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American Horror Story: How Many Ghosts Were In Hotel Cortez?

Over the 10-season, 116-episode (and counting) course of "American Horror Story," the Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk-produced series has given fans a dizzying menagerie of trapped spirits and unruly, undead characters to love, hate, root for, and fear. If there's one season of the show that piles its bodiless body count about as high as it can possibly go though, it's Season 5, titled "American Horror Story: Hotel."

Much like the Murder House from Season 1 and Camp Redwood from Season 9 ("American Horror Story: 1984"), The Hotel Cortez is a "Hellmouth." Among other things, this means that anyone who dies (or, more likely, gets murdered) on the grounds of the hotel finds their spirit trapped forever within its maze of walls. This rule — which is applied to mortals, witches, and vampires alike throughout the season — filled the primary setting of "American Horror Story: Hotel" with a seemingly endless stream of central and supporting characters. Some of those characters served merely as expositional collateral damage, while others interacted directly with the main narrative of the hotel and its living guests.

Considering the season's titular hotel was built specifically for the purpose of murdering people and hiding their bodies, it might seem impossible to calculate the space's actual number of ghostly residents. However, by placing a few specific parameters on the mathematics — and after painstakingly combing through each episode's body count — one Reddit user on the "American Horror Story" subreddit has managed to do exactly that. 

How one AHS fan determined The Cortez's ghost count

After having calculated the number of ghosts in the Murder House, Redditor u/HSMorg completed another "American Horror Story" public service by determining exactly how many trapped and tormented spirits call the Hotel Cortez home. In order to even be able to begin this monumental task, the user placed some key parameters on their tally. "I'm only counting ghosts after James Patrick March kills Hazel Evers," noted the user, before clarifying, "I believe this is when the curse that [binds] the souls to the hotel starts." For the "TLDR" crowd, the Redditor provided a brief summary of their findings, concluding that "Season 5: 'Hotel' gives us 134-154 deaths in the season, with 51-52 ghosts being trapped in Hotel Cortez." The user did, however, also point out that the final number goes down by one following the time travel reset in Season 8 of Queenie's trip to L.A.

The death tally is important here. After all, because ghosts only end up in the Cortez if they're killed or die on its grounds, the user had to dissect the deaths in all ten episodes, then determine which of those deaths resulted in a trapped ghost. For example, in the season's premiere, titled "Checking In," viewers witness a number of deaths (eight, to be exact), but only five of them leave behind a ghost. The user also chose to consider the Addiction Demon a ghost, since it's "bound to Sally," but notes that the Ten Commandments Killer's victims don't count, as they died outside the hotel.

While it's tempting to assume that a quick glimpse of each episode's cast list might help reveal the season's massive ghost number, as this Reddit tally demonstrates, there are several factors that complicate such an approach.

The problem with counting the Cortez's ghosts

For example, "American Horror Story: Hotel" Episode 4, titled "Devil's Night," introduces an entirely new population of ghosts into the Hotel Cortez, including serial killers Richard Ramirez (Anthony Ruivivar), John Wayne Gacy (John Carroll Lynch), Jeffrey Dahmer (Seth Gabel), and Aileen Wuornos (Lily Rabe). These ghosts are not, however, bound to the hotel, and therefore, don't factor in to the season's ultimate tally. That said, their actions within the hotel might. In their episode analysis, Redditor u/HSMorg seemed torn about this subject, writing, "The serial killers collectively kill? a man." However, the user also noted that said victim is "technically not dead?"  

Since there are a number of deaths alluded to but not necessarily accounted for throughout the season as well, the necessary parameters set up by the thread's OP led to some informed estimation. As one user pointed out, viewers "see a large pile of corpses in the basement in the penultimate episode" that wasn't in the season's first episode. In other words, those deaths presumably occurred long after the starting point drawn by u/HSMorg, yet they likely resulted in a large number of ghosts. However, not every "American Horror Story" fan seems to agree about that. "They only stay if they have unfinished business," wrote u/Empty_Confidence328, before adding that, "Death there doesn't [automatically] mean stuck for eternity."

Keeping this in mind, it may be impossible to ever truly determine the total number of ghosts trapped in The Cortez, but it's safe to say this "American Horror Story" fan's in-depth analysis brings viewers about as close as they're likely to come to a well-informed estimate.