Scream King: Ryan Murphy's Scariest TV Moments

Between American Horror Story, Scream Queens and Nip/Tuck, Murphy has inspired nightmares for years

Photo: FX

We blame Ryan Murphy for many of our sleepless nights.

The creator is responsible for some of television’s most bone-chilling scenes thanks to his series Nip/Tuck, American Horror Story and Scream Queens.

Now, with American Horror Story: Hotel premiering in just a few hours, let’s take a look back at the scream king’s most terrifying moments. Be warned: The things you are about to witness cannot be unseen. Trust us, we’ve tried.

All Your Basement Anxieties Realized

When Violet (Taissa Farmiga) enlists Tate’s (Evan Peters) help in terrifying her high school bully Leah (Shelby Young) for revenge, she inadvertently discovers that her basement is inhabited by Thaddeus Montgomery (a.k.a. Infantata), a 1920s Frankenbaby who decides to join in on the fun. The strobing lights over Thaddeus’ menacing mug make for a truly spine-tingling moment.

A Merry Massacre!

If you don’t want to associate Christmas with absolutely brutal murders then you might want to refrain from watching this clip from American Horror Story: Asylum. In it we meet Leigh Emerson (Ian McShane), an ex-convict who comes into possession of a Santa Claus costume (via homicide) and uses it to break into houses and slaughter families. It’s hard to forget Emerson relentlessly taunting his victims in the opening scene of “Unholy Night,” and the fact that we later find out they are just one of five families he attacks makes it all the more traumatizing.

Bathroom Visitor

The Carver (Bruno Campos) was one of the first horrific killers Murphy unleashed on the television world. The maniac breaks into Sean McNamara’s (Dylan Walsh) bathroom and paralyzes him with an injection. As Sean lays powerless, The Carver teases him with his blade and promises to kill the surgeon if he continues to repair the scarring he inflicts on his many victims. The Carver only goes on to prove himself an even greater monster as Nip/Tuck’s third season continues.

"Are You Terrified? You Should Be"

Coven was not a good AHS season for eyes. There was Cordelia (Sarah Paulson), who was blinded in an acid attack and ripped her own eyeballs out with garden sheers. And then there was this excruciating scene. Resurrected witch Myrtle (Frances Conroy) gets her revenge on council members Quentin (Leslie Jordan) and Cecily (Robin Bartlett) for burning her at the stake by inflicting an arguably even more horrific punishment on them. The decidedly bad witch tricks them into consuming a paralyzing plant (Murphy is big on paralysis) so that they are helpless as she scoops out their eyeballs with a melon baller.

Shelley’s "Clipped Wings"



Murphy has a knack for showing us that some things are worse than death. Alleged nymphomaniac Shelley (Chloë Sevigny) meets such a fate in AHS: Asylum. After he catches her trying to escape the mental asylum at Briarcliff, ex-Nazi Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) prevents all future getaway attempts by amputating Shelley’s legs and otherwise mutilating her. Shelley is later found at a local playground in a scene that horrified schoolchildren and viewers alike.

Box Cutter Blues

In season 3 of Nip/Tuck Matt McNamara (John Hensley) and his transgender ex-girlfriend Cherry Peck (Willam Belli) are kidnapped by white supremacist Mr. Alderman. As part of his horrific torture, Alderman threatens to cut off the penis of the “prettiest” of the pair. He then forces Matt at gun point to do the disturbing deed to Cherry with a box cutter. The already chilling scene is cross-cut with images of Christian (Julian McMahon) and Sean being tormented by The Carver, making for a hodge-podge of terror.

Delphine LaLaurie, Torturess Extraordinaire

You shouldn’t let Kathy Bates anywhere near your feet. If Misery wasn’t proof enough, take her turn as Madame Delphine LaLaurie in AHS: Coven as further evidence. We thought LaLaurie’s torture days were over when she no longer had an attic to sadistically abuse slaves in, but she finds a way to wreak havoc even in Coven’s present day. Above, she puts an unlucky gardener through a hellish round of “This Little Piggy.”

Why We Refuse All Surgeries

If you weren’t already afraid of going under anesthesia for a medical procedure, congratulations, you are now. Murphy brings our fear of surgery to life in Nip/Tuck when alleged Carver victim Rhea Reynolds (Tara Buck) goes under the knife. Completely paralyzed (again with the paralysis, Murphy?) but able to feel the surgeons rummaging around in her face, Rhea has the worst trip to the doctor imaginable, and we’re fine just handling our own medical care from now on, thanks.

Home Invasions and the Cruelest of Copycats

The 1968 murders of nursing students Gladys (Celia Finkelstein) and Maria (Rosa Salazar) in season 1 of AHS are the gifts that keep on giving. It was scary enough to see Maria repeatedly stabbed in the back by R. Franklin (Jamie Harris) after he drowns her roommate in the bathtub, but the home invaders who show up in present day to re-enact their homicides using Violet and Vivien (Connie Britton) are equally terrifying.

DIY Lampshades

Poor Lana (Paulson) is put through quite the ordeal on AHS: Asylum. She escapes captivity at Briarcliff only to realize her would-be savior Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto) is actually the deranged killer Bloody Face. And, oh yeah, she discovers this while locked in his human-body adorned house. Lana comes face to former face with Thredson’s homemade mask, which just happens to be embellished with the teeth of her murdered girlfriend.

An All-Too-Real Tragedy

American Horror Story‘s first season showed us that sometimes everyday people are scarier than the ghosts, ghouls and goblins we think go bump in the night. Tate Langdon’s Columbine-esque school shooting is an unforgettable attack that resonates entirely too much given recent events across America.

Not Your Kid’s Teddy Bear

Build-A-Bear Workshop employee Colleen Rose (Sharon Gless) definitely should not have access to an electric teddy stuffer. Unfortunately she does, and she uses the device to suffocate a talent agent on Nip/Tuck. The bear eyes that she then sticks in his sockets add a nice touch of terror.

Gimme Gimme Mower


Murphy kicked off his new horror-comedy Scream Queens with a gruesome kill. When the Kappa Kappa Tau pledges agree to spend the night buried up to their necks on the sorority’s lawn, it gives the Red Devil a horrible opportunity. The mysterious killer decapitates deaf scream queen Tiffany (Whitney Meyer) with a mower in a scene that still makes us flinch.

Afraid of Clowns?

If Ryan Murphy is going to do a scary clown, he’s really going to do a scary clown, and AHS: Freak Show’s Twisty (John Carroll Lynch) does not disappoint. We first meet Twisty when he interrupts an idyllic picnic between two teenage lovers (Skyler Samuels and Andrew Duplessie), to get some stabbing and slashing done. Now, we meet him every evening in our nightmares.

RELATED VIDEO: What Scares American Horror Story‘s Evan Peters?

American Horror Story: Hotel

premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on FX.

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