WARNING: MAY CONTAIN HISTORICAL SPOILERS BUT WE CAN’T BE SURE BECAUSE WE HAVEN’T SEEN THE SHOW YET.
Those lucky bastards in the US have already clocked the no doubt pants-shittingly good first ep of ‘American Horror Story’ S6, which we now know is themed around the completely true and equally creepy disappearance of 118 colonists in a small town we now know as North Carolina.
What else do we know? Not much, because there’s still another three days until it airs on Network Ten’s ELEVEN (or 9:30pm, FYI). But what we *can* do is read up on the backstory of the Lost Colony, called Roanoke, before the season develops really gets into it and we’re introduced to the twists and turns we’ve come to expect of every season.
*opens history book*
The origins of one of the oldest and weirdest unsolved mysteries can be traced back to August 1587, when a group of about 115 English settlers sailed over from England to Roanoke Island, off the coast of what’s now North Carolina, to establish a new colony; they called it Roanoke.
After a few months, the governor of the new colony, John White, agreed to sail back to England to stock up on fresh supplies for the community, who were fast running out; he had left his wife, daughter and baby granddaughter. But, just as White touched back down on English soil, a huge naval war broke out between Spain and England, and Queen Elizabeth I ordered that every available ship help fight the Spanish Armada.
Almost exactly three years later, in August 1590, White finally returned to Roanoke and found… absolutely nothing.
The colony had disappeared without a trace – all houses and storefronts dismantled – save for the word ‘Croatoan’ carved into a tree next to the village.
We already know that solitary clue is going to play an important role in AHS S6, thanks to leaked pics from the set.
To this day, no one knows exactly what happened to the people of Roanoke – there *are* a bunch of wild theories, though.
Before he had left the colony for England, White instructed the 90 men, 17 women and 11 children to carve a cross on a tree nearby, to indicate they’d been forced out of the village. There was no cross, but there was the scrawled word ‘Croatoan’, which was the name of a nearby Native American tribe; a bunch of leading historians take that as evidence that the colony either joined the tribe or was forcibly overtaken.
Most other theories revolve around starvation; that, having run out of supplies, the colony’s people turned to cannibalism until there was no one left. Or that they boarded a makeshift ship and attempted to sail back home to England, but were lost at sea. Or that Spanish inquisitors traveled north from Florida and slaughtered everyone. The colony could also have easily starved to death before White’s return, though the fact the village was totally dismantled kind of works against that particular theory.
You might remember creator / genius Ryan Murphy introducing us to the Lost Colony back in S1, when Sarah Paulson’s character, the psychic Billie Dean, gave Violet (Taissa Formiga) a little history lesson on the banishment of spirits, citing Roanoke as an example.
“The most successful attempt [at banishing a spirit] I know of happened when America was known as the new world.
In 1590, on the coast of what we now know as North Carolina, the entire colony of Roanoke – all 117 men, women, and children – died inexplicably. It became known as the ghost colony because the spirits remained. They haunted the native tribes living in the surrounding areas. Killing indiscriminately. The elder knew he had to act. He cast a banishment curse. First he collected the personal belongings of all the dead colonists. Then they burned them. The ghosts appeared, summoned by their talismans. But before the spirits could cause them any more harm, the elder completed the curse that would banish the ghosts forever. By uttering a single word. The same word found carved on a post at the abandoned colony. “Croatoan.””
Paulson is back in S6, apparently living out a version of the mystery as Shelby, who moves from the city to a decrepit farmhouse in the middle of nowhere (when will they learn?!) with her husband Matt (Cuba Gooding Jnr) for a fresh start after she suffers a miscarriage.
But it obviously all goes to hell, with human sacrifice, devil worship, seances, pissed off spirits and a terrifyingly redneck Kathy Bates all making cheery appearances in the teaser trailer.
Interestingly, we already know that Shelby and Matt survive whatever trauma they live through; the ‘real’ Shelby (played by the amaze Lily Rabe) and Matt (Andre Holland) recount their story on a true-crime TV show, called ‘My Roanoke Nightmare’, with the eps divided between their narration and the re-enactment.
Literally cannot wait to see how fact and fiction blend over the course of this season. Bring on the scary, Murphy.
Photo: AHS, FX.
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