I’ve just watched American Horror Story: Roanoke on Netflix, and it turns out it’s a great example of the vital importance of the work of conspiracy groups in fiction, like Delta Green or Torchwood or the Sleepers from Unknown Armies, whose job is to make sure that no one ever finds out about ghosts or aliens or whatever.
In the modern world, the supernatural must be covered up, for the safety of the public. Roanoke demonstrates this by making a single supernatural phenomenon famous.
In true American Horror Story tradition, it leads to a hell of a lot of deaths. As any agent of Delta Green can tell you, deaths draw attention.
Since the colonial era, the Butcher and her associated ghosts killed a few people every few years. It was a remote area of North Carolina, so no one really paid much attention, and things ticked over without much attention. Even the police investigation of the ‘MURDE’ nurses and their old people’s home was just a passing incidence.
However, the modern day changed that.
Shelby, Matt, Lee and Flora weren’t the first people to survive the Blood Moon at the Roanoke house. Edward Mott’s lover escaped alive (as did, technically, all those house servants that Mott locked in the storm cellar – it would have taken them a while to starve to death). The author Elias Cunningham, whose Blair Witch videos Shelby discovered, also escaped the house alive (on that occasion at least).
Nevertheless, none of these previous escapes drew extensive attention to the house.
However, this time, the Millers’ experience was dramatised for television. My Roanoke Nightmare became a hit TV show with a massive following online. Add in speculation over whether Lee murdered her husband or not, and it more or less guaranteed someone would go there the next year, rather than the house being left empty for a few years or decades, as per usual.
Year One deaths: 4 – Mason Harris, Cain Polk, Elias Cunningham and Cricket Marlowe the small medium.
The second year of the show’s events saw the house host season two of My Roanoke Nightmare, as well as Agnes Mary Winstead, the unhinged actress who’d played the Butcher in season one, plus the three superfans. If My Roanoke Nightmare hadn’t been made, the only person in that house would have been Matt, who would have gone back to be with the witch Scathach, who he’d fallen in love with. Matt probably wouldn’t even have died, as Scathach clearly had a bit of a thing for him, or if he had it would have been voluntary, so that they could be together forever. Instead, the death toll went up massively.
Year Two deaths: 19 – Three members of the Polk family, Shelby and Matt Miller, the actors who played the Millers, Lee, Edward Mott, the Butcher and the Butcher’s son in season one, four members of the production team, three superfans and an unlucky rigger with a chainsaw.
In the third year, it gets even worse. To begin with, there was the unspecified number of the deaths caused during Lot Polk’s shooting spree (it was good to see Lana Winters again though, wasn’t it?). Even though this happened away from the house, they were a direct revenge attack based on the events of the second year’s Blood Moon. Year two’s massacre and the publicity (and money) surrounding it draws in the Spirit Chasers TV show, before escalating into a fully-fledged siege.
And then there’s another ghost massacre, broadcast live on the news, just after the season end credits start to roll
Year Three deaths: lots, but only 12 are shown on screen – Lot Polk, that production assistant we see him kill, all three presenters of Spirit Chasers, each of which had their own camera operator, the actor who played Cricket Marlowe in My Roanoke Nightmare, two cops investigating the Spirit Chasers team’s trespass on private property, and Lee Harris… and many, if not all, of the people still on the site at the end of the episode as the ghosts close in.
And what happens next? The Masquerade has been well and truly breached. American Horror Story: Coven may well have ended with its witches going public, but that could easily be dismissed as a hoax or forgotten about. This is live-broadcast footage of bullet-proof and, in some cases, clearly inhuman ghosts butchering police officers and TV journalists. There’ll be news stories for weeks, lawsuits from family members of the dead Spirit Chasers, congressional hearings, conspiracy theories, more adrenaline-hungry ghost hunters and, don’t forget, Lot Polk was a redneck whose family prominently displayed the Confederate battle flag at their home and on their vehicles, and who was shot dead on live television while trying to kill an African-American woman with an AR-15, having previously posted on Youtube his intent to do just that.
Unless Scathach and the Butcher are somehow magically put down (the witches from Coven, perhaps?), things are just going to get worse. The destruction of the house isn’t an end to the haunting, since the ghosts have haunted this area since long before Mott built it.
Meanwhile, Delta Green would have pulled strings to ensure that My Roanoke Nightmare was never made, even if that involved sabotage, blackmail of Sidney James or, as a last resort, discreetly force-feeding an entire bottle of sleeping pills down the throats of one or more of the traumatised survivors, all of whom had mental health problems or, in Matt’s case, a brain injury. The network pulls the show before it’s ever broadcast. Lee is never prosecuted for the murder of Mason and she disappears from public view or interest.
Finally, Delta Green buys the land through a CIA shell company, demolishes the house to ensure no one even attempts to move in there, and probably quietly eliminates the Polk family (who no one, other than the people they grew marijuana for, would really miss, and they’re not likely to cause a fuss).
Problem solved with minimal fatalities or public exposure and, since the Butcher has got the privacy she so desires, zero risk of escalation