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The Most Paused Moments In American Horror Story

Since 2011, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have been pushing the boundaries of what can be shown on television with American Horror Story. With each season featuring a new location and a new plotline (at least at first), AHS boasts a core cast including Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Frances Conroy, and many more. These talents have taken on a variety of different roles over the course of the show, sometimes appearing as multiple characters in one season — or even one episode. 

The innovative nature of this casting is eye-catching — yet it still pales in comparison to much of the intense content presented in each AHS season. The gore, twists, and disturbing details of this show captivate and horrify viewers on a regular basis, often requiring AHS fans to pause and take a break from the grotesque events playing out on screen. From shocking reveals to gruesome murders, here are the most paused moments of American Horror Story.

The infamous Rubber Man in Murder House and Apocalypse

There is an avalanche of disturbing imagery delivered over the course of AHS, but one of the first events that had viewers hitting pause is still one of the creepiest. We're talking, of course, about the first appearance of the Rubber Man in the debut season, Murder House. For much of this season, we have no idea who is wearing the latex suit and creeping around the mansion. As the suit's story unfolds (pun intended), things only get worse. 

The latex suit is first bought by new homeowner Chad (Zachary Quinto) to hopefully entice his drifting partner Patrick. It ends up in the garbage when Chad's plan fails, and he and Patrick both end up murdered by Tate Langdon (Evan Peters), who then adopts the suit as his own. Horrifyingly, Tate sexually assaults Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton) while wearing the suit, as she thinks it's her husband Ben (Dylan McDermott). This crime will shape much of AHS going forward. 

The Rubber Man appears again years later in Apocalypse as an enigmatic emissary and spy for Michael Landon (Cody Fern), AKA Satan's son. For so many episodes, the Rubber Man has us scratching our heads and pausing to look for clues to his identity. Subsequent reveals do not disappoint.

The truth about Tate and Violet in Murder House

Tate Langdon and Violet Harmon (Taissa Farmiga) share their hearts, dreams, and fears with each other in ways they never have with anyone else. The fact that Violet's father Ben sees Tate as the son he never had only adds to Tate and Violet's romance. But in what would become classic AHS style, there is a twist in their relationship, and it cuts like a butcher knife. We find out in horrifying detail that Tate Langdon is actually a ghost who killed himself in the Montgomery House after he orchestrated a school shooting. Said shooting took the lives of several classmates and wounded many others.

To make things worse, Violet appears to develop agoraphobia and a panic disorder, which flares up every time she tries to leave the property. Ultimately, we discover that in a bout of grief, Violet overdosed on sleeping pills and died. Her body was hidden by Tate in the crawlspace under the house. She has been a ghost for some time, just like Tate. Their seemingly sweet romance ends in further tragedy when Violet finds out her love is the one who assaulted and impregnated her mother. There's a whole lot to pause and take in here. 

Anne Frank's appearance in Asylum

AHS' sophomore season Asylum features an especially compelling subplot. Briarcliff Manor is a dark and brooding place where evil men and women hurt mentally and physically disabled folks under the guise of religious care. Briarcliff is also a place where men drop off the unruly women in their lives for "treatment," AKA a lobotomy — or worse. The year is 1964.

One day, a woman shows up at Briarcliff claiming to be Anne Frank, with an elaborate, emotional, and entirely convincing story about how she survived to that point. Anne Frank claims that Briarcliff's resident Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) is actually a Nazi doctor named Hans Gruper who tortured her and others. This scenario would seem utterly absurd in any other context, but thanks to Franka Potente's incredible performance, we almost believe it's real, even as we find out that Anne is actually Charlotte Cohen, a woman suffering from what Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto) claims to be postpartum psychosis. 

After trying to murder Dr. Arden/Gruper, Charlotte/Anne is lobotomized and forgets her delusion. Yet when we pause on the photo evidence from her obsession wall, we see a man who looks exactly like Dr. Arden alongside Hitler and other Nazi doctors, calling the entire Charlotte Cohen reveal into question.

Unnecessary amputations in Asylum and Freak Show

It's bad enough to lose a limb for any reason, but on AHS, it sometimes happens for no reason at all. Two gruesome and unnecessary amputations occur as part of Asylum and AHS' fourth season, Freak Show

Asylum introduces Dr. Arden, a sadistic Nazi who enjoys torturing the poor folks he is entrusted to care for and heal. Dr. Arden is also a staunch misogynist who has no time for the women in his orbit. Shelley (Chloe Sevigny) has been diagnosed as a nymphomaniac after her cheating husband finds out that she's been returning his terrible favor with other men. Dr. Arden amputates both of her legs after she laughs at him, and dumps her in a playground where children find her and call her "the monster." Whew. That's a moment to take a pause if ever there was one. For some viewers, this moment is more than enough to hit stop and never resume watching the show again. 

