‘American Horror Story’ uses turbulent economy to create new mythology

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Any story that involves a haunted house naturally causes the audience to wonder about the origin of the haunting and why hapless victims endure supernatural terrors instead of fleeing at the first sign of evil. During its first season, "American Horror Story" effectively used financial struggles as the answer to both classic conundrums. The show's horrors ranged from urban legends to fractured relationships, but money also played a prominent role in its complex mythology. The recent financial climate and sense of uncertainty received a supernatural twist as the iconic dream home turned into a nightmare, driving people to make desperate decisions with extreme consequences.

The Harmons

The modern plot on "American Horror Story" followed Ben and Vivien Harmon, who desperately want a fresh start after infidelity and a miscarriage threaten their wedded bliss. The Harmons and their moody teenage daughter, Violet, made a cross-country move into a cozy house complete with a home office for Ben.

Somehow, they were oblivious to their home's reputation as the Murder House until Vivien noticed the Eternal Darkness Tour stop in front of her house. It seems odd that the Harmons did not research the house in advance. However, the show convincingly used financial woes as the reason the Harmons stayed despite increasing warning signs and spooky happenings. Their broker lost most of their money in the market, Ben had to continue working from his home office, and the tough real estate market made it especially difficult to unload the house of horrors.

The couple's mundane money arguments added a somewhat relatable element and helped anchor the show's wild twists. Ultimately, financial inflexibility kept the Harmons stuck in a broken marriage and seemingly eternally trapped in a haunted house.

Chad and Patrick

The previous owners of the house, Chad and Patrick, had a lot in common with the Harmons. They were a happy couple who wanted to adopt a child. The house was a great investment opportunity, and they planned to flip it for a profit.

Working together tested their relationship, and the situation turned toxic because of Patrick's infidelity. The couple alternated between half-hearted reconciliation attempts and bitter arguments. It was obvious they should move on, but their investment in the house bound them. Financial ties kept them together long enough for the house to work its evil and add them to its menagerie of spirits.

The Montgomerys

Charles Montgomery, a doctor, and his socialite wife, Nora, appear to be the catalyst for decades of suffering and ghostly unrest. During the 1920s, their family life looked worthy of a Norman Rockwell painting. They and their new baby, Thaddeus, enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle in the newly built house.

The doctor struggled with a growing drug addiction, and his career suffered, leaving the family in need of money. Nora was cruel, impatient, and materialistic. She bullied her husband into performing illegal abortions in the basement. He reluctantly went along with her moneymaking scheme, but it cost them dearly when a father-to-be sought revenge.

The angry stranger kidnapped, killed, and dismembered little Thaddeus. Crazed with grief, the doctor used various body parts to reanimate his slain child. The baby became an immortal bloodthirsty creature that attacked Nora. She decided to end their suffering and murdered her husband before committing suicide.

The couples were hopeful upon entering the house, but the beautiful mansion came to represent broken dreams and the ephemeral nature of happiness. Financial despair strained vulnerable relationships, letting decay set in. The very realistic fear of financial ruin allowed the show to frighten fans on multiple levels.

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