Murder House (American Horror Story)

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For the season this episode belongs to, see American Horror Story: Murder House.
"Murder House"
American Horror Story episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 3
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Jennifer Salt
Featured music
Production code 1ATS02
Original air date October 19, 2011 (2011-10-19)
Running time 42 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Home Invasion"
Next →
American Horror Story (season 1)
List of American Horror Story episodes

"Murder House" is the third episode of the first season of the television series American Horror Story, which premiered on the network FX on October 19, 2011. The episode was written by Jennifer Salt and directed by Bradley Buecker. This episode is rated TV-MA (LSV).

In the episode, Ben (Dylan McDermott) is paid a visit by an upset Hayden (Kate Mara), who demands he tell his wife the truth. Vivien (Connie Britton) learns about the house's former residents: a crazed surgeon, Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross), and wife, Nora (Lily Rabe), who provided illegal abortions in their basement, until their bitter marriage mysteriously ended.[1] Kate Mara guest stars as Hayden McClaine.



In 1922, Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross) was a surgeon to the stars, who fell on hard times. He developed an addiction to anesthesia and began to conduct Frankenstein-like experiments in his spare time. His socialite wife, Nora (Lily Rabe), is disappointed by the austerity they must practice due to his lack of funds. In 1925, the couple argues in front of their infant son about money. Nora informs Charles that bill collectors have come once again and she is tired of it. She demands that Charles see a young starlet, named Dorothy Hudson (Abbie Cobb), and perform an abortion on her. Dorothy gives Nora $60, and Nora drugs her and ushers her into the basement. It is stated that Charles performs at least two dozen other illegal abortions by 1926.[1]


A young Moira (Alexandra Breckenridge) is cleaning the house when Constance's (Jessica Lange) husband Hugo (Eric Close) makes sexual advances towards her. Moira rebuffs him and expresses regret over a previous sexual encounter the two had. However, Hugo ignores her and forces himself on her anyway. Constance finds them and before either can protest, she shoots them both and collapses in tears.[1]


The Harmons' finances take a blow, making moving impractical. However, Vivien (Connie Britton) continues to pressure Marcy (Christine Estabrook) to make the house marketable. Moira (Frances Conroy) walks in on Constance stealing from the house, and Constance mocks an angry Moira for being trapped in the house. Meanwhile, Ben (Dylan McDermott) falls asleep during an appointment with Sally Freeman (Adina Porter), and wakes up in the yard with bloody hands, having dug a hole, but has no memory of the rest of the appointment or how he got there.

Ben returns to the house to find a young Moira cleaning blood from the floor. While he looks for his tape recorder from the appointment, Moira continues to sexually harass him, and he threatens to fire her. Vivien witnesses this, but Ben is unable to convince Vivien about Moira's sexual advances, and Moira threatens to sue if they try to fire her without just cause.

Hayden (Kate Mara) surprises Ben when she appears on his doorstep. She announces that she is keeping the baby and moving nearby, and that she is going to tell Vivien about the pregnancy so they can continue their affair. They are interrupted by Detective Colquitt, who asks Ben about Sally's disappearance, but Ben insists that he knows nothing.

Vivien notices a horror tour bus stop outside the house and takes the tour herself. She begins to bleed after learning about Charles and Nora, the house's original owners, who provided illegal abortions in their basement to pay their bills, until their bitter marriage ended in murder. Worried that she is miscarrying again, Vivien runs into the house. At Dr. Hall's office, Vivien explains that the bleeding stopped when she returned to the house. She also adds that she and her family are planning on moving. The doctor assures Vivien that the baby is fine, but advises that the stress of moving could cause a miscarriage.

While jogging Ben encounters Larry (Denis O'Hare), who asks for money. When Ben returns home he blacks out again, and wakes up next to a shovel in the same spot in the yard. As he begins to dig, Constance encourages him to stay with the house and to build something over that spot. Vivien tries to sell the house and unknowingly interacts with Nora's ghost, who vanishes while touring the house.

Colquitt returns to the house and confronts Ben about Sally reappearing after a failed suicide attempt, and he takes out Ben's tape recorder to play a recording of the rest of the appointment after Ben zoned out, during which she threatened suicide and stole the recorder from his office. Ben insists that he did not provide more information to Colquitt earlier before because of doctor-patient confidentiality, and Colquitt leaves. Meanwhile, Vivien and Violet (Taissa Farmiga) look for apartments, but Violet is frustrated with her parents' decision to leave the new house.

Dr. Hall calls Ben to inform him that she found traces of an opiate that causes memory loss. Ben confronts Moira, and accuses her of spiking his coffee with the opiate. Hayden appears, unhinged and frantic over the fact that Ben has ignored her. When Ben takes Hayden outside to calm her down, Larry appears and strikes her with a shovel, killing her. Ben is horrified, but Larry convinces him that getting rid of the body is the best thing to do. Larry finishes digging the hole, at the bottom of which are Moira's remains, and buries Hayden over them. Ben builds a gazebo over the spot. Watching this, Constance taunts Moira, telling her that now she is stuck in the house forever.

The ghost of Nora watches Vivien sleep and reaches out towards her newly-pregnant stomach.[1]


The episode was written by co-executive producer Jennifer Salt, and directed by editor Bradley Buecker.[2]


Rotten Tomatoes reports a 67% approval rating, based on 6 reviews.[3] Matt Fowler, in his review for IGN, gave the episode an overall score of 7.5, stating that, ""Murder House" took a bit of a step backwards from the forward momentum we got in "Home Invasion", but it still offered up some wickedly puzzling frights and gave us all a new past atrocity to mull over."[4] Todd VanDerWerff from The A.V. Club gave the episode a D+ grade, and said that American Horror Story is "a terrible, messed-up television show. And yet by doing virtually everything horribly, it becomes preposterously entertaining."[5]

In its original American broadcast, the third episode of American Horror Story was seen by an estimated 2.58 million household viewers and gained a 1.5 ratings share among adults aged 18–49, according to Nielsen Media Research. The episode rose a tenth from the previous episode.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d "American Horror Story recap: The Murder House Rules". Entertainment Weekly. October 20, 2011. 
  2. ^ "American Horror Story – Murder House". Internet Movie Database. 
  3. ^ "Murder House – American Horror Story: Murder House, Episode 3". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 21, 2016. 
  4. ^ Fowler, Matt (October 19, 2011). "American Horror Story: "Murder House" Review". IGN. 
  5. ^ VanDerWerff, Todd (October 20, 2011). "Murder House". The A.V. Club. 
  6. ^ Seidman, Robert (October 20, 2011). "Wednesday Cable Ratings:'Storage Wars' Tops Night, 'American Horror Story' Rises; 'South Park' Falls + 'Psych,' 'Pretty Little Liars' & More". TV by the Numbers. 

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