In Freak Show, we find out that Dr. Arden's fetish for unnecessary amputation has actually been put on film: He cuts off Elsa Mars' (Jessica Lange) legs on a horrific underground tape. Unlike poor Shelley, whose life ends as her legs are cut off, Elsa lives and learns to walk with prosthetic limbs.

The Minotaur in Coven

In Coven, AHS really ramps up the intensity of violence and grotesque mise-en-scene when it travels to New Orleans, one of America's most haunted cities. Against a backdrop of the scars of slavery, sexual violence, and various warring covens of witches, Coven features imagery so disturbing, we cannot even get into some of it here. 

One of this third season's most paused moments reveals the creation of the Minotaur. The grotesque product of a battle of wills between sadistic slaveowner Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) and voodoo queen Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett), the Minotaur was once an enslaved man named Bastien who was assaulted by one of Delphine's daughters. To save face, Delphine accuses him of rape and, after torturing him, leaves him for dead with a decapitated bull's head pulled over his face. Marie Laveau brings her lover back to life, but cannot detach the bull's head. He is forced to wander the world in this nightmarish form until Marie Laveau is herself killed, rendering all her spells broken.

Twisty the Clown's tragic tale in Freak Show

Many of AHS' most terrifying monsters weren't actually born that way — they were warped by trauma and terrible circumstance. Twisty the Clown, who is featured in Freak Show, is one of the most poignant examples of this. After a childhood accident leaves him mildly mentally disabled, Twisty becomes one of the most popular and beloved clowns on the sideshow circuit. But with all this attention comes the jealousy of his fellow clowns, who are so threatened by Twisty's success, they spread a foul rumor that he molests children. 

The rumor grows teeth, and Twisty's life as a performer for kids ends just like that. In despair, Twisty turns his shotgun on himself ... and survives. To hide his newly mangled face, Twisty once again dons his clown mask and makes it his mission to "save" children from parents he believes are hurting them. Played by John Carroll Lynch, Twisty the Clown is equal parts horrifying and affecting, even as he is physically petrifying to behold.

Freak Show reveals the truth about Pepper

Since AHS' seasons jump around in time, Freak Show doesn't actually contain the first time we meet Pepper (Naomi Grossman), the kindly microcephalic woman who is one of Briarcliff's long-term residents in Asylum. In 1964's Asylum, we are told that Pepper murdered her sister's baby. This never makes sense, as we see how this sweet, mostly non-verbal woman moves gently through the horrible world she finds herself in. 

In Freak Show, set in 1952, we find out that Pepper was actually the first member of Elsa Mars' Cabinet of Curiosities. She lives quite happily with the show until her husband Salty (Christopher Neiman) dies. A morose Pepper refuses to perform, so Elsa is forced to take Pepper to her sister Rita's (Mare Winningham) home. Rita and her husband Larry (Matthew Glave) are horribly abusive to Pepper, and treat their own disabled infant with similar venom. Eventually, Rita and Larry brutally kill their baby and blame it on Pepper, who cannot defend herself. She spends the rest of her days within the horrible walls of Briarcliff Manor, until another most-paused moment of AHS arrives: Pepper is ultimately abducted by aliens.

Ma Petite's brutal murder in Freak Show

There is absolutely no shortage of people meeting terrible ends throughout AHS, but that violence hits viewers differently when it happens to characters who are marginalized because of their disabilities. In Freak Show, we meet Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge), a little woman from India who is one of Fraulein Elsa's best friends and a prized member of her sideshow. While Ma Petite is a grown woman of small stature, she is still treated as a child: We often see her carried around like a living doll. 

Ma Petite radiates kindness even as she's surrounded by folks committing heinous acts of cruelty and degradation. This makes it utterly devastating to watch strongman Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis) murder her for pay, then hand her body over to opportunistic Stanley (Denis O'Hare), who plans to install her pickled body in a museum of human oddities. Ma Petite's death hits hard: Much like Pepper, she represents purity and innocence within American Horror Story's dark world, all too quickly snuffed out.

James March's serial killer dinner party in Hotel

AHS' fifth season, Hotel, is filled to the brim with disturbing moments: Remember the gruesome emergence of a violent ghost sewn into a Hotel Cortez bed? Shudder. But while those moments make fans avert their eyes or leave the room, one particular scene held them rapt. We're talking about the night that Hotel Cortez creator James March (Evan Peters) has his favorite ghostly serial killers over to his quarters for dinner and absinthe. 

