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The Harrowing True Crime Story Behind 'American Horror Story: 1984'

The Harrowing True Crime Story Behind 'American Horror Story: 1984'

*Warning: American Horror Story: 1984 spoilers ahead and details some might find distressing*

The latest series of American Horror Story, titled '1984' after the year in which it is set, follows the story of a real-life serial killer - and his true story is harrowing to say the least.

The first episode of the ninth series, 'Camp Redwood', follows Brooke Thompson (played by Emma Thompson) who up and leaves her home town to work at a remote summer camp, following a terrifying encounter with a serial killer known as 'The Night Stalker' by the press.

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The Night Stalker had just killed a 79-year-old woman in Glassell Park neighbourhood, cutting her throat so deeply she was nearly decapitated. Later the same night, Brooke was attacked in her home by the killer.

While many of the characters from the horror anthology series are fictional, from ghosts to cults to witches, the evil character in the latest series is based on an actual killer: Richard Ramirez.

Before his arrest in August 1985, Ramirez had terrorised residents of Los Angeles and San Francisco for 14 months, killing 13 people, attempting to kill five more and raping, assaulting and burgling countless others.

Credit: Los Angeles Police Department
Credit: Los Angeles Police Department
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Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, a 12-year-old Ramirez had begun hanging out with his older cousin as a young boy to escape his abusive father who had given him two serious head injuries.

However, his cousin Miguel, a U.S. Army Green Beret had a sick fascination with torturing women and would tell his cousin stories of his exploits in Vietnam, involving raping women and even showing him photos of him posed with their severed heads.

Later, Ramirez witnessed his cousin shooting his wife in the face during a domestic argument and later moved in with her sister and her husband, a peeping Tom who would take his brother-in-law on his nighttime exploits.

Soon after, Ramirez began taking LSD, adopted Satanism and developed sexual fantasies, much like his male mentors.

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In April 1984, he then went on to make a string of horrific attacks, with his MO to be breaking into homes, shooting people, often raping the women and stealing valuables. His victims ranged in age from nine to 83-years-old.

His second victim was 79-year-old Jennie Vincow, whose killing is depicted in the horror series.

Following widespread media coverage in LA, Ramirez moved to San Francisco where he continued his reign of terror.

He was eventually captured after 13-year-old James Romero alerted his parents to an intruder outside their house and Ramirez fled the scene. Before he ran off, the young boy raced outside and managed to note the colour, make, and style of the car, as well as a partial license plate number which he gave to police.

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Soon after, Ramirez broke into the home of Bill Carns, 30, and his fiancée, Inez Erickson, 29, where he shot Carns three times in the head (where he unbelievably survived his injuries) and raped Erickson. She was later able to give a detailed description of the assailant to police.

Credit: 20th Century Fox
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Now that a media mugshot was released of Ramirez on every major newspaper, police began searching bus terminals guessing the killer might be fleeing the city. In fact, Ramirez was returning back to LA after a failed visit with his brother in Arizona.

Arriving back on the morning of August 31st, he walked past police officers into a convenience store. At this point, a group of elderly Mexican women began pointing at him, identifying him to police as "El Matador" (or "The Killer") after seeing his face in the papers.

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In a panic, he ran, hopping over fences and attempting two more car-jackings and was eventually stopped by a group of local residents who beat him with a metal bar until the police came.

On September 20th, 1989, Ramirez was sentenced to death in California's gas chamber but died of complications related to B-cell lymphoma in his cell in 2013.

Anyone else got shivers after that?

American Horror Story 1984 premiered in the UK on 18th September 2019 on NowTV.

Featured Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

Topics: American Horror Story, TV and Film, TV Entertainment

Ciara Sheppard

Ciara is a freelance journalist working for Tyla. After graduating from the University of Sussex, Ciara worked as a writer at GLAMOUR Magazine and later as the Assistant Editor of Yahoo Style UK.