Cowperthwaite), her co-worker and gravedigger, records the act and then goes to extreme lengths to falsify his death. After he drops the act, he approaches her and she angrily rejects him, prompting him to take drastic measures.

Sam is seemingly in a better place having moved on and conformed to societal expectations, set to marry her fiancé Jesse (Spencer Neville). However, her new life is built on shaky ground, and when Charlie hacks her wedding by showing the inexcusable video, her reputation implodes. The scene may not be traditionally scary but the uncomfortable nature and awkward silence leaves audiences cringing at home.

Bloody Mary's bloody twist

The "American Horror Stories" Season 2 episode "Bloody Mary" raises plenty of questions about this well-known folklore tale. It's believed — in the show's version of the urban legend, at least — that Bloody Mary grants a singular wish at a terrible price. However, if her requested task is not fulfilled, the summoner is slaughtered with their eyes gouged out for good measure. What's even more troubling is the way the myth came to be and the blood-soaked roots of the titular character.

Bloody Mary is serving a sentence, punished for her past vengeance by being confined to mirrors and forced to appear when called upon. She works out a master plan to escape by gathering blood from three innocents to break the curse. In a startling twist, Bloody Mary swaps places with Bianca (Quvenzhané Wallis), condemning her to the same harrowing fate. While we're a bit more sympathetic towards Mary after learning all about her tragic backstory, it doesn't make Bianca's terror as she's trapped inside the mirror any easier to watch.

Bella's brutal bear claw

"Drive" subverts several slasher tropes, making effective use of leading lady Bella Thorne as the deranged club-hopper Marci. The episode purposefully leads viewers to believe Marci is in danger because of her perceived reckless behavior. She insists that she's fine and in control, yet we as the audience echo her husband's (Chaz, played by Anthony De La Torre) disbelief. Our expectations are shattered when it's revealed that Marci isn't in danger, but is in fact the danger herself.

She gets a euphoric rush from killing and takes pleasure in executing men and women alike. This comes as a horribly unlucky turn of events for concerned citizen Paul (Nico Greetham, who has appeared in both "American Horror Story" and "American Horror Stories"), who becomes Marci's latest victim. Her favorite instrument of torture is bold and personal: A razor sharp bear claw she punches right into Paul's constrained leg. It's a harrowing scene and without a doubt one of the scariest from the spin-off's second season.

The swine hunt

The jaw-dropping reveal behind Virginia's bandages was a heartbreaking turn that drastically shifted the horror narrative. Her facial reconstruction was meant to transform her into an ageless creature of beauty. Instead, she was mutilated and mutated into a horrid-looking swine that became the helpless prey of a disturbed hunt. Following such an extensive surgery and recovery process, Virginia is in no condition to outrun a deranged mob of soulless vapid monsters, and the scene that follows is scary in several ways.

The helpless Virginia runs through the woods as fast as she can but her new hooves (yes, they gave her hooves as well) and snout leave her coordination awkward and staggering. As she reaches the edge of the forest, mere feet from safety, she's caught and impaled by a cult member's spear. To add insult to injury, her stepdaughter Fay is recruited by the cult (after Virginia rejected her, emphasizing that she's her stepdaughter) and, in a karmic turn of events, aids in her execution.

The ghost of Mr. Hendricks

A stressful introduction overwhelmed both Jaslyn and the audience when Mr. Hendricks (Joel Swetow) came pounding on her door in "Aura." His aggression set the Aura cam into a frenzy as Jaslyn begged him to stop, echoing the wishes of the panicked audience. The lightning fast sequence of quick editing cuts heightens the intensity while mirroring Jaslyn's anxieties. The terror continues when Jaslyn calls the police, only to find no one there and nothing on the recordings showing Mr. Hendrick's harassments.

The officers and Jaslyn's husband gaslight her (and the audience), leaving us questioning what we saw and how we saw it. The effective editing and directing roots us in Jaslyn's perspective, making her flashbacks even more emotional when she remembers how she knows Hendricks. It turns out he's the janitor from her old school — and he's already dead. The reason he's showing up is because he wants to apologize for sexually harassing Jaslyn in the past, and once he's done that, he vanishes. He isn't the last ghost that the Aura cam picks up, but he's definitely the scariest.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).