Fans of American Horror Story think they’ve got co-creator and showrunner Ryan Murphy’s game figured out. After years of trying to connect the horror anthology’s various seasons, Murphy might have just confirmed a popular fan theory regarding AHS and Dante’s famed Inferno that finally, blessedly, makes everything make sense for once.
Or, it just makes everything that much more confusing, depending on how you look at it.
On Friday, Murphy posted a screenshot of an iPhone note to Instagram with the caption “Interesting.” The screenshot listed the Nine Circles of Hell from Dante’s Inferno, assigning different AHS seasons to each except two: “Limbo (Murder House), Lust, Gluttony (Hotel), Greed (Freak Show), Anger (Roanoke), Heresy (Cult), Violence, Fraud (Asylum), Treachery (Coven).”
Nevermind that those are all out of order, as American Horror Story’s seasons are, in order, Murder House, Asylum, Coven, Freak Show, Hotel, Roanoke, and the upcoming Cult.
With Murphy having teased at connections between the anthology series’ seasons in the past and the general population’s never-ending obsession with expanded universes (looking at you, Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC Extended Universe, and now the Stephen Kingverse), it makes sense for AHS fans to try to read into something. Finding out, for instance, that all of Evan Peters’ characters are somehow miraculously related would probably result in a chaotic bout of mutual excitement large enough to destroy the known universe.
Fans have speculated for a while about AHS falling in step with the Nine Circles of Hell defined in the first part of 14th-century poet Dante’s epic poem Divine Comedy, the Inferno. And while some theories about how they fit together are better than others, the story pretty much remains the same.
It’s up for debate about whether or not this is giving Murphy too much credit, as these qualifications are pretty loose and Dante’s Circles of Hell are a bit more complicated than just the nine Murphy lists in his post.
Without getting too preachy, the Circles detailed in Dante’s Inferno are more than singular circles, as several of them are divided into separate rings; for example, the Eighth Circle, Fraud, includes eight “Bolgias” (trenches) to punish various kinds of fraud — from panderers and seducers all the way to falsifiers. Meanwhile, Violence, the Seventh Circle, contains three different rings for violence against neighbors, violence against the self, and violence against God, art, and nature, respectively.
Inferno is quite a bit more complicated than it needs to be, as 14th-century poets aren’t known for being simple. But, actually, the story doesn’t end when Dante enters the center of Hell and meets Satan. He and his guide, Virgil, escape Hell via Satan’s genitals (no joke) and, eventually, the epic poem moves on to its latter two parts, Purgatorio and Paradiso.
So, really, even if Murphy is following Dante’s story with his own 21st-century smorgasbord of horror oddities, Season 9 — representative of the Ninth and final Circle — wouldn’t be the last. There should be at least one more season representing Dante meeting Satan in the center, with another two series’ worth of misadventures to represent Purgatorio and Paradiso.
But, keep in mind: just because Murphy thinks something is “interesting” doesn’t mean he’s not a troll.
American Horror Story: Cult premieres on FX on Tuesday, September 5.