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Why Twisty's Death Shocked Ryan Murphy On AHS: Freak Show

"American Horror Story," FX's long-running anthology series, has no shortage of scary monsters, but few are as simultaneously feared and beloved by fans (but not actual professional clowns) as Twisty the Clown. Debuting in the fourth season of the series, titled "Freak Show," and played by actor John Carroll Lynch, Twisty made waves as a terrifying serial killer who would murder parents and steal away their children.

Perhaps the most surprising element of the character, however, was his tragic and complex backstory. As it is eventually revealed, Twisty had a pretty rough life right from the outset. After a difficult childhood, his promising career as a circus clown was brought to an end when several of the other performers spread rumors about him being a sex offender. With no family, no friends, no career, and no home to go back to, Twisty attempted to take his own life, resulting in the loss of his lower jaw. It was then that the character adopted his murderous ways in a misguided attempt to continue his career as a clown and protect children from their parents.

Of course, as fans know, it wasn't too long after Twisty's full backstory was revealed that the character met his demise. In the fourth episode of the season, the ghostly spirit of Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley) killed Twisty. The character's death was a shock to some viewers, and even series creator Ryan Murphy was surprised by how fans reacted.

The outcry over Twisty's death surprised Ryan Murphy

In a 2014 interview with Entertainment Weekly from shortly after Twisty met his end, Murphy expressed his surprise with the public reaction to the early death of the character.

"I was shocked to read so many of these 'RIP Twisty' websites and blogs have sprung up," Murphy said in the interview. "People love Twisty. I think that's due to the power of John as an actor. [...] He didn't just want to be a killer clown. He wanted an ideology and a backstory, and I think that clown's backstory is so fascinating and bizarre. We're talking on Halloween day and I've already seen three Twistys, so he apparently hit a nerve. I love him. I loved his performance. He will return."

Murphy would make good on his promise of continued post-mortem appearances by Twisty, with him becoming one of the few characters to recur across separate seasons. After his death, Twisty joined Mordrake's circus troupe of ghosts and reappeared in the season finale of "Freak Show." Then, the beginning of the show's seventh season "Cult" saw the clown return in a nightmare sequence. That season also canonized his surprising popularity with his own in-universe comic series. Twisty also made an appearance in the season finale of the spin-off anthology series "American Horror Stories" as a video game villain. 

Despite his death, Twisty's enduring popularity with fans has kept him alive.