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"American Horror Story: Coven," puts a twist on history

By Megan Daley
On October 17, 2013

Witches, dark magic and voodoo find a home in the new season of "American Horror Story: Coven," which premiered last Wednesday on FX. As the season begins, audiences can expect to get to know a few historical figures, from the perspective of the show's creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, that is.

While "American Horror Story" is not a history lesson, the series has not shied away from putting historical figures into its story lines. In the first season, audiences found out what "really happened" in the infamous Black Dahlia murder case. The show's second season, "American Horror Story: Asylum," delved into WWII history, creating ties to the Anne Frank story. "American Horror Story: Coven" is set in New Orleans, a city known for jazz and the unexplained, with two of its famous residents playing key roles in this season's plot: Marie Delphine Lalaurie (Kathy Bates) and Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett), the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.

Marie Delphine Lalaurie, or Madame Lalaurie, was a socialite during the early 1800s who owned a mansion on Royal Street. Stories were spread about Lalaurie and her cruelty toward her slaves, but it wasn't until a fire roared through Lalaurie's mansion that the truth was finally revealed.

A slave allegedly set the fire in 1834, and while Lalaurie was concerned with saving her valuables, a group of men entered the house to save her servants. After the carnage of the home settled, more of the slaves were found in terrible condition, crippled by the chains that weighed them to the floorboards of the slave quarters. Little is known of what happened to Lalaurie. After word of her crimes spread, she took off in her carriage to escape prosecution, never to be heard from again.

Laveau lived in New Orleans during the same time as Lalaurie, but it is unknown whether the two actually knew each other. Folklore paints Laveau as a leader in the art of Voodoo and is recognized today as the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. Historically, she was a devout Catholic who worked during the Yellow Fever epidemics as a nurse and healer. Buried in St. Louis Cemetery, believers in her power make the pilgrimage to her gravesite every year.

The series also makes connections to Salem, Mass. Salem is known for its witch trials in 1692, a reason the witches in the series try to keep their powers a secret from the rest of the world so history does not repeat itself. As Lalaurie and Laveau enter the magical world of "American Horror Story: Coven," the show will surely put a new twist on the legacies of these two historical women, taken from the 1800s and thrown into the modern world and Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies.

"American Horror Story: Coven" airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. on FX.


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