Devil's Night festivities feature the Night Stalker Richard Ramirez (Anthony Ruivivar), Aileen Wournos (Lily Rabe), John Wayne Gacy (John Carroll Lynch), Jeffrey Dahmer (Seth Gabel), and a masked Zodiac Killer. Each actor embodies their respective serial killer so completely, some viewers had to pause just to remember that this scene isn't real. Others, of a more morbid bent, pause this moment to try to identify the killers before their names are revealed.

Cult reveals the identity of the Zodiac Killer

During the 1960s and 1970s, Northern California was terrorized by the Zodiac Killer. He mainly targeted young couples, but also claimed a number of other victims in letters he wrote to the San Francisco Police Department. American Horror Story's sixth season, Cult, offers us an entirely new theory of who the Zodiac might be: Valerie Solanas (Lena Dunham), author of SCUM Manifesto, whose other claim to fame was attempting to murder Andy Warhol. 

With one of the most involved and double-cross-heavy plots in AHS history, Cult takes the very long way around to introduce Solanas — not just as the Zodiac Killer, but also the progenitor of Kai Anderson's (Evan Peters) woman-hating cult. It was, in the beginning, actually meant to inspire women to rise up against men. This convoluted story requires quite a lot of pausing, as viewers try to keep up. In many ways, it ends up overshadowing the creepy clowns, nasty incest, and political commentary that also drives Cult.

Constance Langdon's epic return in Apocalypse

Everywhere Jessica Lange goes, she is a star. But for AHS fans, her Constance Langdon is a constellation unto herself. This southern matriarch, transplanted to Los Angeles, watches over the ghost children of the Montgomery House in the show's first season. So imagine viewers' surprise when Constance Langdon traipses down the stairs of the Murder House with her signature cigarette in AHS' eighth season, Apocalypse, completely unexpectedly.

Yes, fans did know that Apocalypse would be a crossover season. But until they saw Constance again, they didn't know in what capacity this crossover would happen. In yet another show-stopping performance, Lange takes what would be exposition in anyone else's hands and turns it into a tour-de-force monologue that outlines where she's been since Murder House concluded. It's a doozy, and AHS fans take their time letting this on-screen magic sink in by pausing often.

Apocalypse meets Coven when Madame Robicheaux's appears

AHS fans were given many hints that the eighth season, Apocalypse, would feature crossover events going all the way back to season one's Murder House and season three's Coven. The question was, how would these events happen? In Apocalypse, Satan's son has risen, and the end of the world is a done deed. The wealthy are sequestered in bunkers all over the world, and in Outpost 3, stranger things than usual are afoot ... especially when a handsome stranger named Michael Landon (Cody Fern) shows up, and all hell quite literally breaks loose. 

As it turns out, angel-faced Michael is actually Lucifer's child, born of the unholy union between Tate Langdon and Vivien Harmon. Only the surviving witches from Coven can reverse the end of the world and eliminate Michael once and for all. Madame Robicheaux's witches appear like magic in the middle of Apocalypse, replete with their characteristic black dresses and incredible powers. It's a most-paused moment for sure, but a rare one for AHS in that fans pause to savor it, rather than recoil in horror.

Mr. Jingles' 1984 cabin and its links to Asylum

Later seasons of AHS tend to be super pause-worthy when it comes to Easter eggs, echoes, and callbacks. One particular Easter egg, however, floats to the top of the pile. In 1984, the show's love letter to vintage slasher movies, we meet mass murderer Mr. Jingles, who once annihilated an entire crop of camp counselors, save one: Margaret Booth (Leslie Grossman). It's not long before we find out that Margaret was the actual killer, and that she framed Benjamin Richter (John Carroll Lynch) for her heinous crimes. 

When Benjamin escapes the locale that ruined his life, he sets up shop in Alaska, where eagle-eyed AHS fans pause the show to take in his cabin. This humble building is exactly the same as Kit Walker's (Evan Peters) from Asylum. Kit Walker is also falsely accused of being a serial killer to boot. Because Asylum contains a juicy subplot about alien abduction from said cabin that is never fully explained, 1984's inclusion of it is especially intriguing, if resolutely mysterious.

Margaret Booth starts buying other AHS properties in 1984

When promoting AHS' ninth season, 1984, Ryan Murphy claimed it would be a standalone season, a statement fans took with an enormous grain of salt. Once upon a time, Murphy said none of the show's seasons would be connected, despite the fact that they very clearly are. So it comes as no surprise when AHS' newest serial killer, Margaret Booth, begins buying up murderous properties, some of which are the sites of previous AHS seasons. 

One key location is Briarcliff Manor, setting of the second season, Asylum. A whole lot of horror goes down there: Serial killing, a Nazi doctor's human experimentation, demonic possession, and so much more. Margaret Booth doesn't make it out of Camp Redwood herself, but someone who amassed that much wealth surely had a plan in place for her assets, in the event of her death. What will become of her grisly purchases? Only time will tell.