American Horror Story returned for its 10th season last week with a new terrifying tale that has made it to air pretty much spoiler-free. Titled Double Feature, this season is split into two parts, one set by the sea and one set by the sand. The season began with part one, subtitled Red Tide, which follows a young family that relocates to Cape Cod to help husband and father Harry (Finn Wittrock) get over his writer’s block. Very little has been shared so far about the show’s second part, but the return of AHS superstars Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson has us ready to follow every minute of Season 10’s twisted tales.
Double Feature‘s two-part premiere was packed with pop culture and true crime references, and even had a very-meta reference to the franchise itself. This milestone 10th season has plenty of American Horror Story history to pull references from, and a devoted fanbase eager to look through every frame for easter eggs. Here’s a roundup of key references and nods to past seasons in the show so far.
Related article: It Looks Like ‘The Old Guard’ Is Getting A Sequel
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
There are multiple AHS connections to the Massachusetts setting of Part I: Red Tide. In the show’s first season, Murder House, the Harmons relocated from Boston to Los Angeles. Coven has also ties to Massachusetts through the Salem Witch Trials, as highlighted by Stevie Nicks.
Also, the Cape Cod region itself has a history of notorious serial killers and creepy events, including some that have hugely described the series (mentioned below). There is the Lady of the Dunes, the still-unidentified murder victim found in the Race Point Dunes of Provincetown, Massachusetts in 1974. There’s also Bridgewater Triangle, an area in southeastern Massachusetts that’s has allegedly been the site of UFO, Big Foot, giant snake, and poltergeist sightings.
One less spooky detail about Provincetown that’s highlighted in the series is its LGBTQ+ community. The beach town has been a popular queer summer destination for decades, and camp filmmaker John Waters has a summer home there. Waters previously appeared in another show by Murphy, Feud: Bette and Joan.
Fans noticed the show’s connections to the Stephen King novel as soon as the trailer dropped, since Red Tide follows a young family who relocates to a tourist town in the off-season to help husband and father Harry (Finn Wittrock) fight his writer’s block. The initial set-up is where the connection mostly ends though, though Harry’s wife Doris (Lily Rabe) does frequently shift between being supportive and exasperated as she spends more time in the house.
Related article: Everything We Know About The 2021 MTV Video Music Awards
The Tony Costa Murders
The season’s first episode, “Cape Fear,” starts off with a true-crime reference in the first few minutes. While the Gardners tour their new home in Provincetown, Harry (Wittrock) mentions that he’s heard of mysterious deaths in the area, specifically a family of five who was found dead in their beds.
The line is a nod to one of New England’s most famous serial killers, Antone Charles “Tony” Costa. Costa was a cannabis farmer and handyman who killed eight women around the town of Truro, Massachusetts, in the late ’60s. He was said to have bitten chunks out of his victims, and was often referred in the press as the Cape Cod Vampire. Beyond the obvious vampire inspiration, Costa was also a frequent user of pills and LSD, who wrote about taking LSD with two of his victims and killing them in his unpublished novel. It’s safe to say that Costa was a major inspiration for the season.
Related article: ‘The Morning Show’ Season 2: What We Know So Far
The New England Vampire Panic
Another likely inspiration for the season happened 200 years after the Salem Witch Trials, when New England had another supernatural panic. In the 19th century, a tuberculosis outbreak rocked Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont and other parts of the region. At the time, residents believed that early victims of the disease had “fed” on their family members who subsequently fell sick. To stop the “vampires,” the bodies were exhumed and placed facedown in their graves, with some opting to burn the corpses’ heart and inhale the smoke as a supposed cure. This is probably where Double Feature got the inspiration for “Tuberculosis Karen” (Sarah Paulson).
Related article: Everything We Know About ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’
The Cult-like grocery store sequence
Harry receives a disturbing welcome to town in an early scene in episode one. While shopping at the grocery store, he comes face to face with “Tuberculosis Karen” (Paulson), a local who warns him to get out of town with expletive-filled shouting.
american horror story american horror story— sally | double feature (@asylumera) August 26, 2021
double feature 10×01 cult 7×01 pic.twitter.com/isj2FlwHFa
The disturbing trip to the grocery store mirrored one such shopping trip in Cult, where Paulson’s character Ally was attacked by killer clowns as heavy metal music played over the intercom. The lead up to the two confrontations were even filmed similarly, as one fan noticed on Twitter.
“Islands in the Stream”
AHS alums Evan Peters and Frances Conroy’s Double Feature characters–three-time Tony Award winning playwright Austin Sommers (Peters) and prolific romance novelist Belle Noir (Conroy)–made a grand entrance in episode one. The campy and vampy writer duo serenades Harry and the other patrons at the local bar with a duet of “Islands in the Stream.” The iconic duet by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers doesn’t have any horror genre connections that we know of, but the lovely performance continued the Ryan Murphy tradition of having his characters sing at some point in his shows.
The Prolific Writer
When Sommers (Evan Peters) tries to sell Harry on taking the black inspiration pills at his beach house, the playwright mentions the writer friend who got him on the pills.
“He writes for television. You know the name. Disgustingly prolific, silly rich, couldn’t write a thank-you note without somebody handing him a trophy of some kind. And I thought to myself, ‘How is he doing it?’ And all I knew was that he spent his winters here, and when he returned to the city he had a stack of material as long as my Johnson. He invited me out here one winter, and when I arrived he handed me one of those. Tragic magic little black pills. Within an hour, I was banging away at the keyboard like Amadeus at his harpsichord.”
The prolific writer who’s swimming in cash and awards sounds a lot like the AHS‘ creator himself. It wouldn’t be the first time AHS went meta; the finale of the spinoff American Horror Stories feature a group of fans talking about AHS as an in-universe show. Considering how amazing it is that Murphy has time for all his different projects, the idea that he could’ve fell victim to The Chemist’s black pills makes sense.
A very on-the-nose pop culture reference comes from AHS newcomer Macaulay Culkin in episode 2. While Mickey (Culkin) gets high with Tuberculosis Karen (Paulson), he shares his own fan theory that the killer shark from the 1975 film Jaws is actually the good guy, trying to avenge a shark relative who was previously hunted and killed by the film’s protagonist, Quint. While Mickey’s theory is a stretch, it is fairly cool to see the Home Alone actor as a fanboy who says movies are his “whole life.”
The Jaws reference also brings some regional realism to the show, as the classic movie was filmed in the Cape Cod town of Falmouth, Massachusetts. Plus there’s a light moment when, after Karen says her friend might have been an extra on Jaws 2, Mickey says, “F–k Jaws 2. They shot that s–t in Florida.”
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.